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Panna Fredda - Uno CD (album) cover

UNO

Panna Fredda

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.58 | 82 ratings

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Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars One of the pioneers of Italian Prog

"Uno" is not the most beloved Italian prog album of all time but it is certainly one of the most important. Recorded in 1970, Panna Fredda's lone work is one of the earliest pioneers of the ISP genre, one of the trailblazers of the distinct style of festive experimentation that would characterize so many great Italian bands. It's really an overlooked title in the Italian progressive rock universe. Heavy and dark with a distinct baroque twist and an emphasis on exploration, "Uno" was right there with other first wave titles from Orme, The Trip, and Osanna. The origins of Panna Fredda (translates to Cold Cream) date back to 1966 Rome and the Italian beat when members were playing in a group called I Figli Del Sole. These nightclub gigs evolved into a 6-piece funk/R and B/brass outfit called Vun Vun. Reluctant leader and composer/guitarist/vocalist Angelo Giardinelli professed some boredom with the Italian scene of the time and wanted to move things to a rock quartet, but some touchy band politics and the mood of the local music scene stood in his way. He had to proceed covertly to form Panna Fredda behind the backs of the horn guys to realize his vision without hurting the feelings of friends. Not everyone in the group was convinced, thinking Angelo crazy for wanting to chase sounds that the public was not ready for. But there was no turning back: after hearing some albums a friend gave him from the likes of Vanilla Fudge, Hendrix, The Moodies, and Floyd, Giardinelli could not go back to playing it safe. The band made contact with a small label called Vedette who were looking for another hit machine to replace I Pooh, who were not delivering to the label's satisfaction. After landing an audition, Giardinelli relays an incredible story about how chance and an overheard conversation changed a "no thanks boys" to a record contract:

"Roby set us up an appointment with the Maestro Armando Sciascia from Vedette Records for a live demonstration, but after listening to it, he turned us down, claiming that it wasn't commercial enough. After he left we sat in his studio in silence, fuming. Our rage finally got the better of us, we couldn't hold it any longer and proceeded to vent, bitching about the incompetence and bureaucracy of the record labels, accusing him of being old fashioned and full of himself. Unbeknown to us, the studio we were in was linked to an inter-office monitoring system, apparently he had been listening in on our whole conversation. Suddenly we heard his voice on the loud speakers, One of you come up to my office, I need to speak to you!, all eyes were on me. As Giorgio mentioned in an earlier interview, we didn't really have a band leader, but whenever there was a problem or decision to be made they looked to me to do the dirty work. So I went. Here I was, a young hippie freak kid ready to give the music industry a piece of my mind, going up against not only a famous classical musician but a rich and well-dressed, respected gentlemen. His office was like something out of a movie, and foregoing formal pleasantries, he asked me to sit. Before I could open my mouth he had said: We're going to put out a single and see what happens. The Pooh (a famous Italian band signed to Vedette Records) aren't selling anymore and we need a new band. Then, he stood up, shook my hand and added My secretary will have you sign a form and you will receive a preliminary contract within the next week. The conversation was over. I got up leave and he stopped me, What's your name? he asked, Angelo I answered. Your band name is Angelo?. I realised we hadn't even begun to think of a band name. We'll change it I blurted out, Send me a list of names as soon as possible he told me, we may able to help out as well, I think you'll find we're not that old-fashioned after all." [as told to www.italianprog.com]

After this stroke of destiny Panna Fredda was ready to roll. The first single was written by popular Italian musicians of the day but found success which led to the first band-penned singles early in the summer of 1970. More line-up changes would ensue caused by military service and marriage but the band was stoked for the moment and began to record their full length album. The new Panna Fredda was determined to lay down the brash and inventive new material coming from Giardinelli despite the label's plea for commercial singles. The evening before their first session they stayed up all night nervously going over all the details of what they hoped to accomplish. The results would be an artistic success to the band, their fans, and the music press in Italy. But to their horror I would imagine, the label balked at releasing the album. Though ready to go in 1970, Vedette shelved their album and the band hit the road playing to enthusiastic crowds. The label finally succumbed to public pressure and put out the record in 1971 as the band continued playing some of the Italian festivals of the day. But the usual suspects had doomed the band. There was no promotion for the album, no second album offered, and eventually the band split up.

