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Le Orme - Uomo Di Pezza CD (album) cover

UOMO DI PEZZA

Le Orme

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

4.22 | 483 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

jimmy_row
4 stars By 1972, Le Orme were beginning to establish their niche within the blossoming Italian rock scene - with their album Collage, released the previous year, they made the step into progressive territory, and gained valuable experience by playing in large "Italian Pop" festivals. By the time they recorded Uomo di Pezza, they were still ironing out their influences, attempting to assimilate various styles, seemingly contradicting themselves at times . . . going from sweet, acoustic ballads to harsh, keyboard- laden freak-outs, and back again, sometimes in the same track. To further solidify their image as a prog band, they packaged Uomo di Pezza in a striking, Dali-esque foldout sequence, subtly depicting the themes they would touch upon in the lyrics. They also came up with a hit single, Gioco di Bimba, which brought them enough recognition to step out of the festival scene and tour on their own, with occasional guests - this is where they would be first acquainted with Peter Hammill, who would play a role in Le Orme's attempt to enter the English-speaking market in 1974 by writing the lyrics to Felona & Sorona (the English version of their next album, Felona e Sorona).

The album itself has the passionate, organ-loaded sound typical of the period, aside from the radio- friendly ballads which work due to Aldo Tagliapietra's warm delivery on vocals, and Tony Pagliuca's resourcefulness on keyboards - his setup has, by now, expanded to include several synthesizers and a Hohner clavinet in addition to all the staples of Italian prog. And let's not forget about Michi dei Rossi, the man behind the kit, always considered one of the "beasts" even in a scene that boasted many excellent drummers.

While getting to know this album, I found that the music is self-explanatory . . . if you like '70s prog rock with scads of keyboards and dramatic compositions, then you will surely enjoy this record. It fits right in with Genesis, Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer . . . you name it. But, because I do not speak the language of Le Orme, Italian, I cannot get the "full picture" of their work, which is a shame because they have a reputation as excellent storytellers. Relatively recently, I have been able to find some adequate translations, usually incomplete, but I was able to piece bits of information together in order to uncover part of this elusive picture. There is a rumor that the band had planned on doing a concept album or story within the music, about a little girl who is raped or kidnaped and goes insane, but is finally able to escape her demons through strong love and the power of imagination . . . but even so, they kept things rather ambiguous and (it appears) they changed the order of the tracks, maintaining a vague concept, based on isolation, sadness . . . those types of things (please forgive my absent- mindedness, I haven't been able to relocate various sources of information, but much of it is speculation, so keep that in mind). I'll do my best to make sense of the underlying story along with the track-descriptions, going in order that makes sense given the lyrics, so bare with me, it might be messy . . .

We begin with Gioco di Bimba ("The Little Girl's Play"), the single released from the album, which is fitting enough because it is a bouncy little tune with playful vocals and verses punctuated by an uplifting synth/clavinet jig. The irony is that it's describing a girl who is sleepwalking, while a "man made of rags" (the title of the album) is stalking her . . . the song ends from the man's point of view, as he laments: "I didn't want her to wake up that way." I'll leave it up to your imagination as to what happened. Breve Immagine ("Fleeting Image") continues in the stalker's point of view; somewhat overpowered by the situation. There is a level of empathy for his tortured soul; it opens by evoking a haunted playroom and builds into vivid colors and a breathtaking chorus section with angelic vocals underpinned by shimmering mellotron.

"It's a sweet and beautiful image, an image that I want forever, to be mine" . . . "A brief, fleeting image / One that the sunset steals away."

At this point, Alienazione ("Alienation"), the sole instrumental piece on the album, would fit, or it could go after the next track if you like. It is a dark, brooding force, which closes the album in its actual order. This is the closest Le Orme come to sounding like the more aggressive bands in Italy of the same period . . . Pagliuca seems very busy with various organ sound-effects and dancing piano phrases. The fuzz technique used isn't very far from Mike Ratledge of The Soft Machine. Following this interlude, we move into Aspettando L'Alba ("Awaiting the Dawn"), the aftermath of this horrifying night. A current of sorrow runs beneath the words that speak of lost innocence, contrasting the beauty of the night with the young girl's sadness . . . it becomes more specific before breaking into an experimental solo section reminiscent of King Crimson.

"The young man gazed, a quiet misery/ Warmth in the limbs of their tense bodies/ The moon ceased to set, and the dim light splashed upon the bank/ Her body is given for free"

Once again, the band makes excellent use of counterpoint between creepy, atmospheric parts and sweeping chorus lines, with ethereal keyboards filling the spaces in between. Figure Cartone ("Cardboard Figures") and La Porta Chiusa ("The Closed Door") further the theme of isolation. The former is another acoustic ballad, and wouldn't feel out of place on a George Harrison album (aside from the vocals of course), it has a lovely Mediterranean breeze to it - not exactly epic prog rock, but I find it equally beautiful. The bubbling synth sounds remind me of early ELP, or even Camel during the Mirage/Moonmadness period. La Porta Chiusa is just the opposite, the centerpiece of the album. More creepy verse sections after a terrifying intro sets the stage . . . plenty of filthy keyboard sounds here to please Emerson/Wakeman fans. The Hammond organ solo which closes the song is a particular highlight for me, as Tony Pagliuca sets a peaceful, church-like tone before letting loose with no restraint whatsoever. The story progresses as the girl becomes more out of touch and lives only with her own mind. "Now only you can see who plays with you." As her fear grows, and she becomes trapped in solitude - imposed on her by the 'man of rags', "As every evening, you are alone in the darkness. Your own purity is the only comfort." She waits for each night when she can walk freely and talk to the wind and dream about her childhood.

"You press a pillow against your body, create the figure of a woman/ On the untouched wall, she holds a baby . . . And so very happily, you fall into sleep."

The love in her dreams brings about "A New Sweetness" (Una Dolcezza Nuova . . . I say that one out loud sometimes because it sounds so nice) - the opening track on the album, the last part of the story. The band 'does their thing', with a Bach-inspired intro followed by a soothing piano melody. Aldo Tagliapietra's fragile voice brings the extra comfort before the song builds back up in the end. There seems to be several abstract meanings in the lyrics here, it's basically the resolution of the girl, regaining sanity or what have you. Maybe she was dreaming the whole time or maybe she just falls in love with the kidnapper, it's hard to say . . .

"The tempest rages in your heart, take refuge in me/ Thunder cracks through space, your voice becomes faint/ And you tremble beside me."

"Your gaze is caught and held in my hands/ In your eyes, there is a new sweetness."

Like I said, the element of interpretation is lost on me because I can't understand the words first hand (it's fun to try though ;). I seem to recall someone telling me the last verses are about reuniting with a creator, or mother, and that sounds good to me, so I'll go with it.

The album as a whole is hard for me to rate - it's one of, if not my number one favorite Italian ("RPI") album, and there are no weak points to be found . . . so on the Jimmy Row scale - 5 stars easily. But I hesitate to put it on the same levels as the 'benchmark' albums that beginners should have before investigating the Italian scene. A stingy four stars because it's not one of the very first things a newbie should hear . . . heck, you can add an invisible half star and that would be perfect: 4.5/5

And since I haven't done this review-thing before: special thanks to the "RPI Gang" and all the prolific and inspired reviewers at progarchives - it's a skill and I envy those of you who have it.

jimmy_row | 4/5 |

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