One great thing about making friends from other continents (¡Hola, David!) is discovering just how provincial the United States can be. Half the time, a household name in Europe gets zero recognition on these shores, and vice versa. Case in point, Italian crooner Franco Battiato, who if you've heard of him at all you probably know from the cover of "Ruby Tuesday" off the Children of Men soundtrack. But his crossover career has taken an exceedingly strange path, from prog rock to new-wave synthpop via the classical avant-garde. The nearest point of comparison I can think of in Anglophone rock would have to be Brian Eno, with his Roxy Music/Devo/U2/Music for Airports career, if only Brian Eno had also been the lead singer and songwriter of all those bands in rapid succession, while simultaneously aspiring to a relatively mainstream concert-music career. According to Wikipedia, which never lies, Battiato's L'Egitto prima delle sabbie actually won some kind of Stockhausen prize for piano composition, for reasons that will probably be clear as soon as you listen below. I couldn't find a thirty-second soundbite online, but when I finally got ahold of the piece, I discovered that thirty seconds would hardly do the piece justice—it's a rich and subtle work, and it demands the same kind of deep, deep listening as a Stockhausen piece. It also takes up one whole side of the record, so it'll take forever for the sound file to buffer in this widget, but patient listeners, as usual, will be richly rewarded: (Note that it's easy as heck for a clever surfer to download this file rather than deal with the widget, but I'm begging you not to, just because the cost of importing the album via Amazon or your local indie shop is shockingly low, and anyway the second piece on the record is basically every bit as good as this one and completely different.) But this doesn't give you a hint of Battiato's (if you love cultural stereotypes) very Italian gift for melody. It's a gift and a curse, I guess, based on my YouTubing of his pop and classical material—in his most web-disseminated work, anyway, he's the middlebrowest artist I've ever seen, seldom slipping below a certain level of craft and seldom rising above a certain set of musical conventions. Just in case you thought I was kidding when I talked about posting clips from the Eurovision Song Contest, here's "I Treni di Tozeur" by the 1984 Italian delegation, Franco Battiato and Alice, demonstrating a very different side of Battiato's compositional career: They came in fifth. If the music seems corny or superficial to you, dude, you haven't watched enough Eurovision Song Contests. Most of the contestants don't, say, quote Die Zauberflöte. (Battiato's oeuvre is studded with classical in-jokes; he also has a techno song called "Bist du bei mir," and a cover of "Beim schlafengehen" from the Four Last Songs.) Here's the band that beat them out for first, Sweden's Herreys, singing "Diggi-loo diggi-ley": Heh.