CD Reviews

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.


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.


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.


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

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Deeply Double Dippy… PROFONDO ROSSO Reviewed

Deep Rehab

They tried to make her go to Rehab, she said No! No! No!

Region B Blu-ray / CD. Arrow. 18

Dario Argento’s Profondo Rosso (“Deep Red”, 1975) is generally regarded as the greatest “giallo” ever made, the film that took the Italian Whodunnit genre to its toppermost peak of perfection. I’m sure there are giallo buffs out there who would dissent from this consensus and offer their own candidates for the crown: miscellaneous efforts from Bava (who, after all, founded the genre), Fulci and Martino all have their champions, and rightly so; Paolo Cavara’s Black Belly Of The Tarantula (1971), to cite just one title off the top of my head, is as compelling a thriller as you’ll see anywhere; and I recall that Mark Ashworth was always particularly taken with Giuliano Carnimeo’s Why These Strange Drops Of Blood On The Body Of Jennifer (1972.) You can’t legislate for personal taste… and why would you want to? Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that Deep Red is indeed the greatest giallo ever made (because it probably is.)

What’s more interesting at this remove is the whole question of getting fans to dip into their pockets a second, third or umpteenth time for the same canonical title. If you’ve lived and been following the genre long enough, you’ve probably owned Deep Red successively on bootleg tapes, various progressively more complete official VHS releases and DVDs… I’ve still got the Japanese laser disc, though my LD Player went on eBay years ago. Arrow had a crack at Deep Red on Blu-ray in the early days of the format, though the results were discouraging. Since they turned things around with James White’s masterly rendering of Zombie Flesh Eaters, Arrow have been serious players in the BD arena. But what you’ll be wanting to know is, is it worth your while forking out for their 4K Deep Red? Don’t be so forking impatient, I’m getting there…

dario directs decapitationDeepRed1975_95.jpg

Their new limited edition box set (which I’m glad I pre-ordered at a reasonable price, given the rate at which it sold out) comprises two BD discs, one each for the 127 minute director’s cut and hour-and-three-quarterish export version (each a brand new restoration from a 4K scan of the original negative) and a CD of The Goblins’ celebrated score, claimed here as “complete” though its 28 tracks come up short of the 34 contained on the Profondo Rosso disc of the recent Bella Casa Goblins box set, The Awakening. The longer version of the film comes with an optional short introduction from Goblin-in-chief Claudio Simonetti, plus a choice of  Italian 5.1 soundtrack with subtitles or English mono (a bit of a no-brainer if you’ve invested in a surround sound set up.) The disc of the director’s cut also comes with a raft of bonus material, most of which you might well have heard (Thomas Rostock’s commentary track from AWE’s DVD release) or seen before, including a quartet of tasty High Rising featurettes:  Rosso Recollections: Argento’s Deep Genius; Music To Murder For: Claudio Simonetti On Deep Red; Profondo Rosso: From Celluloid To Shop (Naomi Holwill directs as Lugi Cozzi gives us a tour of the shop in Rome); and The Lady In Red: Daria Nicolodi Remembers Deep Red.


There’s one brand new featurette, Profondo Giallo, a visual essay, no less in which Michael Mackenzie talks over a bunch of clips and illustrative material, expanding on the familiar themes of sexual politics (as played out between Nicolodi and David Hemmings, the decimation of which in the export version make for an inferior viewing experience,  despite the fondness with which I recall my  introduction to the film via its Techno Film / Fletcher Video release) and supposed style over substance. It’s not a bad little visual essay, as these things go and if you’re anything like me, you’ll spend half of it thinking “Yes, that’s a good point” and half of it shouting “No, you’re talking bollocks, mate!” at the screen. If you ARE me, you’ll also be brooding about the fact that I compared the violent set pieces in Argento’s films to the production numbers in Hollywood musicals long before any of the people he cites as doing so. Still, it’s not worth going on a hatchet rampage over academic priorities…

What else do you get? A reversible sleeve including original US artwork and a new, rather nifty montage from Gilles Vranckx (which also fronts the box very handsomely), six post card-sized lobby card and fotobusta reproductions, a double sided fold out reproduction of American and Italian posters and a booklet featuring Alan Jones stuff that you’ll already be familiar with and a new piece from Mikel J. Koven (author of the very readable La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema And The Italian Giallo Film) plus the expected illustrations and restoration notes.


A pretty enough package but, given the familiarity of much of its bonus material, the desirability of this set boils down to its visual and aural elements… and they are pretty stunning. Grain is contained without DNR assaulting the eye and rather than the intensely… er, deep reds you might have been expecting, this restoration finally reveals, in all its subtlety, DP Luigi Kuveiller’s suffusion of pinks, purples and mauves… check out the scenes in which Hemmings explores and excavates The House Of The Screaming Child. There’s nothing much going on (the pacing of these sequences remaining the only obvious blot on the escutcheon of this “perfect giallo”) but it’s going on in a beautiful phantasmagoria of Art Nouveau design, before Argento threw himself into the full-on Art Deco insanity of Suspiria… and in anticipation of that, outbreaks of glorious Goblin prog in 5.1 ensure that the aural treats consistently match the feast being laid out before your eyes.

