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SAINT JUST

Saint Just

Prog Folk


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Steve Hegede
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars SAINT JUST's debut album did not appeal to me at first, but I soon fell in love with its music. The group released two albums around 1973-74 that featured progressive music that had nothing in common with the other Italian prog groups of the time. Rather this band's music mixed psychedelic influences with an electro-acoustic progressive folk sound that sounded rather dated for a 1973 release. On top of that, the group had a female singer with one of the strangest voices around. And, that unique voice took me a few years to appreciate. If you can imagine an Italian female singer (influenced by the JEFFERSON AIRPLANE) who sings in a style that has a bit more in common with the high-pitched female vocals found in Chinese and Vietnamese classical/folk music then you might have an idea of her style.

Yes, this style isn't for everyone, but give it time and you'll be rewarded by both the music and Jane's singing. The music, as I mentioned, seems influenced a bit by psychedelic music and progressive-folk. The recording tends to sound home-made and reminds me a bit of recordings by early AMON DÜÜL II ("Phallus Dei"-era). The tracks feature laid-back jamming from acoustic guitars, bass, and piano. Once in a while you also hear an electric guitar solo and drums. The cool thing about the band is that they knew exactly when to throw enough dark dissonance to throw the music off in another direction. Overall, if you're looking for something different yet progressive SAINT JUST might be what you're looking for.

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Send comments to Steve Hegede (BETA) | Report this review (#29031)
Posted Monday, March 22, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars The debut album by this 70's Italian group with many influences of which the most notable are folk, psychedelic and even some classical. The band is probably most known of the dreamy (and sometimes out of tune) vocals by Jane Sorrenti (aka Jenny Sorrenti), the sister of Alan Sorrenti. I like her vocals, suits the music quite nicely. Alan Sorrenti himself participates in one track. It 's clear that the weird vocal acrobatics go in the family. Jane's vocals are as unique as Alan's in his masterpiece "Aria". Apart from Jane's great vocals, which are an acquired taste, there is especially some very nice piano and acoustic guitar. Robert Fix plays sax in this debut album unlike in their other album, the follow-up "La Casa del Lago". The overall sound of this debut album is acoustic and medieval.

It's hard to point out any specific tracks because this album is good from beginning to end. There are not any highlights that really stand out but there are not any weak tracks either. However, I have to say that this album is probably not even for all Italian prog enthusiasts.

Conclusion: Great folk/psychedelic album.

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Send comments to geezer (BETA) | Report this review (#29032)
Posted Monday, May 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Saint Just, from Naples, was a great folk-avantgarde-prog band. The first selftitled album, realized in 1973, is a fascinating example of dreaming music, with sax, piano and guitar (acoustic and electric) in evidence, but the real focus is the great, fascinating voice of Jane Sorrenti, a very original singer. Due to its poetical atmosphere, sometimes with an interesting avantgarde attitude and strange breaks, the album remains one of the most experimental in the Italian Prog scene. Best tracks: "Il fiume inondō" and "Una bambina". If you love english folk-rock like Fairport Convention or Comus, I recommend that.

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Send comments to armapo (BETA) | Report this review (#98640)
Posted Monday, November 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Another esoteric dreamland of musical pleasure

Here's one of those surreal, strange trips that just throws you off-kilter at first but soon enough becomes irresistible. Saint Just was an avant-folk group from Naples who fashioned this haunting interpretation of prog-folk with elements of centuries past classical, romantic and traditional folk influence. They don't sound like anyone precisely, but to give a general idea I can float the names Pierrot Lunaire, Trees, Fairport, Vashti Bunyan, Houlderlin's Traum. The band contrasts simple and sparse arrangements with almost free-form bursts of creativity and avant magic. Imagine a laid back piano playing alone in a large room. Suddenly the vocals of Jenny Sorrenti fill the air and soon you will encounter all manner of acoustic guitar, sax, flute, drumming all as if led by their own separate muse. It can often be disconcerting and seemingly random but eventually it pulls you in. Vocally Jenny Sorrenti is one of those challenging singers for whom some will be unable to tolerate. In the way that people can find Kate Bush, Rose Podwojny (Sandrose), or Jacqueline Darby (Pierrot Lunaire) too annoying many could have that problem with Sorrenti. Her high-pitched and eccentric delivery could be seen as an exciting style or just plain caterwauling depending on your viewpoint. I enjoy both her vocals and the musical schizophrenia very much. The 10 minute opener encapsulates the album well and Steve is correct to point out that there is a homemade sound to the recording akin to early Amon Duul II. And yet small details emerge with each listen that prove the slick productions of today are not necessarily preferable when the intent is this kind of experience. It is precisely the loose style that helps the album work to fullest potential. And it is the personal and intimate nature of the fragile voice and sparse piano/guitars that make this kind of music so endearing. Not for everyone but a must for avant-folk lovers. 7/10

