giovedì 17 aprile 2014

TIME OF PASSION

Latte e Miele began life in Genoa in 1971 with a first line-up featuring Giancarlo Marcello Della Casa (electric and acoustic guitar, violin, bass, lead vocals), Oliviero Lacagnina (piano, organ, harpsichord, moog, mellotron, celesta, vocals) and Alfio Vitanza (drums, cymbals, bells, flute, vocals). In 1971 guitarist Giancarlo Marcello Della Casa also took part, with other guest musicians, in the recording sessions of I Giganti’s album “Terra in bocca”. This experience seems to have influenced also Latte e Miele’s debut album, “Passio Secundum Mattheum”, a concept work where clear classical influences blend with rock, classical music and beautiful melodies. Well, “Passio Secundum Mattheum” is also the title of a classical work by J.S. Bach, but this album is not its “rock version”. The lyrics drew inspiration from the Gospel according to St. Matthew and they are absolutely “politically correct”, you can’t find here the boldness and the poetical inventions of “Terra in bocca” (an album completely “built upon the lyrics”) or of Fabrizio De Andrè’s album “La buona novella” (a conceptual work inspired by the apocryphal gospels). Here the lyrics seem to be just a feeble thread binding together a good musical patchwork, but the result is not always convincing. By the way, Latte e Miele were the very first rock band to perform in the Vatican City in front of the Pope, no wonder then if the narrative parts every now and again seem just to come out from a “Catholic mass”...


The short instrumental opener “Introduzione” (Introduction) sets the atmosphere starting with a church-like choir, then shy echoes of Bolero come in leading to a beautiful crescendo featuring a good electric guitar solo. Next comes “Il giorno degli azzimi” (The first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread) and “Ultima cena” (The last supper), closely bound together. An acoustic guitar arpeggio and a dreamy mood are the background for narrative vocals and sung parts where the band interacts with an operatic choir... “On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread the disciples and Jesus prepared the Passover...”. The lead vocals and choir interpret the voices of the disciples and Jesus while a narrator is in charge of the spoken parts... While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples... “The bread you will break will be your body shared for us / The wine you will pour will be your blood spilled for us...”. When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said... “One of you will betray me...”. The disciples were very sad and began to say to him one after the other... “Surely not I, Lord?”. The voices of the disciples seem to come from an opera, there’s surprise and brio, then the rhythm calms down...

Judas, the one who would betray him, said “Surely not I, Rabbi?”. It’s the beginning of “Getzemani” (Gethsemane) a beautiful and melodic “aria”. Jesus’ soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death and his voice soars in a prayer... “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done...”. Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. Jesus was arrested and put on trial. The short “Il processo” (The trial) features amazing operatic vocals... “Now, My Lord you’ll go on trial for the world’s sake / This way you will save us...”.

The next track “I testimoni” (The witnesses) is divided in two parts and features reminiscences of Latin rock “à la Carlos Santana”. Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. Finally two came forward and declared... “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days...”.


Il pianto” (The crying) is a short acoustic and melodic track, an “aria” full of mercy and admiration for the man who is going to die for the world’s sake... “You don’t speak my brother / Silently you are going to die for me... A mother is crying for her son who’s going to die...”.

Giuda” (Judas) is another short track. It’s more aggressive and features hard rock guitar riffs and swing passages... When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. His fate was to betray because of jealousy... “A tableau is hanging / It makes you understand...”.

Il re dei Giudei” (The king of Jews) is solemn and dramatic. Jesus was brought to trial in front of Pilate, the Roman procurator. The governor asked him, - Are you the king of the Jews? - Jesus replied - Yes, it is as you say. When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer... “Jesus was silent in front of Pilate / He said nothing but – I’m the king of Jews...”.


Il calvario” (Golgotha) opens with operatic vocals shouting “Barabbas!”. It was the governor’s custom at the Feast to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, - Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?... The crowd chose Barabbas and Jesus was condemned! The roaring answer of the crowd then gives way to the organ and choir describing in music the Via Crucis... His cross carried by Simon the Cyrenian, Jesus is led to Golgotha for crucifixion. The executioners fix a sign to the cross: “This is Jesus: the King of the Jews”. From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”. And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit...

