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DEDICATO A FRAZZ (Vinyl Magic VM 007) [1973]

Semiramis were a one-album Italian band. They lasted in total from 1972 into 1974 and broke up. Their album, DEDICATO A FRAZZ ("Frazz" is the album's penultimate track, and one assumes was the name or nickname of an actual person to whom the album was dedicated), was released as an LP by Trident, who released a flurry of albums in 1973, among them Biglietto Per L'Inferno's, reviewed elsewhere in these pages. (All of Trident's releases are now considered "rare," by the way.)

The band was a quintet, consisting of Paolo Faenza on drums and vibraphone, Marcello Reddavide on bass, Giampiero Artegiani on guitars and synthesizer, Michele Zarrillo on guitars and vocals, and Maurizio Zarrillo on keyboards. Michele Zarrillo wrote all the music, while Reddavide wrote the (infrequent) lyrics (which are in Italian). Both Zarrillo brothers and Artegiani did the arrangements, and Faenza and Reddavide are additionally credited with "effetti speciali," or special effects.

In his THE RETURN OF ITALIAN POP, Paolo Barotto says that "Semiramis made its debut during the Villa Pamphili pop festival of 1972," releasing their album a year later. Barotto characterizes the album as "a very 'bright' album, with a very good instrumental mixture and balance. There is not any 'leading' instrument except, at times, the synthesizer." By which he means there is little or no soloing; the instruments play together in various combinations to advance the music. I'd call this "orchestral" except that the word has taken on a different meaning in the progressive rock context (to mean lushly symphonic - which Semiramis is not particularly). Barotto continues: "Its style is a mixture of musical genres: on the various cuts there's everything, from hard rock to classical to acoustic music. [It] is actually a pleasantly fluent work, easily listenable." Again, I quibble with Paolo over the definition of "hard rock," little or none of which I hear in Semiramis's album. There were places where the music is powerful in the way King Crimson can be - but I don't consider "Twenty First Century Schizoid Man" to be "hard rock" either. But he's right about the mixture of instruments and genres. Overriding it all is a strong Mediterranean melodicism, tempered with touches of avant dissonance. This album embodies the very essence of Italian progressive rock of the Seventies. What a shame it lasts just under 37 minutes - far too short.

"The usual problems that are related to a small recording label prevented the group from having the success they really deserved," Barotto observes. "Semiramis made a last live appearance in 1974 at Villa Pamphili, where they began. After that they disbanded. The Zarrillo brothers continued their activity as solo artists. The only one to achieve success, however, was Michele: first under the name of Andrea, then with just the surname Zarrillo, he won a few years ago the Sanremo festival with 'La Notte Dei Pensieri.' Gianpiero Artegiani attended two editions of the Sanremo festival in the eighties without making any particular impression."

But Semiramis's album has made an impression on many collectors and music enthusiasts. It was reissued on CD by Vinyl Magic in 1989, and, with its striking cover, was featured in many advertisements by CD importers, who knew just how sought-after the album had been. The CD is still in print, and I recommend it highly.

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