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CITTĄ FRONTALE

Rock Progressivo Italiano • Italy


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Cittą Frontale biography
Neapolitan band CITTA FRONTALE, which had close ties to OSANNA, existed in two different forms during the 1970s. The first version formed in 1970 and included keyboardist Gianni Leone, who subsequently left to join IL BALLETO DI BRONZO. The original CITTA FRONTALE was short-lived and didn't make any recordings; after a brief period of live work they split to form OSANNA, with the notable inclusion of wind player Elio D'Anna who really helped to shape their sound. OSANNA recorded four studio albums before they in turn disbanded due to internal strife in 1974; D'Anna and Danilo Rustici emigrated to England where they formed UNO. Following OSANNA'S split, original members Lino Vairetti and Massimo Guarino reformed CITTA FRONTALE with a new line-up that included former SAINT JUST guitarist Gianni Guarracino. In 1975 they released their sole album "El Tor" with the following line-up: Lino Vairetti (vocals, guitar, Mellotron, harmonica), Gianni Guarracino (guitar, synthesizer, vocals), Enzo Avitabile (saxophone, flute, vocals), Paolo Raffone (keyboards), Rino Zurzolo (bass), Massimo Guarino (drums, percussion, vibes, vocals).

The new model CITTA FRONTALE retained some elements of the OSANNA sound, although the music on "El Tor" is less complex and a bit tame in comparison. The band's liberal use of electric piano and saxophone provides a slight hint of fusion in places, while some KING CRIMSON and FRANK ZAPPA influences break through intermittently. However, the album is predominantly acoustic and is melodic almost to the point of being commercial; CITTA FRONTALE'S compositions seem to be grounded in Mediterranean folk music and are even reminiscent of CAT STEVENS at times.

"El Tor" is a concept album or rock opera inspired by the cholera epidemic that spread across Italy in 1973; the album title comes from the popular name for a strain of the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The lyrics apparently underline the band's strong concern with social and political issues and deal with the theme of a society torn apart, not by physical sickness, but by exploitation and oppression. "El Tor" has been criticized in some quarters because the lightweight nature of the music doesn't match the drama of the lyrics, although Vairetti's spirited vocals go some way toward balancing that criticism. Flute and saxophone are the main lead instruments, and while Avitabile's performances are good his sax-playing isn't as wild as that of D'Anna on OSANNA'S albums. Although CITTA...
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3.11 | 30 ratings
El Tor
1975

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CITTĄ FRONTALE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 El Tor  by CITTĄ FRONTALE album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.11 | 30 ratings

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El Tor
Cittą Frontale Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by coasterzombie

4 stars El Tor is the best album Osanna never made.

When that group split in 1974, singer Lino Viaretti and drummer Massimo Guarino reactivated Citta Frontale, adding Saint Just guitarist Gianni Guarracino and multi-instrumentalist Enzo Avitabile among others. The result was an immediately accessible and genial LP, albeit panned by critics and fans alike. Critics found Citta Frontale too derivative of the Osanna sound (no doubt due to Viaretti's presence), while fans chided the lightweight sound. I believe the latter is an asset and not a liability, as the pleasant and primarily major-key song structures propose what Osanna were never able to - an experience, rather than just a set of haphazardly thrown together ideas with a sense of pomposity. El Tor succeeds on its own terms, owing nothing to Osanna followers or critics...instead catering to neophytes and casual fans. Because of this appeal, Citta Frontale earns four stars and a wholehearted recommendation.

"Alba Di Una Citta" hints at the pastoral side of the band briefly, before bursting into the fiery "Solo Uniti." Here Citta Frontale establishes their identity as a competent sextet, briskly reveling in a joyous arrangement. Don't let the cheery music fool you - the lyrical subject matter is quite the contrary, but to anglophiles this isn't a factor anyway. Citta Frontale has drawn criticism for incongruity between the dark subject matter and breezy musicality, but I can think of plenty similar examples in the Prog world. Lino Viaretti gracefully leads "El Tor," singing with a controlled emotion rarely displayed in Osanna and does so beautifully. "Duro Lavoro" allows Guarracino to show some acoustic guitar chops and break up the preceding merriment. The long song does share some Osanna qualities, but not to the point of imitation.

