Thursday, September 12, 2013

Article of the day...

Captain Beyond Article
August 1972

Osanna - Milano Calibro 9 (Progressive Rock Italy 1972)

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OSANNA is classic seventies Italian prog. The basis of their sound is original heavy guitar rock often in combination with amazing flute solos. Additionally, more spacey, Pink Floydian parts and quiet interludes with acoustic guitar and flute can be heard as well. There are plenty of mood changes and surprises that make this music very dynamic and interesting. 

Their first three are masterpieces in their own right. The superb "L'Uomo" in which heavy rock and spacey jazz are only a few of the styles included, the soundtrack "Milano Calibro 9" and their best "Palepoli" which is so bizarre and complex, beginners may be too dazzled by the array of styles presented. "Palepoli" covers a wide range of styles, moods, and tempo variations, and OSANNA handle these diverse modes of playing superbly. This eponymus masterpiece can be compared to BANCO DEL SOCCORSO or PREMIATA FORNERIA MARCONI An ultimate classic!

Back in February 1995, I was in Eugene, Oregon at the Eugene Hilton. There was a record convention being held there. It was quite an event, because unlike record stores, I kept running in to people I never knew where I was openly able to talk music to them (because the event seemed to consist of more serious collectors, rather than college kids who, at the time, thought that music began and ended with Kurt Cobain). While there, I noticed an OSANNA album, having been already amazed with "Palepoli", I snatched this earlier release, "Milano Calibro 9". It was an American release on the Peters International label. It was released in 1973, a year after the original Italian release. I also got it for cheap (something you can't always say of Italian prog LPs, unless it was American pressings of PFM albums).

On this album, the band matured quite a bit. Where on "L'Uomo", it was a combination of hard rock, blues, jazz, folk, and prog, on this album, they were able to combine those styles in a more mature and progressive framework. And this time, it's a soundtrack to a film. But despite the trippy artwork on the album cover that might make you think "Milano Calibro 9" was an art film, it was actually apparently a mob film (for one thing, "Calibro 9" translates as "Caliber 9", so you know right it way it has to deal with a gun). The band incorporates an orchestra, conducted by Argentine-born Luis Enriquez Bacalov (who was previously responsible for NEW TROLLS' "Concerto Grosso Per 1" and later IL ROVESCIO DELLA MEDAGLIA's "Contaminazione"). The American LP has all the song titles in English (so instead of "Preludio", "Tema", several "Variazioni"s, and "Canzona", they are "Prelude", "Theme", "Variations" and "There Will Be Time").

The album starts off with "Theme", which starts off with a bizarre sounding ARP 2600 synthesizer. There is some classical piano, the orchestra, then the band kicks in to a mindblowing jam. "Tema" ("Theme") is a more mellow, and pleasant piece, dominated by piano, orchestra, and ARP 2600 synthesizer. Nice piece. Then the album goes through several pieces entitled "Varazioni" (divided by roman numerals I-VII). These movements goes through many different moods and changes, although most of them are quite short. The second movement is also called "My Mind Flies". This is one of only two cuts with vocals. The band chose to sing in English, but as you know, the English language isn't the high point of these guys. Luckily it's stuffed with lots of bizarre, atmospheric and acoustic pieces, with that great flute, and more great loud, aggressive jams. The last piece, "Canzona" is also called "There Will Be Time". This is not a particularly progressive piece. This is the album's only other vocal track, and it's a pretty straightforward pop song, as seemed to be the common occurance on many Italian prog albums.

My big complaint of the album is I wished for lengthier compositions (luckily they fixed that problem with "Palepoli"), because I like the mood of many of the pieces, just wished it lasted longer. But I guess that had to deal with the fact this is a movie soundtrack. Still a great album.

- Elio D'anna / flute, piccolo, tenor sax, baritone sax 
- Lino Vairetti / vocals, 12 string guitar, harmonica, hammond              organ,synthesizer   
- Danilo Rusici / guitar, 12 string guitar, pipe organ, electronics 
- Lello Brandi / bass 
- Massimo Guarino / drums

01. Prelude (4:10) 
02. Tema (4:50) 
03. Variatione 1 (2:15) 
04. Variatione 2 (4:58) 
05. Variatione 3 (1:38) 
06. Variatione 4 (1:31) 
07. Variatione 5 (2:10) 
08. Variatione 6 (2:49) 
09. Variatione 7 (1:28) 
10. Canzona (4:54) 

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Sunday, September 08, 2013

Bröselmascine - Selftitled (German Folkprog 1969)

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Inspired by the American folk music of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Phil Ochs and Joni Mitchell, German master of acoustic guitar Peter Bursch formed the first line-up of BROSELMASCHINE back in 1968 alongwith flautist/vocalist Jenni Schucker - a female singer with an irresistible whispy voice - Willi Kissmer on vocals, guitars and zither, Lutz Ringer on metallaphon and bass, and Mike Hellbach on congas, tabla and mellotron. Although many tracks bear German names, almost all are sung in English. The quintet disbanded after a first album in 1971 and Bursch, keeping only guitarist Kissmer from the original line-up, pursued his musical endeavours under the name of PETER BURSCH UND DIE BROSELMASCHINE, joined by percussionist Mani Neumeier (GURU GURU), drummer Jan Fride (KRAAN) and three other musicians.

Their eponymous LP is definitely their best: a wonderful acoustic album full of finesse of subtle Indian, Middle-Eastern flavour (sitar, tabla, flute) as well as Irish/Scottish traditional folk (mandolin, multi-voice harmonies). Their second album, released under the moniker PETER BURSCH UND DIE BROSELMASCHINE, unfortunately doesn't even come close to the first. In spite of its decidedly folk flavour and many guest appearances, it is altogether different and less inspired, putting the emphasis on Bursch's acoustic guitar techniques (although Kissmer's electric guitar steals the show at times).

For fans of EMTIDI, early HOELDEERLIN or other such cosmic folk bands, the first BROSELMASCHINE album is a breath of fresh air.

 This is one of those rather obscure gems that is probably more folk than progressive, but the interplay of Celtic and Middle Eastern sounds atop a bed of what almost sound like Peter, Paul and Mary covers makes for a very charming album and a good use of a little more than a half-hour of your time.
Bröselmaschine was basically a one-shot German band who seem to have been heavily inspired by American folk singers of the sixties, plus featured the stunningly gorgeous and folksy vocals and flute of one Jenni Schucker. Amazingly Schucker doesn’t seem to have appeared on anything after this release.

This album was impossible to find for decades until it was reissued on CD in 2005. I just read this week that Akarma is releasing this on domestic CD in December 2007. I have the Ohr German import version that was released a couple years ago, which was the only other CD version I’m aware of. I don’t know if the Akarma release has the same tracks as this one or has some bonus material, so I will have to check into that one. But since Peter Bursch’s material after this release is generally considered inferior I’d be surprised if any bonus material amounted to much.

The tracks don’t range too far from my opening description, with the exception of the lengthy “Schmetterling” which does manage to blur the line between Middle Eastern-inspired folk (sitar, flute, zither, metallophon – you get the idea) and full-blown psych. There is even an extended flute solo that places this album squarely at the end of the flower-power era.

The rest of the album is much closer to rather tame hippy folk, although the presence of the zither, congas and tabla do manage to give the remaining tracks a bit of a dated sound.

On “The Old Man's Song” Schucker manages to come off sounding a bit like Grace Slick circa Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow days. This isn’t really a psych number though, as much as it is a rather intense folk piece accented with a light touch of slightly psych-and-blues guitar, tabla and the ever-present zither. Albums like Joe Byrd’s American Metaphysical Circus and the Comfortable Chair’s self-titled release also come to mind. []

- Jenni Schucker - vocals, flute, shells
- Willi Kismer - vocals, guitars, zither
- Lutz Ringer - metallophon, bass
- Mike Hellbach - congas, tabla, spoons, mellotron
- Peter Bursch - vocals, acoustic guitar, sitar, flute

01. Gedanken (5:06)
02. Lassie (traditional) (5:06)
03. Gitarrenstuck (2:03)
04. The Old Man's Song (5:26)
05. Schmetterling (9:31)
06. Nossa Boba (8:06)

1. Link
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