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Greg Panfile

Inferno
Independent


The Players:
Greg Panfile: songwriting, guitar, keyboards
David Brown: guitars
John Troy: bass
Joey Scrima: drums
Ed Scheer: male vocals
Jackie Chambers: female vocals
Steve Sadler: guitar, dobro, mandolin, bazouki
Michael "Pepe" Bergemann: accordion, keyboards

Complaints Dept: Someone send me Jackie Chambers music, damnit!

I love the surprises in this job! With all the flames and Olde English lettering, I was fully prepared for some searing metal. Then the goofy name had me convinced it was rap. Then to be continually surprised, each song through gives me a lot to talk about, good and bad. And since my role, as always, is the spoiler, here goes. This is a better than 20 year project to make a SchoolHouse Rock opera of Danteís Inferno. The dumb name refers to the theatre company, or "troupe", as they are sometimes known. It would make more sense if I had the book to figure this all out. The premise is that heaven & hell are here now. Which supports my philosophy that we were never thrown out of the garden. We merely lost where we put it.

"I Canít Stand" takes a roadhouse boogie tip. Part Leon Russell, and part Bob Dorough. The suggestive lyrics are too juvenile to be double entendre, and delivered with an age embarrassingly beyond immature bawdiness. What this lustful tale lacks in content, it makes up by repeating I canít stand it when you lean over like that about a hundred times. The Santana inspired guitars on "Silver Chains, Bars Of Gold" compliment Jackie Chambersí effortless R&B torch singing. The arrangement is gorgeous early seventies soul with a tearing emotional build. Chambers fits in smoothly with Carole King and Roberta Flack. During the dragging ballad "Oh How I Love You", my wife popped in and pronounced, "This sounds like a rock opera." Her cleverness was rewarded with a big proud hug. Itís simple and nice, but with no real climax, it rolls off your back like water off a duck. Ed Scheerís dated vibrato isnít severe, but is ever present. The sweet accordion from Pepe is all too brief. Chambers takes on tropical lounge, "Itís Just Lust", which could be a standard in the vein of "Coffee In Brazil" if Tom Waits had written it. The kitschy number would pass in a windstorm, but isnít the best showcase for Chambersí talent. Her vehicles seem to be equipped with more poignant messages. Imagine, the female being the voice of reason while the male is a sex-driven animal. Wait, that is pretty accurate, isnít it?

"Bloody Murder" has jumped a few levels into hell, or at least we know now where we are. Sparse, echoey Duane Eddy guitars back Chambersí take on Dusty Springfield. The chorus goes a little punkily desperate, and the Billy Martin Jr reference is never explained. "I Donít Know Why" finally gives Scheer some good quotes, Ticker tapeworms hide behind my eyes. Crickets scrape a raspy lullaby. Deathís head moths are chewing on my tie. Like Beetlejuice, itís creepy and happy fun at the same time. It turns out hell is at the corner of Penny Lane and 59th Street bridge. The imagery reminds me of William Blakeís artwork. Not the stuff he worked up around The Inferno, but the schizophrenic sketches of people with big flea heads. The instrumental "Fires Of Ishtar" is when they pull the old Equus treatment on unsuspecting virginal sacrifices. Some chanting and solemn marching through the desert with flutes and swaying camels--you know the drill. Ghostly back masking for the Raiders Of The Lost Ark feel.

The line, The day we said farewell, I new weíd meet in hell is good enough to rationalize the theft of "Day Tripper" riffs for "Rational Eyes." Scheer is more at home with mid-tempo numbers like this one. Iím sure he also appreciates having more interesting words to go on. But where the vibrato works is the fantastic English Beat styled "She Comes With Instructions." Heís got the Dave Wakeling sound down perfect. The infantile robo-sex subject is taken as far as a SNL sketch, but thatís overlookable. The bass line is spry, the keys are a badass pitch-shifting Devo reference, and the wah pedal is the coolest since New Bohemians. I can see Scooby and Shaggy running in place. The pristine gypsy song "Nothing Like A Rose" is a complete departure, but even more amazing. If I can find Chambersí own music, Iím putting it next to my Jane Monheit. She sings with such clarity, His touch no hand can feel. No lip can kiss what he reveals. Knaves and rascals cannot steal what his scent invisibly conceals. Damn son! The song is impossibly beautiful. Pepe is allowed a more satisfyingly sorrowful accordion role here, while the Spanish guitars are softly plucked. It can end here for all I care. Iím dumbstruck. But alas, a kind of dub variation on "Canon In D" comes in the package of "Maybe We Can Find Tomorrow." If you have to end on an up-note, you can do worse than to invoke my beloved 5 Stairsteps. The organ goes a long way in healing as well.

I would have expected a more powerful vision of despair, what with all the gnashes and teething of whales. But Panfile has certainly provided us with redemption. On a religious rock opera scale, one being Truth Of Truths (with Jim Backus as the Almighty) and ten being Tommy: Inferno rates a seven, Godspell.

ó Ewan Wadharmi

Track Listing:

  1. I Canít Stand
  2. Silver Chains, Bars Of Gold
  3. Oh How I Love You
  4. Itís Just Lust
  5. Bloody Murder
  6. I Donít Know Why
  7. Fires Of Ishtar
  8. Rational Eyes
  9. She Comes With Instructions
  10. Nothing Like A Rose
  11. Maybe We Can Find Tomorrow

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