Citta Frontale relaxes on the jazzy "Mutazione," a slow jam that will please fusion freaks. "La Casa Del Mercante 'Sun'" returns to a carefree nature, adding enough random keyboard noises and horn blasts to keep things interesting. "Milioni Di Persone" slows down the proceedings, and this reflective ballad demonstrates the band's gentle side. Finally "Equilibrio Divino" ends El Tor on a bad note, and what ultimately is the weakest track concludes the album. Despite this, El Tor triumphs overall and is easily recommended for those just getting into Italian Prog and veterans alike.

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 El Tor  by CITTĄ FRONTALE album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.11 | 30 ratings

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El Tor
Cittą Frontale Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by seventhsojourn
Special Collaborator RPI

3 stars Citta Frontale were important in the evolution of RPI giants Osanna as main members Lino Vairetti and Massimo Guarino vacillated between the two bands during the first half of the 1970s. Citta Frontale's sole album ''El Tor'' was released in 1975 during an Osanna hiatus; apparently it's a socio-politically inspired concept album about an individual who sets out on a journey to rid the world of oppression, only to become corrupted by power himself. Like the fantastical traveller in the story, the album goes to a lot of interesting places but overall it sounds a bit anaemic in comparison to Osanna's work.

There's little of Osanna's inspiration or complexity in evidence here and most of the eight tracks follow fairly traditional structures. There are some shared characteristics like the reliance on saxophone and flute, and the mix of Mediterranean folk and jazz, but generally with an altogether lighter touch. The saxophone on the multi-part ''Duro Lavoro'' reveals something of a Zappa influence and this vibe is reinforced on the following track ''Mutazione''. Enzo Avitabile's sax-playing is also at the forefront of the uptempo ''Solo Uniti'', the closing section of which has shades of ''21st Century Schizoid Man''.

The balance of the album is mostly lightweight folk and pop, such as the dreamy, lilting opener ''Alba Di Una Citta'' and the West Coast-inflected ''Milioni Di Persone'' complete with harmonica and catchy melody. The title-track could easily pass for an Italian version of a Cat Stevens song although there's a hint of Ian McDonald-inspired flute towards the end. Overall then, ''El Tor'' is by no means a bad album but these guys don't take any risks here and it's all just a little safe and predictable. It's probably of interest mainly because of the Osanna connection, although it should appeal to fans of light symphonic music.

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 El Tor  by CITTĄ FRONTALE album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.11 | 30 ratings

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El Tor
Cittą Frontale Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by Finnforest
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Citta Frontale rose from the wreckage of Osanna after that band split although the band also preceded the better known group as well, sort of a before and after entity. Because of Osanna's great progressive success Citta Frontale had some big shoes to fill and they obviously did not please all the critics. I've read some negative stuff about this album but judging it on its own merit I was really pleased with it.

This is a very easy album to assimilate and enjoy right out of the box, much less complex and crazy than Osanna or some other heavy Italian bands. I would probably categorize the album as Italian Symphonic instead of Jazz-Fusion as the site does but it does have elements of jazz, folk, blues, and even pop music. The mood is mostly light and happy and the songs feature high quality vocals, musicianship, and melodies. Classic keyboards, good electric guitar, acoustic guitars, flutes, sax, you'll get a bit of everything thrown into the mix here.

"Alba" features lovely acoustic, hand percussion and flutes soon joined by angelic choir vocals. It is a very lovely and relaxing opening song that puts you in a good mood. "Solo Uniti" then flys out of the gate as a jazzy number with some fiery guitars and nice vocals. The lead singer(s) on this album do a fantastic job and all have pleasing voices. The song veers to pop-rock before bringing back the jazzy flourishes at the end. The title song "El Tor" is next beginning with lovely classical guitar. Pure romantic Italian here as the warm vocals are joined by the choral voices again. Around 3 minutes a nice sax burst gives the mellow tune a kick in the rear and it gets more active with some nice soloing. "Duro Lavoro" is a very good track with more complexity and development. It seems a bit darker and more serious with nice bridges leading to different sections. There is great flute, bass, and guitars. A real Italian epic!

