Monday, September 12, 2022

The 2000s: Favorite Rock Progressivo Italiano (RPI)

 There are many RPI album releases from the first decade of the 21st Century. Here are my favorites of the ones I know:

1. MAD CRAYON Preda (2009)

Once upon a time Alessandro Di Benedetti--of late of Inner Prospekt and Samurai of Prog fame--was part of a band. That band was called Mad Crayon.

 RPI and prog lovers in general: You're missing some GREAT music if you haven't heard Preda! These guys can play. Discovered through the HIGHLY RECOMMENDED Colossus Project Kalevala: A Finnish Progressive Rock Epic, I have been blown away by the freshness and clarity of this music. Recorded so cleanly, using so many sounds in such unusual combinations, and constructed with such nuance and unpredictability it is a true listening adventure. (Put on the headphones!) Lots of piano and acoustic guitars, crisp drumming, and bass playing that is so alluring as to constantly draw my attention from the rest of the ensemblature. One very noticeable element of Preda's recording is the wonderful and brilliant use of space within the music; they don't fill every second for the sake of filling space; they let the sounds, chords, and melodies seep, percolate and fill your soul. And the singing is in Italian!

Line-up / Musicians:
-Daniele Vitalone / Vocals, Guitar, Bass
-Alessandro Di Benedetti / Vocals, Keyboard
-Daniele Agostinelli / Keyboard
-Federico Tetti / Vocals, Guitar 

1. "Re Schiavo--Part 1" (6:21) is, at times, somewhat on the rock edge, kind of like the band Saga, yet other times the excellent bass and piano interplay reminds one of a jazz CHICK COREA jazz concert. The drum playing is very solid, if mixed a bit in the background. Great bass; great vocal melodies. Excellent musicianship and sound production. (8.5/10)

2. "Preda--Part 1" (6:49) starts with a TONY LEVIN-esque funk bass line before turning into an intermittently hard rocking, sometimes 'lounge' feeling, sometimes JEFF BECK-feeling piece. Also has a SYLVAN "Force of Gravity" feel to it. Definitely defies eras and music styles. I love the bass playing. (PINO PALLADINO-ish?) (12.5/15)

3. "Preda--Part 2" (6:07) begins with some heavy guitar riffing and steamy organ soloing playing over the same jazzy bass playing and solid drumwork from "Part 1" before segueing into some soli from some pretty unusual synth and STANLEY JORDAN-like finger-pressing guitar sounds. The three minute mark reintroduces a kind of 'light metal' theme over BRUFORD-esqu snare, then suddenly a lounge jazz piano shows up to solo over this driving theme. A brief, strange, and unpredictable lull with same treated vocals appears just before the song exits with its original driving pace. Interesting song, to say the least! (8.5/10)

4. "Gabriel" (7:10) enters with a softer feel, electric Fender Rhodes piano-plus-synth-and-Hammond lead. In the second minute this moves into a complicated and tempo-rolling vocal section. Here is where this group's compositional use of space, pause, and sustain really show itself. Brilliant! To my mind, this shows great courage, confidence and maturity. My favorite instrument of this group, Daniele Vitalone's fretless bass, gets a very cool fusion solo (EBERHARD WEBER?) at the 3:50 minute mark before the song surprises with a brief foray into high energy guitar chords and solo. The song decays beautifully with synth and piano outro. Wonderful song-writing filled with many catchy, though often all-too brief, melodies. Like a train ride in the mountains: alternating lulls and breathtaking views. (13/15)

5. "Xaonon" (8:30) is the song that really got me hooked on this group; a real Neo-Prog-bordering-on-eclectic classic. The only thing missing are the English vocals (I keep expecting the song to evolve into a MOONGARDEN classic like "Round Midnight"). Begins with one and a half minutes of very fresh electronica before the rhythm section joins in. Kind of like OZRIC TENTACLES plays TANGERINE DREAM. Then the 2:55 minute mark introduces some 'light metal' themes, sounding a lot like RIVERSIDE, before backing down to a kind of ARGENT-sounding organ-with-guitar and rhythm section. The changes in this song are so frequent, so unpredictable, and so delightful. These are some very disciplined, masterful musicians! (18/20)

6. "Isola di Sara" (8:20) is another gem/highlight beginning with a surprising 'Buddha Lounge' like feel before spiking off into various unusual and unpredictable sound and tempo directions. Very difficult to describe; you simply must discover it for yourself. The 2:05 marks notes the all-too-brief introduction of the song's immensely engaging and melodic 'chorus.' The band is so tight, the vocals so moving! 4:00 4:20 an entirely Latin flavored acoustic guitar-led section 5:15 a segue into a more rocking variation on the chorus theme before bridging back to the true chorus--which then evolves into a brief and beautiful piano solo before down-shifting into a kind of lounge end which is not the end at all but merely a transition to some Steve HACKETT-esque volume pedal notes fading out over the bass's ad libbing. Wow! What a beautiful ride! A true musical masterpiece. (19.75/20)

7. "Sovrano Dell'illusione--Part 1" (6:27) begins with some ELP/PFM-ish piano before stopping to make space for the second beginning--a very GENESIS-like mellotron-washed section. But this section too yields, ends, to allow the introduction of a very PFM-like acoustically accompanied vocal section. Absolutely gorgeous music, melody, and singing! The EMERSON-like piano play returns at the 3:35 mark to provide the base for the return of the vocals. Stunning songwriting! As good as any PFM high points that I've ever heard. 5:05 marks the emergence of a beautiful synth sound soloing briefly before the music settles back to the vocal with piano/acoustic guitar outro. (10/10)

8. "Sovrano Dell'illusione--Part 2" (10:45) uses electric piano and echoing bass to provide its initial ominous jazzy feel. Again images of EBERHARD WEBER's works are conjured until the shift at the 2:40 mark introduces some skillful EDDIE VAN HALEN-sounding guitar chord playing bursts onto the scene. Excellent rolling bass play and multiple keyboard contributions within this section. Disappearing for a gap of a few seconds during which a few strange sentences are uttered, it then comes back with a vengeance as synths and guitar soli emote themselves. At 6:20 another change: Mellotron and bass pedals! Then another odd shift into distorted electric guitar arpeggios over which the very strange vocals re-emerge until the music and vocals suddenly shift, mid-stream, to a very dreamy, melodic feel, back to guitar arpeggios which literally fadeout as a SATIE-like solo piano takes over. What an amazing rollercoaster ride! Mellotron! Weird background noises! The end! Wow! (18/20)

9. The final song, "Re Schiavo - Reprise" (4:51) begins with a piano reiteration of now-familiar themes--again very SATIE--esque. New themes are introduced at 1:00, 1:10, and at 1:15 as the vocals commence. Multi-voiced chorus harmonies precede a beautiful section in which a TONY BANKS "Stagnation"-like synth solo performs over acoustic guitars, fretless bass, and quiet batterie--leading to the final, brief vocal recitation and piano fadeout. Beautiful. (9.5/10)

Seriously, folks: Check out this album! They need to be discovered and promoted. I bet their concerts would be amazing: Musically, kind of like the early Gabriel-era GENESIS shows without the theatrics. 

90.58 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; minor masterpiece of progressive rock music and one of the finest displays of Rock Progressivo Italiano from the 2000s!

Dramma di un Poeta Ubriaco (2008)

The debut album from these modern prog artists. My question is: Am I listening to RPI? or is this really Heavy Prog, Prog Metal, or even Neo Prog? Some of the sounds used here are quite dated (especially the keyboards).

Line-up / Musicians:
- Corrado Grappegia / vocals, synth, organ, piano
- Christian Dimasi / guitar, backing vocals
- Beppe Colombo / synths, Hammond organ, backing vocals
- Claudio Colombo / drums, percussion, bass, Chapman Stick, acoustic guitar, synth

1. "Il Giudizio Universale" (7:37) opens with 90 seconds of someone dialing through a radio that is playing, catching all kinds of international flavors in both talk and music formats. Then a heavier, 1980s hairband-like sound palette burst upon the scene, exposing several somewhat familiar styles--including one that is heavily dominated by a Hammond organ. In the fourth minute things smooth out until at 3:45 a new theme shoots forward over which guitar, synth and voice take turns leading. This is very solid, very polished heavy rock/heavy prog. In the sixth minute, things back off and a nice potential-energy passage holds the forward motion as Corrado Grappegia tones down his vocal a bit. But then things get inexplicably heavy/djenty again for the final wordless minute. Odd! (13/15) 2. "March to Hell" (5:59) more heavily paced music, this one, and instrumental, is a little slower, which, to my ears, feels more similar to the heavy palette of Neo Proggers PALLAS, TRANSATLANTIC, or PENDRAGON. In the middle it takes a strange turn into a faster gear over which Hammond and synth take turns soloing. Machine gun bullet kick drum play makes me feel as if this is really not RPI but Heavy Prog or even Prog Metal. Dated keyboard sounds take turns soloing over the final two minutes. (8/10)

