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Saint Just - Saint Just CD (album) cover

SAINT JUST

Saint Just

 

Prog Folk

3.55 | 35 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars Saint Just came to me highly recommended but with a warning that they wouldn’t likely ‘click’ at first, but over time would grow in appeal considerably. That turned out to be an accurate description.

This was an Italian trio from Naples who set out with the intent of creating a unique, modern sound that at the same time respected tradition and was dreamy and colorful and free from any restrictions of convention. I know this because the CD’s liner notes say so. I think they succeeded for the most part. There are a few points on the album where I get the impression the three of them are trying a bit to hard to be unique and clever and kind of fall flat, but these are few and you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs anyway.

Like I said the band is a trio, they’re Italian and they are playing modern folk rock. That should tell you enough about there sound. But it doesn’t really. In addition to the gorgeous classical piano you’d expect there are also occasional blasts of psych electric guitar on “Il Fiume Inondo” and “Una Bambina”; bongos and castanets with dense rhythms (“Una Bambina”); carnival-like organ with gentle plucked acoustic guitar accompaniment (“Trister Poeta di Corte”); and even a sort of spoken/chanted-word piece with a thudding backbeat that could easily be sampled by some up-and-coming hip-hop musician even today (“Saint Just”).

But the two most prominent and overwhelming characteristics of this music come in the form of the singer listed simply as “Jane” in the liner notes (“Jenny Sorrenti”), and saxophonist Robert Fix. Sorrenti has one of those voices that you’ll love or hate, but either way will take some time to get used to. It’s hard to say what register or octave she’s singing in most of the time, but she comes off sort of like Bernadette Peters doing Kate Bush covers. After some time I’ve sort of come to appreciate her voice although she is undoubtedly on the outer fringe of prog singers, along with Geddy Lee, Colin Meloy, Kate Bush and probably even Peter Hammill.

The songs are a mixed-bag despite all being clearly in the prog folk arena. The opening and lengthy “Il Fiume Inondo” persists a lovely piano line that is alternately accented by the saxophone, Sorrenti’s soaring vocals, tasty guitar licks and Fix’s reverberating and undulating saxophone passages. What starts out as a classically-tinged acoustic instrumental ends up being a sort of operatic psych trance thing, and the delicate piano passage eventually gives way to some harsh, discordant and jazzy ivory-tickling before the whole thing is over. I’ll give these guys credit that they managed to put out something pretty unique, and not at all what you’d expect by looking at the cover or liner notes.

“Il Risveglio” almost plays out in reverse of “Il Fiume Inondo”, opening pretty quickly and energetically with Sorrenti’s vocals and guest Gianni Guarracino’s jamming electric guitar licks before working its way into a mild jazz bridge and finally to a pastoral piano and saxophone passage that is tastefully framed by classical and some electric guitar. “Dolci Momenti” on the other hand is quite brief, and mostly emphasizes Sorrenti’s vocals along with organ bells and pipes.

I like “Una Bambina” the most on this record, with its shape-shifting sections that, like the opening track, move from classical piano and operatic vocals to tight fuzzed psych guitar and strummed acoustic that themselves give way to a highly syncopated rhythm with castanets, Sorrenti overdubbing herself in two widely separated octaves with what sounds more like an intense Latin love song, and Fix’s really wacky sax.

There are only six songs on the album and the last two are much more restrained that the earlier ones, although “Trister Poeta di Corte” does include a brief cacophonic passage of sax and guitar. Otherwise it ends up as mostly a very long and plodding drum/piano dirge that eventually just plays itself out.

The closing track bears the same name as the band, but is one of the shortest tracks on the album. It was clearly meant as a closing piece and is highlighted by some very tasteful classical guitar and the carnival-like atmosphere established by guest keyboardist Mario D'Amora.

I doubt record this will remain high on my playlist for very long, but I’m glad I was introduced to these guys and look forward to hearing their second and final album if I can ever find it; that one was released on CD many years ago but I doubt it is still available. Anyway, well- recommended to prog folk fans, possibly to fans of Italian prog, and to those who think Clare Grogan was the best part of Altered Images. Three stars.

peace

ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |

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