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Send comments to Finnforest (BETA) | Report this review (#170821)
Posted Monday, May 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
4 stars Out of all the Italian prog groups, very few come out sounding different to the usual Italian symphonic style, some heading towards jazz (Prigeo, A&M, PdP, Area etc.), some heading more frankly towards folk or avant folk (Pierrot Lunaire and..???). That's right, there aren't many more, but Saint Just's first album is indeed aiming in that direction (more than the second, which is ooogling towards jazz rock). Madrugada's debut was also folk, as might be folk, but it fails to have an avant-garde feel. SJ is a trio made from saxman Roberto fix, guitarist/bassist Tony Verde and Jane Sorrenti, a singer whose's voice is one of the stranger one around, sometimes sounding like the typical female folk singer, and at times unbearably twisted, sometimes making you think of Joana Newsom's screechy Far Eastern- sounding vocals. Recorded in early 73 as a trio, but with the help of Mario D'Amora on keyboards and percussionist/drummer Tony Esposito and the assistance of Jane's brother Alan, their debut album was released on the Italian Harvest branch with a weird doll artwork.

Starting solemnly enough on the 10-mins+ Il Fiume Inondo with guitar and piano arpeggios, until Jane's voice interrupts chillingly this classical folk ballad, but to give it another folk direction until rerouted again this time via Fix's sax to yet another more avant-garde tune, seemingly intended to finish inside D'Amora's piano's gut. Despite the complexity of the music, the instrumentation is rather sparse this helps fuelling the weirdness. The following 6-mins Rivesglio is no less weird, using the same acoustic guitar and Jane's unusual voice (§she sounds Chinese at times), but a searing Frippian electric guitar solo (courtesy of guest Guarracino) changes the deal and D'Amora's piano enters again the plot, later replaced by the sax and finally returning to the guitar and Jane lament that opened the track. Dolci Momenti (soft/sweet/smooth moments) closes the a-side with much gentle care, a bit like a kid's musical box.

The flipside opens on the 8-mins Una Bambina, the usual SJ folk track until a Frippian guitar chase the original idea, soon replaced by a Jaxon-like sax, while Verde is noc competa The six-mins+ Trista Poeta Di Corte is homage to the French poets, whom were beat poets with over half a century of advance on Rimbaud, Baudelaire & Verlaine and well over a century Kerouac, Ginsbergh and Burroughs. The closing eponymous track is sung by Jane, but this time in French (credible although never sounding more Chinese or Newsom, herself) but it mighjt bethe album's weaker moment.

A superb and somehow frightening debut album from one of Italy's lesser-known prog band, SJ's debut album is maybe in the top 10 Italian album of that decade, and probably of all time. Unlike Pierrot Lunaire, though, their second album will not remain in the same avant-folk realm, but aim to fuller (less sparse) jazz-rock with a reinforced line-up.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#197743)
Posted Thursday, January 08, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars It is been a long time since I got this album. And I rarely listened this album. One or Two times only for a year.It struct me that this music is quite good to me as other Rock Progressivo Italiano did though I didn't like this album at first. I usually listen to the music when I am driving my car for don't have much chance or time as usual in home or so. So I turned the volum high my car cacette usually. finally I do not forget the wonderful feeling that the music gives me in my car. sometimes it struct me in my head the melody was going, then I feel great. anyway how I wish i had the chance to hear my faverate song much!

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Send comments to bspark (BETA) | Report this review (#211707)
Posted Sunday, April 19, 2009 | Review Permalink
ClemofNazareth
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars Saint Just came to me highly recommended but with a warning that they wouldn’t likely ‘click’ at first, but over time would grow in appeal considerably. That turned out to be an accurate description.

This was an Italian trio from Naples who set out with the intent of creating a unique, modern sound that at the same time respected tradition and was dreamy and colorful and free from any restrictions of convention. I know this because the CD’s liner notes say so. I think they succeeded for the most part. There are a few points on the album where I get the impression the three of them are trying a bit to hard to be unique and clever and kind of fall flat, but these are few and you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs anyway.

Like I said the band is a trio, they’re Italian and they are playing modern folk rock. That should tell you enough about there sound. But it doesn’t really. In addition to the gorgeous classical piano you’d expect there are also occasional blasts of psych electric guitar on “Il Fiume Inondo” and “Una Bambina”; bongos and castanets with dense rhythms (“Una Bambina”); carnival-like organ with gentle plucked acoustic guitar accompaniment (“Trister Poeta di Corte”); and even a sort of spoken/chanted-word piece with a thudding backbeat that could easily be sampled by some up-and-coming hip-hop musician even today (“Saint Just”).

