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Museo Rosenbach - Zarathustra CD (album) cover


Museo Rosenbach


Rock Progressivo Italiano

4.31 | 914 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
5 stars Out of all the Italian prog bands that emerged in the early 70s, released a single album and then disbanded seemingly as quickly as they had formed, the gold medal has to belong to Sanremo's MUSEO ROSENBACH who in the prog heyday of 1973, released their sole album of the era: ZARATHUSTRA. Despite the legions of competition emerging from every nook and cranny of Italy with a huge portion of these bands releasing some of the highest quality prog albums ever to have been recorded, it is MUSEO ROSENBACH that has earned the honor of having delivered the absolute apex of Italian prog in the form of their controversial album that woefully got them completely censored and resulted in an unfortunate failure as far as sales of the initial release are concerned. Yet, time has been kind to one of Italy's most revered bands of the prog era and ZARATHUSTRA has become not only THE most popular prog album of the entire Italian scene but has also been claimed to be THE best prog album EVER. Well, i'm not sure about that, but let's just say that this quintet did a mighty fine job here.

Initially the band formed under the moniker INAUGURAZIONE MUSEO ROSENBACH (Inauguration of the Rosenbach Museum) in 1971 from the ashes of two 60s bands from the local Sanremo scene: Quinta Strada and Il Sistema, the first of which was a mere cover band and the second a proto-prog outfit that wouldn't find an archival release until 1992. The initial lineup would include Leonardo Lagorio (sax, flute) who would move on to Celeste before the album was recorded and a singer named Walter Franco before the final lineup would cement into the classic form of ZARATHUSTRA. While many Italian bands were highly experimental in their variations on the symphonic prog meets classical operatic and jazzy touch sensibilities, MUSEO ROSENBACH seemed like they were the perfect band to represent the middle ground of the multitude of bands that emerged from the rich and prosperous Italian prog scene. On ZARATHUSTRA they delivered a well balanced album that almost seems like an ambassador of Italian prog in the modern era.

As far as the name goes, it was very much en vogue for Italian prog bands to retain a sense of humility and associate themselves with mom and pop establishments thus Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM) signified "award-winning Marconi bakery", Banco del Mutuo Soccorso "bank of mutual relief" and following suit, MUSEO ROSENBACH is simply derived as "The Rosenbach Museum," the ROSENBACH part remaining somewhat of a mystery. It could either have been adopted from the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia, PA or could have simply been taken from the German language where it means "brook of roses." Either way, it sounds cool and that's what counts of course. ZARATHUSTRA is one of those albums that was utterly ignored and failed miserably during its initial release which inevitably forced the band to call it quits however in hind site, it is quite logical that this was so given that MUSEO ROSENBACH touched on subject matter that was waaaaay too sensitive for the time.

It's completely amazing how far the rock genre had evolved in a single decade. A mere ten years prior The Beatles were only beginning and singing simple non-threatening love songs like "Love Me Do" and "Please Please Me." Come ten years later, the progressive rock scene saw bands like MUSEO ROSENBACH tackling a sophisticated concept album based on Friedrich Nietzche's philosophical novel "Thus Spoke Zarathustra," a highly complex reading the delved into the myriad themes ranging from eternal recurrence to will to power and criticisms of Christianity. Deemed as an expression of the Far-right at the time, MUSEO ROSENBACH found themselves boycotted by the RAI (Radiotelevisione italiana). Remember that this was the time when Mussolini fascism was fresh in the minds of the Italian populace and the cover art depicting the once tyrannical dictator rubbed many the wrong way and resulted in the virtual blacklisting of MUSEO ROSENBACH without a second thought.

Despite the initial overreaction to the subject matter and cover art (which admittedly did not help the band one iota), MUSEO ROSENBACH has stood the test of time based on its amazing musical delivery on ZARATHUSTRA which is made all the better if you do not understand the Italian language and have absolutely zero clue about the controversy that ensued after its release. This is an Italian prog masterpiece for a reason and that reason is that it successfully balances the myriad elements that make a great prog album in a nearly flawless fashion. While similar to the other greats on the scene, MUSEO ROSENBACH stands out in its extremely focused concept laid out in a single vinyl side suite and a second side of separate tracks that continue the signatory prowess of one of the masters of Italian prog.

Known as the "Zarathustra Suite," side one on traditional vinyl releases is actually a series of five tracks, at least on modern CD releases. It is an exquisite delivery of the most traditional approaches of Italian prog all laid out into a series of ever-changing moods that coalesce into a greater musical universe. Dominated by the outstanding vocal abilities of Stefano "Lupo" Galifi, ZARATHUSTRA is enhanced by a perfect balance of pastoral acoustic segments alternating with heavier rock and completely fortified with the utmost progressive time signature chops, symphonic keyboard touches, Mellotron, Hammond organ, vibraphone and excellent guitar and bass rock workouts that allow a stellar instrumental interplay that without a beat knows exactly when to shift gears and exercise a completely new paradigm. The music overall is fairly dark and heavy on the heart even if you no speaka Italiano. Above all, it is melodic as to establish the proper hooks but it has no problem casting the proper deviating spells as to make this an angular prog workout.

As far as Italian classics go, i have to admit that i do not find ZARATHUSTRA my top dog in the genre as i prefer the more experimental realms of Semiramis, Area and even Osanna but as far as sheer perfection goes and consistency of holy progginess follows, i have to admit that MUSEO ROSENBACH cranked out a flawless specimen of Italian prog and it's absolutely no wonder that this album has only become increasingly revered as the decades rolled along. The album is as majestic and magnanimous as music can be declared and like so many albums of its era resides in the top ranks of a musical hierarchy that has rarely been matched. The top album in all of progressive rock? Hmmmm?. i'm not sure, at least not for yours truly but a masterpiece of progressive rock? Oh yeah! There is absolutely no doubt that this is one of the pinnacle achievements of the era and that it deserves all the praise graciously heaped upon it.

Despite being deemed as a one shot wonder, MUSEO ROSENBACH has been resurrected in the 21st century but not surprisingly has not even come close to this prog monstrosity in terms of qualitative delivery. This is simply one of those absolute essential prog albums to be heard before you die, whether the political stance suits your fancy or not. BTW, this album straddles an interesting dichotomy in its mutli-decade existence. The album was an utter failure upon released therefore only a limited supply of original vinyl was pressed, however it has also become one of the most popular albums to exist in the entire prog rock universe and has created a huge market for collectors of original material.

I literally just saw this a week ago at Amoeba Records in San Francisco, CA, USA. An original vinyl edition goes for a whopping 2000$USD!!!! When a rarity like this emerges, counterfeits naturally ensue. There have been a few attempts but the original has a matted texture is absent and unlikely to fool the sleuths of the collector's world. Personally i own the Japanese remastered CD on the Ricordi label which faithfully represents the entire album in a mini format. The gatefold is identical as is the matted texture of the packaging. It sounds excellent and is the next best thing to owning an over-priced original which probably doesn't even sound as good.

siLLy puPPy | 5/5 |


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