Side two kicks off with "Mutazione" which is a jazzy instrumental, nice playing throughout. "La Casa Del Mercant" is a nice folksy acoustic number with lots of nice vocal harmonies. True it sounds a little pop but still very pleasant. "Milioni di Persone" has some harmonica with acoustic and sax, again a light pop song. "Equilibrio Divino" helps redeem side 2 with a good light symphonic number that sounds more ambitious again like "Mutazione." Side one is the better side. Basically about half of this album is very good, and the other half ranges between fair and good.

The Strange Days Japanese re-issue features an excellent reproduction of the lp-sleeve along with very respectable sound, although sometimes the bass is way too low in the mix for me. I certainly understand some of the complaints lodged against this album, especially the middle of side 2. However, I find the overall experience very pleasant and this is a definite keeper in my Italian collection. Lots of vivid melodic instrumentations, good vocals, and mostly passionate performances. I'm at about 3.5 stars for Citta Frontale. If you want a deep Italian collection you will want this, if you only want a couple Italian cds this should not be one of them.

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 El Tor  by CITTĄ FRONTALE album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.11 | 30 ratings

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El Tor
Cittą Frontale Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by andrea
Prog Reviewer

3 stars After first Osanna's split up in 1974, former members Lino Vairetti (vocals, guitar, mellotron, harmonica) and Massimo Guarino (drums, percussion, vibes, vocals) reformed a band called Cittą Frontale along with Gianni Guarracino (guitar, synth, vocals), Enzo Avitabile (sax, flute, vocals), Paolo Raffone (keyboards) and Rino Zurzolo (bass). Cittą Frontale recorded only this album before disbanding... "El tor" was originally conceived as a rock opera. It's a concept album (or, if you prefer, a musical) that tells the story of a fantastic character called "El tor" ("El tor" was the popular name of the "vibrio cholerae", the bacteria responsible for the disease that raged in Naples in 1973).

The opener "Alba di una cittą" is a soft and delicate instrumental intro describing a city that is waking up... It leads to the next track "Solo uniti"... "It's only together that we can give a dimension to reality / It's only united that we can change the society..."... The political commitment is evident in the lyrics but the music is very distant from the sound of Osanna and more in the vein of a Brodway show (or, if you prefer, in the vein of an Italian musical of Garinei and Giovannini), nevertheless the drumming of Massimo Guarino is brilliant and you can appreciate also in this track the bass work of Rino Zurzolo...

The title track is a ballad introduced by acoustic guitars... Lyrics describe the protagonist of the story, a dreamy boy who makes a deal with the devil: "El Tor" sells his soul to the devil and in exchange he obtains the power of muting his body at will, in this way he can travel all over the world muting himself millions of times and, disguised as an eagle, an elephant, a snake, a microbe or a butterfly, he can listen to the voices of suffering and oppressed people... Although the lyrics provide suggestive imagery the overall structure of the songs on this album is simpler if compared to the previous works of Osanna and, despite the excellent musicianship showcased by the members of the band, the music does not really take off...

"Duro lavoro" (Hard work) in my opinion is by far the best track on this album, but it is an exception... This song features shifting tempos and moods and here the atmosphere is closer to Osanna's standards than in every other track on this work... Lyrics describe the protagonist's growing awareness that in the world there's a "wicked power" exploiting poor people work, while the music goes from the delicate classical guitar intro to quotes from Frank Zappa...

"Mutazione" is a good instrumental track that tries to describe the changing attitude of the protagonist of the story and his bursting rebellion against the political system... This track is the only one on this album that could be described as close to jazz rock and it features an excellent sax work intertwined with guitar and keyboards lines on the suggestive and dynamic background provided by the rhythm section...

On "La casa del mercante Sun" (The house of Sun the merchant) the music comes back to simpler structures and melodic lines, while lyrics describe the protagonist looming plots of revolution...

"Milioni di persone" is a ballad almost in "West Coast" style featuring acoustic guitars and blues harp... Here lyrics try to describe the bitterness of a revolution leader corroded by the power that has to impose his will on millions of people who don't share his ideology...

In the last track "Equilibrio divino", another melodic ballad with an interesting crescendo finale, the protagonist ends up to kill people in the name of God, "aiming to put their devotion under state control"... A sad end for a revolution dream!

