Friday, 26 June 2015

CRYSTAL DREAMS

Raccomandata con Ricevuta di Ritorno were a band of the Italian prog scene of the early seventies. The line-up featured Luciano Regoli (vocals, acoustic guitar), Nanni Civitenga (guitar), Stefano Piermarioli (keyboards), Damaso Grassi (flute, sax), Manlio Zacchia (bass) and Francesco Froggio Francica (drums, percussion). They came from Rome and released only one album. Anyway, the musicians were also involved in other projects, for instance singer Luciano Regoli came from a previous experience in a band called Il Ritratto di Dorian Gray (that never released an album) with future Goblin leader Claudio Simonetti and, after RRR disbanded, he and guitarist Nanni Civitenga played in another band called Samadhi...


Per... un mondo di cristallo” (For... A crystal world) is a concept album based on a story by Marina Comin, who wrote the lyrics. The music and words try to describe the feelings of an astronaut who comes back to Earth and finds only desolation and ruins... The planet where he had lived before his space journey does not exist anymore, around him there’s nothing (“Nulla”). The first track is a short introduction dominated by a church-like organ then, on the second track, acoustic guitar and flute greet the astronaut’s awakening. The protagonist climbs onto a rock (“Su una rupe”) and realizes that he’s living a kind of nightmare because everything around him is dead now... The music is complex, with shifting tempos... “Men, if you could climb on this rock and see what you have done... You would have thought more about what you were doing...”. Then anguish and fear, it’s as if the world was falling down and the protagonist remembers the happy days of his past “like a tree that is using its roots...”. Here the music is uneasy and it reminds me of Il Balletto di Bronzo’s “Ys” (“Il mondo cade su di me”), then turns into a “jazz mood” (“Nel mio quartiere”).

inner sleeve

The second part of the album begins with a dramatic atmosphere, a threatening unsmiling shadow is rising on the horizon. When the protagonist realizes that the merciless shadow is “humankind” the rhythm turns into tarantella... The lost world was nothing but a puppet show, a stage where men were acting like marionettes (“Un palco di marionette”). The music here describes the madness of humankind in a perfect mix of a wide range of moods and rhythms. The final track is dreamy, with acoustic guitar and flute in the forefront... Now the protagonist has nothing in his mind but crystal dreams (“Sogni di cristallo”) that melt back into the mist...


On the whole a very good album, with a beautiful art cover. Perhaps it’s not flawless (the lyrics are a little bit naïve and the vocal parts are not “impeccable”) but it’s really worth listening to... If you like bands as BMS, Le Orme or Il Balletto di Bronzo this album will be an excellent addition to your collection!

 
You can listen to the complete album HERE

Friday, 19 June 2015

UNDER THE RAIN

Trasparenze is the fifth studio album by Malibran, a band from Catania whose roots date back to 1987. It was released in 2009 on the independent label Electromantic, more than seven years after its predecessor Oltre l'ignoto. Although it was originally conceived as a solo project of the leader and multi-instrumentalist Giuseppe Scaravilli, later other members of the band joined him during the recording sessions and eventually this excellent work was released under the name Malibran with a line up featuring Giuseppe Scaravilli (vocals, acoustic and electric guitar, flute, bass, keyboards), Jerry Litrico (guitar) and Alessio Scaravilli (drums) plus the guests Giancarlo Cutuli (sax) and Toni Granata (violin). Of course, here composer and lyricist Giuseppe Scaravilli does the lion's share playing almost all the instruments but the result is in perfect continuity with the band sound. In the booklet you can find extended liner notes that explain the genesis of each track while the art cover is taken from a painting by Karl Friedrich Schinkel that in some way describes the spirit of this work...


The opener is the title track, "Trasparenze" (Transparencies), a complex suite with many changes in rhythm and mood featuring some passages that could recall Genesis or Jethro Tull. It's about the passing of time... All along your life there's something or someone that attracts you and shows you the way you have to follow with its perfumes and its fire. You have to go on and on as your age flows away like a short poem, between dreams and reality, led by your will and by the flames of that fire...

Next comes the dreamy "In un attimo" (In a while). It starts with strummed guitar and flute, then the music and lyrics conjure up a long awaited, timeless moment of peace. You have in front of you a white canvas that your are going to fill with the colours of your dreams... You are painting a magic landscape and your soul is flying over there. Your troubles are left behind and you can smile, forgetting for a moment all the problems of everyday life, your mind is already over there...


"Vento d'Oriente" (Wind from the East) features a mysterious, exotic flavour. Heavy electric guitar riffs are mixed with Mediterranean influences while the music and lyrics evoke distant deserts and ancient sands, lost identities and empty realities. Listen to the voice of the wind blowing from the East, it carries echoes of ancient songs and whispers mysterious charms...

"Presagio" (Omen) alternates calm, pastoral sections to heavy riffs and Latin rock passages. It tells of obscure presages looming on the horizon like the thundering sound of the rapids ahead while you are swimming on the calm waters of a river, cradled by the current. Well, you've better keep calm and fight against all the adversities of life without fear...


"Pioggia di maggio" (Rain of May) is a beautiful, dreamy instrumental track full of soaring, delicate melodies. It leads to "La marea" (The tide) that tells in music and words of the contrast between the need to go away searching for a better way of life and the responsibilities that prevent you from leaving, keeping you tightly bound to your routine. You know you have to stay but you feel a strange emptiness growing inside you, maybe one day or another you'll turn your glance back and you'll start running after an idea, following dreams and ideals, drifting with the tide towards new horizons...

"Nel Ricordo" (In the memory) is about the power of fate. Your future turns around you like a dark shadow from whom you can't escape, you'll soon forget who you are because you're already changing and moving forward, you can't help it! The days and the nights you spent are like circles in the water that soon will fade away, the past is going to melt in your memory, you can't cheat on destiny...


