Saturday, 8 January 2022

FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF FREEDOM

Aliante come from Pisa, Tuscany, and took form in 2017 on the initiative of two former members of Egoband, Jacopo Giusti and Alfonso Capasso. The same year they released an excellent debut album, entitled Forme libere, on the independent M.P. & Records label with a line up featuring Jacopo Giusti (drums, gong, percussion), Enrico Filippi (keyboards, piano, Mellotron, Moog) and Alfonso Capasso (bass) plus the guest Serena Andreini (narrative vocals). It’s an almost completely instrumental album where the musicians experiment and express their own ideas and musical formulas freely inspired by bands such as Le Orme or Emerson, Lake & Palmer. According to the band, the art cover by Jacopo Giusti, an oil on canvas painting, tries to describe the idea that there’s no need of something pre-conceptually established in any kind of artistic creation...



On the short opener “Forme libere” (Free forms) you can hear the narrative vocals of Serena Andreini introducing the subject matter. Life teaches us how to know shapes, colours, emotions, how to love them and make them our own, it also gives us the opportunity to invent new ones, to mix new shades but we always have to change perspective in order to have new forms to observe, free forms to model and paint... The short introduction fades into the following “Kilowatt Store”, a powerful track full of energy and dizzying keyboard rides...



Next comes “Tre di quattro” (Three of four), a beautiful piece with a spacey tinge that begins by soaring melodic lines and a dreamy atmosphere, then a pulsing rhythm section and more experimental keyboard sounds evoke dark, lunar landscapes and fantastic voyages towards far stars and unknown planets...

“Etnomenia” is sprinkled with exotic flavours and opens with ethnic chants in the background and a drum solo pattern, then the keyboards backed by the rhythm section draw dreamy melodies evoking far savage landscapes and adventure films of explorers and travellers...


 
“Kinesis” starts by a slow pace and a mysterious atmosphere, then the rhythm gradually rises for a nocturnal ride through the empty streets of a modern metropolis (at least it’s what the picture in the booklet associated with this piece might suggest) while the short “Coda: Marea 03” evokes a sense of impending change...

“L’ultima balena” (The last whale) conjures up scenes from whaling and could be a perfect score for a film about a dangerous voyage on a sail ship across forbidden seas and lands on barbarous coasts. Get ready for harpoon shootings and bloody fights against terrible creatures, imaginary or real...



The last track, “San Gregorio” (Saint Gregory) was inspired by the life of Gregory of Utrecht, follower of Saint Boniface and abbot of St. Martin's Monastery. Three years before his death in 776 he was hit by a paralysis that gradually spread over his entire body. At the approach of death he had himself carried into church, where he passed away. This excellent piece is divided into five parts - “Ottava nota”, “Utrecht”, “Il convento di San Martino”, “La paralisi” and “Kinesis (Reprise)” - but the plot, of course, is up to the music and your imagination...

On the whole, an excellent debut work.

You can listen to the complete album HERE

Aliante: Forme libere (2017). Other opinions:
Michael “Aussie-Byrd-Brother”: Running a welcome vinyl length of around forty-seven minutes which ensures it will be easy to re-spin often, here is an album that basks in its soloing-heavy proudly `proggy' heritage without being a mere uninspired or lazy vintage remake. `Forme Libere' calms and dazzles in equal measure, is intelligent instrumental music with endlessly memorable themes and full of warmth, colour and movement, and it's an album that reveals Aliante to be a group of talented musicians of restrained skill and great taste... (read the complete review HERE)

More info:


Monday, 3 January 2022

THE SPACESHIP MATRIARCH

Sticky Brain took form in 2014 in Schio, a small town in the province of Vicenza, on the initiative of Andrea Moro and Mattia Cavallaro, inspired by artists and bands such as Herbie Hancock, Weather Report or Snarky Puppy. After some time spent honing their skills and playing live on the local scene, in 2019 the band self-released an interesting debut album, entitled Looking Forward, with a line up featuring Giorgio Manzardo (sax), Stefano Nardon (keyboards, vocals), Andrea Moro (bass), Giovanni Caruso (guitar), Mattia Cavallaro (guitar) and Alessandro Barbieri (drums). For the art cover was chosen a painting by Lanfranco Frigeri, La matriarca dell'astronave (oil on canvas, 1973). Lanfranco Frigeri is an artist best known for the cover of Le Orme’s Felona e Sorona and in my opinion his dreamy subjects and surreal landscapes perfectly fit the musical content of this album...



