70's Italian Prog Rock bands: Osanna


One of the greatest bands in the Italian prog field, Osanna came from Naples, formed in 1971 by the members of I Volti di Pietra and Città Frontale (another band with the same name came from Osanna ashes and recorded El Tor) whose keyboard player Gianni Leone joined Il Balletto di Bronzo. Flute and sax player Elio D'Anna was with Showmen. During their four years lifespan Osanna failed to create, as many critics have pointed, the perfect album, but left us three very good LP's, among which Palepoli deserves a particular mention. The basis of their sound is original heavy guitar rock often in combination with amazing flute solos. Additionally, more spacey parts and quiet interludes with acoustic guitar and flute can be heard as well. There are plenty of mood changes and surprises that make their music very dynamic and interesting. Osanna were among the first bands to present themselves theatrically in their shows, featuring costumes and painted faces.


HISTORY


The original line-up of Osanna featured Lino Vairetti (vocals, acoustic guitar, keyboards), Elio D'Anna (flute, sax), Danilo Rustici (guitar, organ, vocals), Lello Brandi (bass) and Massimo Guarino (drums, percussion). L'uomo (1971), their first album, released in a memorable triple gatefold cover, already contains their distinctive elements: the nice voice of Lino Vairetti (with interesting lyrics), the aggressive flute of Elio D'Anna, fluid guitar playing by Danilo Rustici and the solid rhythm section of bassist Lello Brandi and drummer Massimo Guarino. It's a superb album in which heavy rock and spacey jazz are only a few of the styles included. Taken from this album the tracks L'uomo and In un vecchio cieco were also released as a single, both starting with an acoustic guitar introduction followed by guitar and flute riffs. The band also had an intense live activity, with band members all dressed in long vests and with their faces painted. The collaboration with theatrical groups produced interesting shows, unique for the Italian audience of the time.  In June 1971 the band won the first prize at the Festival d’Avanguardia e Nuove Tendenze in Viareggio, along with Premiata Forneria Marconi and Mia Martini. In 1972 they toured in Italy alongside Genesis.

L'uomo full cover

L'uomo front cover

L'uomo

Non sei vissuto mai


The second album, Preludio, Tema, Variazioni, Canzona, also known as Milano Calibro 9 (1972) from the name of the film directed by Fernando Di Leo for which it was the soundtrack, is a collaboration album between composer Luis Enríquez Bacalov and Osanna. It featured a few Osanna compositions mixed with composer Bacalov's orchestral themes. 

Preludio


Tema

Variazione II (My mind flies)


The third album, and their best one, Palepoli (1973), sees the band at their peak. The album only contains three long tracks and is housed in a nice gatefold whose inner cover is based on the band's live stage background. The starting track, Oro caldo, mixes Osanna's typical style with folk chants from their native city Naples, while Stanza città and the side long Animale Senza Respiro all give space to the good playing of the band members. Palepoli covers a wide range of styles, moods, and tempo variations, and Osanna handle these diverse modes of playing superbly. It's bizarre, complex and one of the best Italian prog albums.

Palepoli front cover

Palepoli inner cover

Oro caldo


Things didn't go well between the group's members and the band came to a split during the Landscape of Life (1974) recording sessions, producing a sparse album. Housed in a great cover designed by drummer Massimo Guarino, with an inner gatefold painted by singer Lino Vairetti -some of the band members came from the Naples Academy of Arts and also had an artistic career- the album contains some nice tracks, but suffers from the lack of a real band playing it. Osanna was trying to play also abroad and the album was also intended for the foreign markets, so five of the seven tracks are in English, but due to the split it had to be finished with the help of Corrado Rustici (guitarist Danilo's younger brother from Cervello) and drummer Enzo Vallicelli.

Landscape of Life front cover

Landscape of Life inner cover

Danilo Rustici and flute and sax player Elio D'Anna, with drummer Enzo Vallicelli, went to England to form Uno, while the remaining members, Lino Vairetti and drummer Massimo Guarino gave a new life to their old band Città Frontale, this time with new musicians and recorded an album in 1975 called El Tor. Things were not so good for both the newly formed bands and Osanna reunited in 1977 with new members bassist Enzo Petrone (that had played with Lino Vairetti in I Volti di Pietra and later with Moby Dick) and keyboardist Fabrizio D'Angelo, but their album Suddance (1978) is very far from their best days. The album contains to a large extent lyrics in the Neapolitan language. The band split up again and Danilo Rustici formed Luna. A further reunion of the band with some of the original members brought to some concerts in the 90's, and a new CD, Taka boom, was released in 2002 containing new arrangements of old tracks. In 2004 it was released an interesting CD+DVD set, Live-Uomini e Miti, distributed by BTF and taken from the December 2001 reunion concert (not 2003 as stated on the cover), also including four new studio recordings. This Osanna incarnation includes original members guitarist Danilo Rustici and singer Lino Vairetti, along with bass player Enzo Petrone from the 1977 line-up and newcomers Gennaro Barba (drums), Gigi Borgogno (guitar), Luca Urciuolo (keyboards) and Vito Ranucci (sax). The revived Osanna sound is much funkier than ever before, and even the old songs suffer from the new arrangements, though sometime the energy of the old band emerges again. In 2008 the group has released a CD single featuring two old tracks rearranged with a new sound, L'uomo / 'A zingara. For some concerts they were aided by Van Der Graaf Generator's saxophonist, David Jackson. With this line-up, after many concerts, the new album Prog family was released as Osanna & David Jackson in early 2009, containing reworkings of old Osanna tracks, along with their version of Van Der Graaf Generator's Theme one. This album features notable figures of progressive rock history, such as  King Crimson's David Cross, Il Balletto di Bronzo's Gianni Leone and others as guest musicians. The latest Osanna line-up features, along with singer Lino Vairetti and drummer Gennaro Barba, Irvin Vairetti (keyboards and vocals), Sasà Priore (keyboards), Pasquale Capobianco (guitar), Nello D'Anna (bass). This line-up also played in Japan and from one of these concerts the 2012 album Rossorock was taken, which includes an orchestral arrangement of the whole Milano Calibro 9 album. As mentioned above, some of the band members also had an artistic career in different fields, Lino Vairetti being an appreciated painter. He also designed the marvellous cover for the Tempo di Percussione 1975 album.

Tempo di Percussione cover by Lino Vairetti

DISCOGRAPHY
Studio albums

L'uomo (1971)
Preludio Tema Variazioni e Canzona (Milano Calibro 9, 1972)
Palepoli (1973)
Landscape of life (1974)
Suddance (1978)
Taka boom (new arrangements of old tracks, 2002)
Prog Family (as Osanna & David Jackson, new arrangements of old tracks, 2009)

Live albums

Live-Uomini e Miti (CD+DVD live 2001 & 4 new studio tracks, 2003)
Rossorock-Live in Japan (2012)


Sources:
http://www.italianprog.com/index.htm
http://www.progarchives.com/artist.asp?id=276
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osanna