"Volo Magico" (Magic flight) is a short instrumental track that conveys a strange sense of mystery. You can hear the sound of the bumblebees around you as you're flying from flower to flower under the charm of exotic perfumes and colourful landscapes... It leads to the nocturnal atmospheres of "Promesse vane" (Vain promises), a piece about a man who feels like an eternal boy and finds difficult to accept his everyday life and the burden of time passing by. Where are the promises of his childhood, what is left of his old dreams? He's burning out and nothing but his fantasy and imagination can set him free from the metaphorical chains of reality and make him happy, at least for a while...

The short, dreamy "Gioco di specchi" (Game of mirrors) is a nice instrumental track that introduces the wonderful suite that closes the album, "Pensieri fragili" (Fragile thoughts), a long, complex piece that every now and again recalls Arti & Mestieri and begins by the sound of a pouring rain... Here the music and lyrics take you back in time to World War I, in a trench along the front between the Kingdom of Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Under the rain the thoughts of a young infantry soldier unfurl while the water washes away a desperate night of waiting. Around the soldier there is nothing but mud and fog but he dreams of enchanted valleys and smiling faces that now seem just faded memories... A thousands eyes observe the human fragility from the sky, the soldier feels that the real enemy is inside him, he wants to give up not because of cowardice but because he feels that this war is not his own business. He doesn't care about honour and glory and in the fog he gets stealthily out of his shelter and runs for his life, disappearing in the rain...

On the whole, I think that this is a wonderful album without weak moments that will not disappoint Italianprog fans...

Malibran: Trasparenze (2009). Other opinions:
Chris "Seventhsojourn": Trasparenze is a long album that clocks in at 78-minutes, so you get your money's worth. There's not even much filler on it, with maybe just a couple of slightly weaker songs. My one criticism is that the album is a bit light on keyboards, but the loads of great flute you usually get with Malibran offset this... (read the complete review HERE)

More info:

Thursday, 18 June 2015

PSYCHEDELIC SEEDS

The Octopus Tree is the second album by Miss Patty Miss & The Magic Circle, a band from Bologna led by vocalist Patrizia Urbani whose roots date back to 2005. It was released in 2014 on the independent label Irma Records, four years after the debut album New Eclipse. The line up on this new work features Patrizia Urbani (vocals, acoustic guitar), Silvia Telloli (piano, synth, Moog, backing vocals), Antonino Stella (electric and acoustic guitar), Massimo Tarozzi (bass) and Christian Di Maggio (drums, percussion). Along the years the musicians have honed their skills with a good live activity on the local scene and the result of their hard work is a nice album of classic rock tinged with psychedelia with no overtly complex tracks nor adventurous suites but never banal nor too openly derivative.


The excellent opener "Alchimia intenzionale" (Intentional alchemy) is sung in Italian and every now and again it reminds me of the optical visions depicted by Fabrizio De Andrè in his album Non al denaro, non all'amore né al cielo. It describes an unconventional, colourful form of soaring happiness where colours and perfumes are mixed in a lively psychedelic dance. Well, I think that's a really pity that the band didn't exploit more their native language...

On stage 2011

Next comes the dark, suggestive "Come Into My Silence". The soaring vocals warn you about an impending danger while casting a spell on you... Here the hieratic voice of Patrizia Urbani reminds me of the rock priestess Patty Smith. The following "Cold" is a wonderful visionary track describing the coldness of a world full of social differences and merciless businesslike attitudes... You would prefer to be a flower or a leaf softly floating in the wind or a little bird but you're nothing but a human being fighting with the cold.


The frenzied "Everchanging" veers to more modern sounds and in some way reminds me slightly of Deborah Harry and Blondie. Then it's the turn of the dreamy "By My Clock" and of the romantic, heartfelt "Little Seed". With "Simple Fall" the rhythm rises again and vintage sounds come back for a new, short psychedelic ride before calm down on the notes of the following "Promises", an acoustic ballad that reminds me slightly of Fleetwood Mac.

A nice psychedelic cover of Black Sabbath's "Planet Caravan" and another piece sung in Italian, the lively "Adesso no" (Not now), close this fresh album full of colours and dreamy atmospheres. Prog lovers could be disappointed by the lack of really challenging compositions but if you like classic rock have a try and judge by yourselves: you can listen to the complete album HERE.

More info




Wednesday, 17 June 2015

MEMORY TRICKS

Hailing from Santa Teresa di Riva, a small town in the province of Messina, Sicily, Conqueror have been part of the Italian prog scene for more than twenty years and Stems is their fifth full length studio album. It was released in 2014 on the independent label Ma.Ra.Cash Records, four years after its predecessor Madame Zelle, with a renewed line up featuring Simona Rigano (keyboards, lead vocals), Natale Russo (drums), Ture Pagano (guitars) and Peppe Papa (bass). Sabrina Rigano left the band in 2010 and without her flute and sax contributes the overall sound of the band is more keyboard and guitar driven than in the past but still extremely crisp and convincing. According to the band's website, on this album you can find eight tracks with a common thread, eight poetical frescoes of daily life memories where the passing of time changes the perception of reality. Anyway, each piece takes on its own very distinct personality and in the booklet you can find a photograph associated to every track that in some way helps to describe the mood of the music and lyrics...


The beautiful opener "Gina" is a long, complex track that evokes memories of warm hugs lingering in the night while time is nothing but a blurred concept. Who is Gina? There's no clue to know it, she might be an elderly woman or a little child... The music starts softly then a drum roll leads to darker passages and a disquieting marching beat seems to evoke the ghosts of an impending tragedy... What is left of the mysterious Gina is just the souvenir of a crown of coffee-beans and a smile, the perfume of a lost happiness, the sound of words that are still able to stir your imagination, a tenderness that stems from the soul and still shines in the memory...