The hypnotic opener “Fifty-Fifty” starts softly but soon the dreamy atmosphere gives way to a lively funky jazz passage before taking a darker, mysterious path... Many changes in rhythm and mood follow during a crazy ride of more than nine minutes that leads to the short, carefree “Today Is Friday”...

Next comes “Up From The Grave”, the only sung track on the album. It’s a beautiful piece blending jazz with a touch of psychedelia, Latin rock and reminiscences of the Beatles. It tells in music and words the experience of a revenant coming out of his grave, searching for a melody. His skeleton falls apart while he’s dancing under the moon, just like in a comic book. Then he takes off in a new coloured form escaping from hell...




“Stajass” is a long, complex piece that starts softly with romantic passages and a strong sense of melody. The vibrant middle section then gives way to a final part sprinkled with oriental flavours... The following “Viaggio alla roccia di Morosha” is a lively track with a pulsing rhythm that every now and again reminds me slightly of Area’s La mela di Odessa...

“Biveson” ends the album and features a dreamy first part with echoes of smooth jazz and bossa nova and a second part in crescendo where the rhythm takes off for a finale where you can hear some psychedelic touches.

On the whole, a good debut work in the vein of bands such as Mad Fellaz or Endless Season.

You can listen to the complete album HERE

More info:
 

Wednesday, 29 December 2021

NEW START

Between is the fifth studio album by Mad Puppet and was self-released in 2020 in a 300 copies limited vinyl edition and in 2021 in digital version. It was recorded with a line up featuring Manfred Kaufmann (keyboards), Christoph Senoner (guitars), Thomas Pichler (bass, clarinet), Michael Mock (drums, percussion) and Manfred Schweigkofler (vocals) and marks a come back to the neo-prog origins of the band, twenty years after the disappointing, pop-oriented Cube. According to an interview with the band (link), the key is in the title: all the songs deal with something that is in-between, between one thing and another. Even with irony towards restarting...



The aggressive, nervous “New Start” sets the atmosphere evoking the need of a new beginning, the desire to re-start every day to make life better, cooler, more glamorous. Anyway, the results are not always successful... Then the rhythm slackens for the dreamy “Black Swan” that adds a touch of nostalgia for old songs and old friends and leads to the search for a way out from darkness, following the flight of a bold black swan...

The soft, mysterious “Foggy Day” tells of a day where empty clouds fill the space and you get lost, but the hope to recover your old brilliant sound remains intact as the hope to see the colours of the rainbow again... Then it’s the turn of the sarcastic, disquieting “Mote Of Dust” that conjures up the image of a human race lost in the cosmic darkness, in an endless nowhere in the middle of the universe where men kill each other and destroy their world like in a video game...



“Won’t Lose My Way” starts softly and tells of a difficult come back from a long journey where there’s always a burning light showing the way home. It’s a long piece with some changes in atmosphere that along the way blends elements of blues and hard rock with darker, dramatic passages... Next comes “You And I”, a short, melancholic piece describing a long waiting under a broken, falling sky on the banks of a river that looks like an ocean to cross...

The theatrical “Fail Again” blends prog and blues with a sense of madness crawling underneath the surface of a life that it’s more than it seems, a basket full of wonders that not everyone can appreciate... Then comes the ironic optimism of “Tomorrow” with its prediction of an impending change and its promises for the future, a piece that features a guest brass section and ends the album with a touch of jazz and soul.

On the whole, a nice album that deserves a try.

You can listen to the complete album HERE

More info:

Monday, 20 December 2021

TWENTY YEARS AFTER

In 1999, after a hiatus of more than twenty years, founder members Lino Vairetti and Danilo Rustici decided to bring back to life the music of Osanna re-arranging the old repertoire of the band for some new live performances. In 2001 Osanna released a new studio album, entitled Taka Boom, on their own independent label Afrakà with a new line up featuring Lino Vairetti (vocals, guitar), Danilo Rustici (electric and acoustic guitar) and Enzo Petrone (bass) with Gennaro Barba (drums), Gigi Borgogno (electric guitar), Vito Ranucci (sax) and Luca Urciuolo (keyboards) plus the special guest Enzo Avitabile (vocals). It contains some new arrangements of pieces from the seventies Osanna’s albums and two brand new tracks...



“L’uomo” opens the album with a surge of energy. This new version of Osanna’s debut album opener is brilliant, more aggressive than the original one and with an almost rapped section emphasizing the lyrics. The following “Ce vulesse ce vulesse”, is a piece from Suddance (“Ce vulesse”) that here is revitalized with the addition of a second part (“Canta chiù fforte”), harder and angrier than the original one...

