Tuesday, 7 August 2012

ONCE UPON A TIME


Old Rock City Orchestra began life in 2009 in Orvieto on the initiative of Cinzia Catalucci (vocals, keyboards) and Raffaele Spanetta (guitars). After some musical experiences in other bands they focused their attention on the composition of original songs inspired by progressive and psychedelic rock bands from the late sixties and early seventies. Later the line up was completed by Giacomo Cocchiara (bass) and Michele “Mike” Capriolo (drums) and, after a good live activity and a first demo recorded in 2010, in 2012 Old Rock City Orchestra released their first full-length album, “Once Upon A Time”, on the independent label M.P. & Records. The overall sound of the band draws abundantly on the influences of the past and Jefferson Airplane or Affinity come to mind but the enthusiasm of the musicians involved in this project is great and the result is a fresh album of timeless songs that in my opinion is worth listening to. Well, if you like Italian bands such as Circus 2000 or Wicked Minds have a try!

Old Rock City Orchestra

The opener “Stand Up” is a lively track where the beautiful voice of Cinzia Catalucci invites you to leave behind “bad guitars” and voices of out tune in the name of good music... “Stand up! / I'm the queen of your life / Stand up! I compel you, stand up!...”. The following “Another Flower” is a kind of dreamy walk through the “gardens of hope” where a new born flower blossoms. This track is enriched by the sound of the electric violin of the guest Laurence Cocchiara.


On “Black Hand In The Sky” the rhythm rises again. A dark cloud appears in a starry night and covers the light. It's just moment, the the wind sweeps away the black hand of darkness and the light shines again. Well, this track recalls Jefferson Airplane while the lyrics make my think of a short story by the Italian writer Dino Buzzati, “La fine del mondo”. The energetic “UFO” is in the same vein and conjures up the apocalyptic vision of a threatening starship, an iron ball coming from Mars.

“This Is The Last Day” is a heartfelt blues with a slow pace celebrating the last day of a woman with her lover. The sudden surge of energy of the middle section and the finale gives you the chance to imagine what can happen between the two lovers. Next comes “Once Upon A Time Rock'n'Roll”, a joyful tribute to the story of r&b... “I remember Molly and Lucille / Jerry, Chuck Berry and The King / Listen to them and you'll loose control...”.


“I Want To Keep On Dancing” is another good track about the magic power a music that can make you fly high. On the following “Tonight With You” Raffaele Spanetta takes charge of the lead vocals for a night ride under the rain on the swirling flute notes provided by the guest Chiara Dragoni. The sweet, dreamy ballad “Swan Of The Lake” features a string trio and concludes the album. Well, I think that this band has a good potential although in their song-writing at times they showcase a too derivative approach. I hope that in the future they will dare a bit more looking for a more original style. I'm looking forward to their next album!


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Sunday, 5 August 2012

FASHION IN THE WIND


Démodé are an interesting band from Udine formed by Francesco Zanon (violin), Lucia Soramel (clarinet), Claudio Colaone (sax), Luca Laruina (piano), Carin Marzaro (bass) and Alberto Zenarolla (drums, percussion). The name of the band means “out of fashion”, but their way of crossing the styles does not lead to any old stereotype. On the contrary, they draw on many influences shaping something new and fresh without sounding retro at all!

Démodé 2011

After many months of hard work, in 2009 they self-released a first eponymous EP blending jazz, folk, classical and world influences with a very personal touch. The opener “Il teatro dei gatti” (The theatre of the cats) is a lively track with many changes in mood and rhythm. It begins softly with piano and sax, then the rhythm section and the other instruments come in adding layers of colourful notes. The short, swinging “Jade” is also a good track but in my opinion the best track of this EP is the third one, “Tango!”, that reminds me of the classical atmospheres of Le Orme's Florian mixed with echoes of Piazzolla and Morricone. “Tristeza” concludes, after only 15 minutes, what in my opinion is just a tasteful appetizer..


You can listen to complete EP in streaming. Click HERE

In 2011 the band released their first full-length album, “Le parole al vento” (Words in the wind), confirming their great potential. It's another self-production but the sound quality is excellent and the nice art-work by Carin Marzaro evocative. All the tracks are completely instrumental and flow away one after each other without weak moments. The funny marching beat of the short opener “Circense” sets the atmosphere evoking the lights of a circus show with clowns and acrobats. On the following “Veraluna” (True Moon) the music veers to romance with a gipsy violin under the moon. The mix of Gypsy influences and jazz could make of this track a good score for a film such as Sweet And Lowdown by Woody Allen, where you can imagine the ghost of Django Reinhardt smiling in the background. It leads to the light melodic lines embroidered on the nervous rhythm of the funny “Unobanana”. Next comes the dreamy “Oltremare” (Oversea) that drives you towards new colourful musical horizons.
  