The reflective, dreamy "Di notte" (At night) conjures up a melancholic quest in the dark for the signs of the days that are gone, a search for soft whispered words, breaths and sounds drowned into the light of a reality that leaves no room for memories and regrets and where your thoughts get lost in the perpetual motion of the daily grind...


Next comes the ethereal "False idee" (False ideas) that conjures up a mysterious atmosphere. After a walk under a dark moon, a strummed acoustic guitar passage evokes never forgotten silences that come back echoing around you until the first rays of the morning sun... When the sun will rise you'll have to make up your mind to see a new light and regenerate your faded energies, trampled by false ideas. In your dreams white butterflies are flying free among orchid petals. It might be a good omen...

On the following "Un'altra realtà" (Another reality) the soaring vocals of Simona Rigano interpret the thoughts of a woman that closes her eyes and pretends that she doesn't see what's happening around her. She dreams of another reality where good prevails over evil... Call it hypocrisy or just fragility or weakness but she wears a metaphorical mask and hides her feelings, biding her time to find another way of living...

Conqueror on stage 2014

The melancholic "Sole al buio" (Alone in the dark) features some bluesy passages and tells of the contrast between the promises of the childhood and the choices that you have to do when growing up. Now all the illusions and the promises of the past are gone, abandoned like old pictures in a box, left alone in the dark... But you can't forget that past and sooner or later you'll pick those pictures out of the box to look at them under a new light.

"C'est la vie" is a lively track that recalls PFM and tries to depict in music and lyrics the frenzied rhythm of progress in a modern age where you can never stop and look behind. No rules to follow, no time to breathe, no room for reflection, everyone is always in hurry and reason sometimes is left behind while the world runs like hell in a direction that we can't even imagine... Stop to think, at least for a while, soon the celebration of modern life will start again!


The calm, evocative "Sigurtà" depicts in music and lyrics the magnificent landscape of a natural park and the emotions provoked by the colours of its plants and flowers. You can walk along the paths of this enchanted place following the timeless ghosts of Romeo and Juliet... By the way, the title refers to, Parco Giardino Sigurtà, a beautiful natural oasis located in Valeggio sul Mincio, near Verona, the home city of the famous lovers.

The closer "Echi di verità" (Echoes of truth) is another great track where the music and lyrics depict in a poetical way curious lies and melancholic half truths, deceiving mechanisms that make you lose the sense of reality by deforming feelings, images, sounds and smells... How can you face such a labyrinth of mirrors and escape from the maze of your false perceptions? How can you decide and choose? How can you understand what is really important in your life as times goes by? Well, the answer is up to you...

On the whole, a wonderful album that marks the maturity of this band.


More info


Tuesday, 16 June 2015

STRUGGLING AGAIN

After a long hiatus, in 2007 il Biglietto per l'Inferno came back to life on the initiative of two founder members, Giuseppe "Pilly" Cossa and Mauro Gnecchi. With a renewed line up, the band started performing live the old repertoire from the seventies and in 2009 released a new studio album entitled Tra l'assurdo e la ragione (Between absurd and reason) featuring new arrangements of the historic pieces along with two new tracks. In 2015 il Biglietto per l'Inferno carried out this process of re-appropriation and reworking of their past by releasing a new studio album, Vivi. Lotta. Pensa. that in some way completes the work started with the previous one. It was released with a beautiful packaging on the AMS/BTF label and a three folds jacket with an art work by graphic artist Marco Menaballi that tries to depict its musical and lyrical content...


The current line up features Giuseppe "Pilly" Cossa (piano, keyboards, accordion, melodeon), Mauro Gnecchi (drums, percussion), Mariolina Sala (vocals), Ranieri "Ragno" Fumagalli (hornpipe, recorder, ocarina), Enrico Fagnoni (upright bass, electric and acoustic bass, acoustic guitar), Renata Tomasella (piffero, recorders, ocarina), Carlo Redi (violin, mandolin, acoustic guitar) and Pier Panzeri (electric and acoustic guitar). Along the years, old and new members have matured and incredible cohesion creating an amazing wall of sound where ethnic and folk elements are perfectly mixed with progressive rock while the new female vocalist should not be considered just a replacement for the original front man since Mariolina Sala is not just a singer but also an actress and a sensitive interpreter able to convey emotions with her enthralling theatrical approach...

Biglietto per l'Inferno 2015

This new album starts by the joyful notes of the title track, "Vivi. Lotta. Pensa." (Live. Struggle. Think.). It's the new arrangement of a piece contained on the second album of the band, Il tempo della semina, a committed track about freedom, equality and solidarity that sounds still actual and crisp, between globalization issues and new revolutionary winds blowing all around the world.

Next comes a brand new track, "Narciso e Boccadoro" (Narcissus and Goldmund). It's a delicate, dreamy ballad inspired by the 1930 novel of the same name by Swiss writer Hermann Hesse, also published as Death and the Lover. The novel tells the story of Goldmund, a young man who wanders around aimlessly throughout Medieval Germany after leaving a Catholic monastery school in search of what could be described as "the meaning of life", or rather, meaning for his life (quote from wikipedia). Here the ethereal interpretation by Mariolina Sala evokes the last words of the protagonist before passing away and the souvenir of his old friend Narcissus...


The following "La canzone del padre" (The father's song) is a long, complex track that was originally released on Biglietto per l'Inferno's second album. It's about the generation gap and tells the story of a difficult relationship between a father and his son. Eventually the rebellious son grows up and becomes a popular pop singer but there's no way to heal that broken relationship. The band really breathed a new life into this piece with a sparking arrangement and a passionate interpretation...