If you acquired one of these before the prices started getting silly, nice work. If not you probably won’t have to wait too long for a single disc Arrow edition of the director’s cut with the High Rising and Michael Mackenzie extras.

I wonder what they’ll come up with in a few years to make me want to buy it all over again…

DR Behind Scenes

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Frizzi 2, Fulci Nulla… FRIZZI 2 FULCI – LIVE AT UNION CHAPEL reviewed


“No Dicky, I’ve never noticed that skyscraper there before, either…”

CD. Beat. CDX 1008.

Halloween night, 2013 and Islington’s atmospheric Union Chapel proved the perfect time and place for Fabio Frizzi to kick off the UK leg of his ongoing Frizzi 2 Fulci tour, in which the maestro conducted the F2F band and Alauda Quartet through his sublime sonic accompaniments to the dark cinematic world of Lucio Fulci. This stuff rules on record but can Frizzi kick ass with it in a concert hall context? You bet your kicked ass he can! The maestro eases his thousand seat sold-out audience in gently with a short suite of his contributions to a couple of Fulci’s Westerns, the sentimental Silver Saddle and significantly tougher Four Of The Apocalypse (Chaco’s theme, with Classical Gas chord sequence overlaid by whooping Emersonian moog.) Frizzi himself croons through these to pleasing effect… he’s no Jose Carreras but, at least in vocal terms, he’s no Burt Bacharach, either. It’s clear that his Western scores have been massively influenced by those of Ennio Morricone but that’s about as surprising as the fact that a lot of bands owe a debt The Beatles. The Morricone influence is also apparent in the next selection, Frizzi’s Manhattan Baby suite, the epic, cod orientalism of which really brings the proceedings to life. Here and in subsequent tracks, the established soundtrack versions are supplemented by Edda Dell’Orso-esque vocal lines, courtesy of Giulietta Zanardi, highlighting furthermore connections to Frizzi’s scoring of the climactic scene in The Beyond, in addition to the more familiar echoes of Zombie Flesh Eaters and City Of The Living Dead. The title theme from Sette Note In Nero (Fulci’s scandalously under acknowledged suspense masterpiece) showcases those emotive seven black notes in a range of settings, setting up another predictable highlight, the Zombie Flesh Eaters suite. From the steel drums ’n’ stylophone Caribbean opener through the “Day In The Life”-inspired eye-puncturing cue (there’s those Mop Tops again and, while we’re at it, it’s worth pointing out that this album was mastered at Abbey Road) to the quasi-Carpentery of the zombie v shark music (with Zanardi’s voice taking one of the synthesiser parts), this is certified crowd pleasing staff, as witnessed by the audience’s hyperenthusiastic response at its conclusion. To chill them out, Frizzi follows up with a collection of short cues, again mostly culled from Fulci’s Westerns (culminating in a Silver Saddle reprise) but most notable for a two minute snatch of With You, the gorgeous “love theme from Sette Note In Nero”, wherein La Zanardi demonstrates that she’s as at home with lush ballads as she is with the more operatic stuff. Wish that could have gone on longer.

A further frisson of excitement kicks off CD 2 as the audience recognises the guitar picking intro to the City Of The Living Dead suite. After the macabre march which climaxes that, Frizzi throws in selections from his scores to two more recent spaghetti horror efforts Beylard and Rafighi’s Beware Of Darkness and Mark Steensland’s The Weeping Woman, neither of which left me particularly inclined to seek out the movies in question.  Things are back on track with Frizzi’s action blockbuster / disco styled contributions to Contraband (in which Roberto Fasciani steps out on slap bass) before the stylistically similarly title theme to A Cat In The Brain (it has to be said that the best music in that film was recycled from Fulci’s earlier zombie triumphs.) At this point Frizzi takes an eccentric detour into Nino Rota’s circus themed music for Fellini’s Amarcord. I’m not quite sure why… perhaps to cleanse the blood drenched palate for what is to come? Whatever, Frizzi hits a home run with his final offering, the inevitable suite of themes from The Beyond (noisily received by the Union Chapel punters before a note of it is played, due to the visual promptings of the giant screen behind the band)… well, he was never going to close the show with excerpts from Alvin And The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, was he? From the establishing cue of Suono Aperto, through the sinuous / staccato funk of Oltre La Soglia and the creepy Verso L’Ignoto onto the infernal chorus of Voci Dal Nulla… it sounds like the Chapel roof is struggling to contain the crowd’s ovation as the album fades out. Wish I’d been there. And now I can pretend I was.

It’s a no brainer that mega budget epics like Star Wars: The Farce Awakens are going to pack cinemas with people with no brains… all the more remarkable that the flame is still burning brightly for a handful of modestly resourced Italian B Movies from the ’70s and ’80’s. God bless Fabio Frizzi for playing his part in this. The double CD set comes with a 16 page booklet containing Frizzi’s track-by-track liner notes. We’re still waiting for the promised DVD, but if you want a preview of how that might look, check out Youtube and all therein that may be explored.


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