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Jumbo - DNA CD (album) cover

DNA

Jumbo

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.89 | 139 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars The differences between the two albums released by Milan based JUMBO in 1972 are quite staggering. It seems to me that leader and vocalist Alvaro Fella was living in a 60s psych bubble and didn't keep up with the changing musical landscape around him as the eponymous debut release sounded like it easily could've been slipped into the 1968-69 timeline and no one would've thought anything was unusual, however somewhere between the debut release and the sophomore album which emerged only a few months later in the same year of 1972, Fella and his large ensemble of musicians got the word that progressive rock was en vogue and that a serious musical adjustment was in order to fit in with the times.

Of course since the world of progressive rock is all about complexities in the music, it meant that the solo project of Fella turned into a fully functioning band with all the members upping their game to create the more distinguished compositions required of more complex music. The result of this upgrade is the followup DNA which didn't exactly jettison the bluesy rock and folk textures of the debut album but merely augmented them until they sparkled of a more polished sophistication which makes this album much more interesting than the first. Therefore DNA didn't embrace classical music templates as its main compositional flow but rather retained the heavy psych and blues aspects of 1960s psychedelic rock making this album a somewhat rare example of progressive heavy blues rock.

And these guys didn't waste any time announcing that they were progging out big time as the first side of this album is completely swallowed up by the near twenty-one minute "Suite Per II Sig. K" which includes three extended passages ("Sta Accadendo Qualcosa Dentro Me," "Ed Ora Corri," "Dio E") that added liberal senses of adventurism that the debut lacked. JUMBO definitely stood out in the crowded world of early 1970s progressive rock. While PFM, Banco and many other Italian bands were based in the realms of symphonic prog, JUMBO on DNA featured a busy flute section more akin to Jethro Tull however the musical scales implements sound more Italian than English. The hard rock heft of the guitar crunch also shows an Osanna influence. The year 1972 was when Italian bands really started to find their own personality and the next few years would inspire a tidal wave of creative music.

Also unique is Alvaro Fella's grizzled vocal style. While exuding a passion in the vein of classic Italian singers and very much in Italian, his raspy vocals sound very much in opposition to the more operatic approach of his contemporaries. The extensive use of organ also harkens back to the psychedelic 60s rather than the classical symphonic wizardry of other Italian bands but somehow all of these quirks are what give DNA its unique personality although JUMBO would completely reinvent itself for its third and final tour de force album that followed, "Vietato Ai Minori Di 18 Anni." The opening near 21-minute "Suite Per II Sig. K" is perhaps the longest blues rock based magnum opus i've ever experienced. Somehow it deftly teases out the blues rock into a lengthy three suit sprawler with some nice time signature deviations and subtle contrapuntal nuances that keep it inspired throughout.

The rest of the album features three shorter tracks but all over five minutes. "Miss Rand" takes on a more direct progressive rock stance with choppy guitar riffing followed by church organs but then jumps into acoustic guitar and harmonica thus sounding a bit like an Italian Bob Dylan! The tempo picks up and some honky tonk piano rolls in. It's a rip roarin' good time! "E Brutto Sentirsi Vecchi" takes on a pastoral folk vibe not too far from what Genesis was doing on "Nursery Cryme" and "Foxtrot" with ample doses of dueling flute and molasses slow tempos. It's essentially the ballad of the album. The acoustic guitar performs some nice unusual chord progressions and fidgety time signatures. "Hai Visto" jumps back into heavy psych action with a beefy bass groove, guitar rock heft and hyperactive psychedelic organ runs and then shape shifts into jazzy piano rolls. It takes several minutes for the vocals to kick in but then it settles into mellow flute led folk. A bit of a fizzle to end an album but pleasant nonetheless.

While not nearly as captivating as JUMBO's grand finale, the energetic powerhouse "Vietato Ai Minori Di 18 Anni," DNA provided a fascinating transition from non-prog blues rock to totally prog blues rock which opened the doors for the band to go gangbuster on the next album. This album features no bad tracks per se but the continuity is a bit amiss. It seems a bit aimless at times but never in a totally bad way. I would've hoped for a more energetic conclusion towards the end as the folky finale just sort of peters out with no climactic conclusion. Perhaps just a two minute delivery of some sort of uproar would've injected just a bit more of life into this oft sleepy creeper. Despite these minor quips, DNA is actually a really beautiful album that stands apart from virtually everything else of the day. While not as perfect as what came after and not nearly as accomplished as the giants of the contemporary RPI scene, DNA is nevertheless an excellent example of a band taking the more straight forward sounds of blues, rock and folk and decorating them like a Christmas tree with progressive ornamentation.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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