“Pizzica!” is a tarantella dressed up in jazz atmospheres while the following “China Boid” opens with a delicate piano pattern. It's one of my favourite tracks on this album and blends mild Far-Eastern influences with jazz. “Dante” features pulsing bass lines and frenzied passages intertwined with nice violin patterns while “Baciami Elvira” (Kiss me Elvira) evokes old “balere” where you can dance tango or “liscio”. Then comes “Vecchiomondo” (Old world) that could be a perfect score for the investigations of Inspector Clouseau, the protagonist of the series of comedy films The Pink Panther. The following “New Pest” is in the same vein with a darker, jazzier touch and the swinging “Serpenti” (Snakes) concludes an album very rich in ideas and full of brilliant passages.

You can listen to the complete album in streaming. Click HERE

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Thursday, 2 August 2012

THE RETURN OF THE FIREFLIES


Locanda delle Fate come from Asti and in 1977 released a wonderful album titled “Forse le lucciole non si amano più”. Despite the excellent quality, the album was not successful at all and the band gave up in 1978. In the late nineties the band reunited and released a new album in a different style on the independent label Vinyl Magic, “Homo homini lupus”. In some way, all the original members except the vocalist Leonardo Sasso of the band were involved in this project but the result in my opinion was quite disappointing.


“Lucifer quotidie parat bella usto capillo / Quam ferus qui primus protulit horrendo enses / Nos ad mala nostra corde vertemus micante / Atqui homo fieri potuit homini lupus...” The opener title track was sung in Latin and is about the self-destructive attitude of humankind, men killing other men in merciless, endless wars. It's a quite interesting song with amazing backing vocals, Mellotron and Hammond B3. Anyway the rest of the album is not at the same level and after the first track the music turns into melodic pop. There are some scattered good ideas and a couple of nice songs such as “La fine” (The End) or “Fumo” (Smoke) but on the whole this work is really nothing special. A long hiatus followed its release...

Locanda delle Fate 2012

Well, ten years after the ephemeral reunion of the late nineties Locanda delle Fate came back with a renewed line-up. This time the reunion was mainly focused on the live activity and the band rearranged the old repertoire with a vintage taste for some live performances with excellent results and in 2010 they played their first concerts since the late seventies. The current line up features the veterans Leonardo Sasso (vocals), Luciano Boero (bass), Giorgio Gardino (drums) and Oscar Mazzoglio (Hammond, keyboards, minimoog) plus two new members: Maurizio Muha (piano, Moog, Mellotron) and Massimo Brignolo. In 2012 they released a new album on the independent label Altrock, “The Missing Fireflies”, featuring some new studio versions of old pieces and some live tracks taken from a 1977 concert.


The studio version of “Crescendo” (Growing up) is amazing and the vintage sounds take you back in time... “How much of life is wasted by waiting for tomorrow / The petals of a Time without seasons fall down / Some leaves are dancing like butterflies for us all around / I try to catch them by it's time to growing up now...”. This song was composed back in the seventies but it was never recorded in studio before and the new version respects the way it was conceived.

“Sequenza circolare” (Loop) is a fine, short instrumental composed by the newcomer Maurizio Muha and is a perfect introduction for another piece composed in the seventies and here recorded in studio for the first time, “La giostra” (The carousel). It's a beautiful, timeless track about the magic power of dreams... “She is clinging to my nerves that are taking off in orbit above me / I have no fear but standing here I can already see some mirages...”.


The last studio track is a new version of “Non chiudere a chiave le stelle” (Don't lock the stars), a piece about a beautiful girl who wastes her time closed in her room, lost in her dreams. The original version was released in the 1977 album “Forse le lucciole non si amano più” but this version is good as well.

The live tracks are taken from a concert in Asti, at the Alfieri Theatre, on November 21, 1977. The sound quality is not bad but part of the original tapes are lost and what's left are just the final part of “Non chiudere a chiave le stelle”, “Crescendo” and “Vendesi saggezza”. It's an interesting document of the live performances of the old line up, nothing more. Well, all in all I think that this is just a new starting point for the band and I'm looking forward to a new album with new original stuff!

You can listen to the complete album in streaming HERE

Locanda delle Fate: The Missing Fireflies (2012). Other opinions
Jim Russell: This album is a concoction of new recordings and old live performances designed to put them in the prog public eye. For that purpose it is a very successful return indeed. However, if the band truly desires a legacy with the RPI bands they are often compared to, they will need a new collection of originals more convincing than their last comeback attempt in the 90s, which was not well received by prog fans. Listening to this album I believe they have the potential to pull it off... (read the complete review HERE).
Raffaella Benvenuto-Berry: For obvious reasons, The Missing Fireflies… will be seen more as a collectors’ item than a genuine new release. The four studio tracks, however, reveal the strength of Locanda Delle Fate’s current line-up, which includes most of its founding members... All in all, The Missing Fireflies will be a worthwhile investment for dedicated followers of the band and fans of the original RPI scene, while newcomers might want to try Forse Le Lucciole Non Si Amano Più before taking the plunge. In any case, the release of the album, together with the success of Locanda Delle Fate’s recent live outings (at the time of writing, they have just returned from Japan, where they appeared at a festival in Tokyo together with other historic Italian prog bands), bodes well for the future of the new incarnation of the band... (read the complete review HERE).


