Anni di piombo, anni di paillettes.

Music from a country on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Posts Tagged ‘progressive

[music:] Pepe Maina, Il canto dell’arpa e del flauto (1978)

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“Ok, adesso facciamo un pezzo che si intitola “Two balls”. È dedicato a tutte le suore operaie, alle fabbriche incinte, ai negri tirolesi e a Raquel Welch.” (“ok, we’re about to play a song called “Two balls”. it’s dedicated to all working nuns, to pregnant factories, to tyrolese niggers, and to Raquel Welch.”). These are the only words you will hear in this record, the debut album by the multi-instrumentalist Pepe Maina, spoken as an introduction to a live performance captured at the centro sociale Leoncavallo in Milan, circa 1977.

A very short and apparently nonsense speech which yet synthesize an entire philosophy: a love for meaningful paradox, a taste for making contraries collide without obliterating them, a pleasure in conflict which mark the whole work of Maina. Someone whose intelligence and ruthless irony – and self-irony – have helped most of the time, especially from mid eighties on, to avoid petty new age drifts while pursuing an ideal of music as a spiritual guidance and as a means to reconcile with nature and the rythm of earthbeat, making a mess with sound influences from all over the world. More or less, you could argue the same about Julian Cope – all differences considered.

So that you can’t help but fall in love with the man, when he states that his first LP was no more than “just the right soundtrack for those years’ joints”. Actually, Il canto dell’arpa e del flauto (“the song of the harp and the flute”), released by Caterina Caselli’s label Ascolto, could easily find a place in that “Italian cosmic rock continuum” which lies at our Mutant Sounds friends’ heart, juggling with progressive folk (Maina himself cites mid-seventies Jade Warrior as a main influence, but you can add other usual names, such as Third Ear Band and, as for Italy, Aktuala), krautrock (such as in the Cluster-flavoured “Spring song” and “Two balls”, with a funny glancing quotation from the melody of “Frère Jacques”), acoustic psychedelic rips (the final segment of “Il canto dell’arpa e del flauto (Parte prima)”), ethnic explosions (the feverishly percussive “Africa”, which somehow anticipated the Ozric Tentacles at their best), early ambient traces.

Here is the tracklist:

01, Il canto dell’arpa (“the song of the harp”)
02, Il canto dell’arpa e del flauto (Parte prima) (“the song of the harp and the flute (first part)”)
03, Spring song
04, Two balls
05, Africa
06, Il canto dell’arpa e del flauto (Parte seconda) (“the song of the harp and the flute (second part)”)
07, San Nicola (“saint Nicholas”)

Get it: Pepe Maina, Il canto dell’arpa e del flauto (1978 )

This startling album remains to date the sole example of collaboration with the hated record industry for Pepe Maina. He soon opted for self-production, launching the following year his recording studio/music label Nonsense Studio by releasing his second full-length effort, Scerizza (the name of the smalltown near Como where he lives). He has been putting out more than twenty fully diy records since then, meanwhile working for theatre, indipendent filmmakers, advertising.

Go and visit his official website (in english) for more info, music downloads and cd shopping.

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Written by alteralter

March 2, 2009 at 6:49 pm

[music:] Alan Sorrenti, Alan Sorrenti Special (1980)

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Usually I don’t post “greatest hits” or “best of” stuff, but this is a whole other story.

Basically, it’s like if there were two distinct artists called “Alan Sorrenti”: the half Italian, half Welsh long-haired & long-bearded hippy vocal experimenter who worked with Luciano Cilio, Toni Esposito, Jean-Luc Ponty, Francis Monkman from Curved Air and Dave Jackson from Van der Graaf Generator versus the moustached, well hairdressed falsetto singing latin lover who recorded with Toto as a backing band and whose most successful songs are featured in almost every oldies collection released. The tiny minority of people worldwide who know and love his early folk/prog works (that is two albums released on Harvest Records: Aria – “air” – 1972, and Come un vecchio incensiere all’alba di un villaggio deserto – “like an old incense burner at a desert village’s dawn” – 1973) most of the time dismiss his post-1974 career, while those who enjoy singing along with his disco-pop tunes usually can’t even fancy of a time when Alan was called “the Italian Tim Buckley” – “Bach-who?”.

This amazing 1980 EMI anthology knocks down this barrier, compiling in no chronological order ten songs seemingly the most distant from one another – and leaving aside his major hits such as “Figli delle stelle” or “Tu sei l’unica donna per me” – perhaps aiming at recovering some kind of an aesthetically and emotionally consistent general picture of the artist’s path from the beginnings to 1977.

