Friday, 23 November 2012

A PENGUIN ON THE RUN

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

Murple were formed in Rome 1971 on the initiative of two young musicians, drummer Duilio Sorrenti and bass player Mario Garbarino, two very close friends. The band was completed by keyboardist Pier Carlo Zanco, who was studying piano, double bass and composition at the Conservatory of Santa Cecilia and by guitarist/singer Pino Santamaria. The name of the band was inspired by an American friend who imagined talking to an invisible penguin. This original idea was also exploited on stage with a gigantic plastic penguin which was inflated during performances and penguin logo placed on the equipment.
 
Murple in the seventies

In 1974 they released their debut work, “Io sono Murple” (I am Murple), a concept album about the feelings of a penguin compelled “to bow and act as a juggler... like a reed bowed by the wind, among the threads of a world of dwarves and clowns that penetrates your bones promising to be faithful without knowing any faith”. Well, I quoted part of the lyrics in an attempt to explain the subject in words while the wonderful album cover tries to explain it in the images.


According to an interview with Pier Carlo Zanco, the album was conceived as a long suite telling the story of a penguin called Murple who is dissatisfied with his life on the ice and begins a fantastic voyage that takes him to a man who fascinates him and has him work in a circus. Obviously this became a negative experience, but in the end he is happy because he got what he wanted, to change his destiny. Well, now all you have to do is close your eyes and listen, because even if the subject is rather strange the music is excellent...

Pier Carlo Zanco in the seventies

Side A begins softly, but after two minutes there’s an interesting drum solo leading to a short rock section with a good interaction between the instruments. “Antartide”, “Metamorfosi” and “Pathos” are tightly bound together, there are many changes in rhythm and moods and no room for boredom in an album where classically inspired patterns blend with rock influences in a personal way and with a great musicianship...


Then, after seven minutes, on “Senza un perché” (Without a reason), over a delicate piano part, shy lead vocals appear... “Poor creature, in the wreckage inside you the prayer rises / It’s sincere but after that you’ll be wishing promised lands, all the great dreams / Without a reason...”. The melodic lines are good but the lead vocals in my opinion are the weak point of the album (actually Murple didn’t have a real singer and the vocal parts were shared between the guitarist Pino Santamaria and the keyboardist Pier Carlo Zanco). After 10:30 an amazing church-like choir introduces the following section “Nessuna scelta” (No choice) with remarkable keyboard patterns in the background... “You will teach me how to bow like a juggler who always says yes / If you want, if you like you’ll change me without telling me what you’re doing / I will be the clay without shape / I can’t make any choice...”. The closing section of side A is the instrumental “Murple Rock” that features a remarkable guitar work...


Side B begins with “Preludio e scherzo”, an amazing classically inspired “solo-piano section”... After 2:55 the lead vocals appear on “Tra i fili” (Among the threads) that was chosen as a single to promote the album (but in my opinion this is not the best moment of this work). After 5:26 a good instrumental “Variazioni in 6/8”, with keyboards in the forefront, reminds me of BMS tracks as “Garofano rosso” or “Fino alla mia porta”. After 7:35 the lead vocals come back for “Fratello” (Brother) and “Un mondo così” (A world like this)... In my opinion on this album the lyrics are not particularly inspired and a little naïve but luckily the vocal parts are short and almost all the sections of the suites also feature interesting instrumental interludes. The final section is the instrumental “Antarplastic” that is just a short reprise of the opener “Antartide”...

You can read about Murple reunion and find out more about this band HERE