But the two most prominent and overwhelming characteristics of this music come in the form of the singer listed simply as “Jane” in the liner notes (“Jenny Sorrenti”), and saxophonist Robert Fix. Sorrenti has one of those voices that you’ll love or hate, but either way will take some time to get used to. It’s hard to say what register or octave she’s singing in most of the time, but she comes off sort of like Bernadette Peters doing Kate Bush covers. After some time I’ve sort of come to appreciate her voice although she is undoubtedly on the outer fringe of prog singers, along with Geddy Lee, Colin Meloy, Kate Bush and probably even Peter Hammill.

The songs are a mixed-bag despite all being clearly in the prog folk arena. The opening and lengthy “Il Fiume Inondo” persists a lovely piano line that is alternately accented by the saxophone, Sorrenti’s soaring vocals, tasty guitar licks and Fix’s reverberating and undulating saxophone passages. What starts out as a classically-tinged acoustic instrumental ends up being a sort of operatic psych trance thing, and the delicate piano passage eventually gives way to some harsh, discordant and jazzy ivory-tickling before the whole thing is over. I’ll give these guys credit that they managed to put out something pretty unique, and not at all what you’d expect by looking at the cover or liner notes.

“Il Risveglio” almost plays out in reverse of “Il Fiume Inondo”, opening pretty quickly and energetically with Sorrenti’s vocals and guest Gianni Guarracino’s jamming electric guitar licks before working its way into a mild jazz bridge and finally to a pastoral piano and saxophone passage that is tastefully framed by classical and some electric guitar. “Dolci Momenti” on the other hand is quite brief, and mostly emphasizes Sorrenti’s vocals along with organ bells and pipes.

I like “Una Bambina” the most on this record, with its shape-shifting sections that, like the opening track, move from classical piano and operatic vocals to tight fuzzed psych guitar and strummed acoustic that themselves give way to a highly syncopated rhythm with castanets, Sorrenti overdubbing herself in two widely separated octaves with what sounds more like an intense Latin love song, and Fix’s really wacky sax.

There are only six songs on the album and the last two are much more restrained that the earlier ones, although “Trister Poeta di Corte” does include a brief cacophonic passage of sax and guitar. Otherwise it ends up as mostly a very long and plodding drum/piano dirge that eventually just plays itself out.

The closing track bears the same name as the band, but is one of the shortest tracks on the album. It was clearly meant as a closing piece and is highlighted by some very tasteful classical guitar and the carnival-like atmosphere established by guest keyboardist Mario D'Amora.

I doubt record this will remain high on my playlist for very long, but I’m glad I was introduced to these guys and look forward to hearing their second and final album if I can ever find it; that one was released on CD many years ago but I doubt it is still available. Anyway, well- recommended to prog folk fans, possibly to fans of Italian prog, and to those who think Clare Grogan was the best part of Altered Images. Three stars.

peace

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Send comments to ClemofNazareth (BETA) | Report this review (#221209)
Posted Sunday, June 14, 2009 | Review Permalink
apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Neo Prog Team
3 stars Italian Psychedelic/Folk Rock band,started in 1972 as a trio,led by Alan Sorrenti's sister Jenny on vocals (but listed as Jane on the albums for unknown reasons) and accompanied by guitarist/bassist/singer Antonio Verde and saxophonist Robert Fix.They came from Napoli and released their eponymous debut in 1973 on Harvest,helped by keyboardist Mario D'Amora,famous jazz drummer Toni Esposito and guitarist Gianni Guarracino of Citta Frontale fame.

An uncomparable band indeed,Saint Just played a weird mix of Ethnic music and Folk Rock with plenty of Classical passages,where folk atmospheres alternate with organ themes and piano passages all the time but occasionally supported by light electric tunes.The music is soft but rather dark with plenty of acoustic guitars and characterized by Jenny's Sorrenti poetic and haunting vocal lines.While the whole album flows in a relaxed mood,there are surprisingly lots of breaks and alternating ideas in almost every track,which makes ''Saint just'' a demanding release.Organs, pianos and saxes have a major role leading the way and the few electric parts are well-played yet quite smooth.Surprisingly the self-titled number of the album is entirely sung in French by Sorrenti in a theatrical way with a definite beauty surrounding this delicate track.

One of the unique Folk Rock albums you can find and enjoy despite its difficult atmosphere with a variety of influences, from Classical to Mediterrenean to Psychedelic music.Recommended, especially to anybody enjoying more of a haunting mood than some complex music.

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Send comments to apps79 (BETA) | Report this review (#564343)
Posted Tuesday, November 08, 2011 | Review Permalink

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