"Mente Solamente" (Mind, lonely mind, nothing but mind) is another piece from the second album that here is completely reinvented blending psychedelic elements and joyful folksy passages. It's an almost instrumental track that invites to let your thoughts run free for a while on the steps of a strange dance...

The long epic "L'amico suicida" (A suicidal friend) closes the album. It was originally released on the eponymous 1974 debut work and was written in memory of an old comrade-in-arms of Claudio Canali who took his life during the military service. This is another great interpretation able to stir emotions with renewed energies...

On the whole, this is a really good album that is absolutely worth listening to.


More info:

Monday, 15 June 2015

A STAIRWAY TO HELL


Biglietto per l’Inferno (the name of the band means A Ticket To Hell) began life in Lecco in 1972. The first line-up featured Claudio Canali (vocals, flute, flugelhorn), Marco Mainetti (guitar), Giuseppe “Baffo” Banfi (organ, moog), Giuseppe Cossa (piano, organ), Fausto Branchini (bass) and Mauro Gnecchi (drums). Their debut album is an amazing cocktail of spontaneous musical energies and poetry. You can hear here some echoes of Deep Purple, Jethro Tull and PFM but there’s no plagiarism and the musicians seem to have shaped their own style trying to capture the energy of their live acts. The song-writing of the singer and flutist Claudio Canali is excellent and the lyrics draw some bitter reflections about the hypocrisy of the world. There are many changes in rhythm and mood but all the tracks are in some way bound together as in a long suite, as in a long way down on a “stairway to hell”.


The opener “Ansia” (Anxiety) begins with a delicate sound of organ and guitar, then the rhythm becomes more varied and nervous; Claudio Canali’s vocals come in at the end of the track introducing the “subject” of the album... The lyrics describe the feeling of uneasiness and apprehension that comes up from a “sad and infamous life spent murdering and stealing” and the desperate quest for a saviour, for someone who can ease the pain and give hope... Charlatans, merchants, prophets or priests, it doesn’t matter... A good prologue to the next track!

The lyrics of “Confessione” (Confession) describe a dialogue between a killer and a friar. The music is full of energy and rage, with “shades of Deep Purple” melting into “tarantella” and passages with flutes “à la Jethro Tull”... The singing of Claudio Canali is really convincing and his voice seems almost trying to find a reason for the wind of violence that was blowing so strong in the Italy of the early seventies... “Listen to me, friar / I don’t know if I committed a sin / I killed a bastard who wanted cover his dirty past by means of his money / Trying in this way to cheat his fate... Listen to me, friar / And tell me if you call it a sin or a noble act / I stole some money from a rich gentleman / Just to give something to eat to a dying man...”. But on this album there’s not much room for hope and the verses with the answer of the friar are just a dark prelude to the tragic epilogue of the fifth track: “I can’t save you from the eternal fire / You have just a ticket to Hell”! This song is the trademark of the band...


A good organ work introduces “Una strana regina” (A strange Queen). The music is a blending of church-like music, Jethro Tull influences, hard rock and Italian folklore. Claudio Canali’s vocals seem to be drenched in pessimism while the dialogue between the killer and the friar continues... “A strange queen rules on Earth / She lives in castles formed by every street / She changes her dress every evening / Her name is hypocrisy... Let’s hope that our God from the hereafter can see and forgive us for our impiety...”.

Il nevare” (The Snowing) is another great track, with some almost “bluesy” passages and a soaring electric guitar in the forefront. It’s a kind of “lay prayer” and the lyrics seem to invite meditation and introspection suggesting that, even in a life where hypocrisy and evil rule, you can find joy just contemplating nature and the snow falling down... “Heavy snowflakes fell down that day / They wet my eyes / Lost in the light / Lost in the effort of knowing, of seeing / How much pure joy from a simple snowing... Far away a bell-tower reminded of a prayer / Over the roofs ancient shadows were celebrating the evening...”. In my opinion this is one of the best moments of the album...

Biglietto per l'Inferno on stage in the seventies

The long, complex “L’amico suicida” (The suicidal friend) is highly dramatic. The lyrics are autobiographical, inspired by the suicide of a Canali’s comrade-in-arms during their military service... “Around your body there’s a halo of death...”: Canali’s vocals are dark and full of emotion, the music flows powerful and melancholic for more than 13 intense minutes... “There was a long rumble of sound, and it seemed to him that he was falling down a vast, interminable stairway. And somewhere at the bottom he fell into darkness. That much he knew. He had fallen into darkness. And at the instant he knew, he ceased to know...”. Well, just a little quote from Jack London’s novel “Martin Eden” that in my opinion perfectly fits the conclusion of this “epic”. Before the end of the album, there’s still room for a nice short instrumental reprise of “Confessione”...

You can listen to the complete album HERE


More info about the band:






Sunday, 14 June 2015

A LONG WAY DOWN

Hailing from Milan, Le Folli Arie came to life in 2012 on the initiative of four experienced musicians sharing a common love for the music of the seventies and, according to their website, among their influences you can find bands and artists such as Jeff Buckley, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes, Porcupine Tree, Lucio Battisti, PFM and many more. The band tried to brew all these influences into something personal and new and, after two years of hard work in the studio, in 2014 they self-released an eponymous debut album. The line up features Simone Corazzari (lead vocals, guitars), Massimiliano Masciari (bass), Marco Antonio Cerioli (keyboards, vocals) and Francesco Meles (drums, percussions) plus many guests that contributed to enrich the sound such as Gianluca Del Fiol (guitar), Luca Pasqua (guitar), Maurizio Signorino (sax), Piergiorgio Elia (sax), Edwin Della Torre (percussion), Serena Ferrara (backing vocals), Giorgia Ieluzzi (backing vocals), Alessandra Marina (backing vocals), Annamaria Cristian (cello), Silvio Centamore (drums, percussion), Lorenzo Pierobon (didgeridoo) and Manuela Masciari (castanets). According to the band, the music on this work could be defined as pop dressed in progressive rock or viceversa. The songwriting tries to be direct and easy while avoiding being banal or straightforward commercial, the overall sound is rich and well refined but, in my opinion, it's a pity that the band did not venture into lengthy tracks and more challenging instrumental passages.


