Recording information: Abbey Road Studios, London, England; Davout Studio, Paris, France; Studio Kaneepa, Milan, Itay; Studio Pinaxa, Milan, Italy.
Photographer: Pierpaolo Ferrari.
If the immensely successful Safari found Jovanotti moving closer than ever to mainstream pop territory, he chose an approach he had not tried since his very first juvenile rap records for 2011's Ora: that of locking himself up in the studio with only his producer and engineer Michele Canova and proceeding to build the entire album's foundation from computers, rather than with live musicians. Ora had been promoted (or derided) as Jovanotti's stab at electro/dance music, and its first track, "Megamix," emphatically confirms such rumors. A trademark Jovanotti declaration of principles, this genuine synth-fest is nothing more and nothing less than just another of his classic openers, albeit in techno clothing. It also serves to establish the sound parameters that will dominate -- crucially, not overwhelmingly -- the entire album. To be honest, there is not much to write home about concerning the largely generic backing tracks, but with a few key exceptions, they're an academic exercise on late-'80s/early-'90s Eurotechno. Nonetheless, as soon as Jovanotti coats the tracks with his unmistakable melodies and lyrics, Ora becomes a whole different beast. A winning album (almost) from start to finish, the reasons for its success are twofold: first, its sound design grants it a stylistic consistency that other, more hybrid Jovanotti records lack; secondly, and fundamentally, this is a seriously good crop of songs. There are no instant classics on a par with "Bella" or "Ragazzo Fortunato," perhaps, but there's still plenty of great music. Besides several electronic-driven tracks such as the abovementioned "Megamix," "Il Pi? Grande Spettacolo Dopo il Big Bang," "Ora," and the first single, "Tutto L'amore Che Ho," Jovanotti is smart enough to take a few breaks from the disco with a couple of beautiful ballads ("Le Tasche Piene di Sassi," "L'elemento Umano ); to invite the great Amadou & Mariam to contribute one of their bubbling Bamako shuffles for the album's most joyous moment, "La Bella Vita," and he even pulls off a sort of electro-French Java with the provocative "Quando Sar? Vecchio," arguably the record's finest lyric. Ora's problems, however, begin toward the album's end. The last two of its 15 tracks, for instance, are fine, but already sound like a rehash of the first 13 tracks, a problem that continues on the second CD of the Deluxe Version. Only two of the ten extra tracks would be worthy of a starring place: the collaboration with Cesare Cremonini on "I Pesci Grossi," and the unexpected reggae of "Sul Lungomare del Mondo." The rest of the disc sounds like Jovanotti toying around with his favorite editing software, trying out ideas that have already appeared on the first CD, but there refined and shaped into much stronger songs. And no, the bonus disc does not include his big 2010 hit "Baciami Ancora," which is still only available as a digital single, or as part of the soundtrack of the film of the same name. It should be noted that Jovanotti himself insisted on releasing all of the material from these sessions together. He argues that he no longer thinks about the concept of an album when making or listening to music, but rather as a playlist from which he gets to choose his favorite tunes. It is a valid point in 2011, and it is commendable that he is giving his fans the option of purchasing the Standard or the Deluxe Edition now, rather than trying to make people buy the same album twice in less than a year by releasing an expanded edition a couple of months down the road, an annoying and alarmingly all-too-common marketing strategy that effectively penalizes those loyal fans who buy the album upon its initial release. One may cringe at Jovanotti's well-known incapacity to discard any of his ideas, but one also must allow that from the approximately 100 minutes of the entire Ora project, a heck of a playlist can be compiled, as Ora easily contains the best hour of music Jovanotti has put together since 1999's Capo Horn. ~ Mariano Prunes