3. "Così Come Sei" (8:21) sensitively picked steel-string guitar solos for the first minute before being joined by bass and wavering pitched synth and then vocals. Corrado sounds much older, more mature on this one--and way more classic RPI in his style. Nice instrumental section in the third and fourth minutes--very solid rhythm section and great melodies from the lead synth. Great transition to a in the end of the fifth minute followed by some cool drumming and organ play. As near to a perfect RPI song as there could be and a top three song for me. (20/20)

4. "Pandora (11:43) another instrumental in which a long spacey synth opening which is eventually joined by male voice reciting something in Italian as drums and bass establish quite a tight and polished musical bass over the next 90 seconds. Then guitars and keys join in with synth leading in the establishment of melodies while metal guitar and piano hold up the middle ground. Very solid. At the end of the fifth minute everybody drops out for an "old time saloon" piano solo. At the six minute mark we burst back into heavy prog, and then Hammond and synth strings led section very reminiscent of classic RPI à la MUSEO ROSENBACH or LE ORME. The organ slowly performs a steady rising arpeggio sequence similar to the one Tony Banks does in "Apocalypse in 9/8." Very nice composition impeccably performed and fairly well recorded. (18.5/20)

5. "Breve Storia di San George" (6:39) delicately-picked and -strummed acoustic guitars with synth flute and (dated) synth strings providing the lead melodies. After two minutes of this pastoral beauty, guitar and harpsichord take more control of the fore as Corrado sings in another performance that would fit perfectly into a classic RPI album like MAXOPHONE's. The final minute turns tribal--gypsy, paisano, or Native American, I'm not sure. A beautiful song for which my only complaint is in the dated keyboard-generated sounds of flutes and strings. (9/10)

6. "Dramma di un Poeta Ubriaco" (9:05) sounds of agua con gazeta being poured into glasses on the wooden table top precedes an outburst into rock-ified classical music that sounds very much like the TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA. At 2:40 we stop that and move into a more BILLY JOEL "Just the Way You Are" keyboard base before Corrado enters singing in a raspy, strained "older" voice again. Some of the melodies here are either Russian or from very deeply traditional folk traditions. The bombastic "orchestrated" final section sounds nice, conveys the operatic power that it's meant to, and then backs the plaintive lead synth and buzz saw lead guitar in a nice Mellotron-like way. This is, however, the only part of the song that I enjoy. Not my favorite. (16.5/20)

7. "Salto nel Buio" (13:45) steel string acoustic guitar played delicately--almost harp-like--before banked strings chords enter and the guitar begins producing a progression of slowly arpeggiated chords. Slow build and transfer of instruments over the next two minutes. Very pleasant pace and instrumental palettes throughout, with opportune switches for vocal passages in the fourth and fifth minutes and, later, for some folk-sounding passages. In the ninth minute, unfortunately, the band chooses to go back to a heavy/prog metal palette and style. The band does, however, remain tight and focused, delivering an excellent (if TFF "Carole of Bells" like) motif--but then it goes cheesy exaggerated lounge jazz with less than two minutes left. (28/30)

Total Time 63:09

 90.40 on the Fishscales = A-/4.5 stars; an album of much more diversified sounds and stylings that I expected. This makes it sometimes difficult to categorize as "RPI" as it is not always the case, but, overall, I'll give in to that assignation.


The sophomore album from Italians from a suburb of Northern Italy's Bergamo. For some reason this album--these musicians--feel and seem to be on a level above most of the others I've heard and reviewed from the 2000s.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Michele Giardino / lead & backing vocals
- Michele Mutti / grand piano, Fender Rhodes, Hammond C3, Minimoog, church organ, Solina String Ensemble, synths, Mellotron, programming, Fx, composer
- Davide Donadoni / bass guitar
- Michelangelo Donadini / drums, percussion
- Matteo Rigamonti / acoustic, semi-acoustic & electric guitars
- Mauro Donini / soprano sax
- Giovanni Bertocchi / concert flute
- Francesca Arancio / violino

1. "Disimmetrie" (6:56) (13.25/15)
- Golem (Storia Di Una Goccia) - 
- Suoni Di Plastica - 

2. "Medusa" (8:27) here, for some reason, the drums don't sound as good with the Emersonian keys. I think they're too straightforward, not as syncopated and interesting as the previous song/suite. (17.25/20)
- Fede
- Fuga
- Corale
- Samba V

3. "Idra" (1:51) piano solo. Impressive but nothing new or ground-breaking. A bit of Gershwin, it seems. (4.25/5)

4. "Risveglio, Procreazione E Dubbio Pt. I" (11:31) A top three song for me. (18.5/20)
- Preludio - full on ELP with impressive Hammond, bass, and drum play. This really does sound like ELP at their fiery best. 
- Primo Esperimento - cool/beautiful vocal choir work--turns KANSAS-like when full band joins in.
- Secondo Esperimento - gentler, more softer and melodic section.
- Dubbio - beautifully cinematic symphonic outro.

5. "L'Amore Diverso" (2:28) piano intro turns into two-handed masterpiece--though could be considered a New Age/George Winston piece. (4.5/5)

6. "Cerbero" (9:25) My favorite piece on the album. Very impressive. (19/20)
- Promenade - a swinging bassa-jazz-rock piece with Hammond and incidental synths in support. Vocals and violin help out later. 
- Le Tre Teste - bass, bird noises, and plaintive solo violin are joined by Hammond, drums, Fender, and Mellotron in turns before Minimoog takes the fore. The three heads are presented with vocal acting and three instruments: Hammond, Mellotron, and Fender Rhodes with electric guitar and violin playing lesser roles. 
- La Guerra All'Idrogeno - an excellent and nicely dramatic musical finish to the suite.

7. "Risveglio, Procreazione E Dubbio Pt. II" (9:31) very nicely constructed symphonic prog registering on the softer, more melodic side. (18/20)
- Epilogo
- Coda
- L'Addio

Total Time: 50:06

'There's something about the constructs and compositional style of this music that hits all my "like" buttons: there's an ELP/YES/EGG/Canterbury quality and sound here that really grabs me unlike most Rock Progressivo Italiano. Glass Hammer is the closest band I can compare these guys with from the Anglo World.

90.24 on the Fishscales = A-/4.5 stars; a minor masterpiece of progressive rock music and one of the finer RPI albums of the 2000s.

Other Excellent Albums:
(ratings 89.99 to 87.51)

RANDONE Hybla Act 1 (2005)

An RPI rock opera penned by Nicola Randone when he stumbled upon some kind of local history (or legend). 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Nicola Randone / lead vocals, acoustic guitar, keyboards, digital piano, synth, composer
- Marco Crispi / electric & acoustic guitars, backing vocals
- Livio Rabito / bass, lead & backing vocals
- Riccardo Cascone / drums, backing vocals
- Beppe Crovella / MiniMoog, Mellotron, Wurlitzer
- Lautaro Acosta / violin
- Graziano Ranieri / tenor sax
- Bianca La Rosa / vocals
- Carmelo Caruso / baritone vocals
- Franco Cilia / vocals
- Elena Infantino / backing vocals

1. "Preludio (Hybla)" (2:27) (4.5/5)

2. "Guardia alle mura" (1:30) fast-paced gorse race guitars. (4.5/5)

3. "Guerra Agli Invasori" (1:06) Norse-like sea shanty feel to it. Fun and different. (4.5/5)

4. "La resa" (1:06) smooth, beautiful music over which operatic female vocalise and metal (and jazz) guitars solo. Impressive! (4.75/5) 
5. "Le invasioni" (1:23) (4.25/5)

6. "La regina di Cipro" (2:30) female singing in English over similar music to "La resa"--then joined by antiphonal male repeater and then Russian basso profundo. (4.5/5)
7. "Infuria la battaglia" (2:16) great male operatic vocal over heavy prog (4.75/5)

8. "Enrico VI e la corona di ferro" (1:23) more rock opera action. (4.5/5)

9. "Veglia funebre per il conte Guglielmo" (2:01) a bit of a MAGMA feel to this one. Nice lead guitar play. And Jew's harp! (4.5/5)
10. "La principessa triste" (4:19) more gentle palette with picked 12-string guitar, Mellotron, delicately sung male vocal. Gets heavier and more theatric in the second minute. Another big shift at 2:20--all instruments go soaring--before coming back to acoustic foundations for the final minute and a quarter. (9/10)

11. "Manfredi Chiaramonte" (2:50) carries forward the more acoustically founded palette from the previous song, letting violin and harpsichord take the leads above harmonized voice choir vocalise and synths. This all twists and turns until it becomes a kind of parade-like march for its final minute. (8.75/10)

12. "Ballata in onore cel conte" (1:38) using some kind of folk melody, the music takes on a more cheerful, flippant path before a seering electric guitar solo splits the Sgt. Pepper's Hearts Club Band-like song. (4.25/5) 

13. "Un genitore afflitto" (0:36) 

