(All Album Reviews by olias)
The Italian band Osanna released four albums for the Fonit label in the early ‘70’s, of which Palepoli is widely regarded as their masterpiece. Comprised of two epic-length tracks separated by a brief interlude, Palepoli lies firmly in the “dark & Gothic” camp of Italian prog, albeit generally not as heavy as Museo Rosenbach or as sinister as Il Balletto di Bronzo. The two long pieces, “Oro Caldo” and “Animale Senza Respiro” are not especially cohesive, and could easily have been arranged as suites instead of single tracks.
The one truly upbeat section on the album is found in the opening moments of “Oro Caldo”, taking the form of a rousing vocal chorale in the traditional style of Naples (Osanna’s native city), backed by propulsive rock music. After that, it’s a fairly melancholy affair throughout, with enough dirge-like mellotron and tasteful flute embellishment to be of interest to fans of early King Crimson or Genesis. Anyone expecting pastoral Italian prog a la Celeste, though, will be rudely awakened by the many jarring, agitated segments which punctuate the gloom. In these moments, Osanna tends to bear a stylistic resemblance to Van der Graaf Generator, due to their off-kilter rhythms and the presence of Elia D’Anna’s somewhat chaotic but impassioned saxophone. It’s also worth noting that, atypical of most major Italian bands (including the “Big 3” of PFM, Banco, and Le Orme), electric guitar plays a prominent role in Osanna, courtesy of Danilo Rustici (who handles lead vocals and organ as well).
Bottom line, Palepoli is an enjoyable disc with few notable weaknesses. While perhaps not an essential Italian purchase, it’s well worth investigating for fans of heavy, dramatic symphonic prog a la King Crimson’s debut or Banco’s Darwin, so long as they are receptive to some abrupt shifts and a touch of the agitation and swirling cacophony of early VdGG.