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5 stars I can't recommend enough this album. One of my progressive rock favorites, there's no words to describe its beauty. About the story and adventures of a penguin called "Murple", the magnificent interplay between guitar and keyboards at the first fantastic and changing part, and excellent melodies and virtuoso solos at the second, makes it a must have. The Italian symphonic style at the top. Almost unknown, but waiting to be discovered. Listen it, you won't regret.
Report this review (#19369)
Posted Saturday, December 20, 2003 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars I rarely give more than three stars to Italian prog because of my musical inclinations. So if I gave three one this one it speaks for itself - good but nothing extremely urgent to discover. However , I think that among specialists (of which I am not) , this is considered a real peak in the genre. Strange but fascinating artwork on the fold-out sleeve.
Report this review (#19370)
Posted Thursday, February 26, 2004 | Review Permalink
Steve Hegede
4 stars MURPLE were another one-shot band from the Italian 70's prog explosion. It is truely incredible when you think about the amount of high-quality music released in Italy between 1972-1977. The music on this CD, while having all of the elements needed to produce classic "Italian prog", can't be compared to any other band from the Italian scene (sure, I could spit out the names PFM, RDM, and BANCO but that wouldn't do justice to the music). The tracks are all connected to produce 2 side-long epics. Sections range from aggressive prog workouts consisting of heavy guitar, hammond organ, and pounding bass, to soft/melodic interludes, to early techno-sounding experiments (you really have to hear it to make up your mind). My only complaint is that while the CD cover states that both sides are 18-minutes each, in reality they are 16-minutes each (well, one side is almost 17-minutes). I don't know if this was an error in the printing process, or if it was done to hide the fact that the album is only 33-minutes long, but if you don't mind paying for a 33-minute album of high-quality prog then you're in for a classic.
Report this review (#19371)
Posted Sunday, March 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars Nice, one-shot Italian prog album. It's a bit strange that this only album from MURPLE would only receive a German release on the BASF label, but of course since been reissued on CD (first by Mellow Records, then by Akarma, with LP-type replication). The band seemed to have an unhealthy obsession about penguins, so much so, they believed they made friends with an imaginary penguin, and the whole concept behind "Io Sono Murple" is about the adventures of a penguin. Their stage set included inflatable penguins, not unlike PINK FLOYD giving us inflatable pigs during the "Animals" tour in 1977.

The band consisted of guitarist/vocalist Pino Santamaria, bassist Mario Garbarino, drummer Duilio Sorrenti, and keyboardist/vocalist Pier Carlo Zanco, who handled organ, piano, Eminent, and ARP Odyssey. This might not be the most mindblowing or original prog out there, but for those who enjoy such keyboard-driven prog acts as ELP or Le ORME would find much to enjoy here. The album is rather short, running at just under 35 minutes. It consists of a bunch of short songs that segue in to each other to make a continuous long play, but still remaning completely progressive. The music ranges from intense to more laid- back classically influenced, to jazzy and everything in between. Might not be up there with the best albums from PFM, BANCO, Le ORME, MUSEO ROSENBACH, OSANNA, etc., but this is still an album worth having.

Report this review (#19372)
Posted Wednesday, August 25, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars ****1/2

This album has been a real grower for me. I remember being slightly disappointed when I first heard this and it was probably because I was exploring a lot of the biggest Italian classics at the same time. This is not the greatest Italian album ever but excellent nevertheless. The story of the album is about the adventures of a penguin called Murple and how he leaves his home, which is in Antarctica. In this journey he encounters the evil man. The music includes very good guitar and keyboard parts. I think there is a great balance between aggressiveness and melody. Like with the majority of Italian groups the emphasis is on interplay, not soloing. Sadly this was the group's only album although there were preparations for a second one.

There are twelve tracks in the track list but actually this album consists only of two sidelong tracks both clocking around seventeen minutes. There first half is slightly better of the two but the second half is excellent as well. Some of the highlights include the ending of the first half, known as "Murple Rock". The second half starts with a wonderful piano piece "Preludio e Scherzo" showing the classical piano talents of the keyboardist Pier Carlo Zanco. Again, in this latter suite the ending is truly fantastic.

Conclusion: This is an excellent album and nearly essential.

Report this review (#40263)
Posted Monday, July 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
Andrea Cortese
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Another one-shot band from the huge Italian 70s progrock scene!