The conclusive “aria”, “Il dono della vita” (The gift of life), is a reflection full of mercy and hope where the lead vocals and choir interact. “Like a stream which wants to wet the sand / You will be my brother... Your life is so great to be called never ending...”.

The re-release on CD also features a bonus track, “Mese di maggio” (May). It’s just a melodic pop song that contrasts with the rest of the album and adds nothing to this work...


You can listen in streaming to the complete album HERE

The band have recently completely re-recorded the whole album with new versions of the old pieces and some unreleased tracks...

More info:

domenica 13 aprile 2014

PHOTOGRAPHS AND MEMORIES

Camera Chiara were formed in Salerno in the second half of the first decade of this century. After a first demo in 2008, in 2013 they self-released an interesting eponymous début album with a line up featuring Francesco Lembo (keyboards), Danilo Lupi (bass), Vincenzo Manzi (guitar) and Antonio Pappacoda (drums). The name of the band was inspired by a book about photography by Roland Barthes, La chambre claire (translated in English as Camera Lucida) and the love of the band for the art of photography is also portrayed on the album cover that in some way gives you the right key to approach the musical content of this brilliant work.


Barthes considers photography as asymbolic, irreducible to the codes of language or culture, acting on the body as much as on the mind and he develops the twin concepts of studium and punctum: the first denoting the cultural, linguistic and political interpretation of a photograph, the latter denoting the wounding, personally touching detail which establishes a direct relationship with the object or person within it. Well, on their website the band invite the listener to focus on the punctum of the “musical photographs” contained in the album. This is a completely instrumental work, all you have to do is close your eyes and let the music drive...

The short opener “Tufa Domes, Pyramid Lake” sets a mysterious, dark atmosphere. Although there are no liner notes in the booklet, the title seems to refer to a famous picture shot in 1867 by Timothy H. O'Sullivan which portrays an almost lunar landscape on the Pyramid Lake, a place near Reno, Nevada while the music recalls Pink Floyd.

Timothy H. O'Sullivan: Tufa Domes, Pyramid Lake, Nevada

The following “Chiaroscuri” is a long, complex track marked by the constant contrast between dark and light atmospheres. It' another track that testifies the deep passion for photography of the band. In fact, chiaroscuro (Italian for light-dark) is a word that defines the artistic use of strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold contrasts affecting a whole composition or a picture. Here pulsing, tense bass lines contrast with light, soaring keyboards waves and electric guitar patterns while calm moments are followed by stormy passages. Every now and again Goblin or L'Ombra della Sera come to mind but the music does not sound derivative at all. A real treat!

Then comes “Maschere cadute” (Fallen masks), a nice short track full of positive energy that leads to the reflective “Nel tuo mondo” (In your world). Here the atmosphere is dreamy but never relaxed while shadows and lights seem to dance all around. A great track!

Camera Chiara 2013

Danzano le memorie” (Memories are dancing) is a short, romantic track with the piano in the forefront that almost melts into the following “In un gioco di specchi” (In a game of mirrors) where you can hear a haunting marching beat and experience some strange exotic flavours. Then the rhythm rises taking you to mysterious territories where your imagination can run free conjuring up psychedelic visions...

Come il bianco col nero” (As white with black) is another complex track where influences from the past and modern sounds are mixed in an original way with brilliant results. Then “Il nuovo e il vecchio giorno” (The new and the old day) concludes the album with a good dose of electricity and powerful blows of optimism.


This work is completely instrumental but very rich in ideas and there is no weak point. According to the band's website, among their influences you can find bands and artists with a different background such as Air, Balletto di Bronzo, Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, Biglietto per l'Inferno, Genesis, Goblin, King Crimson, Le Orme, Philip Glass, Pink Floyd, Rush, Soft Machine, Tool and Vangelis but I think that Camera Chiara have succeeded in mixing all these influences with great personality and excellent composition skills. This album is really worth listening to... Have a try!