Musically "Uno" is a dark and mysterious treat bringing to my mind elements of Sabbath, Purple, Atomic Rooster, J.E.T., Hero, and Uriah Heep. Others have noted the nod to a track called "Heaven" from the first Gracious album and also Black Widow. The influence of English hard rock and blues-rock are impossible to deny, yet Panna Fredda were beginning the Italian progressive movement by taking those influences and running with them. Classical elements pervade the album along with some jazzy tidbits here and there. A certain Baroque sounds creeps along the edges at times whimsical and at other times quite disturbing, bordering on madness. The lyrics are equally dark and quite good, delving into "ancient folklore and classic literature traditions as well as popular culture" so noted in the CD booklet. "Uno" begins in a provocative manner with an oscillator sound going straight through your forehead before the ominous and heavy mix of electric guitar riffs are joined by rising and falling synth loops. Soon the riffs are joined by the glorious Hammond and thus begins the interplay between guitars, effects, and organ that will permeate much of the album. In "Fear" the drumming is deliberate which leads to another interesting point. Multiple drummers are featured due to personnel changes as well as Giardinelli taking a crack at the kit, allowing for some different qualities in the drum feel. Sometimes they are super-tight in these maniacal march-like beats and other times they are fairly sloppy. The vocals are of a high quality for the most part with some of that gregarious, gruff feeling that Italian fans appreciate. Brooding choired backing vocals are used in places to bring the dark subject matters the proper mood. Chunky and heavy power chords alternate with acoustic guitars in "Checkmate for King Lot" as the album gets more interesting. From this point on the musical themes can be downright schizophrenic at times, ranging from the light and whimsical to the sad, to the verge of insanity. It is the 10 minute "With the Wind and the Moon and Little Blue Chicks" where the climax is reached. Harpsichord of all things comes to the forefront presented with what I believe is distorted organs. This is some really interesting stuff here. It drops all pretenses for melodic rock and goes straight to avant-psych experimentation spiraling into a swamp of trippy effects that will disturb some listeners and thrill freak-out fans. We are somewhere between Marsupilami and pre-Atom Heart Mother Floyd in pursuing the daring. The first half of the last song "Waiting" continues the audio hallucinations before jumping back into some punchy organ rocking as if to bring you back from the previous track's place before ending. The real heart of the album is tracks 3-5 which just blow me away, while the first two tracks and the last one are just average quality.

The album is a typically short 33 minutes but the superb Vinyl Magic re-issue CD give you an impressive 6 bonus tracks to bring the total CD length to 51 minutes. While they lack the experimental boldness of the main album they are good quality sweet Italian pop of the day and quite melodic and enjoyable. The VM reissue is a sweet gatefold mini-lp sleeve with both Italian and translated English lyrics, along with decent period sound and an informative Bio booklet. I love the album cover. A simple slice of life, of the ordinary, eschewed by the strangeness of the pink color to kick it off just a bit, to put just a bit of unease into you. Also note the laundry angle that Dik Dik would touch on in the Donna album cover.a possible nod? "Uno" is not a perfect album. It is short and contains some mistakes and even off-tune playing in spots that was not corrected. But the daring nature and the fact that historically this was recorded two years before the classic period began makes Panna Fredda an essential listen for Italian fanatics. It is not essential to other 70s prog fans unless you tend to favor the rougher, slightly dated organ rock sound over the polished and perfect sounds that PFM or Genesis would soon present. Composition and execution of 3 stars for me on the surface, but being first historically matters to me and they get an extra bump for being on the first wave of the Italian classic period. 7/10

Finnforest | 4/5 |

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