The beautiful artwork by Matteo Compagnoni depicts an imaginary city in the sky, a crazy world where the perception of reality is completely distorted. According to the band, all the tracks are linked by a common thread and you should listen to them one after each other as if they were parts of a long suite that gently flows with no discrepancies... The introspective lyrics are cryptic in their simplicity and tell of a personal crises leading to madness with soft tones and a touch of melancholy. Well, the overall atmosphere conveyed by the music and lyrics reminds me of a short story by Italian writer Dino Buzzati, Ragazza che precipita, and of a novel by British writer Nick Hornby, A Long Way Down...

The opener "Salto nel buio" (Jump in the dark) tells of a difficult choice, a jump in the dark to look for something that does not exist, pushed by the deceptive hope of finding a way out from a personal crises... It leads to the lighter "Bellezza" (Beauty), a melodic ballad that tells of an indescribable beauty, free as the sun, that surrounds you but that you can't grasp... Who can't save you from yourself?


The bitter-sweet "Non è facile" (It's not easy) is a melodic piece about a difficult relationship. For this track the band shot a video where you can see a man and a woman who have to endeavour many humiliations during their everyday life... The following "Quello che ho" (What I've got) tells about a man who feels inappropriate since he can't give to his sweetheart what she needs...

Next comes the lively instrumental "On da bridge" that the recalls the soundtracks of the Italian films from the seventies and bands such as Calibro 35 or La Batteria. It leads to the sarcastic "Fuori!" (Out!), featuring Latin rhythms and a strong criticism against the culture of consumerism. The lyrics describe a man strolling along the streets of Milan who looks at the empty, false people having fun... He can't be like them, he thinks that's far better dealing with a hundred hippies than with a single spoiled rich boy...

Le Folli Arie on stage 2015

The mood of the following "Il giardino della mia follia" (The garden of my madness) is darker. This piece tries to describe in words and lyrics a man prisoner of his dreams who tries to lock up in his heart all his pain and his personal hell getting lost in his madness... "Mentre tu cadi" (While you are falling down) tells of a man who realizes that one of his friends is burning out following the course of his madness. You can perceive a sense of merciful pity but nobody can help his unfortunate friend, it's too late and there's nothing to do...

"Il giorno mio migliore" (My best day) takes us back to start, to the flight in the void of a man who can't wait for a better day. In his song there's a dream, in his steps you can feel the unstoppable desire of jumping down through a sky of lead... The closer "Alien's trip" features some ethnic flavours and accompanies his last flight towards another dimension.


"Shot in the dark", "A better day tomorrow" and "It's not easy" are just the English versions of "Salto nel buio", "Il giorno mio migliore" and "Non è facile", three bonus tracks that do not add anything to this work... On the whole, I think that this is a nice pop rock album where melody prevails on a more adventurous, daring approach to songwriting. I know, it could be disappointing for a prog fan, but if you like bands such as Laviàntica, Layra or Camelias Garden, have a try: you can listen to the complete album HERE.

More info:


Saturday, 13 June 2015

A DREAM COME TRUE

Faveravola come from Treviso and began life in 1998 on the initiative of Giancarlo Nicorelli and Adriano Durighetto. In the seventies both founder members militated in local bands that never had the chance to record an album, bands such as Diamond Red, Dinoterium and Dawson. After a long hiatus they decided to start playing again to make their musical dreams come true and so they gathered around them a new group of musicians to work on old and new ideas. In 2006 Faveravola finally released a debut album on the independent label Lizard Records with a line up featuring Giancarlo Nicorelli (keyboards, narrative vocals), Adriano Durighetto (bass), Paolo Coltro (drums, percussion), Alessandro Bonotto (acoustic guitar), Franco Violo (vocals), Consuelo Marcon (violin) and Gianluca Tassi (electric guitar) plus some guests such as Luca Boldrin (flute), Ivan and Nicola Durighetto (recorder) and Tiziana Carraro (vocals). The result of their efforts is an interesting concept album that tells of a metaphoric journey through the dreamy land depicted on the album cover and in the booklet by Marta De Martin. The overall sound is soft and folksy and conjures up calm, pastoral landscapes while the enthusiasm and passion of all the people involved in this project shines through...


The dreamy opener "L'antefatto" (Preamble) introduces the subject matter and sets the atmosphere. Every now and again it reminds me of Procol Harum and features narrative vocals explaining that what really matters in a man's life is his imagination. You have to follow your dreams, fighting for your freedom and against every form hypocrisy and conformism... All in all, who can be sure that fantasy never meets reality?

The slow paced "Lo specchio" (The mirror) tells of a man who looks at his face in a mirror... What is left of his dreams? Suddenly he feels his soul flying away, his reflected image breaks through the mirror and he's in some way catapulted in a fairytale world generated by his own dreams. The following "La Contea dei Cento Castagni" (The County of the Hundred Chestnut Trees) describes this dreams that come true with calm tones and soft organ passages that every now and again remind me of the liturgical atmosphere of a Catholic mass post Second Vatican Council. The man is now a knight who has to defend peace, love and justice...


