Who is Paolo Siani, you may very well ask? He was the drummer of Nuova Idea.
Who is Nuova Idea, you may ask?
Nuova Idea is, or rather was, a progressive rock band from Italy. They released three albums between 1971 and 1973. Though knowing the band, I’ve yet to hear any of their releases (something I will correct shortly).Siani also played drums in Opus Avantra’s Lord Cromwell album (an avant-garde-rock band) and he also formed with former Nuova Idea guitarist, Ricky Belloni, the group Track.
In this current album by Paolo Siani, he wrote the music and lyrics as well as roduced the album. He gathered here 3 of Nuova Idea’s members: Ricky Belloni (electric guitar), Giorgio Usai (Hammond organ), Marco Zoccheddu (electric guitar, piano). He also gathered many other musicians, each contributing different parts and skills to this album. Paolo himself has expanded his musical prowess, to include aside from drums, also vocals, keyboards, bass and guitars.
As I haven’t heard Nuova Idea, I had no idea what to expect from this. But boy, was I pleasantly surprised!
A note before I go on: I usually don’t write this way, but this text came out as a sort of song-by-song review; a style I usually dislike and am not inclined to write. But in this case, it naturally came out that way. I hope you still get the gist of my impression of this album.
Opening with an emotive spoken piece with very gentle percussions in the background ending with electrical sound effects, this is followed by ‘Wizard Intro’ featuring a heavy progressive approach with wonderful keyboards (Hammond) work, as can be usually expected from an Italian progressive rock act, where keyboards are so prominent.
This piece sets the tone for the heavy song that follows, ‘Madre Africa’. This hard rock/blues influenced piece with a King Crimson vibe, could very well be on a Deep Purple album from the 70s, with its prominent bass and guitar aspect. It really hits you on straight in the face, and later on the Hammond join in the parade as it changed to this groovy rhythm and the main theme continues on for almost three minutes until the vocals kick in. Roberto Tiranti’s vocals are superb and Nadia Engheben’s sporano is sublime on top of it and together on the chorus form a wonderful harmony. The flute solo by Mauro Pagani complements the rough and heavy nature of this song, alongside Marco Zoccheddu’s solo guitar. The drumming by Paolo are thundering and give a great rather slow pace to the song.
‘Questa Penombra è Lenta’ provides for a softer and calmer approach, though this is still classic rock to the core with beautiful vocal work from Roberto Tiranti and female vocalist Ottavia Bruno joining in on chorus. While starting as a mellow piece, it soon expands to acquire a heftier entourage with female vocals and the addition of the various keyboards and electric guitars enveloping the core theme, which remains basic, but enhanced with all that surrounds it. This song is quite emotional, and while simple and straightforward, a very rewarding listen.
So far, with these 4 pieces, the music provides for a classic heavy rock feel. But with the following tunes, Paolo showcases his experimental, explorative and progressive tendencies. ‘Chimera’ is a different beast than its predecessors, with a basic propulsive electric loop at the “bottom end” of the track and a jazzy and improv-like tune spread on top. The layering of instruments is done remarkable well here, with various sounds added in several places along the composition to create a different sound and mood.
Then comes ‘The Game’; a ten-minute piece divided into four parts. While starting in a mellow fashion, it develops to the previous heavy mold set up by the opening songs, but here the music is much more varied, more “curious” to discover paths to develop into, as can be heard on the second part, ‘Mickey’s’. The piece has one of those awesome riff lines (heard in the third part, ‘Jump’) that just make you shake your head along with the music. This album is filled with such great themes and this one is wonderfully executed with guitar and augmented by the surrounding Hammond organ and bass. Another such theme with a hook is found in ‘Cluster Bombs’, which is sung in English and is a depressing song, lyrically (though with grammatical mistakes) but with another stellar vocal execution from Tiranti.
The two closing pieces, ‘This Open Show’ (another song sung in English) and ‘C’era Una Volta’ (an instrumental piece) are two mellow and slightly melancholic pieces that serve as coolers to this dense album. ‘C’era Una Volta’ has a sort of folk-ish vibe to it and ends the album nicely.
The production of the album is clear and crisp; one can make out well the instruments and the smaller details in each song.
This album was a surprise for me. Boasting a heavy sound with beautiful Hammond organ work and vocals, it contains elements from classic rock bands but also introduces variety into each song. The pieces have great hooks and are quite catchy. As soon as the album ended I wanted to listen to it again. I hope Paolo Siani doesn’t stop here and produces another album of this caliber.