14. "Giovanni Chiaramonte" (1:07) back to more aggressive Hammond and Martin Barre-like guitar rhythm sound & style with rough vocals and violin soloing. (4.25/5)

15. "Giovinastro e Lucsia" (1:47) smooths out with Mellotron and more smooth vocals (lead and choral). (4.25/5)

16. "Simone Chiaramonte" (1:08) up and down instrumental (4.25/5)

17. "La solitudine di Venezia" (3:40) opens with a theme familiar to me from La Coscienzo di Zeno songs, and then some Felona e Sorona themes. When the two-voiced vocal enters, the music shifts to a more RUSH-rock palette. (8.5/10) 

18. "La Fine Dei Chiaramonte" (3:51) a party-like radioplay takes place over some steady music before switching to previously explored styles (one with a Paganini-like guitar solo, the other two slower in the LCdZeno fashion).  (8.75/10)

19. "Rimpianti" (1:40) uses the music from the previous song to segue into a simple but effective male tenor aria. Nice. Powerful and beautiful. (4.75/5)

20. "Bernardo Cabrera" (1:31) opens with a pop sensibility. When the male vocalist and violin enter in tandem, the storytelling continues, being taken over by female vocalist and synth before just as quickly turning into a kind of Flamenco display. (4.75/5) 

21. "Cospirazione contro i giudei" (1:13) instrumental hard rock similar to Trans Siberian Orchestra with violin lead shifts suddenly to a soft, emotional minor key. (4.25/5) 

22. "La caccia" (4:39) takes on a STEREOLAB/TALKING HEADS-like palette and style before morphing into more standard "horn"-led RPI and then heavy RPI styles. Vocals enter around the halfway mark leading into another kind of wild party section before the music goes BANCO beneath a soloing saxophone for a bit before turning a sharp left into a short andante 4/4 song with a RICHARD WRIGHT-like saw-horn solo over the top. (8.75/10)

23. "Gian Battista Odierna" (3:53) andante continues with another PF tactic (echo- and decaying snare hits) over which high-pitch male voice sings in operatic style. Collective voices bridge into another MARTIN BARRE-like section over which several vocal stylings pass. (9/10) 

24. "Il terremoto" (2:49) sounds like something from ALFONSO XII's contribution to Odyssey: The Greatest Tale. (8.5/10)

25. "Epilogo (crevit Ragusia Hyblaeruinis)" (0:42) an emotional little piano finale.

Total time 53:05

I must admit that if I knew more about the story being told here, it might make some impression on my final judgment. But, as you all know, language and lyrics are not my strong suits in music, so, here you have it. 

I really like the way the electric guitars and synths are mixed so far forward and, thus, given a more prominent and crystal clear sound--not unlike Al Di Meola and Chick Corea on the Return to Forever albums. The theatric format with its frequent twists and turns (too frequent) is fun--and very well arranged and orchestrated--but  some of the cycles become too predictive and, thus, wearing over the course of the whole album. 

88.87 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of theatric storytelling within the heavier and more dynamic styles of Rock Progressivo Italiano. 

LA MASCHERA DI CERA Il Grande Labirinto (2003)

Coming one year after their excellent debut, Fabio Zuffaniti's side project produces another fine and true contribution to the RPI collection. The maestro has done quite a marvellous job of collecting the perfect cast with which to create his retro-sound.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Alessandro Corvaglia / lead & backing vocals, prepared voice, Fx
- Agostino Macor / Mellotron, grand piano, prepared piano, Fender Rhodes, Hammond, Minimoog, harpsichord, clavinet, ARP Odyssey, Oberheim OB12, VCS 3, Roland analogic synth, guitars
- Andrea Monetti / flute, tenor recorder, prepared flute, Fx
- Fabio Zuffanti / 4- & 5-string basses, Roland & Moog bass pedals, guitar, Oberheim OB12, Fx
- Marco Cavani / drums, orchestral timpani, percussion, tubular bells, congas, gong, bells, timbales
- Nick Le Rose / lead guitar
- Antonella Trovato / oboe & arrangements

1. "Il Viaggio Nell' Oceano Capovolto (parte 1)" (13:45) opens with reversed tracks before giving way to spacious bass & guitar harmonics. Singer and then organ join in, then Mellotron and piano. At 2:25 we finally get the full wall of sound, but then it is quickly extinguished to revert back to the soft, spacious stuff. The two extremes alternate back and forth for a while until we get a switch into a more pastoral, yet crazed section in the fifth minute. The tension builds and builds until there is a release at 5:45. A pretty though eerie section begins with male and female singer singing together until full band enters and Alessandro takes full lead. Nice power section. for the next four and a half minutes before a jazzy-psychedelic 'tron and weird jazzy guitar section takes over to almost the end. Interesting. (25.5/30)

2. "Il Grande Labirinto" (9:43) classy and classic but nothing really new here, more of a rehashing of old music from the 1970s--though done very well. (17.75/20)

3. "Il Canto Dell'inverno" (3:00) piano. Goblin-esque! (9/10)

4. "Ai Confini Del Mondo" (12:41) with the funk! Again, the 1970s are conjured up by the clavichord and Hammond, chunky bass and flute. I must admit that keyboardist Agostino Macor is quite talented. So is vocalist, Alessandro Corvaglia. The instrumental section beginning at the halfway point is my favorite--the whole second half is so much more to my liking. I totally respect the amazing job Fabio and crew have done to re-create the sounds and styles of the RPI masterpieces of the 1970s. Unfortunately, this style of 70s RPI was never my favorite. (21.75/25)

5. "Il Viaggio Nell' Oceano Capovolto (parte 2)" (22:35) This vocalist does SUCH an amazing job at bringing the power and theatricity of the legends of the Italian 70s! (42.5/45)

While I agree with my fellow reviewer MellotronStorm that "every song on this album is of the highest calibure [sp]", I must put my hand up at the lack of originality: all of these songs and styles--even the instruments and voices--are (I take it) intended to re-create specific sounds, songs, and styles of the Italian scene of progressive rock of the 1970s.

88.85 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; though a true masterpiece of retro-prog/prog homage with some of the best instrumental performances you'll ever hear, this is only not a masterpiece of original, modern progressive rock.

IL CASTELLO DI ATLANTE Cap. 7 - Tra Le Antiche Mura (2009)

Line-up / Musicians:
- Aldo Bergamini / guitar, vocals
- Roberto Giordano / keyboards, piano, vocals, composer
- Massimo Di Lauro / violin
- Dino Fiore / bass
- Paolo Ferrarotti / drums, vocals, lyrics

1. "Prefazione" (1:56) narration and mediæval fanfare set the stage for the story that follows. (Not worthy of a rating.)  

2. "Tra Le Antiche Mura" (12:46) solid RPI Neo Prog using classic prog instrumental and sound palette over the first 90 seconds--nice organ base. The music shifts to a more bouncy, theatric, piano-based palette as the first almost-coloratura vocals (male) enter. Operatic with a LE ORME and GENESIS feel. At 5:30 things slow down to a bluesy, melancholy pace and palette. Piano, chunky bass, and violin explore some emotional part of the story. Melodic and pretty. Then, at 8:30, we transition into another uptempo, almost-GENESIS Duke passage--which sets up a section with a simple violin melodic theme before cycling back to the Duke-like theme. At 11:10 we transition back to the opening theme--which is enhanced by Mellotron "o" voice choir. This is powerful! At 12:20 we get another round of the mediæval fanfare "horns" before going into a cave with dripping water and spooky voices--which is the start of the next song. (21.5/25)

3. "Malebolge" (19:52) a song that I'm familiar with from my long-time ownership of the 2008 COLOSSUS MAGAZINE/MUSEA RECORDS commissioned ensemble work Inferno - The Divine Comedy, Part 1, though the "Malebolge" contribution to that album was a mere nine minute excerpt of this one. A lot of the themes of this mostly instrumental song are melodic and dramatically scored, arranged in a very symphonic fashion with cyclical repetitions and recapitulations of several motifs--my favorites being the kind of Paul Desmond/Richard Rogers-like theme that is repeated in the 14th minute and the Captain Nemo-crazed organ dominant theme with which the song finishes. (35/40)

4. "Ancora Suonare Ancora Insieme" (8:46) opens with solo harpsichord before bursting into full rock/classic heavy RPI rock for the vocals to begin the storytelling. Nice little instrumental bridges between the verse singing sections--leading into an instrumental section containing some nice Steve HACKETT-like guitar soloing and violin and keyboard soloing over three different motifs--the last of which is Hammond organ and becomes the base for a new and different vocal section. Very solid song with great sound mixing and professional instrumental performances. But then the,at the halfway point, the introduction of a Van Halen "Jump"-like keyboard motif throws me a little--even when organ and violin get involved. This devolves into a section in which harmony voices sing over a slow soloing piano, but then things pick back up to the horse's pace of a theme from earlier in the song. Inspiration for some La Coscienzo di Zeno, perhaps? (17.75/20)