I‚??m glad I‚??ve found this excellent and mythic album in the good 2002 Akarma release‚?¶

I think Murple deserves now (and deserved then) more attention by any good progrock lover. I don‚??t know why the german label Basf didn‚??t take care of them! It‚??s hard and sad to imagine!

The four band members are: Pino Santamaria (electric and acoustic guitars, lead vocals, choirs), Mario Garbarino (bass guitar, triangle and bongos), Duilio Sorrenti (drums, gong, tumbadoras and tympani), Pier Carlo Zanco (lead vocals, choirs, organ, pianos, eminent, synth, bowed contrabass).

Their unique and marvellous record is a great conceptual-based work about the story of the penguin ‚??Murple‚?Ě who decides to go away from his own land, ‚??Antarctica‚?Ě, and to explore the rest of world.

A long prog-suite, almost entirely instrumental: excellent keyboards, synths (special mention to ‚??Nessuna Scelta‚?Ě i.e. ‚??No Choice‚?Ě, excerpt from the first part) and classic pianos (special mention to the introduction of the second part titled ‚??Preludio e Scherzo‚?Ě i.e. ‚??Prelude and Joke‚?Ě), awesome electric guitars parts and elaborate soli, powerful drums and strong bass parts. Nice the dreamy vocals provided by Pier Carlo Zanco. Fantasy-like and delicate atmospheres for a joyful progrock adventure! P.S. very nice cover ;)

This is "prog-delicacy" at the purest state! Go out and buy this wonderful gem now!

Report this review (#62141)
Posted Thursday, December 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars MURPLE unfortunately only released one album titled (I Am Murple) which stands out as a superb piece of 70's Italian Progressive Rock. Centred around the symphonic keyboard and piano work of Pier Carlo Zanco this album blends all of the progressive rock characteristics that made this such a beloved region for this art rock genre. Comprised of just two lengthy tracks (side one and side two) "Io Sono Murple" draws on the classic 70's Ital-prog vibes with gorgeous piano and synthesizer work mixed with fantastic guitar, bass and drum interplay. The 2 songs are both drop dead fantastic and contains the romanticism of "I Pooh" and LOCANDA DELLE FATE with the musical prowess PFM. Lyrics are sung in Italian and fit the music nicely. "Io Sono Murple" is also a concept album and tells the tale of a penguin that leaves his home in Antarctica, and encounters the Evil Man. Overall a fantastic album from start to finish.
Report this review (#64653)
Posted Saturday, January 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars "Io sono Murple" is a concept album, formed by two long suites, about the feelings of a penguin compelled "to bow and act as a juggler", "like a reed bowed by the wind", "among the threads" of "a world of dwarfs and clowns" that "penetrates into your bones promising to be faithful without knowing any faith". Well, I quoted part of the lyrics trying to explain the subject with words while the wonderful album cover try to explain it with images. Now all that you have to do is close your eyes and listen to, because if the subject is rather strange the music is excellent.

Side A begins softly, but after two minutes there's an interesting drum solo leading to a short rock section with a good interaction between the instruments. "Antartide", "Metamorfosi" and "Pathos" are tightly bound together: there are many changes of rhythm and moods and no room for boredom in an album where classical inspired patterns are blended with rock influences in a personal way and with a great musicianship. Then, after seven minutes, on "Senza un perchť" (Without a reason), over a delicate piano part, shy lead vocals appear . "Poor creature / In the wreckage inside you / The prayer rises / It's sincere but / After you'll be wanting / Promised lands / All the great dreams / Without a reason.". The melodic lines are good but lead vocals in my opinion are the weak point of this album (actually Murple didn't have a real singer and the vocal parts where shared between the guitarist Pino Santamaria and the keyboardist Pier Carlo Zanco). After 10:30 an amazing church-like choir introduces to the following "Nessuna scelta" (No choice) with remarkable keyboards patterns in the background: ".You will teach me the bows / Of a juggler who always says yes / If you want, if you like you'll change me / Without telling me what you're doing / I will be the clay without shape / I can't do any choice". The closing section is the instrumental "Murple Rock" that features a remarkable guitar work.