Well, the mission is accomplished. The result is a mesmerizing stream of uncosciousness which lines up on the a side with no prejudice and an excellent taste the late seventies italo drama hint of “Notte di stelle” (an excerpt from the bestseller Figli delle stelle, “sons of the star”, 1977) with the ethereal “A te che dormi” (from Come un vecchio incensiere…); “Alba” (from Sienteme, it’s time to land, recorded in the States and released in 1976) with “Vorrei incontrarti” (from the first album) and the thin, sensual “Poco più piano” (from from the 1974 self-titled full-length).

The b side instead revolves around three songs in Neapolitan dialect, two of which are renditions of standards from the classical melodic songbook: the wonderful “Dicitincello vuje”, which topped the chart in 1974 and costed Sorrenti heavy protests from the alternative scenesters (at its worst, he was forced to leave the stage at the Licola Festival in 1975, when people from the audience started throwing bottles and cans), and “Passione”, arranged in a funky-disco fashion. Plus, it includes the sumptuous “E tu mi porti via” from the 1977 album and a scattered gem like “Le tue radici”, released as a stand alone single in 1975.

Here is the tracklist:

01, Notte di stelle (“starry night”)
02, A te che dormi (“to you sleeping”)
03, Alba (“dawn”)
04, Vorrei incontrarti (“i’d like to meet you”)
05, Poco più piano (“a little slower”)
06, Dicitincello vuje (“go and tell her”)
07, Le tue radici (“your roots”)
08, Sienteme (“listen to me”)
09, Passione (“passion”)
10, E tu mi porti via (“and you take me away”)

Get it: Alan Sorrenti, Alan Sorrenti Special (1980)

Alan Sorrenti has released five other albums since 1980 – not counting the compilations – the last being Sottacqua (“underwater”, 2003), none of which managed to regain his late seventies success. Incidentally, his sister Jane “Jenny” Sorrenti is a gifted singer herself; she founded the short-lived folk/prog band Saint Just in 1973, and is still active as a live performer.

Written by alteralter

February 24, 2009 at 11:50 pm

[music:] Roberto Ferri, Se per caso un giorno la follia… (1977)

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In the seventies there’s been a passionate debate in Italy about mental illness and psychiatric hospitals, mainly promoted by great psychiatrist and philosopher Franco Basaglia. He began experimenting new and different methods in treating lunatics in Gorizia, Parma and Trieste’s asylums, which he directed between late sixties and early seventies. In 1973 he founded Psichiatria democratica (“democratic psychiatry”), a movement for a reform in mental health system.

The fight against psychiatric abuses such as electroshocks and sedatives overuse, and for a new way of considering insanity, became a crucial issue for the broader social movement who struggled against repression and total institutions such as prisons or the army. A true and deep revolution in italian culture started here.

Se per caso un giorno la follia… (“if, by chance, one day the madness…”) would have possibly never existed out of this climate. Roberto Ferri had been discovered by Mina in the late sixties, and had released a series of 7″ between 1967 and 1970, but he had to wait since 1977 for his first LP, which was something completely different from the pop tunes – sometimes covers of foreign hits – he had been recording since then.

It actually was a concept album about social labelling, marginalization and exploitation, portraying characters suffering because of their diversity: psychotics, of course, but also dropouts, kids, animals. The contrast between the music – which is basically soft progressive rock added with sophisticated, melodic pop in the french chansonniers’ style, with even some folk hints – and the stories Ferri told made tracks like “Io povero pazzo” or “Requiem per Boby” (a shocking crude song about vivisection) even more heartbreaking. But there’s also space for a love triangle (“Tu e lui”) and for the closest thing to an anthem for the Indiani metropolitani’s generation: “Anno zero”. Ferri is great giving a coherent emotional mood to the whole work which, in spite of some naiveties, remains touching and challenging even thirty years later.

Here is the tracklist:

01, Alla piazza deserta (“to the empty square”)
02, Io povero pazzo (“i, poor madman”)
03, Ritagli di giornale (“newspaper cut-outs”)
04, Col vestito da indiano (“in a red indian costume”)
05, Il pavone (“the peacock”)
06, Requiem per Boby (“requiem for Boby”)
07, Giovannino seme di mela (“little appleseed John”)
08, Anno zero (“year zero”)
09, Tu e lui (“you and him”)
10, La goccia (“the drop”)

Get it: Roberto Ferri, Se per caso un giorno la follia… (1977)

Italian asylums were closed in 1978 with the law number 180 (also known as “legge Basaglia”). Franco Basaglia died in 1980. Roberto Ferri continued his career as songwriter and performer, while teaching chemistry and working in the perfume industry. He collaborated with, among others, Fabrizio De Andrè, Adriano Celentano, New Trolls, Patty Pravo and Franco Battiato. He also wrote the 1983 Sanremo festival winning tune, “Sarà quel che sarà” (“what will be, will be”), sang by one-hit wonder Tiziana Rivale. In 2007 he returned to play live Se per caso un giorno la follia…

Check out robertoferri.it for more info and updates.