5. "Leggi E Ascolta" (11:09) TOTO-like solo piano theme opens this one before vocalist enters singing in a very theatric/Broadway style. I think this is where the band really excels--with these kind of stage-like arrangements. This develops into a very engaging full-band instrumental section in which violin, synths, guitar, and bass are all woven together so nicely--so symphonically--as the drums just keep time. Great melodies. When things shift into a more upbeat, uptempo motif, I find myself once again marveling at the similarities to one of my RPI favorite bands from the 2010s, La Coscienzo di Zeno. My favorite song on the album. (18.25/20)

6. "L'uomo Solo" (10:50) opens with harmonized Italian male vocal chorus before music starts up. This one is a little heavier, with more grating guitar sound and a Hammond base and more classic blues-rock structure and chord progression--at least for the first two and a half minutes. Then things slow way down to a violin, electric guitar, and piano three-part weave--again, classic blue-rock chord progression--while the scratch-voice singer sings over the top. return to the electric guitar and violin theme from earlier for the start of the middle section's instrumental passage. Very much like a LE ORME-GENESIS hybrid. I like it. (17.5/20)

7. "Epilogo (2:39) piano and percussion joined by synth and the same deep-voiced narration from the opening "Prefazione." This one is much more musical. Nice synth work. (5/5)

Total time 67:58

Overall, my impression is that I've heard a lot of this music before--especially the sounds and styles. It's all good, very competently composed, performed, recorded, mixed, and engineered, but not giving me much that is really fresh or innovative; merely regurgitating old styles and sounds (again: in a very competent and pleasing way). 
88.46 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock, Neo Prog, or Rock Progressivo Italiano.

DELIRIUM Il nome del vento (2009)

Line-up / Musicians:
- Roberto Solinas / guitar, vocals
- Ettore Vigo / piano, Hammond organ, Mellotron, Moog, Fender Rhodes
- Martin Grice / saxes, flute, keyboards
- Fabio Chighini / bass
- Peppino Di Santo / drums, percussion, vocals
- Mimmo Di Martino / vocals (2)
- Stefano Galifi / vocals (6)
- Sophya Baccini / backing vocals (2,4,7,9), piano (10)
- Chiara Giacobbe / violin
- Diana Tizzani / violin
- Simona Merlano / viola
- Daniela Caschetto / cello

1. "Intro (Dio del silenzio reprise)" (1:23) 
has a pastoral beginning with a flute, organ, and vocal soon joining in to introduce one of the repeated themes of the album. (4.5/5)

2. "Il nome del vento" (6:01) 
begins with a classical strings piece before it is joined by drums and oboe in a very familiar VDGG sound. Another one of the album's repeated themes is established before a vocal section begins. Very straightforward pop music except for the occasional brief codas/interludes using classical instruments. The choral background vocals sound much like AYREON's female dominated vocals from "Isis and Osiris." The song has a very nicely balanced blend of rock, pop, and classical. I especially like the operatic soprano (Sophya Baccini) floating above the other vocals and instruments in the background of the last two minutes. (8.5/10)

3. "Verso il naufragio" (6:35) 
is an instrumental that begins with some ominously held low synth chord over which a sax makes a brief intro, yields to Mellotron, then comes back as the lead melody maker until 1:25 when piano and mellotron take over in a much more classical jazz theme. 2:15 sees the sax and electric guitar take over dual recitation of another main theme. 3:00 sees the entrance of some truly prog rock musical sounds and structures: miniMoog solo followed by thumping guitar/bass chords. 4:30 sees the full band/orchestra return to the second main theme before giving way to a more subdued organ, sax, and jazzy cymbol section--very reminiscent of HENRY MANCINI's "Pink Panther Theme." (8.5/10)

4. "L'Acquario delle Stelle" (6:15)
 begins with a child-like/lullaby-like sequence of electric piano arpeggios over which some mediaeval flute/woodwinds play some very mediæval-sounding themes. Very pretty--and even moreso when the strings and Mellotron join in at the 1:30 mark. 2:30 sees solo piano and male voice using a very familiar melody riff (from "Il nome del vento"). 3:35 adds orchestration and some very nice TODD RUNDGREN-like electric guitar soloing in the background. 4:10 Hammond organ, piano and full prog band takeover in a very pleasing section for its harmonic and chord structures. Vocal rejoins till 5:45 when spoken voice lets us slide into a soft outro section with strings, Mellotron and nature sounds. (9/10)

5. "Luci lontane" (4:14)
 chirping birds and spacious piano chords begin this song before plaintive voice and jazzy soprano sax sing over strings orchestra. As emotional as Mimmo di Martino's voice becomes, he actually loses some of his strength and pitch control. 2:20 sees a transition into a very straightforward jazz-with-orchestration section over which the soprano sax solos. This then shifts at the 2:55 mark as some electric guitar power chords join in to accompany a more urgent sounding, if brief, vocal section. The power sounds very quickly disappear to leave the listener with a kind of slowed down mélange of the first and second sections. (7.75/10)

6. "Profeta senza profezie" (4:20) jazz piano and soprano sax start out a very jazz-oriented song. Sax continues soloing until the 0:48 mark when Stefano 'Lupo' Galifi (MUSEO ROSENBACH) comes in to sing in a range an octave higher than the previous vocalists.
1:40 sees a tempo and mood shift--more upbeat--while retaining this jazz-feel. Nice acoustic guitar beginning at the 2:10 mark. The jazz chorus is a bit too but is followed by a very familiar tenor sax solo over mellotron and the rest of the acoustic band (It sounds like the end solo to PINK FLOYD's (Welcome to the Machine"). (8/10)

7. "Ogni storia" (5:02)
 sees a return to a electric piano child lullaby theme--with crying bambino--which, when taken over by fretless bass and then synthesized keys and sax, sounds a lot like "Inch Worm." A more Canterbury/VDGG-sounding song develops until the vocal(s) begin, when it turns into a much more standard pop-rock song. (I like the "Great Gig in the Sky" female vocal screams of Sophya Baccini beneath the electric guitar solo around the 3:15 mark). The finale ROBIN TROWER guitar solo playing over the rolling bass and blues drumming is a fun touch. (8.5/10)

8. "Note di tempesta" (4:29) 
begins with a nearly "Psycho" AFTER CRYING strings theme before turning into a very straightforward R&B/lounge jazz song--it sounds very much like a song by ANDREW TILLISON/THE TANGENT. Very nice alternating and harmonically layered themes played between sax and guitar and flute & keyboard. EMERSON's "Lucky Man" synth takes over soloing at the 1:40 mark--nice segue. Then a ZAPPA-like guitar solo unfolds before the music thins and sax and bass take turns soloing until the band returns to a collective recapitulation of some of the main themes from 3:38 till song's end (which actually ends with group laughter). A very interesting song with some very nice structuring/layering. (9/10)

9. "Dopo il Vento" (9:40) begins with a wooden flute (shakahachi?) sounding as if we're on a tropical Pacific island. At 1:30 the full band kicks in to play an old jazz-rock classic RPI theme before giving way to a slow synth solo while the background jazz-s along while joined by a strings orchestration. Full blown 'soft' jazz with alto sax soloing begins at the 2:41 mark. At 3:15 a brief repetition of the band's main theme precedes a very nice electric guitar solo over the orchestra-supported soft azz theme. An soft, melodic organ-supported flute section begins at the 4:10 mark and which then precedes the 5:15 beginning of a very pretty vocal and flute section--which is then joined/backed by some wonderfully lush orchestration around the 5:53 mark. Dreamy! Return to the jazzy mode at 6:50--now soloed over by a very IAN ANDERSON-like flute. 7:25 piano solo. We're in the beach-side jazz lounge! A softer JETHRO TULL sound. 8:05 sees the sudden entrance of synthesizer to duel with flute and strings. Electric guitar joins in beautifully at 9:00. Song breaks down very beautifully. Music doesn't get much more beautiful than this! (19.5/20) 

10. "Cuore sacro" (6:49) begins with IAN ANDERSON's flute playing another familiar theme
which is then taken over by massive church organ and full rock band. (Is this a rock opera? ANDREW LLOYD WEBER, perhaps?) All clears at 1:40 for a lovely lounge piano solo--repeating themes familiar from the last song in a kind of classical way. At 2:30 a pause precedes the subdued male voice joining the piano for a brief section before the band kicks into a pretty straightforward upbeat rock groove over which guitar, flute, Hammond, and other woodwinds take turns declaring themselves--all with worthy and beautifully woven/orchestrated melody lines. A crash of a gong at the 5:23 mark ends the momentary harmonic chaos, to allow return of voice, with piano, bass and flute accompaniment. Awesome song! (13.75/15)

11. "L'Aurora Boreale" (6:56) (bonus track) is a soft jazz instrumental which regurgitates in a very pleasant way many of the recurring themes from the album. Nice tenor sax/vocal scatting, acoustic guitar solo, congas, background synth strings, electric piano solo. The drums are mixed more forward while the flutes are presented as if in a distant echo chamber, for some reason--all to great effect. Nice song. Kind of ties everything together in a fresh sounding way. (13.5/15)

Total time: 59:17

Obviously, this album is all highlights the further you get into it. Granted, an affinity for the kind of soft-jazz/lounge side of progressive rock is helpful for getting into this album--as well as a tolerance for the lead singer's voice when he tries to reach--both dynamically and in pitch heights. Singing the more subdued, soft melody lines he is wonderful, amazing. Skill and maturity are quite obvious in these songs--especially in terms of composition. They really know how to deliver wonderful themes in layers and harmonically without being overwhelming, chaotic, or discordant. Very beautiful music.