Side B begins with "Preludio e schrzo", an amazing classical inspired "solo-piano section". After 2:55 lead vocals appear on "Tra i fili" (Among the threads) that was chosen to be the single promoting the album (but in my opinion this is not the best moment of this work). After 5:26 the good instrumental "Variazioni in 6/8", with keyboards in the forefront, reminds me of BMS' tracks like "Garofano rosso" or "Fino alla mia porta". After 7:35 lead vocals come back for "Fratello" (Brother) and "Un mondo cosž" (A world like that): in my opinion on this album lyrics are not particularly inspired and a little bit naÔve but luckily the vocal parts are short and almost all the sections of the suites feature also interesting instrumental interludes. The final instrumental "Antarplastic" is just a short reprise of the opener "Antartide".

In the whole "Io sono Murple" is a good album, though not a masterpiece. It could be an excellent addition to any Italian prog collection.

Report this review (#80930)
Posted Sunday, June 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars It's a shame that Io Sono Murple is the only release from this talented band. Io Sono Murple is an epic (albeit short) concept album about a penguin leaving his home (to be honest, I don't know much else about the story). As for the music, it's mostly keyboard driven, with wonderful melodic passages, but every member is given a chance to show their stuff. It's a fairly safe album with nothing too "out there," but what Murple has done, they did it well and there lies its beauty. Also of note is the interesting and beautiful album cover- it complements the music nicely. This complex and highly melodic album is sure to be a treat of any fan of Italian symphonic prog.
Report this review (#81785)
Posted Thursday, June 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Io Sono Murple really is an "undiscovered gem" as has been said by other reviewers. I purchased this album just because of the other reviews that sang its praise, and also because the cover seemed to call out to me, "buy me, buy me." The album cover reminds me of the Beatle's movie "Yellow Submarine."

I was actually blown away by this album. I was expecting it to be good, but not this good. The highlights of the albums for me are the keyboards and the drums. The guitars are also great and very moody. The singing is not exactly the greatest, but some of it is actually very good. The guitarist and the keyboardist share the job of singer, and I am not sure which one is which when listening to the album, but one of them is definitely a better singer than the other. Whoever sings the Tra I fili part (and some other parts as well) actually has a very nice voice.

The album is basically two epic tracks, each about 16 or 17 minutes long. The album starts out kind of slow and takes sometime for it to really take off. The beginning is still enjoyable though; the very first part reminds me of "The Great Marsh" from Camel's The Snow Goose. The album ends with the same theme also, just as The Snow Goose ends with the same theme. And hey, both are about birds. The music leading up to the first singing section is quite amazing with the keyboards taking center stage. Each of the singing parts, of which there are four, has a great musical interlude in the middle. The interlude in the middle of the first singing part of the second track actual starts off sounding like a techno song, but once the drums kick in it has a totally different feel.

I can't really compare the sound of this album with anything else, but I am sure that if you like any of the big three bands of Italian prog (BMS, PFM, or Le Orme) that you will definitely enjoy this album. Words I would use to describe the overall sound of this album would be majestic, melancholy, joyful, and powerful. I guess that the only negative about the album is the poor production quality (not uncommon with most Italian prog bands in the 70s). I enjoy the music and emotion of this album so much, that I am going to give it five stars. I am also hoping that more people will discover this album, as it is truly worth discovering.

Report this review (#118217)
Posted Thursday, April 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars I heard a whisper of MURPLE more than 30 years ago and this name echoed for decades inside my mind that in the end it turned into something like my personal urban legend. It's not surprising that when I noticed the band again in more recent times a strange feeling spot on me: oh, my god, they really existed; it wasn't my imagination that played with me. anyway, band and "Io Sono Murple", their sole release up to now (good news: they regrouped and are recording again) passed to the ground of the unconscious or the legendary.

This album, telling musically the adventures of a little penguin, was recorded in a highly progressive manner. It's all there: the concept, shown through a long suite which comprises the entirety of the album; the epic tracks, two songs in fact, each taking the full side of the old vinyl LP; the instrumentation, the harmonies, the atmosphere.

Tunes go from vibrant to poignant, all soaked in an aromatic eau-de-cologne of symphonic ingenuity - the several musical parts seem common but the set is sophisticated and unique. All in all, MURPLE does a study or essay of how to compose, arrange and play a cast of beautiful chords; although we might catch a weak point that damages slightly this opus: vocals; maybe unnecessary. Instrumental parts with the notorious duels between guitars and keys completed by powerful bass lines and sound drumming are the strongest parts here. Amid nice segments, the most obviously amusing is the final quarter with the three last songs that leaves a clear impression in the hearer's memories.