Next comes "La foresta degli elfi alati" (The forest of the winged elves) where the rhythm rises and the music conjures up a light sense of mystery... Now the knight is riding in his new world and has to cross a forest where every leaf is an eye and an ear of the strange inhabitants of this magic place, the elves. These creatures warn the knight about the dangers that he'll find along his road, he has to cross an old gloomy world to meet his destiny, the real world will set ambushes and every sort of waylays... Only his generous heart and his honour can save the knight! The following "L'incontro" (The meeting) features a Medieval flavour and could recall some works of the Italian minstrel Angelo Branduardi. There are male and female vocals interpreting a dialogue between the protagonist and his soul. After the breakaway, the protagonist's soul comes back with words of hope and a particular gift, her eyes on the wings of the wind...

"Il sogno" (The dream) could recall Le Orme from the pre-Collage period. The music and vocals describe the gratitude of the protagonist for his new world where he can live his dreams. His voice soars like a prayer towards the sky... Next comes the long, slow "La Piana dei Temoli del Livenza" (The plain of the graylings of the Livenza River) that features lengthy narrative vocals and describes a surreal dialogue between the protagonist and the Livenza River that speaks words of wisdom and hope. The voice of the river here is interpreted by the special guest Aldo Tagliapietra, historic member of Le Orme.


The epic "Lo scontro" (The fight) describes in music and lyrics the fight between the protagonist and the enemies that are threatening his new realm: the ferocious, merciless Hypocrisy and Infamy... The fighting is hard, the sword of the knight breaks and his injuries seem to be lethal... But suddenly his sword comes to a new life, his injuries generate the notes of a powerful music that hits hard into the heart. Time stands still, the enemies are defeated and the dream lives on...

"Danza di Messer Reale e Madonna Fantasia" (Dance of Mister Reality and Lady Fantasy) is another track with a strong Medieval atmosphere that describes an imaginary dance between a clumsy, armoured knight and a beautiful lady, the metaphors of Reality and Fantasy... They dance all night long, until dreams and reality get mixed together... Then comes the melodic ballad "Leggenda della foglia, della vita e del vento" (Legend of the leaf, of the life and of the wind) where life is compared to a falling leaf, carried by the wind. Only if you will learn how to listen to its music that leaf would land on your hands and will live on...


"Neorinascimento" (New rebirth) is a nice ballad with a positive feeling that recalls Le Orme and that conjures up the image of a mother walking hand in hand with is little child... The knight now understands that building a new world based upon love is not impossible: an idea that once was nothing but a dream could come true... The dreamy closer "La strada ai confini di..." (The road on the border of...) invites you to search for your own way to the magic world of dreams: it could be a hard, long journey but you have to be brave and march forward along the borders of your imagination to reach your destination... There you'll meet the knight and his lady, it is there that you will discover if this magic country is just dream or reality...

On the whole, a pleasant album for Italian prog lovers who who prefer soft, calm atmospheres

Faveravola: La contea dei cento castagni (2006). Other opinions:
Jim Russell: The music is pleasant, well played, and easy going. But it's just a background for the story. Most of the music is just nicely done soft rock with a steady beat and safe, somewhat generic new-agey mood, and really not that remarkable. Occasionally someone will break out with a lovely interlude or an impressive guitar solo but those moments are few and far between. It's just not going to knock you out like your favorite PFM or QVL album. Now if you are looking solely for that mellow, pastoral experience to relax to then maybe this will work for you... (read the complete review HERE)
Ken Levine: It is rare that any album contains so many gorgeous and timeless melodies that many listens will be required to absorb its full breadth. Luckily this is not a chore but a blessing. The rich production and the delicate fullness are a reward each time... (read the complete revie HERE)

More info:


Wednesday, 10 June 2015

ON THE MAGIC BUS

The Iz Quartet come from Zoppola, a little town in the province of Pordenone. They began life in 2012 as an acoustic trio under the name Izchis Zorfena’s Trio on the initiative of Denis Ronchese (keyboards) and brothers Paolo Jus (bass, guitar) and Pietro Jus (drums, percussion). In 2013 Aurelio Tarallo (guitar) joined and later the band changed their name into Iz Quartet. In 2015 the band self-released an interesting EP entitled Lebannen featuring five original compositions for a total of 29 minutes length. The overall sound is influenced by jazz, fusion and progressive rock and bands and artists such as Snarky Puppy, Greg Howe, Chick Corea, Weather Report, Frank Zappa, Jaco Pastorius, Marcus Miller, Jamiroquai, Herbie Hancock or Miles Davis. Anyway, the musicians managed to put also all their passion and some good ideas into the mix and in my opinion the final result is really worth listening to.

Iz Quartet 2015

The opener "Geesy Ku" begins softly, then the rhythm rises and the music drives you through dreamy realms and exotic islands. For a first demo version of this track the band shot a nice video where you can see some toys coming to life in a workshop to explore a new world where creativity rules and where the music is the charm that makes things roll all around the place...


Next comes "Magic Bus" that takes you on a journey across the ocean and with its funky grooves conjures up an American dream along wide highways and busy streets, between lights and shadows... The following "Levity" features some Latin flavours and a lighter pace, so you can relax and dream of a special holiday, at least for a while...


The title track is an evocative piece with a mysterious atmosphere. Who is "Lebannen"? He might be the strange character portrayed on the art cover... Well, to begin the art cover reminds us that Zoppola is not for from Spilimbergo, another town in the province of Pordenone, best known for its Friuli School of Mosaic, so Lebannen might be an Oriental king or a Byzantine general with a double personality... Lebannen is also the name of a character in a fantasy saga written by American novelist Ursula K. Le Guin, but I don't know if this piece was really inspired by the deeds of the king of Earthsea... All in all, it doesn't matter! Let the music drive and take you away on the wings of your own fantasy...