88.40 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; an excellent addition to any prog lovers music collection.

LE ORME Elementi (2001)

The same Le Orme sense of melody and structure delivered via modern instruments (and some old) and recording techniques--with two keyboard players taking the place of 1970s wizard Antonio Pagliuca.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Aldo Tagliapietra / vocals, bass, bass pedals, guitar, sitar
- Michele Bon / Hammond C3 organ, keyboards, guitar simulator synth, lead vocals (7)
- Andrea Bassato / piano, keyboards, violin, vocals
- Michi Dei Rossi / drums, glockenspiel, tubular bells, percussions

- Vento -
1. "Danza Del Vento - Part I (3:36) classic Le Orme melodies and structures with excellent modern drumming. Aldo only delivers a narrator's intro here. (8.75/10)
2. "Il Vento, Il Cielo E La Notte" (7:16) gentle, sparsely decorated opening with Aldo singing in his higher registers turns heavier with drums and seering guitar solo at the end of the second minute. I love the clarity with which each instrument/track is rendered. Quite reminiscent of some of Tony Banks' more romantic songs. (13.25/15)
3. "Danza Del Vento - Part II" (1:29) repeat of the main theme from the previous two songs with full band and dominating electric guitar solo. (4.25/5)
- Terra -
4. "Danza Della Terra" (2:22) feels like a continuation with slight variation on the main theme and textures of the previous suite. Cool effect of bass and drum hits paired up percussively. Hammond solo. Obviously a introductory piece. Again, I am impressed with this drummer and the sound used to capture his kit. (4.5/5)
5. "Risveglio" (3:59) not-Aldo (?) singing about "terra" over arpeggiated multi-level weave of keyboards and "guitars". Very simple structure, like a ballad. (8.667/10)
6. "Canto Di Preghiera" (1:59) solo choir sounds like a monastic chant--until the electric piano comes in--and then bass and drums. Cool. (4.5/5)
7. "Lord Of Dance" (2:52) very ELP sounding opening as band takes off at a fast pace while synths solo. Singing in English! (4.5/5)
- Pioggia 
8. "Danza Della Pioggia" (2:38) saccharine solo "piano" opens this one for rain. It's as pretty as any 1970s film love theme. Unfortunately, the keyboard sounds used are a bit dated (cheap computer-rendered piano sound). (4.5/5)
9. "Dove Tutto E'! (4:40) sitar, percussion and Aldo open this one. Violin takes bridge between verses and then sticks around, continuing its melodic delivery. More percussives precede a sitar solo. When full band finally joins in and congeals beneath the sitar it's quite nice--like a George Harrison jam. (9/10)
10. "Luce Dorata" (1:29)~ "church" organ beneath Aldo's plaintive voice. Arp synth replaces Aldo for a very church-like finale. (4.33/5)
- Fuoco -
11. "Danza Del Fuoco" (2:41) 1960s lounge jazz organ with piano-led jazz combo. Very 60s-sounding. Nice!  (4.5/5)
12. "Il Respiro" (2:21) Not a fan of this vocal section where the music goes kind of rockabilly. (4/5) 
13. "Danza Del Vento - Part III" (3:38) sounds like a Vangelis opening but then everything breaks into a celebratory dance. The whole rhythm track here throws me off. (4.25/5).
14. "Risveglio - Reprise" (1:27) an emotional reprise, as titled. (4.25/5)

Total Time: 42:27

Modern drums and mature, sophisticated composition skills make Le Orme a continued force in the RPI world. Plus, with such a variety of sounds and styles I can't help but give these guys some credit.

87.63 on the Fishscales = / stars; a very nice product from some old masters (with young recruits).

NEW TROLLS Concerto Grosso - The Seven Seasons (2007) - 

Vittorio De Scalzi and Nico Di Palo and company doing what they do best: reinterpreting classical pieces with both orchestral and electronic instrumentation--as always expertly combined and conceived. This is a very beautiful, very well constructed, performed and engineered album. Vittorio's English is so darn good you forget his native tongue is Italian.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Vittorio De Scalzi / vocals, piano, Classical guitar, concert flute, arrangements & orchestration
- Nico Di Palo / vocals, keyboards
- Andrea Maddalone / acoustic & electric guitars, vocals
- Mauro Sposito / electric guitar, vocals
- Francesco Bellia / bass, vocals
- Alfio Vitanza / drums, vocals
- Stefano Cabrera / cello (4), orchestra conductor
- Martino Coppo / mandolin (6)
- Madelyn Monti / operatic soprano vocals (6)
- Shel Shapiro / narrator voice (5)
The "White Light Orchestra":
- Roberto Izzo / 1st violin
- Raffaele Rebaudengo / 1st viola
- Mirko Foschi / oboe

1."The Knowledge (Overture)" (1:34) (/5)
2. "Dance With The Rain (Ballata)" (4:24) (8.75/10)
3. "Future Joy (Scherzo)" (2:50) Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Mannheim Steamroller eat your hearts out! (8.75/10)
4. "High Education (Cello Cadenza)" (1:43) cello solo turns into ... (4.25/5)
5. "The SeVenth Season (Ostinato)" (5:31) what feels like a WHO "Tommy" moment as rock instruments join full orchestra while psych choral vocals help out. Plaintive electric guitar leads the way into the third minute. Narration from Shel Shapiro enters. Then violin and drums have a moment. (8.75/10)
6. "One Magic Night (Larghetto)" (5:52) a little too bland and simple for my tastes--despite the wonderful presence of soprano Madelyn Monti and mandolin tremolos. (8.5/10)
7. "Barocco'n'Roll (allegro Brioso)" (2:57) another attempt to flourish a rock version of a classical music style. Competent, of course, but nothing very special. Wolfgang Amadeus would approve, I'm sure. (8.5/10)
8. "Intro and Canone" (1:34) a beautiful classical guitar piece. (4.25/5)
9. "Testament Of Time (Andante)" (4:27) my favorite song on the album; a definite heart-wrenching performance and composition. (9.25/10)
10. "The Ray Of White Light (Rond?)" (4:35) piano and CAT STEVENS-like Vittorio. Strings and multiple vocals join in (as well as oboe). Full rock arrangement enters with continued choral vocal support and electric guitar soloing in the fourth minute. Great arrangements; Okay song. (8.5/10)
11. "To Love The Land (Adagio)" (4:45) (/10)
12. "The Season Of Hope (Piano Preludio)" (5:00) (/10)
13. "Simply Angels (Suite)" (6:25) (/10)
14. "Ethix (Canzona) (3:07) (/10)

Total time 59:08

A band continuing to do that which inspired the whole "progressive rock music" movement: synthesizing classical and rock musical traditions--and doing it so well. Inspiring.

On the Fisshcales = / stars; 

Also Worthy of Your Attention:
(ratings 87.50 to 85.0)

MINSTREL Faust (2000)

Apparently, this is a bit of a rock opera from this one-off band. The effort is not wasted, though, as all aspects of this album are of the highest quality. 
Line-up / Musicians:
- Gianpaolo Pasini / drums, percussion
- Marco Fiorina / bass
- Mauro Ghilardini / vocals, keyboards, piano
- Michele Savoldelli / guitars
With five characters-singers:
- Mario Bertasa / narrator
- Davide Ferrari / Mephistophele
- Giorgio Sala / Pater Estaticus
- Silvia Semperboni / Margaret
- Mauro Ghilardini / Faust

1. "Preludio (Una Selva Una Storia)" (1:20) spoken voice

2. "Atto I, Scena I: Bellatrix" (5:28) gently picked acoustic guitar chords that are joined by delicate voice and church organ. Synth provides flute and strings as bass joins in. Singing becomes more theatric/operatic. He's good! (Mauro Ghilardini?) Big finish starting at 3:30 with big toms, drums, and organ beneath the soaring electric guitar. Interesting! Nice lead guitar work. (8.5/10)

3. "Atto I, Scena II: Mefistofele (8:55) impressive sound and engineering abounds except for those darned cheap 1990s keyboard synthesizers (like the ones used on COLLAGE's Moonshine). (Those strings are horrid!) But some wonderful singing (by Mauro) and outstanding guitar play from Michele Savoldelli cannot be deterred. The song meanders and sputters a few times. (17.75/20)

4. "Atto I, Scena III: Il Castello (6:52) opens as a bit of a guitar and drum showcase--like Steve Vai and Slim Jim Phantom (Stray Cats) playing off one another--but then devolves into a sensitive theatre piece in the second and third minutes. Some Hackett-like volume pedal work over some cool drum and organ work in the fourth turns into more Vai-like. More great vocal displays from Mauro, as well--much of it bordering on classic Italian lounge singing. (13.25/15)

5. "Atto II, Scena I: Faust (9:49) great music over which Mauro sings in German (which happens to remind me of great SYLVAN lead singer Marco Glühmann). Davide Ferrari supplies the gruff, gravelly voice of Mephistophele. More great guitar work over a bizarre "Peter Gunn" bassline section. Mauro's operatic voice really soars (as does Michele's guitar) fifth and sixth minutes--and again at the end. Love the use of the "harpsichord" in places. (17.75/20)

6. "Atto II, Scena II: La Neve (7:52) opens with a bluesier guitar style over gentler, more emotional music. Singing enters over simple soundscape of acoustic guitar arpeggi, short burst bass riff, and cymbal play, before some of the album's earlier themes begin to pronounce themselves (the bombastic Italian aria from "Bellatrix"). Two male voices trade leads before blending into one harmonized collective at the end of the third minute. Well done. Throughout guitarist Michele Savoldelli acts as the third voice. The voice of "Margaret" joins in for the final third, giving this the complete Italian operatic feel. (13.5/15)

7. "Finale (Ogni Viaggio) (4:17) more narration from Mario Bertasa, this time joined part-way in by computer piano. The real clarinet of Giuseppe Peracchi joins the barrage of cheap computer keyboard strings, etc. in the instrumental second half. Too bad for the cheap computer-generated sounds. (7.75/10)

Total Time: 44:33

Too bad this collective lacked impetus cuz they managed to produce a very impressive product here. Were it not for the terrible sounding keyboards and four minutes of Italian narration, this one might deserve masterpiece status.

87.22 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection--especially if you love RPI and well-made rock opera formats. 

MALIBRAN Oltre l'Ignoto (2001)

A band that I'd only known previously for their contribution to to the Colossus Magazine/Musea Records 2003 Kalevala project album ("Strani e colore" one of my favorites from that release).

Line-up / Musicians:
- Giuseppe Scaravilli / lead vocals, electric, acoustic & slide guitars, flute (3-6), bass & keyboards & percussion (3,5,6)
- Jerry Litrico / electric guitar
- Benny Torrisi / keyboards, piano
- Giancarlo Cutuli / saxophones, flute, piccolo
- Angelo Messina / bass
- Alessio Scaravilli / drums, percussion
- Vito Germena / violin (2,3)
- Antonio Longo / cello (2,3)

1. "Si Dirà di Me" (12:20) sounds more like something from the Saturday Night Fever or Grease soundtracks. Then the bass kicks in and the flute is given the front role of establishing the melody lines which are then taken up by vocalist Giuseppe Scaravilli. The sound engineering is not great--some of the instruments feel/sound as if they're in different universes from the others--and the level of compositional complexity is not very high--high enough, though, to more than qualify as prog rock. Stylistic shift at 4:40 retains key and melodic structure previously established but with a different flavor--but then it very quickly shifts back into the slower, simpler motif previously established. These two motifs alternate, back and forth, over the next two and a half minutes before we are taken down a quiet bridge to a more funky, "Politics of Dancing" part of town. The drumming and bass throughout have been pretty engaging. Nice. At 9:10 we are given another interesting bridge, this time leading us to a section with a more Neo Prog song palette. Nice guitar work in the solo section: emotional. (21.5/25) 

2. "Oltre l'Ignoto" (8:03) opens with a "Watcher of the Skies" emulation minus the organ intro. The imitation is, for my mind, too close to the original. When the music settles into a pleasant foundation at the 2:00 mark, the vocals enter, giving it its own distinct RPI flavor. Again, the vocals are mixed very poorly into the music. Besides the replication of the intricate rhythmic opening, nothing very special here. (12/15)

3. "L'Incontro" (2:48) delicately picked guitars with bass lead into delicate singing. Electric guitar, violin, and cello join in. This is very pretty. Perhaps this is more of the direction the band should pursue: the Celeste/Aisles/Maxophone style. (9.5/10)

4. "Cerchio Mobile" (5:14) interesting 1970/80s pop-jazz-techno fusion sound palette woven into this one. It works! I like this … a lot. Again that FIXX/Re-FLEX/JOHNNY HATES JAZZ palette is one I've always liked. This seals my argument for those mentioned bands being included in Prog World. (9/10) 

5. "La Via d'Acqua" (2:52) based around strummed and picked guitars, here is another song with more of a gentle, pastoral, Prog Folk palette--and it's an instrumental. It's nice though it never really shifts into third gear (which is why I've relegated it to the five point system). (4.25/5)

6. "Verso Sud" (2:12) composed as a solo acoustic guitar piece to which bass and multiple harmonized voices are added (and, later, hand percussives). Nice. (4.25/5)

7. "Mare Calmo" (4:50) bag to brooding prog--though still from an acoustic orientation (arpeggiating Steve Hackett-like guitar). Slide guitar solos over the top in the second minute before heavily effected volume-pedaled electric guitar joins in. (8/10)

8. "In Viaggio" (14:24) classic RPI in the MUSEO ROSENBACH vein (lots of Uriah Heep similarities: electric power chords, Hammond organ, aggressive singing). Nice drumming. The middle section sounds more modern (80s BON JOVI). At 5:40 there is a dynamic bridge shifting us into a bass-drum-pounding passage to support some Ian Anderson-like flute play, but this is abruptly ended for a synth piano section reminding me of the work for the Colossus/Musea Dante's Divine Comedy albums (to which Malibran had previously contributed--to the 2003 Kalevala project). Nice "tribute music." (26/30)

Total Time: 48:19

A lot of nice instrumental palettes presented here; not all of them feel fully explored or developed. The vocals are good, though recorded and mixed oddly. I have to say that I like this music overall very much; I just don't feel it's always finished or consistent in its professionalism. The two epics bookending the album are exceptions to this judgment however they seem to be trying to do more to replicate or honor previous styles than present more of the band's own softer, more pastoral predilections. Personally, I'd like to see them explore more of this latter style and less of the "classic" RPI bands.  

86.14 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent addition to any RPI lover's music collection and probably valuable to other prog lovers as well.

IL BACIO DELLA MEDUSA Il bacio della Medusa

Heavier rock-based music similar to the approaches taken by the great rock-oriented acts of the 1970s RPI, such as, Biglietto Per L'Inferno, Quella Vecchia Locanda, Panna Fredda, Osanna, and even Museo Rosenbach.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Simone Cecchini / lead vocal, 6-& 12-string acoustic guitars, mandolin, charango
- Simone Brozzetti / electric guitar
- Eva Morelli / flute
- Federico Caprai / bass guitar
- Diego Petrini / drums, percussion, keyboards

1. "Requiem Per I Condannati A Morte" (Incl. "Sogno Post Mortem: Fine D'Un Inverno") (8:55) A classic rock classic. The highlight for me are the harmony vocals. Well recorded and produced. (17.25/20)

2. "OrienteOccidente" (5:24) opens like an AREA song before turning classic blues rock like the early 1970s. (8.5/10)  

3. "Scorticamento Di Marsia (I,II,III,IV)" (14:54) a little more delicate blues rock using flute and acoustic guitars for the opening section. At times bluesy, at times hard rockin', at others jazzy-rock, this suite/epic is worthy. (26/30)

4. "Il Vino (Breve Delirio Del Vino)" (6:50) definitely an folk-infused Italian drinking song. With the presence of the accordion, syncopated rhythm, and call-and-response type of party vocals, there is quite a little LES NEGRESSES VERTES feel to this song. I really like the passion and pride coming through in this song. (13.75/15)

5. "Cantico Del Poeta Errante (I,II,III)" (8:23) another flute and acoustic guitar opening. The rest of the band joins in for the second verse in a kind of JTULL way. Once vocalist Simone Cecchini enters, he gives the song that same colloquial feel as the previous song. The second section is noted for its raucous multi-voice vocals despite the bands choice to remain mostly acoustic and slower in pace. The third section is defined by the presence of two fiery electric guitars. A cool Italian song that grows on you with repeated listens. (17.75/20)

6. "De Luxuria, Et De Ludo Et De Taberna (I,II)" (12:02) slow, plodding heaviness with great drumming and potential drama in the guitar play turns up a couple gears in the second minute to race across the landscape. Again, the classic instrumental jams of the early 1970s come to mind. But then vocals enter: two: one in the right channel alternated with another in the left, talking to one another. Great percussion! The shift in the third minute gives the song an even stronger South American feel to it--like something by LOS JAIVAS. Organ takes over above the fiery drums and percussion for the second half--that and the incidental operatic "lo-lo-lo-lo" male vocals. Then, just when you think it's ending, it turns into something altogether different: more soloing from the bass, drums, and percussionist. (21/25)

Total time 56:28

86.04 on the Fishscales = B/3.75 stars; a nice addition of Italian-infused retro-"1979s classic rock" 
to any rock lover's music collection. 

instrumental) Stati di immaginazione (2006)

With this PFM "comeback" album the group has decided to forego vocals, yes, that's right, this is an all-instrumental album. And an excellent, melodic one, it is! Every song is great if not really very memorable. More like background music. Still, great keys, great violin, great electric guitar soli, great bass play and solid drumming. A much jazzier PFM than I knew from the 70s. Kind of a "smooth jazz."