Several influences may be perceived along the album, but MURPLE seem to trail a route of their own, full of the required ingredients that make "Io Sono Murple" an excellent addition to any prog music collection. Recommended.

Report this review (#160526)
Posted Saturday, February 2, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A band. A penguin. Another Italian gem.

The next installment of the Italian lesser-know gems series would be Murple, a 4-piece one-shot band from Rome. They formed in 1973 at the peak of the early Italian scene and recorded their concept album about a penguin and his adventure. If it sounds too whimsical don't be put off-there is good music to be had here. The band premiered their live act at a festival in Naples and also played the Villa Pamphili Festival in Rome in September 1974. Their album is a nice mixture of symphonic and rock elements with just a touch of jazzy feel here and there. I would say keyboards are slightly more prevalent than guitar but not by much, both are used liberally. I can't speak to the lyrics, but the music is certainly not dark, but rather upbeat, positive, energetic prog perhaps sometimes comparable to the feel of Druid but only a bit. While the album has plenty of fans it was not appreciated by critics of the time, nor was it promoted by the German label that issued it. It and the band shared the same fate as so many other quality Italian groups. But now thankfully a new generation of critics is praising this lost album and word has it that three of the four original members have a new album in the works.

Part 1 begins with an extended quiet section where a distant synth backs some guitar pull-offs, bringing the song to life very slowly. It crescendos at 2 minutes with a drum solo. The band springs to life around 3 minutes in with organ and guitars off to the races. The bass and drumming are quite good although the bass is too low in the mix for my taste. Around 7 minutes the rocking stops for gorgeous piano leading to the first vocals. Murple vocals are not the best you'll ever hear but they are certainly good enough. What is great are the keyboards, nicely thought-parts well delivered via synths, organ, and piano, sometimes layered over each other to gorgeous effect. The classical piano sections are achingly beautiful to a piano nut like myself. The guitar player is also very good and lays down some nice, aggressive lead parts throughout. The Murple sound mixes well different thematic elements and volumes. The pieces move along with loud rock sections and softer melodic sections intertwined and always interesting. As others have mentioned the keyboards and guitars join together often creating a very rich sound tapestry. Towards the end of the side the lead guitar and bass engage in some feisty riffing punctuated by some rather shrill synth tricks that could have been left out. Part 2's beginning is my favorite part with its glorious 3 minute classical piano solo, just marvelous stuff with that Italian flair, some slow notes and other moments lightning fast on those ivories. The next section features great majestic tones with vocal harmonies, fluid bass and electric leads popping up in the back. The meat of the track, like side 1, shows good composition and a knack for interesting keyboard parts. The track builds to another energetic ending with all players kicking it into high gear..driving bass, soaring leads.then it suddenly stops for a surprise bit of violin.before our Penguin walks off into the sunset.

All is not perfect in Murple land however. Despite some good music the sound quality of the Mellow MMP-121 pressing I have leaves plenty to be desired. It lacks adequate punch on the low end and really needs a remastering job. I do not know if the Akarma version is better but I hope so. Another problem is that this CD appears to be taken from a Vinyl source as you can hear the snap/crackle/pop in a few places. It is not horrible sound by any means, just far from optimum. If you love classic Italian and are interested in this title I would not let the sound issue stop you unless you are only able to enjoy pristine quality. They do include a lyric sheet in Italian, no English translation. This title is certainly a must for classic Italian junkies and a decent consideration for others who might enjoy its energetic mix.

Report this review (#166338)
Posted Thursday, April 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars As many other Italian bands from the seventies, Murple only released one album. But a very good one. And the good news, is that they have just released a second one called Quadri Di Un Esposizione

It consists of two epic songs which are very well written IMO. The first one is a fantastic journey into the best of the Italian repertoire. Lush keyboards are wonderful. At times really hard while subtle and almost classic during other moments.

The vocal parts, although scarce are very pleasant as well. The whole piece is extremely varied; it is changing mood every minute or two. The listener has really no time to breathe and install himself in some comfortable and tranquil musical experience. His senses are always in alert during the whole of this long track, or combination of short tracks (the whole clocking at just over seventeen minutes).

The closing section is an extraordinary fusion between guitars and frenetic organ. Such a beautiful way to end a great piece of music.

The second track, is not as strong (but was it possible?). It sounds less cohesive, more a collection of several parts put together to fit an epic costume (which is the case by the way). It sounds also less personal, more Genesis. But the experience is also worth.

