Review Summary: Cherry Five was influenced by the British classic prog bands and was the Goblin's precursor.
“Cherry Five” is the eponymous debut studio album of Cherry Five that was released in 1975. The line up on the album is Tony Tartarini, Claudio Simonetti, Fabio Pignatelli and Carlo Bordini.
Cherry Five was an Italian progressive rock band which is considered a precursor of the project of Goblin, another Italian progressive rock band. In fact the group, named Oliver, had been created by Claudio Simonetti and Massimo Morante. Both went to England in late of 1973 to audition a singer, the Englishman Clive “Artman” Haynes, or Clive Heinz as he was then known. He was briefly in the band, recording only some tracks with them. He was sacked then and didn’t appear on the album. With a new singer and the addition of a bassist and a drummer, the band recorded their self-titled debut what was to become their first and only album in the 70’s. The band’s name changed to Cherry Five.
Despite be an Italian band, Cherry Five isn’t so particularly representative of the Italian progressive rock sound, really. The reason for this isn’t only in the choice of the English language, but in the fact that Cherry Five acted quite technically for many of the Italian standards and the arrangements are by no means as nested or bulky as with many of their compatriots. The album is a genuine rarity due to the great world success that Goblin achieved with some of their soundtrack works, and is in many collectors’ want lists. The album is characterized by multi-layered keyboard sounds, a colourful mixture of the former analogue keyboard instruments. Sung in English, Cherry Five was influenced by the likes Genesis, Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, especially in the fluid keyboard parts and the powerful bass sound.
This pre-Goblin outfit should have great appeal to everyone who loves the typical 70’s sound. As I mentioned before, the lyrics are unlike most other Italian progressive rock bands sung in English and it works very well. The music here is ballsy symphonic progressive rock of a more traditional kind than the horror soundtracks that they later would make as Goblin. There is a hint, just a slight threat, of what madness Goblin would get up to on the tracks that closes side one and open side two. But, that’s almost an aberration in the midst of this joyful Yes/ELP fest. Cherry Five is evidently fond of four part vocal harmonies that are so evident in early Yes. This, of course, makes further comparisons with early Yes, unavoidable. However in their defence, the musicians are all excellent and their arranging skills are superb. Melodic and rhythmic counterpoint is staggeringly complex at times and it’s during these fleeting moments that glimpses of the real Cherry Five come through the thick pea soup of the ELP and early Yes hybridization. Even the bassist plays like Squire.
“Cherry Five” has six tracks. The opener “Country Graveyard” is very representative for the album. Tight, energetic and complex progressive rock based in strong themes and arrangements with lots of Mellotron, organ, 70’s synths and guitar. Some of the breaks in “The Picture Of Dorian Gray” sounds a bit like Genesis. At the beginning recalls Genesis, but soon it develops in the course of a stylistic life of their own. The catchy vocals also arouse some memories of American bands. In the meantime, very slight Yes reminiscences flash out. The two-part “The Swan Is A Murderer” goes in a similar direction. It’s obvious that the Italians had dedicated to the less complex variant of progressive rock music. Thus, the energetic sound unfolds an unexpected dynamic and doesn’t move in the spheres of filigree sounds of many of their contemporaries. It has some very intelligent use of harpsichord. The almost 10 minutes art musical “Oliver”, which I assume was written during the time when the band was originally known as Oliver, is a true kaleidoscopic. It’s pure progressive joy with several influences, mainly Yes and ELP, with massive keyboard firing from all instruments, an excellent polyphonic performance with confident vocals by the singer Tony Tartarini. The organ has an obvious ELP influence. “My Little Cloud Land” has less intensity than the preceding tracks. But, in general, all the instruments are featured through development and variations all over the track. Maybe less good, but it closes the album well enough.
Conclusion: “Cherry Five” isn’t a typical Italian progressive rock album. It’s likely to please more to fans of the British progressive rock scene than to the classic Italian progressive rock scene, due to the English lyrics and also the strong British Prog influences. But, despite of both things, this is a very strong album, and next to Premiata Forneria Marconi’s “Photos Of Ghosts” it will probably be one of the easiest and best places to start if you’re not familiar with the Italian progressive rock scene, yet. However, this isn’t a stone classic of the symphonic progressive rock, but it falls into the upper end of the “damn that’s good” category that demands dragging out every once in a while. It’s quite different from Goblin, but just as tasty in its own way with some pretty decent vocal work. If you’re a lover of the Italian prog rock in general and you enjoy such bands like Genesis, Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer you must give this album a try.
Music was my first love.
John Miles (Rebel)