GIBONNI – 20th Century Man
In more than twenty years of solo career, Zlatan Stipišić Gibonni has proven himself countless times as an outstanding composer and songwriter, about to add his ninth studio album ”20th Century Man” (not counting the live album „Koncert“) to his rich opus, also his first achievement sung entirely in English.
Therefore, Gibonni can rightfully be named not only one of the brightest regional music stars, but also an international performer with an extraordinary sense for melody and emotional expression which some of his favourite artists, such as Peter Gabriel or Pink Floyd, wouldn’t be ashamed of. So it’s not surprising that even the great LA Times put him among performers the world should hear about.
Gibonni recorded the album ”20th Century Man” in London with the renowned, Grammy winning producer Andy Wright who is known to the home audience through his work with David Bowie, Eurythmics, Simply Red and recently with Mick Hucknall, but also with Toše Proeski on the album „The Hardest Thing“ that was, sadly, released after his death.
After all of the above, and because I follow Gibo since his very beginnings as a solo artist, I could easily presume that, definitely, only sky is the limit, since nothing else is there to conclude after several decades of music experience, countless concerts and music awards as well as awards by the music profession, fans of every profile who uncompromisingly award each Gibo’s music step (I count myself among them!), top notch studios and producer, as well as the door to an international career that crosses the borders of playing to Croatian diaspora in the neighboring countries that have recently been successfully opened first with the performance in London and then opening for Mick Hucknall (ex-Simply Red) in Budapest and Prague. However, let’s say a few words about the long-awaited album ”20th Century Man”.
Since I listened, together with Gibo, to some of his favourites on the album a few months ago, I received the complete ”20th Century Man” with an added dose of euphoria with which anyone who has been living and breathing with a musician through all his music phases would, and very quickly ”20th Century Man” has become one of the albums that spin most frequently for my ears. That’s not without reason, because on the ”20th Century Man”, Gibonni brings ten tracks characterised not only by the long-known and beloved sense of melody and the core of human emotions, but also a fantastic vocal mix, courtesy of Gavin Goldberg and excellent production by the abovementioned Andy Wright.
The album is opened by ”Hey Crow”, an instrumentally layered and reach composition with an accentuated dose of psychedelia, and with the first lyrics already, Gibo proves that emotional expression that hits right at the center is not goreign to him even in English, as he says: ”Hey man, I’ll tell you what I learned, a man is a leaf in the eye of the bird, there’s a tombstone waiting for your name, from the eye of a bird that’s all that you have….”. ”Hey Crow”, and I will boldly say this, is a track which will be among the anthological ones by Gibo, shoulder to shoulder to those especially close to us who have been following Gibo for two decades now and which you cannot hear often on shows, despite the fact that I foresee a long and rich live career to ”Hey Crow”.
Composition ”Hide the Mirror” seemingly returns the album to the sound known to us from the previous albums ”Toleranca” and ”Unca Fibre”, but already after the intro in the well-known tonality ”Hide the Mirror” grows into one of the most powerful tracks on the album, and its strong message in the chorus: ”we can always find a reason to do nothing, nothing right or wrong, we can always hide the mirror, but would it save us and for how long” leaves a strong and deep mark in the thoughts, while the song in its second part grows into a full-blooded rock anthem, lead by an excellent integrated guitar sound played by Gavin Goldberg.
We all know ”Broken Finger” as ”Vesla na vodi”, one of the dearest songs from the album ”Toleranca”, which got its visual attire under the direction of Zdenko Bašić. This time Gibo presented it to us in English, clearly saying to us that the ”story is far from over”. ”Broken Finger”, is dreamy and fantastic in each aspect, just as its Croatian version.
The album is continued with ”My Cloud”, another track with a recognisable melodic and smooth sound which Gibo has been presenting to us for the last couple of years, glowing with lyrics: ”I found I wasn’t your hero, I wasn’t your shoulder, your shoulder to cry on, was it such a surprise?”. Enough said.
What follows is the title track, ”20th Century Man”, opened by an echo of good old pop/rock songs of the 80′s, which later grows into a true, lively rock track that energetically looks back at the golden age of rock’n'roll. ”20th Century Man” is one of the tracks that stand out on the album because of the fresh expression, but I do resent a bit the abundance of the classic soul sound in the frame of the calm and „grounded“ sound of the eternal electric guitar.
”Kids In Uniform” lowers the tempo and thematically returns to one of the atrocities of the 21th century, the one we live in and in which children are forced to go to war. Gibo is joined in this emotional song by the children from the British International School Ljubljana which adds an ever deeper and more thought dimension to its thematical weight.
Tha he can go much further and higher from the sound seemingly evoking the previous studio albums ”Toleranca” and ”Unca Fibre”, Gibo proved in ”My Brother Cain”, a track which is on the very op of my personal faves on the album. In ”My Brother Cain”, Gibo uncompromisingly exceeded on all fields – fantastic lyrics, vocal excellence, music that induces goosebumps while the song, from a ballad with a crying tone grows out to one fo the best pop tracks not only on the ”20th Century Man”, but also in a wider context of Gibonni’s music expression. It’s a real shame Gibo didn’t decide to more of these steps on the album, so what follows is ”She Said”, a song of extremely emotional piano intro and with a pop/rock arrangement where lyrics take the top spot, which, as always, expertly toy with some of the deepest emotions when it comes to love.
We all know ”Nothing Changes”, which follows, as an absolute hit from the album ”Toleranca”, the song ”Žeđam”. equally strong, firm, deep… impressive in the English version as well.
The album is closed by ”Ain’t Bad Enough for R’N'R”, a rock/sould cheerful track we could call Gibo’s confession when it comes to lyrics, ended with lyrics: ”I said ‘don’t pretend one thing’s for sure, I ain’t bad enough for Rock and Roll”.
As with almost any of the previous albums, ”20th Century Man” also marks a crossroads in Gibonni’s music expression. Without more or less known guests, without tracks that insist on a colourful female vocal, without the gospel choirs, but with more bravery to step out of the frame he set for himself, Gibonni in many segments returned to his early rock roots with the album ”20th Century Man”. There’s still that sound there, Gibo has been presenting to us for years now, but if we add a hint of nostalgia for the century this album is dedicated to, as well as the classic rock atmosphere of the 21st century with which it’s ripe with,, ”20th Century Man” is an exquisite album.
Review by: Ivana Sataić – email@example.com