The piano play from Preludio is majestic, vocal sections are still emotive (Tra I Fili), the frenzy of the keys during Variazoni completely breaks the soft mood (which was not too bad at this time). The Fratello part features weaker vocals although the instrumental section is quite good actually. Just like Un Mundo CosŪ.

This is a very good album which I rate with four stars. An Italian jewel (as there are so many.).

Report this review (#186093)
Posted Thursday, October 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars This is a concept album about the adventures of a penguin named Murple. Vocals are in Italian so I can't tell you much about it. While it shows 12 tracks on the back of the cd there really is only two just like the original LP's two side long suites.This recording is outstanding.The first song especially seems to change tempos and moods at every turn. The second track allows them to develope things a little more.

They sure don't stand in one place very long during the first track, perhaps like our penguin Murple. It opens with some spacey atmosphere for a minute then drums and organ take over. We get a calm before 3 minutes and then the song kicks into gear before 3 1/2 minutes. Nice organ ! This is great ! It settles quickly though before kicking back in at 5 1/2 minutes with guitar.This is quite moving. Organ comes ripping in a minute later as the tempo picks up. Vocals for the first time after 7 1/2 minutes and this is an emotional section too. The tempo picks up then settles after 9 1/2 minutes as piano comes in. A fuller sound with vocals 11 1/2 minutes in. I like the guitar here.Vocal melodies and a calm 14 minutes in but then here we go again to the end.

Side two opens with almost 3 minutes of impressive piano melodies and then vocals and guitar take over. Beautiful ! The tempo picks up 5 1/2 minutes in with keys and drums leading the way. It settles with guitar and vocals before 8 minutes and then organ and bass lead the way 9 1/2 minutes in. Vocals are back after 12 minutes and then it kicks back in after 14 minutes. It calms down before 16 minutes to the end. Our penguins escapade is over. Hope he's ok. Haha.

For me this is a solid 4 star record that is very well played and arranged.

Report this review (#200738)
Posted Monday, January 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars This album tells the tale of a penguin named Murple... and, not being able to understand Italian, that's all i've been able to gather about the story. Usually i don't mind lyrics in languages i can't comprehend, often i even prefer it... but on this album i can't help but feel i'm missing a big part of the picture.

The music itself is blithely expressive... it carries most of the typical 'RPI' characteristics, but Murple manage to create quite a singular and light-hearted sound. Classically inspired compositions are mixed sporadically with up-tempo Jazz Rock... the musicians are all very good, but there's nothing really mind-blowing here.

There are many great segments within the roughly 35 minute span of this opus... but there are some lesser, forgettable moments as well. The album takes a long time to get going... it's rather slow moving. The intro 'Antartide' is tedious, but the next movement 'Metamorfosi' thankfully picks up the pace with some nice uptempo Jazz-influenced drumming.

The first half of this suite is generally not as good as the second in my opinion. There are too many drawn-out quiet sections for my tastes. I like this band a lot when they let loose, as on the Canterbury-esque 'Murple Rock' section. I wish they would 'rock' a little more often.

The second half begins with a classical piano piece, 'Preludio e scherzo', which is pleasant and well written but doesn't really move me emotionally. What follows are the best moments on the album: 'Tra I FilŪ' is a beautiful ballad full of wonderful lead guitar hooks, which then leads into a fabulous controlled-chaos Jazz Rock section (drummer Duilio Sorrenti's shining moment).

This album is very short; i don't think there's enough substance to recommend this to anyone other than RPI aficionados. It's good for sure, but not very consistent... and ultimately not essential material. I have a feeling Italian-speaking Prog fans would appreciate this more.

Report this review (#205253)
Posted Tuesday, March 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars 'Io Sono Murple' (eng: 'I'm Murple') is a conmcept album based on the journey of penguin Murple. This is the story of the good lyrics.

But the music is the magical part of this concept album because the lyrics are incorporated in the music, at the same style of Genesis. But the music, what level is it? Certainly the level is high... But... I must say that I really like this latest attempt to unite Classic Music (really good) and Rock. The keyboards are excellent for this fusion. But at the same time I think that this album is not so personal because I heard other RPI albums with the same atmospheres and musical concept (not lyrics concepts). At the same time the feeling and the magic that Murple build is really important, merits of a writing that is not easy but very well developed. This, in my opinion, is not emphasized by the use of the suite structure style (winning element here), but is transformed into a winning element from the element suite. So the music becomes an expression of freedom of expression by no means easy to achieve with the formula song. The continuous transitions between melodic parts (but powerful) and aggressive parts (without melody... But not free jazz or hard rock) is another winning element in this album. This increase the magic of melodic parts without being an end in itself. All enhanced by the technical expertise of Murple, musicians above average to the media.

