Mary Newsletter - "Nuove Lettere" (Spaziomusic, 1996 CD)
Mary Newsletter - "Distratto dal sole" (Mellow Records, 1998 MMP333)
From Aural Innovations #5 (January 1999)
Italy's Mary Newsletter is a 5-man band consisting of acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin, flute, bass, keyboards, and percussion. Half the vocals on the CD are in Italian and half in English This 6-track CD clocks in at a little over 40 minutes, and though they call it a "demo" it sounds to my ears like a well done first effort. Taken as a whole, the 6 songs on this CD reveal a heavy late 60's to early 70's psych-rock influence with a bit of early Jethro Tull and blues thrown in for good measure.
The disc opens with some spacey psych guitar and then quickly moves into a Tull-like instrumental, soon followed by a pretty heavy blues workout. If this sounds a bit incoherent I assure you it's not. Each song flows smoothly into the next and each of the mentioned styles work together harmoniously.
Of the six tunes on the disc, four are in the 4-6 minute range, one is 8 minutes, and the last is 13 minutes. The last two songs are my favorites on the CD. "Thanks Daddy" reeks of early Soft Machine, complete with a jazzy psych opening and Wyatt-like vocals. The last song, "Thoughts", is a wonderful throwback to the psychedelic flower child era. Over its 13 minute length the band works its way through a series of moods from jamming psych-rock, to a bit more of that jazzy Soft Machine feel.
On their newest release, Distratto dal sole, the band is still recognizable, but presents a stronger classic Italian progressive sound. The vocals are now all in Italian and a few of the riffs from Nuove Lettere have been reused and redeveloped. (The band may well have considered these works in progress on the first CD.) Lots of flute, piano, and acoustic instruments give this that magical classic prog feel but is mixed in with doses of heavy guitar intensity. Acoustic instruments and electric guitar work together to create floating textures and harsher edged sounds.
Traces of psychedelia can still be found on tracks like "Cattolica", primarily due to Davide Pisi's guitar which is clearly influenced by psych and blues and add a welcome diversity to the band's classic progressive style. I love music that can build to heights of intensity and weave that feel in with gorgeous acoustic moments. Lots of contrast is to be found here as the song ends with a beatniky lounge-jazz sound. "La Danza" open with an Indian influenced sound that retains that quality even when the pace picks up. It then launches into a bluesy portion that I again recognized from the first CD. A nice contrast that blends together well.
The epic on this CD is M.d.C. which clocks in at over 18 minutes. The songs open with a five minute dreamy sequence of slowly building guitar, bass, and percussion. Spacey synths are then introduced and the bass pounds out a repeated beat as the guitar goes into a blues-psych workout. Lots of changes in pace, mood, and atmosphere keep the piece interesting and there is even a portion that reminded me of 60's pop-psych.
Mary Newsletter is definitely one of the cream of 90's Italian bands right up there with Finisterre, Deus Ex Machina, and A Piedi Nudi for creativity and excitement.
For more information about Mary Newsletter you can visit the Mellow Records web site.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz