Italy. Rome has for centuries been the leading political and religious center of Western civilization, serving as the capital of both the Roman Empire and Christianity. During the Dark Ages, Italy endured a cultural and social decline in the face of repeated invasions by Germanic tribes, with Roman heritage being preserved by Christian monks. Beginning around the 11th century, various Italian communes and maritime republics rose to great prosperity through shipping, commerce and banking (capitalism has its roots in Medieval Italy); concurrently, Italian culture flourished, especially during the Renaissance, which produced many notable scholars, artists, and polymaths such as da Vinci, Galileo, Michelangelo, and Machiavelli.
Meanwhile, Italian explorers such as Polo, Columbus, Vespucci, and Verrazzano discovered new routes to the Far East and the New World, helping to usher in the European Age of Exploration. Nevertheless, Italy would remain fragmented into numerous warring states for the rest of the Middle Ages, subsequently falling prey to larger European powers such as France, Spain, and later Austria. Italy would enter a long period of decline that lasted until the beginning of the 18th century.
The second and the third wars of Italian independence resulted in the unification of most of present-day Italy between 1859 and 1866. From the late 19th century to the early 20th century, the new Kingdom of Italy rapidly industrialized and acquired a colonial empire in Africa. However, Southern and rural Italy remained largely excluded from industrialization, fuelling a large and influential diaspora. Despite victory in WWI, Italy entered a period of economic crisis and social turmoil, which favored the establishment of a Fascist dictatorship in 1922.
The subsequent participation in WWII at the side of Nazi Germany ended in military defeat, economic destruction, and civil war. In the years that followed, Italy abolished the monarchy, reinstated democracy, and enjoyed a prolonged economic boom, thus becoming one of the most developed nations in the world.
Let’s go to our history:
The Years of Lead was a period of socio-political turmoil in Italy that lasted from the late 1960s into the early 1980s. This period was marked by a wave of terrorism, initially called Opposing Extremisms (Opposti Estremismi) and later renamed as the Anni di Piombo. Among the possible origins of the name is a reference to the vast number of bullets fired, or even the 1981 Margarethe von Trotta’s homonym film (in Italy).
There was widespread social conflict and unprecedented acts of terrorism carried out by both right-and left-wing paramilitary groups. An attempt to endorse the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement (MSI) by the Tambroni Cabinet led to rioting and was short-lived. The Christian Democrats (DC) were instrumental in the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) gaining power in the 1960s and they created a coalition.
The assassination of the Christian Democrat leader Aldo Moro in 1978 ended the strategy of historic compromise between the DC and the Italian Communist Party (PCI). The assassination was carried out by the Red Brigades, then led by Mario Moretti. Between 1969 and 1981, nearly 2,000 murders were attributed to political violence in the form of bombings, assassinations, and street warfare between rival militant factions. Although political violence has decreased substantially in Italy since that time, instances of sporadic violent crimes continue because of the re-emergence of anti-immigrant, neo-fascist, and militant communist groups. (!)
The left-wing autonomist movement lasted from 1968 until the end of the 1970s. The years of lead began with the shooting death of the policeman Antonio Annarumma in 1969 and the Piazza Fontana bombing.
Is in the midst of this boiling cauldron that Italian prog (or symphonic) scene is established from Collage, La Orme’s second album in 1971. The Lp, beyond the indisputable technical merit, had a great reception and was hailed as a turning point to Italian rock. At the dawn of the 70s, Italy was the first country to recognize the talents of some British progressive bands such as Genesis, Gentle Giant, and Van der Graaf Generator, whose first albums had been ignored at home, becoming their market reference; they even toured and entered at the musical charts.
Thenceforth bands like Premiata Forneria Marconi, New Trolls, Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, Metamorfosi, Il Balletto di Bronzo, Goblin and Osanna played symphonic rock heavily influenced by classical music, against the backdrop of the Italian canzone tradition. The scene more or less ran dry by the end of 1975, owing to the difficulty of making a living as a rock band, many bands from Italy released only one or two albums before disappearing. Emphasis on PFM, they were the only band to enter the U.S. charts and completed four tours in the country!
