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Franco Maria Giannini - Affresco CD (album) cover

AFFRESCO

Franco Maria Giannini

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.05 | 18 ratings

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Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A beautiful and warm songs-based gem

There were many performers who released albums in the Italian singer/songwriter tradition during the 1970s, names like Enzo Capuano, Battisti, Genco Puro, and Stefano Testa to name a few. All used elements of the songs tradition and mixed varying degrees of other influences, orchestrations, experimentations, and the prog-rock popular in Italy at the time. Some worked better than others and some had more on an RPI association than others. One of the nicest gems to come from this period is "Affresco" by Franco Maria Giannini. Born in Rome in March 1945, Giannini (real name Aldo Parente) began playing with bands in the late 1960s. He was active on the festivals scene of the early 70s and in 1974 released this album for a small label named Aris Records. In later years he has struggled with poverty and apparently seen little financial reward by labels who have reissued his album on CD. He has made an appeal to fans who enjoy his work to maybe make a small donation directly if they wish. He can be contacted through Myspace or his own website.

"Affresco" is a wonderful album! While steering clear of long, complex instrumental prog it features eight feisty 3-5 minute tracks full of variety and proggy touches. While the basic tracks have a folk-rock feel about them, they are souped up with a bit of everything: cello, violin, mandolin, 12-string, trumpet, electric solos and keyboards.

"....some parts are similar to the Procession albums, also released in 1974. The playing is enthusiastic and convincing....some romantic violin and mean guitar parts.... In between there are Jethro Tull-like flutes, mandolins and acoustic guitar, placing this album between folk, classical, jazz and heavy rock with characteristic Italian "canto" influences." [Scented Gardens]

The title track opens with a nice rocker, upbeat, with mandolin for some flavor. It is the second track where the album gets good for me, as the beautiful violin of Quella Vecchia Locanda's Claudio Filice opens the track. Instantly recognizable and adds a ton of atmosphere! The Italian song tradition is in full display here with a festive vocal and rolling piano along with the violin. Another weapon the album boasts is the capable lead guitar work of Libra's Nicola Di Staso. Giannini's vocals are not among Italy's best RPI singers but they are pleasant and perfectly suitable. "Il Cane Duc" features some lovely mellotron or strings to a heartfelt ballad. Later comes the inventive use of horns which were not super common, and reminds one of Battisti's "Anima Latina." In fact, Giannini should play well to any fan of Lucio Battisti via the use of inventive arrangements that take the songwriting to another level. The songs are uplifting and rather hopeful though of course I cannot comment on what the lyrics actually reflect. Another similarity to "Anima" is the use of children's vocals on "Per La Tua Strada" which really plays to one's heartstrings---it may be too sappy for some but I'm pretty sentimental and I love that kind of thing. Great musicianship continues with lovely integrations of feisty guitar, piano, violin, mandolin, soft keyboards, flute, and warm bass. I'll probably get some flak for this comment, but I would actually choose Giannini's delightful "Affresco" over Battisti. I'm not saying it's "better" music, simply that I enjoy it more. Giannini should be very proud of this album which I predict will become much more popular as the current crop of RPI fans begin to discover it. Probably a 3 star album to most people, I have to give this 4 because it turns out to be music I care about. For me, it tugs at the heart like an old Cat Stevens favorite but with the Italian touch.

The album is recorded quite well and still sounds pretty good even by today's standards. Sadly the Mellow issue contains no biographical material. But the artwork, when folded out to view the front and back covers, is one of my favorite album covers. "Affresco" really deserves to be reissued in much nicer packaging, I want to see this album remastered and given a gatefold mini-LP sleeve. Well, BTF or Japan, are you listening?? This review is dedicated to an old friend. Yeah, you.

Finnforest | 4/5 |

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