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Mario Panseri - Adolescenza CD (album) cover


Mario Panseri

Rock Progressivo Italiano

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Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A lost, soft-RPI masterpiece

Mario Panseri was an Italian composer and musician born in Rome in 1945. In 1973 he released this suite inspired by a novel called "Agostino" by writer Alberto Moravia. The critically acclaimed album "Adolescenza" is a moving piece of music in the softer-prog field, music that will appeal to fans of the beautiful side of RPI rather than the "difficult" side. It has a flowing soundtrack feel to it and is notable for featuring the contribution of his friend, the wonderful Enzo Capuano who is also on this site. Capuano calls the album "one of my favourite albums of all time, because it told a story - a movie called adolescence. Even its cover reminds you of a movie poster. While listening to it you could feel that sense of bewilderment you experience in the presence of sensations whose origin is unknown, when you are completely at the mercy of an effect without understanding its cause, when you are happy about a trifle, and the slightest thing scares you...." Mario Panseri released two other albums and continued playing music until his early death in 1995.

"Adolescenza" is truly a minor masterpiece of the RPI movement which I can't believe hasn't been more trumpeted by Italian prog enthusiasts. It reminds me a bit of Stefano Testa's "Una Vita" in some ways, vocally, an often more acoustic than electric vibe, and compositionally, though perhaps with more of a classical sound than folk. While not a big and bold album like Banco or BdB it is gorgeously written and executed. Gentle vocals, flute, beautifully played piano and acoustic guitars sparkle throughout. Occasionally a band sound comes in with some electric lead guitar and the bass/drumming will be very tight and well mixed. Lots of nice little icings along the edges give you the feeling this was truly his baby, I'm sure it was quickly recorded like all RPI, but Mario was ready for game day. There are many wonderfully tasteful keyboard melodies and atmospheres, some soft strings or simulated strings on the mellower stuff. To make sure all bases are covered we get a nice jazzy sequence with thumping bass and playful flute solos. Then we're into a quiet vocal interlude with water sounds and a haunting gentle piano/flute in behind it. A Battisti-like moment of children's voices with harpsichord in the next moment. As mentioned the album almost has a soundtrack feel moving not so much by track numbers as by musical "scenes" which is one reason it requires patience and works best listening as a whole. It is the many quieter "scenes" which to me hold the most magic, Panseri seems to know how to spike them with emotion, then move out of them into louder pieces with more dynamics, and back again. It makes for exciting listening to be sure and more than tackling the listener with bravado, Panseri is a gifted composer and musician who thrills you slowly. As Capuano stated in our interview "Mario was a true musician, with a solid background, as there were all too few among the singer-songwriters of that time. Most of them, including myself, were self-taught, little more than strummers, with very little formal training.... On the other hand, he had a diploma, was an excellent keyboardist, arranger, and coach at the Genoa Opera House."

You can hear those skills on display which is why it is baffling that Panseri has not been noticed more by RPI writers. I do recommend this album to RPI fans, especially those who prefer the softer and dreamier side of the genre. The CD is finally available as a Japanese mini-sleeve and to my knowledge will be back out of print once these are gone. Do not wait or you may regret it.

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Posted Saturday, March 27, 2010 | Review Permalink

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