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Osanna - Palepoli  CD (album) cover

PALEPOLI

Osanna

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

4.24 | 263 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Raff
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Palepoli (The Old Town, currently the gorgeous seafront area called Santa Lucia) is the original nucleus of the city that would later become Naples, the pearl of the Mediterranean, one of the most loved and loathed places in the world - the Italian music capital, and a notorious abode of crime and squalor (cue the recently released movie Gomorrah, and the deplorable rubbish débacle of last summer). Naples is breathtaking in its splendour, and infuriating in its unbridled anarchy - perhaps not the best place to live for someone who likes quiet and order, but an experience to be had at least once in a lifetime (for the glorious food as well as for the scenery, the art and the music). Yes, it's true... See Naples and then die. A walk in the so-called Spanish quarters is the closest you can get to a Middle Eastern souk in the heart of western Europe - and probably no one has managed to capture that heady, intoxicating atmosphere better than Naples' own sons Osanna in their third album, released in 1972.

Still active after a long hiatus, Osanna were hot stuff back in the Seventies. With their painted faces (harking back to the city's traditional mask of Pulcinella) and wild, energetic sound, they blended British-style heavy rock with unashamedly Neapolitan influences, coming from one of the oldest, most time-honoured musical traditions in the world. It has even been intimated that Peter Gabriel took his cue from Osanna when the two bands toured Italy together. As most of their fellow Neapolitans, the four members of the band had music in their blood - not the tasteful, restrained kind practiced by northern Italians PFM, but rather a full-throttle blend of passion, energy and technical skill.

Much in the same way as bands like ELP, Palepoli is not for those in search of subtlety, though I would not call it self-indulgent either. The chaos on display on the album is of the controlled variety, in spite of the somewhat fragmented nature of the compositions. However, those fragments, like the pieces of a puzzle, eventually fall together to form a complete picture. The two main tracks, sprawling epics that approach or even exceed 20 minutes in length, are linked together by a short piece reprising the opening of the album itself, and give an entirely new meaning to the expression 'a wild ride'. It is no wonder Palepoli commands such adoration on the part of prog fans - it shows progressive rock at its authentic best, soothing and lyrical at times, and at others raw, aggressive and passionate. It also shows what a wonderful contribution local musical traditions can bring to the melting pot that is prog music.

The first track, Oro caldo, can be best described as a colourful, richly-textured patchwork of musical moods. Its opening suggests the atmosphere of Naples' narrow alleys and street markets, dirty, noisy, and thoroughly fascinating, a babel of sounds, voices and sights. The influence of Neapolitan folk music, such as the frantic rhythms of the tarantella, is evident throughout the piece, especially when, at the beginning, the band members sing in the Neapolitan dialect - probably one of the best vehicles for song and music ever known to man. The sax and the flute are the trademarks of Osanna's sound, bringing a mixture of lyricism and aggression to the already exciting texture of their music. Oro caldo rocks hard (I wouldn't mind adding Osanna to Heavy Prog, though I'd rather avoid domestic strife...), but also offers quieter, more meditative moments - just like escaping the chaotic atmosphere of the Naples alleys into a darkened, half-deserted church.

The second epic, Animale senza respiro, is somewhat more structured, though it does adopt the same eclectic approach to composition as Oro caldo. It is also a distinctly darker offering, with some angular, jazzy stylings bordering on the avant-garde, dominated by flutes and saxes, interspersed with almost unexpected acoustic breaks. Not subtle, and definitely not easy listening, but totally captivating. The vocals on both tracks are stellar - lead singer Lino Vairetti would deserve to be mentioned much more frequently among the great prog vocalists, though the rest of the band are no slouches either. Being heirs to one of the greatest singing traditions ever, Osanna's vocals are much less of an acquired taste than most other RPI bands.

If you want soothing, pastoral beauty, or music that does not demand too much engagement from the listener, give this one a miss. Like the city of Naples itself, it is not for the squeamish. However, if you like your prog with some bite (and here there is plenty - think lashings of red hot pepper), and don't mind hearing people sing in a language other than English, this will grab you like few other discs produced in the Seventies will. A concept album that is rooted in gritty reality and not in the airy-fairy, first-class musicianship and singing, the heady scent of one of the oldest musical traditions in the West... What else are you looking for?

P.S. This review is dedicated to the city itself, which in October 2008 finally saw the end of our long wait to be together...

Raff | 5/5 |

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