A Piedi Nudi - s/t. 1994 Italy

A Piedi Nudi's debut album sounds very much what it strove so hard to be: An updated version of Il Balletto di Bronzo, especially from their fabled Ys album (it even opens with 'Introduzione' and closes with 'Epilogo' - not a coincidence). Not as brilliant or groundbreaking (of course... duh), but a valiant effort all the same. We'll start with the vocals of Mirko Schiesaro. Without any doubt he studied Ys intently, as he sings very much in the same way as Gianni Leone did (especially as he truncates the verses and lifts his voice near the end of each stanza). Perhaps not as histrionic - or as effective honestly - but oh yes, the style is basically the same. Now onto the guitar of Nicola Gardinale, who also happens to be the only songwriter here, so it's clearly his show. Gardinale's tone is decidedly 90s metal, with plenty of riffing. It's quite jarring against the expected heavy psychedelic tone of the almighty Balletto, but very exciting all the same, and fits well within the style of music. He also composes sudden breaks similar to Ys. On the downside would have to be the keyboards of Cristian Chinaglia. He's a competent player for certain, but the sounds are exactly what one would expect from the era's plastic digital gear, very typical of the 80s and 90s. Even when the "organ tone" is on, this is no match for the real-deal mellotron and organ of the masters. Lost in all of this is the fantastic rhythm section of the Bighetti brothers, who are perhaps the closest of all to the original Balletto recording, and are up to the task in keeping with the constantly shifting meters. The music, over the course of the album, begins to blur together in a samey sound manner, though a close listen will reveal many differences within. A Piedi Nudi's debut is one of many classics of the 1990s Italian progressive rock scene - and as with the 70's bands - will likely be discovered some 20 to 30 years after the fact. The band would improve from here and include more references from the 70s Italian scene (especially Semiramis), but this debut is outstanding, and I've never tired of it some 20+ years later (as I write this in Feb 2016).

There is at least one review here that only references UK groups, including 80s neo prog bands (and hair/grunge metal? OMG), and was disparaged because of it. That just completely misses the point, and the historical references that A Piedi Nudi were clearly aiming for - and were inspired by. Certainly the original 70s Italian progressive rock scene was heavily influenced by the UK masters to begin with, and so that point is never lost. But the sub-genre cannot simply be written off as copyist, considering the tremendous local culture imprint, all of which has been well documented as such for over 25 years now.

Personal collection
CD: 1994 Mellow

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