One defect? This: 'Io sono Murple' suffered from bad distribution by a foreign label, Basf, not particularly active in Italy. But Akerma release has, fortunately, to overcome this defect.

Report this review (#238206)
Posted Wednesday, September 9, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Some penguins provides what is close to being Rock Progressivo Italiano heaven.

Murple was a one album wonder. But they reformed again and gave us another album. This is their first album and it was released back in 1974.

It is obvious from the sound that the classical music focused bands from symphonic prog scene has been the major influences for this album. ELP and Yes springs to mind. Io Sono Murple is also divided into two suites. Both very much classical music orientated. The music ebbs and flows like a symphony. From full orchestra to pastoral pieces of piano and/or acoustic guitars. Mostly piano, though. We also get wild bursts of heavy electric guitars too to contrast the pastoral pieces.

The vocals are very good and the musicians does a great job. The two pieces here are great. In short, this is a great Rock Progressivo Italiano album well worth investigating. My sympathy for the penguins has risen to a substantial level now. Spare them some warm thoughts this Antarctic summer.

4 stars

Report this review (#550569)
Posted Saturday, October 15, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars One album wonders (until their belated reunion in 2008) Murple put out an intriguing concept album in the form of Io Sono Murple. With minimal vocals and production values reminiscent of a slightly earlier iteration of prog, the concept album portrays the adventures of an intrepid penguin explorer who heads off to visit the human world, only to discover that humans aren't nearly as nice to visitors as penguins are. Pier Carlo Zanco is the star player here, with his command of his keyboards pushing the album above the average and making this an interesting and worthwhile release for anyone looking to explore second-tier Italian prog bands.
Report this review (#1059040)
Posted Saturday, October 12, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Despite the lack of commersial sucsess, this 30 minute long italian masterpiece shows the exelence of the progressive rock era. This album is one of the Greatest from italy. A variated collection of themes which melts together in to a fantastic penguins tale. the story and music blends perfectly together to become a highly emotional experience. Murple allso gives you very some unekspected rythmical twists. the songs are wellcomposed and sounds challenging (as something which requiers practice) But you have heard all this before. what is it that Murple do that makes it special? The bands sound connected to the story is just perfect! you can understand the whole story by just listening to the music. there is no need for words. the synths describes the cold harsh antarctic, the call of adventure, the unatural chaotic city and Regret. the album is unfortunatly a little too short, and some parts are too long compared to the others. This allbum itself is not so inportaint when it comes to how it has affected other bands, but in how its variety and style shines upon the world makes it a creation worth 4 stars.
Report this review (#1218499)
Posted Sunday, July 20, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars `Io Sono Murple' is the title of the 1974 debut from Italian progressive group Murple, or as I like to refer to it (mostly because I can never remember the title) `That Penguin album'! Yes, said animal is right there on the front of that charming and colourful cover, and the album itself is a concept piece about the creature as well. Containing two extended and continuous suites of music, with plenty of instrumental variety, romantic voices and strong melodies seamlessly flowing together, there's plenty of that classical drama and passionate flair so often associated with the vintage Italian progressive releases throughout.

Unusually, the band decide to open the album in a very sedate, slowly unfolding manner instead of blasting the listener with energetic intent! After a slowly morphing ambient synth drone, the album kicks to life with rollicking guitars, leaping upfront bass, trickles of Hammond organ and take-charge drumming. After some spectral organ, spiralling synth and devilish Hammond attacks, the piece settles into a delicate piano and vocal melody. Synths raise the piece in victory, little moments taking off in a brisk regal organ fanfare prance. Transitioning into a reflective classical piano break with a mournful choir, punchy guitar blasts over wavering spacey keyboard bubbles and Le Orme-styled organ pomp, leading straight to a buoyant up-tempo Genesis-like call-to-arms, almost resembling the early Eloy albums like `The Power and the Passion' as well.

