Green Goblins… CHERRY FIVE reviewed

CD. Cinevox. CD MDF 349.

In 1972-73, future Goblins Claudio Simonetti (keys), Massimo Morante (guitar), Fabio Pignatelli (bass) and Walter Martino (drums) were recording demos under the group name Oliver. Simonetti and Morante made the Prog pilgrimage to still-swinging London and managed to wangle an audience with legendary Yes and ELP producer / engineer Eddie Offord, who expressed an interest in producing them. Unfortunately this came to nothing, though when the band finally made it into a Roman studio in 1974 to record their debut album, it’s difficult to see how Offord’s participation could have made it sound any more like Yes than it ultimately did. By this point, Carlo Bordini had (temporarily) replaced Martino on drums and Brit Clive Haynes had recently been supplanted on vocals by one Tony Tartarini. When Cinevox released the album it came as news to the band that they, as well as their record, were now called Cherry Five. Possibly (and quite understandably) the record company were keen to differentiate their efforts from the bubble gum soundtrack offerings of Maurizio and Guido de Angelis, trading under the name Oliver Onions.

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If the title of album opener Country Grave-Yard is perhaps trying too hard to generate atmosphere, the track itself manages plenty of it, beginning with a hypnotic looping guitar riff that alternates for the duration with doomy verses and fluid, jazzy keyboard runs courtesy of Simonetti, who tackles hammond, synthesiser and mellotron with equal alacrity. When he and Morante are not doubling lines they are chasing each other’s in a pleasing facsimile of Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman’s trade-offs. Predictably, Pignatelli favours the busy, trebly bass sound of Chris Squire and Bordini’s crisp snare attack is all-too reminiscent of the work of Bill Bruford. The band’s vocal harmonies don’t quite attain the Yes standard and Tartarini is no Jon Anderson but then again, Anderson soundy-likeys aren’t exactly thick on the ground.

The Picture of Dorian Gray (which was itself another fledgling name for these pasta proggers) continues the Yes obsession (if you’re equally obsessed you’ll easily spot quotations from Perpetual Change, I’ve Seen All Good People and Yours Is No Disgrace) but also manages to pack in plenty of Genesis quotes, e.g. the juxtaposition of ostinato bass with swelling organ / mellotron passages, also Hackett-like guitar tweaks, encompassing violining and other textural techniques. The debt owed by this track’s climax to that of Genesis’s Fountain Of Salamis is unarguable. The Swan Is A Murderer (Parts 1 and 2, if you please) channels Squire’s bass showcase The Fish while its title suggets that the band’s eventual branding as Goblin, go-to giallo scorers for Dario Argento, was somehow pre-ordained.

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The 1982 Frank Zappa lookalike contest wasn’t even close…

Penultimate offering Oliver sounds like something off one of the first two Yes albums… implying greater things in prospect but not in itself anything to write home about. Its middle section has piano / guitar passages that suggest (to these ears, anyhow) one of the main themes that later Goblin offshoot Libra would supply for the score of Mario Bava’s Shock. My Little Cloud Land closes the proceedings in anti-climactic style and with a jokey little play out. No matter, the earlier tracks execute Simonetti and co’s Yes-emulating brief with aplomb… indeed, much of Cherry Five evokes the era of classic Yes more effectively than anything its avatars have achieved since Going For The One became one of the UK’s best selling albums in 1977, erroneously claimed by opportunist, revisionist cultural historians as “punk’s year zero.”

In a final, ironic parallel, just as Goblin’s subsequent succession of split-ups and kaleidoscopic regroupings have matched those of Yes, the 21st Century relaunch of Yes precursors The Syn has found an echo now that Tartarini and Bordini have recruited new players to tour and record under the Cherry Five banner.

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COMING SOON: If you enjoy Prog / Psyche / Fusion music, you’ll enjoy my upcoming blog The Ozymandias Progject (http://theozymandiasprogject.wordpress.com) Watch this space for further announcements.

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