Line-up / Musicians:
- Franco Mussida / electric, classic and acoustic guitars
- Patrick Djivas / bass, fretless bass, plastic flute
- Franz Di Cioccio / drums, percussion
- Lucio Fabbri / violin, keyboards
- Gianluca Tagliavini / keyboards, Hammond organ, Moog
- Iaia De Capitani / video concept
- Marco Anelli / video editor

Best songs: 1. "La terra dell'acqua (8:18) (9/10); the jazzy 3. "La conquista" (6:29) (8/10); the melodic, strings-on-display, JEAN-LUC PONTY-like 6. "Aqua azul" (3:53) (8/10); the pretty, folksy "Nederland 1903" (3:23) (9/10), and; the FOCUS CON PROBY-like, "Visioni di Archimede" (8:59) (8/10).

Total time: 46:14

85.75 on the Fishscales = A four star achievement, NOT a five star masterpiece.

CONQUEROR Storie fuori dal tempo (2005)

Smooth rock reminiscent of early 1970s hard classic rockers as well as some Neo and early RPI rockers. I like the fact that there is a presence of over 50% female energy here.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Simona Rigano / vocals, keyboards, synth
- Tino Nastasi / guitar
- Sabrina Rigano / flute, saxophone
- Fabio Ucchino / bass, bass pedals
- Natale Russo / drums, percussion
- Antonella Cernuto / harp (1,6)
- Vincenzo Cavalli / backing vocals (4)
- Sofia Ferraro / saxophone & flute (7)

1. "Ouverture" (6:00) rockin' Neo Prog palette with a few symphonic twists and turns. (8.25/10)

2. "Mosaico di Colori" (5:13) pleasant opiate prog lite with woodwinds, melodic base and the soothing voice of Simona Rigano--quite different than the vibe of the previous song. (8.5/10)

3. "No Photo" (7:07) Prog by the numbers: Hammond, flute, and entrenched off-beat rhythm track. A watered down MYRATH feel here. Pleasant piano interlude appears in the middle feels & sounds like a folk melody from the Greek band CICCADA. Whole band joins in and plays upon it until 3:35 when there is a return to the opening motif over which Simona sings in her siren voice. Like LAGARTIJA's Sara Aliani, she has me eating out of her palm. (13/15)

4. "Pagine di Poesie" (6:45) built around vocal and flute melodies that Riccardo Principe's posse of female singers would be proud of, the tempo shift at 3:20 brings a welcome bit of excitement and complexity. Great keyboard/synth play as well. Again, Simona's warm and enchanting voice could get me to walk off a cliff. My favorite song on the album. (13.25/15)

5. "Klaus" (5:42) a little more pep and pizzaz than previous songs, the edgy-ness achieved here could almost be termed "aggressive"! All in another CICCADA-like song. (8.5/10)

6. "Morgana" (31:16) apparently, as legend has it, the sorceress Morgan Le Fay escaped Arthurian Britannia to create her crystal castle on the shores of the island of Sicily (where this band just happens to be from). As hard as they try, I can't give this more than a "good" rating. Simona's voice is far better suited to the warm and seductive than mythic storytelling. (51/60):
- i) Il Sogno Rivive - nice flute and glockenspiel tradeoff before other instruments join in. Feels like a set up for a gentle ballad but flute takes the first lead, electric guitar in brief motif before Simona begins singing about the legend.  
- ii) Il Castello - Simona's vocal is, unfortunately, often off-pitch among this jazzier section. Nice guitar, keys, and bass work--some nice keyboard work.
- iii) Negli Abissi -  the best theme of the suite--love the bass sound, vocal, flute, and keys. 
- iv) Morgana "Theme" -Love the harp presence in this Celtic-themed piece. Wish there were no drums.
- v) Puri Zaffiri - multiple vocal tracks is interesting in this poppy tune.
- vi) Immagini a Distanza - interesting themes sewn together to bring the wuite to an end. Not of sure the story's conclusion, but it was probably dramatic and sad..

Total Time 62:03

85.42 on the Fishscales = B/3.5 stars; a band with all the right sounds and intentions but with more growing to do. 

LA MASCHERA DI CERA La Maschera di Cera (2002)

A side project of Fabio Zuffanti, in my opinion, La Maschera di Cera has produced the best music Zuffanti has made. The songs are lushly created with lots of classically-influenced forms and structures using the sounds and instruments the electronic age has given us. Keyboard artist Agostino Macor is a true master of his trade, incorporating piano, Mellotron, organ, Moog, harpsicord, VCS 3, and "prepared piano" like a junior Wakeman or Banks. Vocalists Alessandro Corvaglia and Nadia Girardi do a wonderful job while not being mixed too far forward so as to dominate the music. Most of the time there is so much going on, so many layers in the songs' tapestries, that repeated listens reveal many, many nuances that are difficult to pick up upon first or cursory listens. This is good: the weaves are all beautifully orchestrated; I am never put off or overwhelmed by them. If there are weaknesses to the album they are 1) in the odd mix of individually-recorded sounds (a problem I find common with other Zuffanti projects) and 2) in the bass play: it's either cheezie pseudo-jazzy or over-the-top loud, distorted, and chunky.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Alessandro Corvaglia / lead & backing vocals
- Agostino Macor / Mellotron, piano, prepared piano, organ, Moog, harpsichord, VCS 3 synth
- Andrea Monetti / flute
- Fabio Zuffanti / bass, acoustic guitar, vocals (6,7)
- Marco Cavani / drums, timpani, percussion
- Nadia Girardi / vocals (3)

1. "La maschera di Cera" (19:21) is a six-part suite introducing the band and its old-instrument symphonic approach to prog. Italian, retro/neo, but really classic RPI. At 1:30 a gentle piano and acoustic guitar section supports Alessandro's gentle, passionate vocal. At the four minute mark a chunky bass and organ-led upbeat psychedelic section ensues (kind of like a STEPPENWOLF/ BLOOD, SWEAT & Tears sound) over which synthesizer and flute trade solos. Alessandro and piano get into the mix in the seventh minute. At 7:12 we fall into a little musical 'waiting room' in which the world seems at a standstill. At 8:16 strummed guitar and organ lead us back into a forward direction. Synthesizer and piano mirror their pretty playing while Alessandro begins a new section, new theme of his story. Flutes and synth posit some nice soli in this section. Then, at the 12 minute mark, things slow and soften again before Alessandro's big voice leads us into a heavier, more dynamic section--which becomes taken over by the repetition of a plodding distorted bass riff. Then at 13:54 another STEPPENWOLF kind of section with organ and flute screaming away takes us away. The shifts toward softer, gentler melody at the end is predictable and a little anti-climactic. The song is good, polished and straightforward, but nothing very extraordinary. (32/40)

2. "Del mio mondo che crolla" (6:00) opens with some very ehavy, distorted bass and clear, precise drumming before flutes and keys join in. The first keyboard soli are from "older" keyboard sounds (Casiotone?). The instrumentalists each sound like they are in their own recording studio, in their own worlds. Finally at the two minute mark things gel before a pause after which Alessio and Hammond organ take over. The slight shift back at 4:40 brings the music into solo-support mode--in which several brief soli take their turns. If I have one serious complaint with this song it's with the way the drums were recorded and mixed so that they feel totally 'isolated' from the rest of the song. They feel compressed or digitized while the rest feel 70s analog. Weird. Otherwise it's a cool little song. (9/10)

3. "Del mio abisso e del vuoto" (9:41) opens with some flute being supported by some drums and cheezy bass playing. Piano and guitar join in to continue the soft jazzy flow. Once Alessandro's voice joins in it is melodic but a little too gritty-scratchy-gravelly to add beauty to this beautiful music. Nadia Girardi's layers of floating, soaring wordless vocals in the seventh minute are an awesome touch. Kind of a cross between Clare Torey's "Great Gig in the Sky" and Irene Pappas' contributions to APHRODITE'S CHILD's 666. The final two minutes have some great Mellotron, flute, bass and vocal cohesion--maybe the best on the album--before chaos and cacophony become the ending of choice. Cool song. (18/20)

4. "Del mio volo" (7:07) opens as a gentle ballad with flute playing counterpoint to Alessandro's vocal. In the second minute a synth gets a chance to solo before the second verse takes over. The Mellotron play really hits some great chords at the beginning of the fourth minute and proceeds to play nicely beneath the ensuing longer synth solo. At 4:15 all instruments save for a gently picked acoustic guitar drop out while Alessandro slowly sings an emotional passage. Then an organ-led full band passage jumps into the fore, playing out a Dylan-esque dirge to the end. Nice song. (13.5/15)

The music and instrumentation are actually rather simple but effective--no wasted notes or noises and plenty of great melodies and chord progressions.

