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Flea - Topi O Uomini CD (album) cover




Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.42 | 53 ratings

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3 stars For lovers of the rock JAM

In the annals of Italian rock the Sicilian band Flea is yet another group with a roller-coaster history. Originally called Flea In The Honey, their first album was a bit of joke with the label apparently trying to sell them as an English band, going so far as to give them fake names. The music was pretty weak by most estimates although I've not heard it. It was enough to get them playing live on the Italian festival scene and in '72 came this, their second album and under the shortened moniker of Flea. They would split after this one before reuniting in '75 under yet a third band name, Etna. Etna would feature a more fusion-sound and it said to be pretty respectable. But this album is clearly in the hard rock/psych/blues arena with progressive tendencies. It has a fairly heavy English influence to me, and aside from the Italian vocals, sounds much more like it wants to be Zeppelin/Cream/Hendrix Experience than it does Banco or PFM. It features a complete side-long title track with nothing but explosive and bombastic jamming throughout followed by three shorter tracks on side 2.

Scented Gardens explains how the side-long title track "went through several different phases, starting with jazzy percussion and a memorable guitar riff, then introducing chords for the great vocal passage that follows. After some great guitar variations there is a sudden shift to Black Sabbath-tempo heavy rock introducing another melody. This is developed and varied in shifting dynamics with further strong guitar work and vocals. The third and last melody part starts after a short drum solo after 14:56 minutes and is closer to the blues with the addition of harmonica. After a short time this leads into another drum solo, gradually resurrecting the first melodic theme of the song." [SGotM] Taking the view for the opposition, ProgBear is quite passionate: "For me, this is the absolute nadir of the Italian 70's "progressive rock" scene; an absolutely hopeless hard rock band with some half-assed prog pretensions. Awful compositions, clichéd "freak-out" moments and terrible squealy vocalizing make this a must-miss. I find it nigh impossible to believe that this is the exact same band that made the Etna album three years later-how did a band this awful improve that much in three years?" [ProgBear] Personally my views are somewhere in between these polar views: "Topi o uomini" has some moments of great grooving but seems to just be missing one piece of the puzzle, lacking just enough mystery and development in composition to leave me a bit short of satisfied. Leaving that personal lament aside the album rocks with some truly passionate and dinosauric ferocity, heavy and gut-punching rhythms and gruff guitar wailing, sometimes close to a Ted Nugent guitar sound. I can appreciate some of the high energy and occasional Keith Moon or Mitch Mitchell channeling at the drum kit, though albums of such lengthy jamming for the sake of it can get pretty tiring if the compositional goals are not reached or never existed. As a veteran of many garage band jams in my school days I find little on this Flea album that I didn't sit through back then, bobbing my head with beer in-hand, waiting for the well-intentioned young men to finish. Certainly, Flea are better at what they do than most of what I experienced but you have to be one that appreciates the long jam to love this album. For me, while there are some nice rhythm changes, heavy riffs, and interesting individual fireworks sprinkled throughout the long piece it is an occasional play at best. My favorite track on this album is the one the enthusiasts tend to write off: the softer and more "Italian Prog" flavored "Sono un Pesce". It offers up a nice dreamy melody and introspective acoustic guitar that is memorable and pleasing. Perhaps this album will grow on me down the road but for now I'm stuck in one gear with this.

Nevertheless, my taste aside, there is some heavy grooving here that may well appeal to fans of Cream, Hendrix, Rag e Ryggen, or T2. I don't want to be too down on such fun but I can't call this a great album either. Recommended for guitar jam fans or those seeking a deep Italian collection. The BTF/VM gatefold mini-LP sleeve edition is fabulous as usual.

Finnforest | 3/5 |


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