The dreamy “Medley acustico” bounds a short excerpt from Palepoli, “Oro caldo”, with “My Mind Flies” from Preludio, tema, variazioni e canzona and “L’amore vincerà di nuovo” from L’uomo. The effect is interesting, but you can’t really resume and condensate such pieces in just five minutes and I feel that something is missing here...

The ironic, funny “Taka Boom” is a new track dealing with the risks of internet addiction leading to a virtual life disconnected with reality. On line you can find everything, you can burn every book and every film because you don’t need them any more, even sex can be experienced on line and pleasure stored in a file... Until the body of your virtual partner, hacked by viruses, will blow up!



Next comes another medley, “In un vecchio cieco - Vado verso una meta”, with two pieces from L’uomo that were bound also on the 1971 album (although in a different order) and here are in some way simplified and played in a more straightforward way. Then the canzona from the second album in its new dress, “There Will Be Time”, leads to “Medley Train” where a piece from L’uomo, “Mirror Train”, is enhanced with a new middle section featuring rap style vocals in the dialect of Naples, “Treno senza stazione” (Train without station).

The new versions of “’A zingara” (from Suddance), “Oro caldo (Fuje ‘a chistu paese)” (an excerpt from Palepoli) and “Everybody’s Gonna See You Die” (from L’uomo) follow and lead to another new track “Colpi di tosse”, a song “of rage and nostalgia” featuring the narrative and rap vocals of the guest Enzo Avitabile interacting with Lino Vairetti’s melodic lines and including quotes of “Fog In My Mind”, from Landscape Of Life. A short acoustic version of “L’uomo” ends the album.

On the whole, a good work that takes Osanna into the new millennium but not an essential one. 


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Uomini e miti is in part a celebration of one of the most relevant bands of the Italian progressive scene of the Seventies and in part a new starting point... Perhaps the magic is gone, but Osanna show here that they are still able of great live performances and the new line up deserves credit. The album was released in 2003 on the independent label Afrakà and contains a CD and a DVD



The CD features six live tracks full of energy and enthusiasm where the band play the updated versions of some historic pieces and the result is quite good... “Ce vulesse - Ce vulesse”, “’A zingara”, “L’uomo”, “There Will Be Time”, “Mirror Train” and an excerpt from “Oro caldo” reflect the new arrangements from their previous album Taka Boom and flow without breaks for more than half an hour.

Then there are some tracks recorded in the studio. “Medley acustico: Oro caldo / My Mind Flies / L'amore vincerà di nuovo”, “Colpi di tosse” and “Taka Boom” come from Osanna’s previous album Taka Boom while “Non sei vissuto mai”, a new arrangement of a piece from 1971 album L’uomo, was previously unreleased.



The DVD documents a celebration concert for the 30th anniversary of the band (recorded in Naples in December 2001), featuring the performances of some guest stars such as Francesco Di Giacomo and Rodolfo Maltese (BMS), Vittorio De Scalzi (New Trolls), Paolo Fariselli (Area), Gianni Leone (Il Balletto di Bronzo) and Jenny Sorrenti (Saint Just) and one track from another concert in 2003. The quality is good and it could be of some interest for Italianprog lovers...

On the whole, a good work.




Sunday, 19 December 2021

UNDER THE CITY

“Palepoli” is usually considered Osanna’s best album. It was released in 1973 and it is a very difficult album to define. It’s a philosophical conceptual work about Man’s fate and it develops some ideas already present on their debut album “L’uomo”. It was conceived as a musical to be performed in theatres with the help of actors and dancers and features two long suites separated by a short interlude. The line-up is classical Osanna featuring Lino Vairetti (vocals, acoustic guitar, keyboards), Danilo Rustici (guitar, organ, vocals), Elio D’Anna (flute, sax), Lello Brandi (bass) and Massimo Guarino (drums, percussion). Throughout the album it is evident that the aim of the musicians is to experience new ways, crossing styles and exploring new musical territories combining British influences with Mediterranean tradition (the lyrics here are in Italian with some parts in the dialect from Naples). Here you can find the images and sounds from an apocalyptic future and shadows and ghosts from the past.