In the whole, despite the suggestive concept provided by the lyrics, in my opinion "El tor" sometimes lacks a coherent musical direction... It's a really good album, but I don't think it's really an essential one in a prog collection

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 El Tor  by CITTĄ FRONTALE album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.11 | 30 ratings

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El Tor
Cittą Frontale Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by Andrea Cortese
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars After "Landscape of Life" the memorable italian prog band Osanna disbanded. Many opinionists tell there were then discording musical ideas between Elio D'Anna and Lino Vairetti (excellent vocalist) based, probably (that's one of the peculiarities of the italian progressive rock movement) on different political faiths.

So they turned to an ending point. D'Anna formed the unlucky band Uno and flew to London to record the eponimous debut. Vairetti, on the other hand, formed Cittą Frontale (or re-formed...Cittą Frontale was a band active before Osanna and in the line up was also a certain Gianni Leone, founder of Il Balletto di Bronzo).

The band offer a peculiar mix between gentle folk and pastoral tunes within some jazzy incursions and melodic vocals winking at the left wing tradition. Near to the previous Osanna's record.

The result is still convincing, but, as for Uno only album, simpler and with a more commercial approach, showing a clear tendency to come closer more mainstream musical areas. Fortunately, the wise interplay between flutes, particularly strong saxes ( tenor, soprano and contralto) and keyboards (moog, organ mellotron, fender piano and harpsichord) seem to assure the right of being called a good prog album. Other interesting peculiarity are the folksy and pastoral sparse touches as in the opener "Alba di una Cittą". To be honest, the opener is not so representative of the whole record, being the only one completely performed as an acoustic gentle ballad.

Try this one if you like Osanna! But don't expect to listen to some complicated stuff...

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 El Tor  by CITTĄ FRONTALE album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.11 | 30 ratings

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El Tor
Cittą Frontale Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by braindamage

5 stars The only album released in 1975 "El Tor". The content is pastoral OSANNA. It is an album of a variegated content. It is a polite performance. There are a high perfection and easiness to listen in this album. There is a colorful, happy atmosphere. It never becomes melancholic musical. Splendor in Harmony equals NEW TROLLS. It is a very luxurious sound. I am a loved album.

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 El Tor  by CITTĄ FRONTALE album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.11 | 30 ratings

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El Tor
Cittą Frontale Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by hdfisch
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Overall the music on this album is showing little resemblance to the one made by OSANNA. The first two songs are still quite in this vein, excellent symphonic prog with a jazzy approach, but the rest of the record mainly consists of "light prog-ish" kind of music, partly influenced by Italian folk as well as by American folk and blues rock. The commercial approach is at least for my ears more than subtle, actually quite obvious. Fans of OSANNA expecting something similar like they did will be definitively disappointed. IMHO quite a nice record, but as well not very special and rather ordinary. Probably not really worthwhile if one is looking for Italian Prog of the heavier and more sophisticated type. I'd like to give 2,5 stars for this one.

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 El Tor  by CITTĄ FRONTALE album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.11 | 30 ratings

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El Tor
Cittą Frontale Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by ludovecc

3 stars CITTĄ FRONTALE all-star line up recorded the controversial "El Tor" in 1975. Raising from OSANNA's ashes , this record did not get a warm welcome from the critics being seen as a too strong departure from the heavier OSANNA sound. Apparently, the name of the record is taken from "El Tor", the scientific name of the cholera vibrion whose epidemia stormed Naples in 1973. Noteworthy is the cover design by drummer Massimo Guarino, which also designed some of the OSANNA covers. "El Tor" shows a fairly good mix of true prog rock, mediterranean folk sounds and jazz rock, although a subtle commercial approach sneaks in here and there. While the first two songs show a close resemblance to Osanna best tunes, the second part of the record has a more folksy and poppier trait. Overall, the record shows a careful production and all band members make a good display of their very high musicianship. Among the best songs of this record, "Duro Lavoro" get the highest score for its well calibrated mix of vocal harmonies, acoustic instruments, the flute interplaying with a nice zappesque guitar, and the nice tune. The listener may recognize influences from OSANNA, PFM, FRANK ZAPPA, MAXOPHONE, SOFT MACHINE, SAINT JUST, TONI ESPOSITO. In few words, it is worth the purchase for italian prog-rock lovers while the true Osanna fan may probably get some disappointment. - Ludovico Vecchione

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