Written by alteralter

May 1, 2008 at 4:57 pm

[music:] Mauro Pelosi, Mauro Pelosi (1977)

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In 1977, the students and workers’ movement in Italy reached a peak of violence and defy. People from Autonomia Operaia, one of the most important leftist groups, used to parade with real guns in their hands; policemen not only had guns as well, but were eager to use them. As a result, many demonstrations ended up in gunfights, sometimes with dead people.

At the same time, a new and creative counterculture was rising, oddly influenced by punk, Living Theatre, french situationism, Woodstock peace-and-love philosophy, and boosted by drugs such as heroin, plegin (amphetamine-based diet pills), weed, and sedatives. Both the “regular” revolutionaries and the establishment looked suspiciously at those people, like the Indiani metropolitani (“urban red-indians”), and at what they did.

In the middle of all this, Mauro Pelosi released his third album. A masterpiece.

His first two records, La stagione per morire (“a season to die”, 1972) and Al mercato degli uomini piccoli (“at little men’s market”, 1973), released on Polydor major label, were pretty undecided between a “cantautore” style (“cantautori” were the singer/songwriters , tipically engaged and/or depressed, which many young people adored), and prog-like tentatives. Most of the lyrics were self-centered, dealing with love disappointment and suffering, and deeply introspective. Actually, there are great songs in these albums, and even some “experimental” takes which anticipate what was yet to come (like “Suicidio” on La stagione per morire), but the overall impression is that Pelosi’s vision was slightly out of focus.

After the commercial failure of his early seventies’ efforts, Mauro Pelosi took his time, preparing for the next move. He was allowed another chance by Polydor, which in the meantime released a compilation album, but he apparently gave up the opportunity, travelling to Far East and making his living by selling cheap indian jewelry in the streets of Rome, his hometown. Until one day, in 1976, he came back to his label’s offices. He was ready to record again.

It seemed he had absorbed all of the anger, the love, the sadness, the frailty, the unfulfilled dreams and the self-injuring instincts of his generation, the political discontent of the extremists and the freaky attitude of the Indiani metropolitani. And he was ready to give it back in the form of nine songs.

Everything is in its place here, even the faux pas, the naiveties, the excesses. In this self-titled LP, Pelosi simply and completely wastes himself, speaking on behalf of his generation, and no more just for himself, with relentless self-irony. It’s a sacrifice. He destroys himself, and everything else.

A morbid mood haunts the whole album, a feeling like the musicians – and the singer first, of course – could suddenly lose their heads and start eating their instruments, or kill each other. The music is kinda psychedelic pop, with some progressive and experimental hints, cabaret and child music passages, and even great orchestral moments, such in the magnificent, Bacalov-esque coda for “Ho fatto la cacca”, the final track. The backing band counts musicians such as the great Lucio Fabbri (Premiata Forneria Marconi, Demetrio Stratos, Claudio Rocchi, Eugenio Finardi…), Ricky Belloni (formerly with New Trolls), Bambi Fossati (Garybaldi), and Edoardo Bennato.

Useless to say, Mauro Pelosi sold little more than the previous two albums, and after another beautiful LP in 1979, Il signore dei gatti (“the cats’ master”), Pelosi was discharged by his label and completely disappeared from the italian music scene.

Here is the tracklist:

01, La bottiglia (“the bottle”)
02, Luna park
03, Ho trovato un posto per te (“i found a place for you”)
04, Una lecca lecca d’oro (“a golden lollipop”, also released as a 7″ b/w “L’investimento”)
05, L’investimento (“the investment”)
06, Una casa piena di stracci (“a house full of rags”)
07, Alle 4 di mattina (“at four in the morning”)
08, Claudio e Francesco (“Claudio and Francesco”)
09, Ho fatto la cacca (“i poo poo’ed”)

Get it: Mauro Pelosi, Mauro Pelosi (1977)

For those of you who can read italian, here is the artist’s self-managed site: mauropelosi.it

Written by alteralter

February 24, 2008 at 3:20 pm