Let’s go to our album:
Osanna came from Naples and was formed in 1971. The band was composed of Danilo Rustici (guitar), Lino Vairetti (vocals), Lello Brandi (bass) and Massimo Guarino (drums), all these musicians come from the band Cittá Frontale. There was also Elio D’Anna who came from Showmen. The group immediately began an intense concert activity, beginning in 1971 at the Caracalla Pop Festival and later taking part in the Festival of Avant-Garde Music and New Trends in Viareggio. With all band members dressed in long vests and with their faces painted, the collaboration with theatrical groups produced unique shows, odd for the Italian audience of the time.
The group signed a contract with Fonit and debuted with the album L’uomo, who receives a good reception and won the Record Critics’ Award Italian.
The following year, master Luis Enriquez Bacalov involves the group in the execution of the soundtrack composed for the film Milano Calibro 9, a police noir thriller. The album is titled Preludio Tema Variazioni Canzona, and fits into the genre between classical orchestra and rock music, which had just been started by the same Bacalov with the Concerto Grosso by New Trolls.
The intense live activity continues in 1973, in that year, they release Palepoli, which is considered one of the most successful Lp’s of the Italian prog scene (mine’s favorite). The record consists of three long compositions, which are developed around the contrast between tradition and modernity, between the urge to innovate which is opposed to the recovery of the folk tradition. Palepoli, means the ancient city, is ideally opposed to modern Naples, cold and detached in his metropolitan selfishness.
In 1974, Landscape of Life is released, though the group is undermined by internal strife, heightened during the process of recording. After its publication, the group dissolves to reconstitute itself in 1977 without Elio D’Anna, replaced by keyboardist Fabrizio D’Angelo, and with Enzo Petrone on bass. With this formation, Osanna realizes Suddance in 1978 for CBS, a record that despite critical acclaim does not receive the expected success. They finally melt at the beginning of the following year.
The band reformed in 1999 (with Lino Vairetti) releasing the Lp Taka Boom the following year, including old successes and some new songs. Their next production was Prog Family, under the name of Osanna/Jackson, featuring notable figures of prog rock history, such as Van der Graaf Generator’s saxophonist David Jackson, King Crimson’s David Cross, Balletto di Bronzo’s Gianni Leone and others. (!)
Later, with David Jackson and Gianni Leone, the band contributed eight tracks to the live boxed set Prog Family (2009). And finally Rosso Rock Live In Japan (2012).
Although not being a proghead, I’ve always tried to bring things beyond the usual, thankfully, today’s album is no exception, and despite not even being the best of the band, Palepoli (forementioned). Here, Osanna’a terrific timbres, strong recording, and performance is a need between the Italian scene, they’re my faves!
Classical and Rock, I will leave the magnificent Preludio and Tema with you, this Lp also ends with some tacky (sentimental) rock ballad, a must-see. The ‘IM’ highlights are for: Variazione III (Shuum…), a preview of the direction the band took in Palepoli, Elio D’Anna’s performance resembles Hermeto Paschoal freaky technique, short but amazing. And Variazione VI (Spunti Dallo Spartito…) a serious hard rock with a soul pause and a King Crimson ending. Kyau Tafiya!
A1 Preludio (Bacalov)
A2 Tema (Bacalov)
A3 Variazione I (To Plinius)
A4 Variazione II (My Mind Flies)
B1 Variazione III (Shuum…)
B2 Variazione IV (Tredicesimo Cortile)
B3 Variazione V (Dialogo)
B4 Variazione VI (Spunti Dallo Spartito n° 14723/AY del Prof. Imolo Meninge)
B5 Variazione VII (Posizione Raggiunta)
B6 Canzona (There Will Be Time) [Baldazzi, Bacalov, Bardotti]
Fonit – LPX 14
Music A3 ~ B5 by: Osanna
- Arranged by, Directed by (Orchestra Direction) – Luis Enriquez Bacalov
- Bass – Lello Brandi
- Drums, Percussion, Vibraphone, Vocals – Massimo Guarino
- Guitar, Vocals – Danilo Rustici
- Saxophone, Flute, Vocals – Elio D’Anna
- Vocals, Synthesizer – Lino Vairetti
- Producer: Sergio Bardotti
- Recorded by: Giancarlo Jametti
- Recorded by, Mixed by: Plinio Chiesa
- Liner Notes: Matthias Scheller
- Artwork, Photography by: G. Greguoli
- Transferred by: Franco Brambilla
Soundtrack from the movie Milano Calibro 9