Saturday, 12 October 2013

BLUE CHICKS ON THE CHESSBOARD

Panna Fredda were an Italian prog band from Rome, one of the many one-shot bands of the early seventies Italian prog scene. The line-up on their first (and last) album, released in 1971, featured Carlo Bruno (bass), Giorgio Brandi (keyboards, guitars), Filippo Carnevale (drums, guitar) and composer and lyricist Angelo Giardinelli (vocals, guitar, drums). They started their career playing melodic “beat songs”, but after releasing some singles they changed musical direction and managed to shape a very interesting mix of Italian melody, prog rock and classical influences. Although this work was high quality, their label, Vedette, didn’t rate them very highly, so Panna Fredda disbanded even before the album was released. After the experience with Panna Fredda keyboardist Giorgio Brandi returned to a more commercial style and joined a successful melodic pop band called I Cugini di Campagna (who are usually considered the antithesis of prog!) while the other members were not so lucky and gave up. What a pity!


The dark opener “La paura” (Fear) might slightly recall Uriah Heep. It develops from a haunting marching beat and features a good organ solo. The lyrics describe the fear provoked by the cold shadows of the dead gathering around you and give you a warning: when you understand that fear, death will be inside you. Almost an omen...

The second track “Un re senza reame” (A King Without A Throne) is about the absurdity of power and war... “Soundless bells asking for mercy / Smell of candles and dead flowers now / The night will bring visions of terror / To a king without a kingdom / To a king who will cry...”. The music features an acoustic interlude and more frenzied parts. It could recall some works of Le Orme.


Next comes “Un uomo” (A Man) that starts like the soundtrack of a “Spaghetti western” and sounds like a kind of “Ennio Morricone meets Le Orme and PFM”. It’s about a duel between love and hate and the lyrics tell the story of a man who killed for love but was condemned by people who didn’t understand him.

Scacco al re Lot” (Checkmate For King Lot) is my favourite track on the album. It’s a kind of mini suite featuring a dark first part where the lyrics describe Death who never tires of hunting for new prey riding a black stallion, the Grim Reaper playing checks with his enemy, Life... More melodic and acoustic passages follow, where people cry for the death of their good king Lot and hope for another good king like Lot (you can recognize here even a hint of the Italian national anthem). Hope leads to a solemn finale... “The great wizard is hidden / Beyond the world, above time...”.


The long, complex “Il vento, la luna e pulcini blu (sole rosso)” features interesting harpsichord work and baroque passages that alternate with psychedelic atmospheres but in my opinion it is not at the same level of the previous track. The lyrics describe a wonderful wood, children playing with the wind, the moon and little blue chicks, a white church, a red sun upon the altar... Unreal visions that seem to melt against reality... “Now I’m listening to the sounds that my mind refuses / My blood will burn what is left of me...”.

The last track “Waiting” is a good short instrumental with guitar and keyboards in the forefront. On the Vinyl Magic CD re-release you can find as bonus tracks two early songs of the band, “Delirio” (Delirium) and “Strisce rosse” (Red Stripes). Although they’re quite weak, comparing them with the other tracks you can see how Panna Fredda’s style evolved. 


You can listen in streaming to the complete album HERE