[ SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS
(48.50, Lizard Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Final Day 7:28 2. Viene la Sera 5:42 3. Taxi 4:27 4. Compra 4:34 5. Cometa Rossa 3:59 6. Senza Fiato 4:40 7. Piccolo Mio Sole 4:22 8. Depeche-Toi 3:55 9. Leila 5:38 10. Going South 4:05 LINEUP: Lorenzo Giovagnoli – vocals; keyboards Giulio Vampa – guitars Valerio De Angelis – bass Marco Fabbri – drums
Prolusion. Hailing from the Marche region of central Italy, ODESSA was first formed in 1998 by vocalist and keyboardist Lorenzo Giovagnoli. In the years following the release of their debut album, “Stazione Getsemani” (1999), the band engaged in a lively concert activity that brought them to perform at international prog festivals such as ProgSud in France and BajaProg in Mexico. In addition to playing their own material, Odessa often tour as a cover band performing classics by bands such as Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and King Crimson. “The Final Day”, their sophomore effort, was released in the first half of 2009.
Analysis. Odessa is one of those bands that a superficial listen would label as ‘retro’, which is often meant as a slur in disguise. ‘Retro’ acts, in fact, are usually indicted of a lack of original ideas of their own, or, at best, of being stuck in a time warp, choosing to reproduce sounds from a bygone era rather than find their own, individual voice. On the other hand, as much as this can be said to be true for many bands active on the current progressive rock scene, it is not necessarily a negative thing. While not exactly innovative, many ‘retro’ bands or artists – far from being mere imitators of things done better in the past – offer very convincing, thoroughly enjoyable reinterpretations of the sounds of the ‘golden age’ of prog. Odessa do not hide their love for vintage Seventies prog and hard rock, as clearly shown by the prominent role played by the Hammond organ in their compositions, as well as the Glenn Hughes-inspired vocals of mainman Lorenzo Giovagnoli (a highly trained singer who is also a vocal coach). However, their music is also at least partly rooted in the Italian pop/rock tradition, and there are other elements thrown in for good measure – jazz, blues, funk, even reggae. As a matter of fact, the first word that comes to mind when listening to “The Final Day” is ‘eclectic’ – perhaps, if one wanted to nitpick, even a tad too much so. Thankfully, the band’s diverse influences manage to blend successfully in most instances, so the album sounds fresh and exciting instead of aimless, as all too often happens to those who overindulge in eclecticism. The disc’s main thrust, however, remains a highly energetic brand of heavy prog with lashings of rumbling organ and soaring, emotional vocals. Odessa seems to be aware of the importance of choosing a strong album opener, and the title-track does not disappoint in this sense: a 7-minute-plus slice of sophisticated, yet hard-hitting heavy progressive rock, powered by the interaction between guitar and organ that has always been Deep Purple’s trademark. Lorenzo Giovagnoli’s impassioned vocal delivery is sharply reminiscent of Glenn Hughes’ distinctive style, though not as evidently soul-tinged. While most of the song has a rather straightforward verse-chorus-verse structure, the bridge brings a welcome jazzy note to the proceedings. Album closer Going South is much in the same mould, though shorter – the brisk, bluesy piano in the bridge creating a perfect foil for some brilliant guitar work by Giulio Vampa. These are the only two English-language songs on the album, though Odessa’s international outlook is further emphasized by the presence of a song with French lyrics, the aptly-titled Depeche-Toi (Hurry Up), a dynamic affair driven along by some outstanding drumming. And then, there is the band’s take on Area’s legendary Cometa Rossa, a beefed-up, keyboard-drenched version that showcases all of Lorenzo’s impressive vocal skills when delivering the Greek-language vocals in a very convincing Demetrio Stratos impersonation. Other songs display a wider range of influences, like the surprise reggae coda in funky, melodic Viene la Sera, or the Italian-style alternative pop in the catchy Leila with its ultra-fast vocal delivery. A smooth Steely Dan vibe surfaces in the sophisticated, jazz-tinged Taxi, featuring distinctive, almost conversational vocals. Compra, on the other hand, is a rousing, anthemic piece with strongly anti-consumerist lyrics referencing various aspects of modern Italian society (namely the brainwashing effects of commercial TV). Finally, the only instrumental track on the album, Senza Fiato, based on Lorenzo’s rippling, cascading piano, includes a particularly intriguing passage in which guitar and synth work in parallel. “The Final Day” should also be commended for its manageable running time (slightly under 50 minutes), which allows each song to be savoured without putting too much strain on the listener’s attention span. With this album, in spite of some inevitably rough edges, Odessa has confirmed the promise shown by their debut album. Hopefully, this time they will not leave their fans waiting ten years for their next effort.
Conclusion. Though not exactly ground-breaking, “The Final Day” is a very pleasing, well-crafted album that will strongly appeal to lovers of anything Seventies-related, as well as fans of powerful vocal performances and Hammond organ flights. Keen followers of the current Italian rock scene may also be intrigued by a band that, while openly declaring their love for vintage hard rock, offer an interesting twist on their Italian musical heritage.
RB=Raffaella Berry: September 16, 2009
[ SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS - LIST | BANDLISTS ]