Cheap Wine. Dreams.

cheapwinecover-225x225Blabber’n’Smoke reviewed an excellent live album from the Italian band, Cheap Wine, back in 2016, and, impressed by it, we delved onto their catalogue discovering several albums steeped in a serious American music jag. Steve Wynn and The Dream Syndicate loomed large in their sound along with E Street urban menace and even some of The Doors’ doomed romance. Now along comes Dreams, their latest studio missive, and it’s clear that they’re continuing to pursue their particular take on the American Dream. However they are no mere copyists, their take on what is by now, a traditional sound (some of their influences go back 40 years- if this were the seventies they’d be sourcing 1930s music) is elevated by the grace and fluency of their playing and, importantly the quality of band leader, Marco Diamantini’s, writing along with his vocals.

Dreams is actually the third of a trilogy of sorts. Previous albums, Based On Lies and Beggar Town reflected the turmoil of the economic crisis with the former quite relevant in these days of “fake news.” Dreams is, at times, an Arcadian vision of the future with Diamantini’s songs obliquely optimistic, dreams being, he says, “The magic wand that free us from the limit of the physical body.” As such he sings of reveries such as walking naked down a road on Naked while Cradling My Mind is a somnambulistic affair as Diamantini describes an idyllic car journey as the band gently press the accelerator.

Much of the album is in a similar vein to Cradling My Mind. The Wise Man’s Finger opens with Doors’ like electric piano and wah wah guitar effects before it unwinds over five hypnotic minutes. I Wish I Were The Rainbow’s arpeggio of rippling guitars and swoonful organ create a mood over which Diamamtini calmly declaims his opaque words. Reflection is a shimmering slice of bucolic acoustic guitars and gentle cello which harks back to English folk psychedelia while the title song, buoyed on another gentle tide of acoustic guitars and sympathetic keyboards has Diamantini speaking in a winning whisper of hope eternal, “Never be afraid of falling down or being wrong ’cause your mistakes will be your guide.” It’s a song which could easily fall into a schmaltzy sentimentalism a la Desiderata but instead it’s delivered with sincerity while the lengthy outro, graced with a fine guitar solo, has a grandiose sweep without sounding pompous. It’s tempting to say that this song would have sounded wonderful coming from the voice of Leonard Cohen. I do believe he would have liked a verse like this, “And remember, the greatest works of art were made for you. Dive into this great adventure and grow, baby, grow. And, most of all, always follow your dreams.”

There are a couple of spikier moments. The opening Full Of Glow is a barbed Paisley Underground rocker and Naked stumbles into view with a Crazy Horse like chunk of rhythm. The band even return to the band that gave them their name on the Farfisa organ fuelled grunge of For The Brave which does sound as if it was buried in an early Green On Red release. Quite wonderful.

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Sacri Cuori Delone Glitterbeat

From the moment Blabber’n’Smoke first heard Sacri Couri we were convinced that they were a very special band. They played a short set when backing Dan Stuart back in 2012 which we described as an “astounding palette of sounds that ranged from surf and Duane Eddy type guitar to Nino Rota cinematic whirls with Joe Meek electronica and superb percussion to take the audience on a trip through some weird places.”
Their album Rosario confirmed their wide range of influences and left no doubt that there is a “Sacri Cuori universe,” a strange and wonderful place where a cornucopia of delightful sounds coalesces to deliver a true Technicolor dream. Often described as purveyors of imaginary soundtracks (and very much influenced by the likes of Nino Rota and Ennio Morricone) Sacri Cuori actually delivered the soundtrack for a movie, Zoran, which won several European awards in 2014 and now we have Delone, an album that positively drips with aural delights and is indeed, as the press release claims, a kaleidoscopic road trip.

For an Italian band Sacri Cuori have long been associated with American music due to their association with the likes of Dan Stuart, Calexico, Richard Buckner and Giant Sand with their first album, Douglas and Dawn recorded in Tucson. Delone however sees them proudly reclaim their homeland with guitarist Antonio Gramentieri saying, “in every sound and feeling on the album, Italy is the heartbeat.” It’s an Italy that is viewed through the lens of Hollywood and Cinecitta, the Italy that was cool and hip in the sixties, land of Vespas, Gaggia, Mastrello Mastrianni and Virna Lisi. The band look to the music of Italian film composers, not only Rota and Morricone but lesser known artists such as Riz Ortolani, Armando Trovajoli and Piero Umiliani, composer of the song forever associated with the Muppets, Mah Na Mah Na. With a musical palette then that includes orchestral sweeps, funk, goofy humour and Euro pop they also toss in tango, surf music and a nod to the subversive pop genius of Serge Gainsbourg. Morricone’s spaghetti western whistling is married to the traditional sound of Secondo Casadei’s Romagna Mia and lit by a neon stream of vibrant Giallo colours.

Delone features Evan Lurie, Marc Ribot and Steve Shelley on additional instrumental duties while the vocals are handled by Howe Gelb (on Serge), Carla Lippis, an Italian diva they discovered in Australia and Emmanuelle Sigal with the songs variously in English French and Italian. The opening number, Bendigo is a turbo charged Mexican infused surftrash thrash that Quentin Tarantino really needs to hear. Delone, the song, tells the tale of the album’s anti hero, a man in the shadows , in a manner redolent of sixties spy thriller theme songs while Dancing (On The Other Side Of Town) is romance as danger, a David Lynch nightmare delivered with a deadpan sense of cool. With spoken word snippets between numbers, twanging guitars, deranged horns and fairground keyboards enlivening the instrumentals the entire album is a delight to listen to. It’s infectious, humorous and intelligent and marks Sacri Cuori as one of the coolest bands around.

p.s. watch the video below for a cameo appearance from Marlowe Billings, Toni Delone’s American friend.