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Osanna - Palepolitana CD (album) cover

PALEPOLITANA

Osanna

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.49 | 72 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
3 stars While Italian progressive rock band OSANNA was one of the hottest tickets on the Rock Progressivo Italiano (RPI) scene in the early 70s, the band pretty much fizzled out after their landmark masterpiece "Palepoli" unleashed in 1973 which after its release band infighting and musical interests ripped them apart. After a couple less than perfect albums that followed they called it quits, however lead singer Lino Vairetti has been trying mostly in vain to resurrect the band's original lineup ever since with a couple of lackluster albums in the early 21st century under the OSANNA name with different lineups. It took me by surprise that a good 42 years after the release of their most celebrated album "Palepoli" that Vairetti would put together a totally new lineup under the OSANNA moniker and not only release an album of new material but include a second disc which is a completely new recording of their 1973 classic. Cleverly titled PALEPOLITANA, this new album is clearly making references to those glory days in the hopes of reviving interest if not a bonafide rekindling of the past. While OSANNA in their heyday never consisted of more than five band members, this new era of the band consists of six official band members with an additional five guest vocalists and musicians including David Jackson of Van Der Graaf Generator on sax and flute.

Needless to say, i have never been a fan of albums such as "Landscape Of Life" and "Suddance" as they were very much downers after the progressive rock brilliance of "Palepoli" which has weaseled its way into my top 100 album list of all time (if listening time counts for these things.) So awaiting a new OSANNA album has never really been on my radar as i count them as down and out and nothing, absolutely nothing could ever rekindle the magic afoot on the first three albums which culminated on their third. And just as i predicted, after all the expectations that just maybe the unthinkable be true, turns out was just a false alarm. That's not to say PALEPOLITANA isn't a worthy effort by any means but certainly not the return to past glories that propelled them to the top of Italy's prog scene. Like the albums of the old days, all lyrics are sung in Italian just like a good Italian prog album should be. In fact i swear that Italians have immortal vocal chords because Vairetti sounds like he hasn't lost one little iota of his vocal prowess over the four decades since OSANNA was at their peak.

Disc One consists of the album PALEPOLITANA and despite a slow symphonic start that gave me a gut wrenching fear that the album was recorded in a nursing home somewhere outside of Naples complete with aging groupies to pick up any dentures that may have been spit out in the making of the album, i soon realized that in many ways Vairetti still has his magic mojo as one track after another churns out rather well polished addictive melodies completely frosted with Neapolitan folk hooks, heavy rock embellishments and gutsy sax and harmonica solos that harken to the good old days for the band. In fact, musically speaking, PALEPOLITANA is the best thing that has been put out under the OSANNA name SINCE "Palepoli." The disc is a varied one with a preponderance of Italian folk fueled rockers like "Santa Lucia," tender ballads such as "Anni Di Piombo" and more progressive hard rocking numbers such as the title track that is the one that most reminds me of past greatness. Perhaps the most out of character track on the entire disc is the super sappy "Canzone Amara" which is a duet between Vairetti and Sophya Baccini which makes me think of a winner of Italy's version of American Idol or even worse yet the worst of American AOR from the 80s.

Disc Two is a completely reworked and recorded version of "Palepoli." Ugh, i dreaded listening to this one. I mean, i can understand re-recording an album that you got wrong in the past but why in the world would you want to mar your magnum opus? Granted they tagged this on more as a bonus disc rather than an album itself but still?. WHY?!!!! Ok, after the shock and awe of knowing one of my favorite albums was about to be "updated" and presumably "perfected," i took a deep breath and then i pushed play. OK. It starts out similar. The notes seem to be all the same. The band really can keep up with the demanding frenetic workouts that this album contains BUT?. it's not the same of course. First of all, I DID NOT WANT a remake of "Palepoli." I DID WANT a remastering though. The differences are stark despite the band's best attempts to remain as faithful to the original as possible. While Vairetti absolutely nails his vocal parts to a T showing him to be a singer of the utmost caliber, the main problem is that this version lacks the crazy freneticism and spontaneity that the original displayed in full force. This new version sounds way too polished and the production is far too slick for its own good with subtle atmospheric embellishments creeping in and castrated guitar licks where once hyperactive jittery freak outs once existed. I should be clear that this is beautifully done. If this was the very first time i ever heard this, i'd give it four stars as it blows away almost anything of recent memory in compositional prowess. However, this is not the very first time and this version just doesn't hold a candle to the original as it is far too calculated and a "light" version of the past glory.

Overall, i'm conflicted about PALEPOLITANA. While my initial listen left me cold and i shelved it for over a year before i tackled it again, i have to say that a few more listens has left me with a warmer reception of it. I'm talking about the new tracks. The remake of "Palepoli" still rubs me the wrong way but i listened to it again for the sake of this review and while very well performed, seems by the numbers and lacks the fiery passion of the original. The main problem i have with PALEPOLITANA is not that it doesn't contain twelve beautifully crafted tracks that are catchy and well performed, it's more that OSANNA has always been a progressive rock band in my book and the progressive part is what's really on low flame on this one. This is more of a catchy pop rock type of album designed for some commercial crossover potential. While i'm not against that kind of music in any way, it has left me a little underwhelmed in this case simply because of the rekindled connections to the band's most prized contribution to the prog rock world. While i'm not sorry that i sought this out and have placed it in my collection, i at the same time can only consider this a very good supplemental album to my RPI collection and not essential in any way.

siLLy puPPy | 3/5 |

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