Vieux Carré is an Italian prog band from Spoleto (Umbria) formed by five skilled musicians with a jazz background: Alessandro Bartolucci (piano, minimoog, keyboards), Federico Barbieri (drums), Filippo Zelli (guitars), Marco Rambaldi (vocals) and Nicola Palladino (bass). The band began life in 2003 under the name Chiaroscuro and a first demo featuring four original tracks and two Genesis covers (“Firth Of Fifth” and “Musical Box”) was released. In 2005 the name of the band was changed into Vieux Carré and a first self-produced full length album was released, “Glispiriti, icorpi elementi” (although the title has an ambiguous spelling it could be translated as “the spirits, the bodies and the minds”). Well, the overall sound has been influenced by progressive bands such as Genesis, Banco del Mutuo Soccorso and PFM, but the musicians managed to add their own touch of originality writing lyrics and music inspired by literature, cinema and history.
“Greed” is an acoustic ballad and is sung in English. It was inspired by Greed, a 1924 American dramatic silent film directed by Erich von Stroheim and taken from McTeague, a novel by the American writer Frank Norris that tells the story of a couple's courtship and marriage, and their subsequent descent into poverty, violence and finally murder as the result of jealousy and avarice... “I'm dreaming Trina freaking out / In that bed of gold with her devilish ruffled hair...”.
“Palinodia” (Palinode) is an excellent track with a good piano work and classical influences. A palinode is an ode in which the writer retracts a view or sentiment expressed in earlier poems... “I'm prisoner of four bleak walls / Dusk and silence conspires / The imagine of your smiling face discolours in the complaisance of my memories...”.
“World Of Chance” is sung in English and could recall some solo works by Peter Gabriel while the lyrics depict a nightmarish atmosphere... “Sound of raging waters down below / Something tight keeps biting at my neck / I'm hanging off the edge of a wooden bridge / My feet are trembling on a shaky plank / Dozens of rifles pointing at my head...”.
“KV62” recalls some recent works by Franco Battiato and features a mystic, oriental flavour. KV 62 is the name of the tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings and the lyrics tell of its discovery... “The night is still warm when the prodigy happens / The first step emerges from the sand...”.
“Concrete Rarefaction Of Freedom” could recall Genesis and Van der Graaf Generator. It's sung in English and the lyrics are inspired by science-fiction while the following “Louisiana Story” leads us in a Louisiana's bayou, on the tracks of an attractive, mysterious creole girl who makes you fancy a new beginning...
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In 2012, after many years of work, Vieux Carré finally released a sophomore album titled “Eteronimie” (Heteronyms). The literary concept of heteronym was invented by Fernando Pessoa and refers to one or more imaginary characters created by a writer to write in different styles and in some way it describes the content of the album where you can find many different styles and characters giving life to the different tracks. In my opinion during the years the composition skills of the band have improved, this work is very rich in ideas, less derivative than the previous one and it's really worth listening to. By the way, the art cover reminds me of another independent band from Italy, Absenthia...
The melancholic “Terra Nova” is inspired by the ill-fated expedition to Antarctica led by Robert Falcon Scott (the expedition was also the subject of a 1948 film directed by Charles Frend, Scott of the Antarctic). It begins softly with an acoustic guitar arpeggio... “They arrived before us / I can already see the flag with the cross of the north...”. The music and lyrics describe disappointment and dismal, the landscape is bleak and the long come back for the men of the expedition is sad, dangerous... “Farewell dreams of glory / I can't fight any more / How beautiful is to close my eyes and let the sleep come...”.
“Praz!” features many changes in mood and rhythm. It's a complex track inspired by the life and work of eccentric Italian critic Mario Praz... “They say that my karma is ill-omened / That I sow conflagration and destruction / The fragments of other lives feed me / My identity is the glance of Medusa...”.
“Il cardine storto” (The crooked hinge) begins with a nice piano intro, then the rhythm rises. It's an interesting track inspired by the work of the American writer of detective stories John Dickson Carr... “The art of the murderer is like the art of the conjurer / It consists in attracting your glance in the wrong place...”.
“El Gabal” is a particular ballad inspired by the story of a homosexual Roman emperor, Elagabalus, and of his lover Hierocles. It begins softly and the mood is dreamy... “Come on, Hierocles, lay with me / Rest awhile, help me to dream...”. A sax solo provided by the guest musician Enrico Battisti marks a change in mood and the romance turns into a slaughter... “They look at me with disgust / Because in my face there's the pride of the hetaeras... I can smell my blood / I fear the sun is going to leave me...”.
“Inquietudine” (Restlessness) begins with a nice piano pattern and is jazzier. The lyrics are inspired by the life and work of Portuguese poet and writer Fernando Pessoa and some passages are taken from a poem titled Tabacaria... “I am nothing / I shall never be anything / I cannot wish to be anything / Aside from that, I have within me all the dreams of the world...”. After a short pause, a delicate, dreamy hidden track inspired by the poetry of Samuel Taylor Coleridge concludes this excellent album.