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Picchio Dal Pozzo - Picchio Dal Pozzo CD (album) cover


Picchio Dal Pozzo


Canterbury Scene

4.11 | 321 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
Special Collaborator
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
5 stars PICCHIO DAL POZZO (whimsically translates as "woodpecker from the well") is well known in prog circles as the rare example of England's Canterbury jazz scene finding roots in a far away continental setting well within mainland Europe. In this case Italy. This Genova based group was somewhat of a loose collective with Aldo De Scalzi, Paolo Grigulo and Andrea Beccari forming the central core with many collaborators over the decades. While the band has technically been active since their initial formation all the way back in 1973, over the coarse of time they have only managed to release four studio and two live albums. Despite progressive rock peaking around 1975 and slowly fizzling out only to give way to the punk explosion, the latter half of the 70s proved to be an interesting time for the uncompromising and ambitious groups of musicians determined to build upon the vast wealth of musical tradition established in the previous decade.

While lumped into Canterbury, PICCHIO DAL POZZO's eponymously titled debut album that emerged in 1976 was much more than a mere imitator of bands like Soft Machine and Caravan. While making that indefinable warm and fuzzy sound a core ingredient in much of their work, the band was clearly tuned into the avant-prog sensibilities of the Rock In Opposition movement with Henry Cow's angular chamber rock influences infused within the Canterbury jazz. Also on board was the playful and spastic jazz-rock eclecticism of Frank Zappa ranging from his quirky outbursts of stylish xylophone runs to his outlandish orchestral motifs. In fact, one could rightfully find many prog influences from the past. The debut album is completely dedicated to Robert Wyatt and the opening track "Merta" is based on Wyatt's track "Sea Song" from his epic classic "Rock Bottom," however the track itself sounds more like a Hawkwind inspired space rock track with a steady paced groove that hypnotizes that implements Jon Anderson inspired vocal utterances a la "Close To The Edge" before finally making the ole switcheroo to the brass and woodwind rich Canterbury jazz angulariites.

For all the labeling that has been heaped upon PICCHIO DAL POZZO's intriguingly masterful debut, this is really a group that found their own voice from the beginning. While hints of this and that are apparent at every turn, somehow the band mastered the subtle visionary techniques of mixing and melding things into a brand new beautiful concoction with apparent ease. Basically this album generates a flow of moods from beginning to end. The initial stages are more space rock oriented. Hypnotic and repetitive with irregular horns, xylophones and percussive drives bubbling up from the background. The middle part is much more centered in a more calm and contemplative jazz-rock mode where the Canterbury influences rule supremely. Despite being considered one of the Italian prog scene's most alienating in terms of how Italian prog bands sounded during the 70s, the Italian language vocals ensure that some of the symphonic prog moments of bands like PFM and Banco shine through on rare occasions. The end of the album becomes trippy again but in a mellower way. The last two tracks "La Bolla" and "Off" resonate with suave melodic piano runs accompanied by surreal backdrops of backmasking, horns and avant-prog guitar runs possibly blessed by Fred Frith himself.

For those lucky enough to own this album as the 2011 CD re-issue, there is a bonus track called "Seulement" which was derived from a live performance. For my money, this was a necessary addition to this album that seemed a tad lopsided as it started as an aggressive space rock album but ended in Canterbury mellowness that wouldn't sound out of place on a modern post-rock album. The final live bonus track adds a great deal of Canterbury upbeat jazz heft to the album as a prominent closer that initiates a more avant-rockin' feel that utilizes more guitar and bass action with substantial avant-prog horn workouts. It adds a sense of satisfying completion that i feel was left hanging from the original track order. This album really needed that extra oomf as a closing emotional outburst as the dreamy placidity of "Off" just seemed like the band went to sleep and was generating musical inspiration int he dreamworld. But that hardly means i wouldn't have loved this as originally released.

No matter how you slice it, PICCHIO DAL POZZO was one of the most original of the Italian prog bands to have come out of the 70s not to mention the only band from the nation to fully embrace England's Canterbury Scene as a major part of their overall sound. This is a band of impeccable talent that mastered not only the compositional fortitude of the greats that came before but displays careful and calculated displays of virtuosity and disparate juxtapositions of genre bending antics. This is a band that was so invested in developing their respective musical compositions that they had neither a band name nor an album cover (came spontaneously from a calendar on the wall) until the 11th hour when the first album was to be released. While this album failed miserably commercially speaking, PICCHIO DAL POZZO have become regarded as one of the greats of the progressive rock scene of the 70s and one of Italy's most enduring and respected music collectives. Also of interest is how different this first album sounds from the followup "Abbiamo Tutti I Suoi Problemi." This is the one moment where space rock, Canterbury jazz, avant-prog and Italian symphonic prog crossed roads for a brief moment in time and flourished. One of the Italian greats!

siLLy puPPy | 5/5 |


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