The opener “Oro caldo” (Hot Gold) begins softly, there’s a quiet Mediterranean mood, just flute and percussions... Then an “electric tarantella” full of energy and rage takes off... The lyrics mark the contrast between the wish to live in a real world where there’s true love in the houses and joy in the streets and a different, harder reality full of rage and struggles. There’s a crowd shouting in dialect “Run away from here, escape from this country / Here words, people and thoughts don’t get along even for a single month...”. The crowd is desperate, as prisoners of a farce, they are just old-fashioned people tired of hoping and full of secrets... The tarantella ends in a guitar solo, then there’s an evocative instrumental passage in “Genesis style”... The world seems rather dull, covered by the dust of men, furrowed by deep trenches that look like the wrinkles of someone who has never cried... There are people who try to fight, to arrange plans to get a home and a job but it’s difficult to say what’s right and what’s wrong... The atmosphere is quiet and melancholic but the rhythm every now and again rises in sudden explosions of rage... “There’s fog in my mind... Hot gold is oozing from a trumpet / From where the shadow of a cold, silent note comes out...”. Cold, tired, ageless faces pass by, it’s like a human market where mercy is on sale and fragility pours from the sky... “And the wind runs towards me / Carrying the reality in its whirls / I feel cold in my thoughts / Thousands of voices are trampling on me, oh no! / Hot gold is flying / It’s like a bomb now... False! Right! False! Right!”. The music in some passages is of a dramatic beauty... Why is the present so hard? To understand it you have to search for your roots, exploring the unknown city which lies underground, populated by ghosts... “If you can search, search for Palepoli / The reality of an age without us... Plays and crafts of men, the hilarity of Pulcinella / If you can, search inside Palepoli...”. Classical influences are stronger here and contrast with the filtered raw vocals and jazzy passages expressing contrariety to a reflection about the past, the voice of Power... “The history of a city is nonsense / We go forward thanks to progress / We are progress, you’ve got wealth / We produce, although you have to work / We defend our society, but you have to fight the war...”. The city appears now as an enormous room from which you would like to break out. The mood becomes dreamy, you dream of another way of living... “I want to live in a real world where there’s love in the homes...”. But the dream clashes with the walls of the room-city... “Stanza città” (Room-City) is just a short instrumental bridge between side A and side B, you can listen to a short reprise of the opening section then to a claustrophobic conclusion...



“Animale senza respiro” (Animal without breath) starts in a jazzy, frenzied way, then the rhythm calms down giving way to a mystical atmosphere. The lyrics deal with ancient rituals and false myths leading humankind to self-destruction. Men have always built shrines and sacred altars, prayed and invoked their gods in vain... “Immortality will lie voiceless in your temples / You will burn bitter incenses and in that smoke you will drown / You will invoke false myths / Animal! You will fall / Animal! / You will crumble...”. The animal here is a metaphor for a blind man running after power and glory... An electric guitar solo kicks off a desperate race, men are running toward an uncertain future while the rhythm rises... “Animal, you’re out of breath now / You’re nothing but a shapeless heap of human stuff / Your mind is wandering in an endless rave...”. The race leads to an explosion... Then acoustic guitar introduces a dreamy, delicate passage... “You have no more time / You have no more hours / You have no more strength to believe in yourself / In this metre of life that you still have / You are looking for the air to breathe / You have no more time / You have no more hours / You are nothing now...”. The atmosphere becomes gloomy, dark bass lines pulse with experimental sounds in the background, then flute and melodic vocals draw a kind of bittersweet dirge... “Clouds of cold wool cover your agony / You will rise your lament towards your gods...”. But God lies in the air, you breathe and you can’t recognize Him. What’s happened? A nuclear disaster? The purity of a childhood has been robbed from us, the utopia of a new civilization has been destroyed and our faces are nothing but masks to conceal a faked truth... “You will pay for having robbed from us the purity of a childhood... You destroyed my age / My strength is empty... Animal! / You have built the utopia of a civilization, you have made a rain of vileness pour down...”. Rage rises... “No! Our masks won’t live again... I still want to dream the sound of the bells... Just a few more hours of cowardice and you will burn, animal! You will burn!”. But even if men ask for help their hate will never die... The rhythm becomes frenzied, wild sax passages and a jazzy mood describe the madness of humankind... “Animal without breath, you can already feel death on your face...”. Prayers are pointless now, because men are responsible for the hell they created... “Look at the sky / You can see the divine madness flying, laughing, dancing...”. On Earth mean people kill, and a threatening song celebrating the war soars... Then melts into the void. The amazing instrumental short coda leads to an awakening after a bad dream.

From the book Rock Progressivo Italiano: An introduction to Italian Progressive Rock

You can listen to the complete album HERE

Osanna: Palepoli (1973). Other opinions:
Jim Russell:  This is such a difficult album to write about, like trying to write about the most bizarre psych freak-outs or trying to discuss a 40 minute live version of the Dead's "Dark Star." Some things need to be heard to be understood... (read the complete review HERE)