Mario Garbarino's thick bass is the absolute standout throughout the entire flip-side, and all of the instrumental interplay between the musicians and the different flowing compositions from here on are just as memorable as anything offered from many of the higher profile Italian progressive groups of the time. Calming but gently melancholic piano announces this second side and dazzles with classical sophistication, moving into a swooning and loving ballad with murmuring bass and a heroic guitar theme over soothing synth washes. Out of nowhere, the band rip into a loopy and frantic instrumental run over the top of a pulsing beat and aggressive thrashing drums. Mellow vocal moments and whimsical interludes with a manic soaring and energetic finale follow, before the band close on a stirring low-key violin outro.

Is this a classic of the vintage RPI works? Perhaps not, but while there may be plenty more important, challenging and daring albums in the sub-genre, this one is sure to be a personal favourite in many collections. The group seemed destined to fall to the `one and done' curse that befell many Italian acts from the vintage Seventies period, this album being their sole release until they returned in 2008 with `Quadri Di Un'Esposizione' and more recently with 2014's `Il Viaggio'. But this is the first highlight from the band listeners should explore, a very special and much loved little album, and `Io Sono Murple' ticks all the right boxes that you'd want to find on an Italian progressive work from the era. It's also perfectly enjoyable for both established Italian prog connoisseurs and newcomers investigating the genre for the first time.

Four stars.

Report this review (#1384969)
Posted Friday, March 20, 2015 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
4 stars While the prog world of the early 1970s found many a band releasing a single album and then fading into oblivion, Italy seems to have had more than its share of one shot wonders that existed for a few years, found the opportunity to release a sole album and then disappear into the ethers at least for the next several decades until the world caught up to their artistic visions. Italy also seemed to have generated some of the best one shots whose albums today are considered classics and hold up surprisingly well after many decades after their initial release.

Such is the case of the one album IO SONO MURPLE by the band MURPLE. This band came to life in 1971 Rome as the result of two friends, bassist Mario Garbarino and percussionist Duilio Sorrenti sharing a musical passion for the up-and-coming Italian prog scene. The pals quickly recruited keyboardist Pier Carlo Zanco and guitarist / vocalist Giuseppe "Pino" Santamaria and after encountering an American friend who claimed he chatted with an invisible penguin named MURPLE, the band was so amused by it all that they adopted MURPLE as their moniker and composed a concept album around this fictions penguin who would become a mascot.

The band was known to perform with an inflatable penguin on stage during its existence from 1971 to 1973. MURPLE's solo album was recorded during this time but didn't find an actually release date until 1974 due to the pass the ball attitude of various Italian record labels. The album eventually found a home on the German label Basf which did next to nothing to promote the album thus leaving MURPLE a mere footnote in Italian prog history until the prog revival of the 1990s rediscovered long lost treasures and gave them new life with proper modern musical formats.

Much like an early version of Camel's "The Snow Goose," MURPLE was a symphonic prog band that crafted beautiful melodic compositions based on classical music and added the heft of 70s rock music. Each side of the original vinyl featured two long suites each divided into six movements. This concept album narrated the tale of a penguin named MURPLE who was bored with his everyday existence in the frigid Antarctic and decided to move to the world of humanity where he gets captured and thrown in a zoo. The tale is dictated by the musical motifs and although the lyrics are in the same mold as other Italian prog acts such as PFM and Banco, MURPLE used them sparingly and opted to use sounds as a means of storytelling.

The album features both lush symphonic soundscapes that are light and breezy as well as heavier rock passages with choppy time signature complexities however the album is more on the mellow side and although not as technically challenging as some of the Italian contemporaries, MURPLE relied more on rich sound textures, complex motifs and ambience thus putting Zanco in the spotlight for much of the album's run. Like almost all Italian prog, IO SONO MURPLE was sung in Italian but also like much Italian prog the concept of the album really doesn't matter at all with music that is this well constructed.

Like many excellent bands of the day, IO SONO MURPLE features complex strolls down prog alley with hairpin turns and exciting musical developments that oft surprise when least expected without sacrificing the overall melodic flow. All in all this album very much makes me think of what "The Snow Goose" would sound like if Camel was Italian rather than English because the musical developments and subject matter of a single bird as the star of the show is so similar. MURPLE wouldn't last beyond this release but has since reformed in the 21st century and has released two more albums decades after this album faded into obscurity. Luckily it has been saved for the rest of time which is a blessing considering how beautifully designed this intricate Italian symphonic prog sounds even by today's standards.

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Posted Friday, June 3, 2022 | Review Permalink

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