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Angelo Branduardi - La pulce d'acqua CD (album) cover

LA PULCE D'ACQUA

Angelo Branduardi

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

4.00 | 18 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Raff
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Angelo Branduardi, the Lombardy-born 'minstrel' of Italian music, released his fourth album, La pulce d'acqua, when the great tide of Italian prog was already ebbing away. In spite of that, this album is probably one of his most progressive efforts, combining Branduardi's usual blend of folk and medieval influences with more ambitious songwriting and more complex instrumentation. Too often lumped together with the myriad of 'cantautori' that have graced the Italian music scene for the past forty years, Branduardi has always been much more than a simple singer-songwriter - a highly trained musician, with a solid theoretical background (I heard him speak at a conference, and was really impressed by his knowledge), as well as a passionate researcher into the various manifestations of world music. This would be reason enough to have him included in the PA database - as a matter of fact, a lot of his material shares the same sources as the music produced by many renowned British and European folk-rock outfits.

La pulce d'acqua sees Branduardi accompanied by a number of excellent musicians, some playing unusual instruments like the Pan pipes, the bouzouki, and the distinctively-sounding launeddas, the Sardinian bagpipes. This unique instrument, evocative of the Mediterranean island's stark landscape, features prominently in the album's opening track, Ballo in fa diesis minore, inspired by a Baroque dance, where Death speaks and declares itself everyone's lord and master. Il ciliegio is instead based on a famous English folk ballad, The Cherry Tree Carol, also performed by The Pentangle on their Solomon's Seal album (though with a different music - Branduardi's version is definitely more upbeat). The sprightly title-track features a rich orchestral arrangement, as well as the perky sound of the piccolo and other woodwind instruments.

On the whole, the album is consistently well-performed, with all the participating musicians on top form. The majority of the tracks are not particularly experimental, and keep within the song form. However, what I consider to be the highlights of the album are nothing short of stunning. Besides the aforementioned Ballo in fa diesis minore, the haunting ballad La sposa rubata (inspired by an ancient Breton folk song called Satan's Bride, based on the motif of the bride kidnapped by a supernatural being on her wedding day) sees a particularly inspired vocal performance by Branduardi, who also plays the Pan pipes; while album closer La bella dama senza pietà is an authentically progressive offering, dark and sinister with its plodding beat. And no surprise... The song is based on one of the most genuinely disturbing pieces of poetry I know, John Keats' La Belle Dame Sans Merci (of which the song's lyrics are an excellent translation), the story of a knight ensorceled by the titular 'beautiful lady without mercy', and condemned to a lingering life-in-death. The song's haunting beauty is further enhanced by the exotic sound of the sitar, particularly effective in the coda. Branduardi's vocals go from measured, almost whispered, to passionate and emotionally-charged; a grandiose string section completes the picture.

Two extra-musical features of the album also deserve a mention: the beautiful drawings by Mario Convertino (unfortunately, except for the cover, only visible in the vinyl version), and Luisa Zappa Branduardi's wonderful lyrics. Luisa is very gifted with words, and some of her compositions (including the lyrics to this album) have been translated into English by someone well-known to every prog fan, King Crimson and ELP lyricist Pete Sinfield.

This album will definitely appeal to anyone interested in medieval and folk music, even though it is not as dark and experimental as the likes of Comus. Anyway, if you are into Pentangle, Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention, you could do much worse than get to know Angelo Branduardi's fascinating musical world. Probably not easy to get hold of outside Europe (but to be found for very cheap in Italy), La pulce d'acqua makes nevertheless for a very rewarding listen. Four stars from this reviewer.

Raff | 4/5 |

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