Semiramis - Dedicato a Frazz. 1973 Italy

Originally published in Gnosis on February 24, 2001. Updated for UMR.

So it's an established fact that in Italy during the period between 1971-1974, a music movement existed where bands would challenge each other to see who could be the most imaginative, who could create the album for the ages. They were all painters and sculptors just as in Renaissance Italy. Dedicato A Frazz is Michaelangelo's 'David'.

At one point in time, utter genius struck five young men and the masterpiece has been laid down for future generations to discover.

Organ, synthesizer, vibes, electric/acoustic guitar, bass, drums, and a vocalist. And with that Semiramis was able to create an album unlike any other before or since. Combining elements of Italian folk, circus, hard rock, Baroque church music, jazz, classical, and a good dose of insanity, Dedicato A Frazz pounds every sense, challenges every synapse in a flurry of ideas. After literally hundreds of listens, I still hear a different album each time. There is no weak link, no attempt at copying others works, no tries at banal commercialism. Just uninhibited reckless abandon of the imagination combined with musical expertise and each member is a master of his instrument. Most tracks have a few hundred ideas and change moods faster than a bipolar woman left in the cold. Acoustic moments are quickly offset by heavy electric ones. Quiet moments of solitude are blasted away by militaristic might. It's never enough to have one striking contrast. No, Semiramis pile it on from every angle. Synths go awry, voices scream, guitars go a hundred miles a second, drums jettison you across the room. How could a group compose so many ideas? There are literally 15 albums on this!

It's hard to pick one song, but 'Distro una Porta di Carta' has to be the clincher. Starting unobtrusively with a nice Moog sequence and guitar melody, the vocals are impassioned but not extraordinarily so. Then the music stops. A little acoustic strumming, voices, and a more violent return to the opening movement. But it's faster this go 'round. Then an insane break - guitars, drums, and bass in step but at a very odd meter, keyboards rotating overhead. Then another wild break with layered keys and the previous guitar trio performing metronomic acrobatics. From here the guitar solos on top with chromatic scales at a blistering rate. Then the organ plays an odd sequence with heavy guitars following along. All this leads to the climax: Swishing acoustic guitar going speaker to speaker and swirling organ that leads to a dramatic and melancholic ending. That's one track. Imagine seven like this. For the dedicated listener the rewards are endless.

One of the greatest albums ever and the pure embodiment of everything that made the Italian prog movement so special.

Personal collection
LP: 1973 Trident
CD: 2002 Arcangelo (Japan)

My first copy was the straightforward Vinyl Magic CD that I picked up upon release - as Semiramis was one of the big names in Italian progressive rock even back then. And shortly thereafter, I picked up one of those 1980s counterfeit LPs (knowingly), which are frighteningly similar to the original. Be sure to take a look at on how to differentiate between the two. Around the 2000 time frame, I was able to secure my first original LP. And even had two more come through here over the years (including a new copy which I kept for myself!).

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