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Wednesday, 1 August 2012

TRANSPARENT FEELINGS


Maurizio “Mau” Di Tollo is an Italian artist who was born in Ortona, in Abruzzo, and now lives in Genoa. During his career he has been playing drums with bands such as Distillerie di Malto, La Maschera di Cera, Moongarden and Hostsonaten (just to name but a few!), but he's also an all-round musician and a sensitive composer. In 2012 he released on the independent label AMS/BTF his first solo album, “L'uomo trasparente” (The transparent man), that features the collaboration with poet and painter Ksenja Laginja who took charge of the art work and provided evocative recitative vocals reading some of her poems. On the album Maurizio Di Tollo sung and played drums, percussion, synthesizers, Hammond organ, Moog, Mellotron, Glockenspiel and piano. During the recording sessions he was helped by many friends such as Alessandro Corvaglia (vocals), Christian Marras (bass), Andrea Monetti (flute), Laura Marsano (guitars), Rossano Villa (piano), Fabio Zuffanti (vocals), Agostino Macor (Moog), Michele Savino (piano) and Matteo Casu (acustic guitar). The result is a refined album full of soft nuances where poetry has an important role and music peacefully flows away following an introspective path. In fact, you won't find here any hyper-technicality or astounding drum solos but a well balanced compositional style. The album is conceived as a long suite and there is no pause between the different tracks that describe in words and music the end of an important love story and the overcoming of the emotional trauma that follows.
  
Maurizio Di Tollo

The short opener “L'uomo trasparente” sets the atmosphere... “Here I am, sitting on my years / Clinging to my memories / In this silent house / Naked and transparent...”. The suggestive voice of Ksenja Laginja conjures up poetical images and depicts the need to ride your time overcoming the foggy, limited horizon that you can see from your window... It leads to “Tannhauser”, a track about the need of dreams to live on, to overcome the daily grind and the lack of ideals of the people who surround you. A dream could mean a rebirth or a bitter pain, a light on the frontier or a mask of wax, a place where men can grow up free, an ideal place whee you can stand up and follow the beating of your heart... “Only dreaming can save me / Let my blood running on the streets of Tannhauser...”.


The melancholic “Pioggia sulla memoria” (Rain on the memory) draws memories washed away by the pouring rain. Lost chances, words carried away by the wind, a broken relationship... “It melts into the water, as tears in the river / Your absent-minded eyes are shut behind a shield...”. The dreamy, visionary “La curva dei pitosfori” (The bend of the pittosporums) evokes a sequence of images, a kind of film where fragments of life slide away in a dream of beauty... “There's nothing left but a frame without eternity / The smell of the pittosporums and your skin I miss so bad / And a finale fading out on an unknown life...”. “Io sono quel cespuglio” (I am that shrub) is another bittersweet, reflective track in the same vein... “I am that shrub / An undecipherable point in the distance / A neglected park / A thought without shape nor substance / Nonetheless I stand out firmly / I don't need you... You can ignore me but I'm here...”. It leads to “Casomai” (Just in case), a beautiful track featuring piano and vocals in the forefront... “I shout in the wind / I'll find again what I'm losing now, living on...”. Then comes “Pioggia ripresa” (Rain, reprise), a short instrumental reprise of the third track.

L'uomo trasparente: inner sleeve

“La poesia della carne” (The poetry of the flesh) features an oriental atmosphere full of sensuality where the voice of Ksnja Laginjia introduces a vibrant instrumental part... “Love the pure beauty of the heart / Love the poetry of the flesh...”. “Milioni di occhi al cielo” (Millions of eyes looking at the sky) describes the beginning of a new deal after a troubled split up. It begins softly with soaring vocals on a delicate piano pattern... “A tape that I re-winded / It's my identity... Millions of eyes looking at the sky / And a new fire that dissolves the ice... Soul in tears, have a rest now / I'm coming back home...”. Then the conclusive “I topi saranno i vincitori” (Mice will be the winners) celebrates the rebirth of a man who is able to forgive an soothe his rage.


Maurizio Di Tollo: L'uomo trasparente (2012). Other opinions:
Jim Russell: Like many Zuffanti projects or older stuff like Basso's debut, the songs are safe and pleasant, preferring beauty and majesty over wild and crazy, but in this case the material is anything but bland. They take beautiful melodies and adorn them with the usual Italian icing like piano, flute, and strings, but there is a somewhat unusual atmospheric element introduced as well. Spacey quiet moments, poetic spoken word narrations, intricate percussion, and sound effects all give the tracks a richer mouthfeel... (read the complete review HERE).

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