The calm, acoustic "La rana di vetro" (The frog of glass) closes an album with some really good moments... Have a try, you can listen to the complete work HERE

More info:



Tuesday, 9 June 2015

FLYING TOWARDS THE LIGHT

Mosaico come from Grosseto and their roots date back to 2000 when the first nucleus of the band was formed on the initiative of singer and lyricist Enrico Nesi and percussionist Simone Batignani with the aim of blending the tradition of Italian canzone d'autore from the seventies with other genres and influences. After some demos and line up changes, in 2009 the musical direction of the band turned to Italian progressive rock with a renewed repertoire. In 2014 they finally recorded and self-released an interesting debut album entitled Vola with a line up featuring Enrico Nesi (vocals), Cristian Dima (bass), Nicola Cambri (synth, Hammond, Mellotron, Rhodes, accordion), Alessandro Capanni (drums), Simone Batignani (congas, bongos, udu, jamblocks, cymbals, shaker) and Fabrizio Biscontri (electric and acoustic guitars). It's an excellent album of "prog cantautorale" with a great emphasis on lyrics, almost a collection of poems dressed up in progressive rock with influences ranging from Van der Graaf Generator and King Crimson to Banco del Mutuo Soccorso and Premiata Forneria Marconi. This is not a concept album but in some way all the tracks have a common thread that is depicted in the art cover by Mario Bambagini, "Grande apertura" (Big opening), that symbolizes the need to find a way through a dark corridor to see the light.


The opener "Vola" (Fly), features a surreal, mystic atmosphere. It's a reflective piece where life is compared to a light leaf sailing on a river that flows from the mountains to the sea. The leaf can fall or soar like a butterfly but it can float and fly only when pushed by water and wind. The river carries everyone on its waters towards the sea, where all the waters get mixed, where life ends and there's no more pain...

The dark "Il bivio" (The crossroad) is a kind of psychedelic waltz that draws visionary, apocalyptic sceneries and invites you to wake up and make up your mind: the world is changing, the time of playing is over and your road has come to a crossroad... Law and justice are at odds, will you continue to accept passively what you are told or will you stand up and fight against your fate, shooting at the sky?


"Il critico, il profano e l'artista" (The critic, the profane and the artist) recalls Fabrizio De Andrè and is a melancholic reflection about the role that art plays in a man's life. There's no rule to capture its spirit, no way to invent a method to brew emotions, you have to heed the call of your heart and forget everything else. We might be equals in front of the law, but art make us different, special beings...

"Il nuovo potere" (The new power) is an amazing track that starts by church like organ waves and marching beats. It conjures up the images of a war that is in the meantime metaphorical and real. The power of media is overwhelming but your mind begins to wake up and you're experiencing new emotions, what you are told is not what you feel and tonight your war has begun...


"Questa santa umanità" (This holy humanity) is a caustic ballad with a nice Mediterranean flavour that starts by accordion and strummed acoustic guitar. It's a song against false honesty and the mirages conjured up by a holy humanity made of hypocrites and charlatans, against people who resemble to a herd of empty idealists wasting their breath...

"Materia e vita" (Matter and life) is an excellent track full of energy and irony that thunders words against materialism and consumerism with a particular poetical strength. Open your heart and you will attend a bold search for space that can even stop the hands of a clock and make time stand still...

Old picture from MySpace

"Lenti passi" (Slow steps) features the female backing vocals of the guest Lorenza Baudo and deals with the madness of war. Imagine the sound of leaves under marching boots, the slow steps of an army on its way to the front, then shimmering lights on the horizon and the thunder of a hundred cannons... Look at what a man can do! Old preachers, merchants of souls and politicians, listen to the families broken by hunger and pain... What we really need in this world is nothing but love!

The swinging "Sopravvivere" (To survive) is lighter and features another guest, Aldo Milani, on sax. It ends the album inviting you to open the gates of your heart leaving the shelters you metaphorically built to protect yourself from the outside world...

On the whole, this is an interesting album from a very promising band. You can listen to the complete album on bandcamp... So, have a try and judge by yourselves! Click HERE

More info:



Sunday, 7 June 2015

THE MASTER OF TIME

Fate Of A Thousand Worlds is the second album by Gran Torino, an interesting prog band from Verona. It was released in 2013 on the French label Musea Records, two years after the promising debut grantorinoProg, with a renewed line up featuring Alessio Pieri (keyboards, piano), Gian Maria Roveda (drums), Fabrizio Visentini (bass) and Leonardo Freggi (guitars). According to the band's website, this is a conceptual work about a man who travels in space and in real time throughout the universe that is based on a short sci-fi story written by one of their friends, Paolo Gadioli, that you can find in the booklet and that's also mirrored in the beautiful art work created by Ed Unitsky. The music was conceived as a soundtrack to describe the adventures, emotions and torments of the protagonist...


The opener, "Child of the Stars", sets the atmosphere and introduces the protagonist, Velasquez, a kind of super-hero created by a superior race whose mission is to conquer the whole universe. His birth required a huge amount of energy that was obtained by destroying a planet... The music starts softly, then the rhythm gradually rises, calms down for a while and rises again, powerful and threatening...

Then comes the frenzied "Absolute Time". Here every now and again I'm reminded of bands such EL&P and Goblin... The merciless protagonist can travel through space and time and when he finds a planet inhabited by a superior race he can go back to an era when that civilization was not so evolute and can't resist to his powers...


"The Battle of Velasquez" is a dark, powerful track that could recall some passages from Darwin! by Banco del Mutuo Soccorso. It's a perfect score for the destructive actions of the protagonist who defeats powerful armies and ravages fortified cities. It leads to the following "Dead Suns" where you can hear the great poem of the extinguished suns and the last pulses of the worlds swept away by Velasquez...

