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Osanna - Suddance CD (album) cover

SUDDANCE

Osanna

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.19 | 49 ratings

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dreadpirateroberts
4 stars After the wildly uneven Landscape of Life and the tensions it wrought - fracturing Osanna into various side projects and even flinging a few members out of Italy altogether, three of the original players returned with the jazz rock fusion influenced album Suddance, bringing along a few new members and some guests.

Released in 1978, the album is easily their most consistent since Palepoli - and perhaps their most consistent alongside the great Palepoli or their soundtrack, Milano Calibre 9. Having said that, this doesn't mean that I believe it's more enjoyable for the progressive rock fan, than say Palepoli. Instead, the jazz rock fan, the fusion fan, or simply fans of Italian rock in general, will probably enjoy this one a little more than the typical symphonic fan. Fans of Osanna's 'old' sound too, will miss Elio d'Anna's wonderful flute and his aggressive saxophone. Always a key part of their sound, his absence represents a loss for us - and yet, clearly the group wasn't writing their best material just before he left either.

And so when guitarist Danilo Rustici returned some years after their first disbanding in 1975, Lino Vairetti and drummer Massimo Guarino welcomed him back and pulled in a new bassist and keyboardist, Enzo Petrone and Fabrizio D'Angelo Lancellotti respectively. In short, it is Lancellotti's impact that is felt most of the two, his keys and especially the electric piano providing part of the jazzy sound or ethereal feel to much of the material. Suddance is also reliant on a guest to fill another hole left by d'Anna - that of his saxphone. Collaborator Benni Caiazzo fits in just fine, but his choices can border on the cheesy for me. It's hardly a terrible performance, but he doesn't use his instruments with the same abandon and I miss that.

Having said that, this album isn't really about abandon. It's more measured, the songs are built, and themes are explored at length across a few songs rather than crammed into side-long epics. (I still love 'Animals without Breath' though) The production values are representative of the late seventies, which is to say a step up on the band's early work. The sacrifice is losing the rawness, but the payoff is a full, together sound that's warm and clear.

To the songs themselves. Rather than do a blow-by-blow analysis, I'd rather draw attention to some strengths. The album is stacked to favour side one, with the first four songs being pretty darn good and the second half having a misstep or two. Perhaps as much as Lino with his knockout performances, it's Danilo who shines, versatile as ever, continuing to excel in a jazzier vein. He's hypnotic in the opening of ''O Napulitano', which is reminiscent of a gentle 'Meeting of the Spirits' by the Mahavishnu Orchestra, where he later explodes into brief but fiery solos. Here at the archives, Andrea has mentioned that this album serves as a forerunner to 'Neapolitan Power' which I think is probably the best two-word description I've heard for the album. If I had to add a few more, I'd mention the jazz-rock feel, but 'Neapolitan Power' sums the album up; and the song ''O Napulitano' so well. It's almost like a more sophisticated and progressive version of a power-ballad, but with a jazz influence. Elsewhere we see Danilo's acoustic work on the long, soul-influenced ballad ''A Zingara' where his playing is more than pleasantly melancholy, and where he works well with the electric violin, provided by guest Antonio Spagnolo.

On opener, the rockier 'Ce Vulesse' we get to hear Lino's voice without too much of a wait, a singer which never fails to lift my spirits. He has a knack for writing vocal melodies that urge the listener to try and sing along, whether you can speak Italian or not. He's just as powerful in the other songs, but especially in ''O Napulitano' where the choruses allow him to really get you humming along.

The title track is a great instrumental, but in second half of the album, the band close with 'Naples in the World' which is the (token?) English vocal track, and while Lino's English gets better with every album, he's so much more powerful and effective in his dialect or in Italian. This closer is a let-down, despite its semi-frantic pace and interlocking instrumentation. Thankfully, while a little overlong perhaps, 'Chiuso qui' just before it, is better. It puts Massimo into a kind of Mason-tempo, only with a good dose of funk, slow as it is, courtesy of the keys and slap bass. Lancellotti is prominent here again, and you'll also hear what is perhaps the most jagged sax on the album, but at the same time, also the most cheesy use of soprano. While the song features a frantic solo from Danilo in the middle section, overall it isn't as on the same level as the opening three and even Lino's impassioned performance begins to wear a little toward the end.

I didn't actually mean for this review to head toward nine-hundred words, so let me try and wrap it up. Don't expect another Palepoli, or even the psychedelic-influences of their debut. That way, if you do buy Suddance, you can judge the album on its own merits. One of my favourite Osanna records, worth a look especially if you're a jazz fan.

dreadpirateroberts | 4/5 |

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