You can listen in streaming to the complete album HERE

More info:


domenica 6 aprile 2014

CALIFORNIA DREAMING

Smogmagica is Le Orme's seventh studio album. It was recorded in Los Angeles, California, in 1975 with a line up featuring, along with the historical members Aldo Tagliapietra (bass, vocals, acoustic guitar), Tony Pagliuca (keyboards) and Michi Dei Rossi (drums), a young, skilled musician with a solid rock-blues background, Tolo Marton (electric guitar, harmonica, vocals). With this album Le Orme tried to change slightly their sound following a more straightforward musical direction. The result might not be completely satisfying for old prog fans but, even if it represents a step back when compared to the band's previous masterpieces, this is still a good album with some magnificent tracks. Anyway, the wonderful album cover painted by Paul Whitehead and inspired by the music is a special asset and makes of this work a very special item in any progressive rock collection.


The opener “Los Angeles” begins by a frenzied guitar solo flying on a cloudy rhythmical carpet that melts in a quiet piano section with a short vocal part. The lyrics describe the feelings of a passenger on a plane landing in L.A., the “magical polluted” city of the title (it's very difficult to translate the word “Smogmagica” indeed!)... “I felt a void in me and a sensation of fear / While the darkness of the clouds was still around me / Then, suddenly, below me an ocean of lights / I had never seen before so many lights at the same time...”. Then the rhythm sets off again in a instrumental “crescendo” with some changes in rhythm and mood and a good interaction between the guitar and the other instruments. A great track!

Amico di ieri” (Yesterday’s friend) is one of the most famous songs by Le Orme. It’s a melancholic acoustic ballad where a delicate melody sets a dreamy atmosphere. The lyrics tell about the autumn wind that blows to Los Angeles from his cradle in the desert, bringing with him the memories of the ancient pioneers who were driven to the sea and to a new reality by their dreams of freedom... “Autumn wind / Yesterday’s friend / Today nobody cares of you / Your rising voice / Takes away the sleep from resting people / It just soils the city...”. Well, in this case the lyrics represent also a way to tell about the contrast between past and present, dream and reality in a poetical way... This song has always been one of my favourites.


Unfortunately, the following “Ora o mai più” (Now or nevermore) is not as good as the previous tracks. It is a kind of prog’n’roll featuring lyrics about a man who drives like hell “collecting red lights” just to get in time to a meeting with his girlfriend. The song ends with the noise of a car crash! Good idea, but the result is not completely convincing...

Then comes “Laserium Floyd”, a good instrumental with a slow pace and a nocturnal atmosphere that could recall Pink Floyd’s echoes. It leads to “Primi passi” (First steps), a nice pop rock song about the need to look for new experiences that makes you jump on the first train running to seek your fortune far away, without waiting for useless promises... “Hello, new day that moves on by uncertain steps...”.

The following delicate, acoustic ballad “Immensa distesa” (Immense plain) is definitely better with Aldo Tagliapietra's soaring vocals that conjure up a dreamy mood... “You would like to follow me and move far away / But eventually you prefer the shelter of dreams...”. Remarkable the particular coda with a fine drum work running under the melody played by the acoustic guitar.

Le Orme in L.A., 1975

Amanti di città” (City lovers), despite the good guitar work, in my opinion is the worst track of the lot, especially on account of the strange, unpleasant vocals. The lyrics are absolutely nothing special, just an ironic dialogue between two lovers in the city.

L’uomo del pianino” (The street organ man) is an interesting experimental track, a kind of “country-prog” song with a beautiful short ragtime section... “Distant fogs of my home town / Make safer the old way... How many strange things I keep inside me...”. A good effort to cross the styles.

The instrumental “Laurel Canyon” is another good effort to blend the rock-blues influences of the guitarist with the prog vein of the other members of the band. This track was named after Laurel Canyon Boulevard in L.A., California, the place where the band set their headquarters during the recording sessions, and concludes an album with some ups and downs but that is really worth listening to.

You can listen in streaming to the complete album HERE