The melancholic "The Fog of Time" describes the feeling of loneliness and deep sadness of the protagonist. Velasquez can't find anyone who can match him. They call him just the child of the stars, they fear him, they hate him... Next comes "Empty Soul" that tries to capture in music the strange feeling that the protagonist experiences by approaching a new planet: it's just like a deep emptiness in his soul. So, he begins to observe this new planet, to explore it from above...

Gran Torino 2014

The delicate, romantic "Arìda" is a piano solo track that describes the meeting between Velasquez and a beautiful woman called Arìda who lives on the mysterious planet. The heartless protagonist finally falls in love and the following "The Short Dream" describes in some way this complicate, unsettling romance...

"End of a Planet" breaks the dream, the rhythm rises suggesting an impending danger, something is going to happen. Suddenly Velasques has to go back in his spaceship, there's something wrong... As he gets on board the planet blows up and his love is lost forever... Here the music reminds me slightly of other two planets in a distant solar system, hidden behind the jewellery of a thousand stars and forests of coral...


The title track, "Fate of a Thousand Worlds", ends the album describing the dark thoughts of the protagonist, condemned to live alone in his immense spaceship, master of time, master of the universe... Master of nothing!

On the whole, this is an excellent instrumental album and the music is really worth listening to. Have a try, even if you don't like the storyline!


Gran Torino: Fate Of A Thousand Worlds (2013). Other opinions:
Mark Johnson: The musicianship is inspired and unique sounding enough to set this band apart from the many instrumental prog bands that roam the universe. Imagine all of the things that you might encounter on a journey through the universe. Without lyrics you are left to your imagination... and sometimes that can provide its own horrors as well as inspirations... (read the complete review HERE)
Pedro Bekkers: Gran Torino have made a lot of progression compared to their debut. With the replacement of the guitarist they moved the bar up by a few notches and forced themselves to create more challenging compositions shifting toward a heavier prog rock or prog metal style. With an album like Fate Of A Thousand Worlds Gran Torino may be very proud of themselves! They can face the future with confidence... (read the cmplete review HERE)

More info:

Saturday, 6 June 2015

FATE AND DREAMS

Four Destinies is the third studio album by Alex Carpani and it confirms all the good qualities of its predecessors, Waterline (2007) and The Sanctuary (2010). It was recorded with a line up featuring Alex Carpani (piano, Hammond, Mellotron, Moog, vocals), David Jackson (sax, flute), Ettore Salati (electric and acoustic guitar, bouzouki, balalaika), Giambattista Giorgi (bass), Alessandro Di Caprio (drums) and Joe Sal (vocals) and produced by Cristiano Roversi who engineered, mixed and mastered all the pieces. The album was finally released in 2014 on the independent Festival Music label with a nice packaging and an art cover reproducing a statue by Michelangelo Pistoletto, The Etruscan, from the Forth Worth Museum collection. According to the liner notes, this is a concept album based on four eventual destinies that a man can find on the path of his life: four destinies that irradiate, moving from the same point, in four different directions of life. To be honest, the concept is not very clear: the lyrics alternate parts in English and in Italian and do not try to tell a story but rather conjure up images adding more colours to the four musical tableaux on the album, the rest is up to your imagination! Four destinies, four long tracks with many changes in rhythm and mood, very rich in ideas and musical colours well performed by an excellent team of musicians...


The beautiful opener, "The Silk Road", takes you on a long journey through valleys and deserts, following the ancient tracks of merchants and adventurers such as Marco Polo. It's a road that marks the destiny of many different people in a melting-pot of races, colours, smells and sounds... A road that crosses the borders between science and faith, where you can hear secret stories whispered by silent shadows under the moonlight...

"Time Spiral" takes you on the mountains where you can sit on the banks of a brook and bathe in the icy waters of the springs of Time. There you can get lost in the mystery of life, you can feel the weight of your days passing by like dust and sand carried away by the current... But a threatening storm is approaching and the rage of the wind will soon blow away everything around you in the crazy spiral of a deadly fate...


"Sky And Sea" begins softly and features some dark passages that recall Genesis and Van der Graaf Generator. The music and lyrics take you on a boat sailing across raging waters under a thundering storm in a dark night... You've got to gather all your energies and fight hard for your life against the fury of the elements. At last the storm calms down, you see a lighthouse and you can breathe the smells of a seaport, you can reach a safe harbour. Now the danger is gone but sometimes tears take a long time to dry...

"The Infinite Room" takes you on a sleepwalk through an enchanted world, as in a H.P. Lovecraft story... Your body is out of control while you're strolling through the streets of a fantastic, unreal city. At dawn the dream melts and you wake up confused by feelings, thoughts and visions that are driving you insane. You can hear a strange music that's shaking your soul... "The sound of weird lyric melody was what aroused me. Chords, vibrations, and harmonic ecstasies echoed passionately on every hand; while on my ravished sight burst the stupendous spectacle of ultimate beauty..." (H.P. Lovecraft, from Beyond the Wall of Sleep).

Alex Carpani Band 2014

On the whole, I think that this is a very good album: if you like bands such as Genesis or Van der Graaf Generator and Italian progressive rock, have a try! I'm sure you will not be disappointed.

Alex Carpani: Four Destinies (2014). Other opinions:
Jerry Lucky: The music of Alex Carpani is best described as classic Italian Symphonic Progressive Rock and he has all the musical elements in place humming like a precision clock. You hear old or classic familiar sounds set against a host of newer textures, blending together to create a wonderfully enticing modern album. Thoroughly enjoyable and highly recommended... (read the complete review HERE)