85.29 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent contribution to the world of progressive rock music.

Other Highly Recommended RPI Albums
(Other albums recommended by prog lovers)

LA MASCHERA DI CERA Petali di Fuoco (2009) -

Line-up / Musicians:
- Alessandro Corvaglia / vocals
- Agostino Macor / keyboards
- Andrea Monetti / flute 
- Fabio Zuffanti / bass, bass pedals
- Maurizio Di Tollo / drums, percussion, guitar (3)
- Matteo Nahum / guitar

1. Fino All'aurora (6:45) 
2. D-sigma (4:13) 
3. 4.18 (1:37) 
4. Discesa (7:32) 
5. Tra Due Petali Di Fuoco (6:06) 
6. L'Inganno (7:20) 
7. Agli Uomini Che Sanno Già Volare (4:36) 
8. Il Declino (5:44) 
9. Phoenix (5:07) 
10. La Notte Trasparente (7:47) 

Total time 56:47

IL BACIO DELLA MEDUSA Discesa agl'Inferi d'un Giovane Amante (2008) -

Line-up / Musicians:
- Simone Cecchini / lead & backing vocals, classical, 6- & 12-string acoustic guitars, tenor sax
- Simone Brozzetti / electric guitar
- Eva Morelli / flute, wind
- Daniele Rinchi / violin, viola
- Federico Caprai / bass
- Diego Petrini / drums, organ, keyboards, piano, vibraphone, percussion

1. Preludio: Il Trapasso (3:43) 
2. Confessione D'un Amante (3:05) 
3. La Bestia Ed Il Delirio (5:09) 
4. Recitativo: è Nel Buio Che Risplendono Le Stelle (3:58) 
5. Ricordi Del Supplizio (6:27) 
6. Nostalgia, Pentimento E Rabbia (6:59) 
7. Sudorazione A Freddo Sotto Il Chiaro Di Luna (6:03) 
8. Melencolia (5:39) 
9. E Fu Allora Che Dalle Fiamme Mi Sorprese Una Calda Brezza Celeste (3:22) 
10. Nosce Te Ipsum: La Bestia Ringhia In Noi (5:27) 
11. Corale Per Messa Da Requiem (3:54) 
12. Epilogo: Conclusione Della Discesa Agl'inferi D'un Giovane Amante (1:48) 

Total time 55:34



Line-up / Musicians:
- Alessandro Corvaglia / lead & backing vocals, vocal effects, 12-string acoustic guitar, tambourine
- Agostino Macor / Hammond & Crumar organs, Mellotron, grand piano, treated piano, Fender Rhodes w/ Davoli, synths, Theremin, electric harpsichord, VCS-3, RMI, spinet, celesta, clavinet, "Corvaglizer"
- Andrea Monetti / flute (transverse), recorder, acoustic & electric saxophones, effects
- Fabio Zuffanti / bass, bass pedals, frequency generator
- Maurizio Di Tollo / drums, percussion, bells, tympani

1. Porta del Cielo (1:10)
2. Doppia Immagine (7:49)
3. Un Senso All'Impossible (10:18) :
- a) teatro di follia
- b) il ricordo
4. Orpheus (4:45)
5. Nuova Luce (10:13) :
- a) passato
- b) sogno
- c) presente
- d) realtà
6. Enciclica 1168 (24:29) :
- a) Scena I: Preludio (Gennaio 17)
- b) Scena II: Caduta / Visione
- c) Scena III: Delitto
- d) Scena IV: Coscienza
- e) Scena V: Canto Pagano / Metamorfosi
- f) Scena VI: Dopo la pioggia
- g) Scena VII: Sterminio
- h) Scena VIII: Lumen In Coelo
- i) Scena IX: Postludio ( "così in alto è come in basso" )
7. Schema (v.s.d.) (3:41)

Total Time: 62:25

NOTABENE Sei Lacrime d'Ambra (2007)

Line-up / Musicians:
- Daniele Manerba / keyboards, choruses
- Giampietro Maccabiani / electric and classic guitarchitarra, mandolin
- Gianluca Avanzati / electric bass, stick
- Gustavo Pasini / drums, percussions, voices
- Andrea Alberici / lead vocalist

1. "La Revolution Bourgeoise (parte I) (6:41) (/10)
2. "Le Mistificazioni dell'Ombra (11:32) (/20)
3. "Maschera di Cera (4:43) (/10)
4. "Sei Lacrime d'Ambra" (7:14) theatric song with opera house piano and annoyingly fuzzy electric guitar. Every track/instrument feels overly amped while the vocals feel surprisingly loose and untreated. (/15)
5. "Il Treno di Obuda (16:05) (/30)
- Lo Scrigno dei Sogni
- Pensieri che Mutano
- Il Viaggio
- La Magia dell'Isola
- The Return of Life
6. "La Revolution Bourgeoise (parte II) (17:06) (/35)
- Il Sonno della Ragione Genera Mostri
- Intermezzo
- Bolero pour un Generation Defunte
- Il Ritorno

Total Time: 63:21

 IL CASTELLO DI ATLANTE Quintessenza (2003)

Line-up / Musicians:
- Aldo Bergamini / guitar, vocals
- Roberto Giordano / keyboards, vocals, composer
- Massimo Di Lauro / violin
- Franco Fava / bass 
- Paolo Ferrarotti / drums, vocals

1. "Non Puoi Fingere (12:17) (/25)
2. "Il Marinen Forgia Il Sampo (7:48) (/15) 
3. "Il Tempo A Venire (3:23) (/10)
4. "Cavalcando Tra Le Nuvole" (7:04) playful, folk-infused melody and weave opens what becomes a more symphonic rock instrumental. Violin takes the lead in the second minute and shares it a bit with keys (Hammond) and guitar. In the fifth minute everybody gets out of the way for a prolonged bass "solo" but then return to continue the romp. Happy-go-lucky song with a carefree attitude. (13/15)
5. "Questo Destino (14:57) (/30)
6. "Il Tempo A Venire (1:15) (/5)

Total Time: 46:46

UBI MAIOR Nostos (2005)

Line-up / Musicians:
- Mario Moi / vocals
- Stefano Mancarella / guitars
- Gabriele Manzini / piano, Hammond B3, keyboards
- Gualtiero Walter Gorreri / bass, vocals
- Alessandro Di Caprio / drums, percussion
Guest musician:
- Mauro Gnecchi / percussion

1. "Vendetta (9:27) (/20)
2. "Terra Madre (6:38) (/10) 
3. "Livia (3:12) (/10)
4. "Messia (9:40) (/20)
5. "Oltre il vetro (3:45) (/10)
6. "Nostos" (23:04) delicately picked electric guitar backed by synth washes and cymbal play open this Neo Prog GENESIS-like song. Mario Moi's vocals join in in the second minute. Very gentle and understated. Full band join in for the second verse as Mario slightly amps up his delivery. The organ solo after Mario's first chorus is quite simple and MatthewFisher/TonyBanksian. The quick succession of organ arpeggi beneath Mario's spoken word passage is cool--followed by soling electric guitar. The bass and drum play in the sixth minute are a bit at odds with the rest of the band's performances. Dynamic shifts play out, back and forth, over the next few minutes while the basic sound palette remains constant. There is a familiar NEKTAR passage in the eleventh minute with some really nice Genesis synth play and singing. At 11:50 there is a dramatic chord bridge which actually amounts to nothing new being added or introduced as we return to the previous palette and melody lines. At the end of the fifteenth minute there is the introduction of a very familiar theme and palette--a passage that feels as if it comes straight from IL BALLETTO DI BRONZO's classic 1972 album, Ys. At 17:50 this is replaced by a more Trespass GENESIS "The Knife" motif which lasts until the 21:0 mark when a kind of "let the Light in" melody and palette take over.  
     The song is pleasant enough, the music enjoyable and relaxing, there's just this lack of energy and pomp that I seem to be expecting/desiring. (39.25/45)
7. "La tua casa comoda (5:25) (/10) 

Total Time: 61:11

IL CHERCHIO D'ORO Il viaggio di Colombo (2008)

Neo RPI sounding very much like a Colossus-Musea spinoff. The sound here is very retro rock/proto-prog/early RPI.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Roberto Giordana / electric & slide guitars, backing vocals
- Piuccio Pradal / 12-string acoustic guitar, lead & backing vocals
- Franco Piccolini / piano, organ, keyboards, backing vocals
- Giuseppe Terribile / bass, acoustic guitar, lead & backing vocals
- Gino Terribile / drums, percussion, lead & backing vocals
- Simone Piccolini / acoustic guitar (4)
- Pino Paolino / whistles (4)
- "Friends and Family Choir" / chorus vocals (11)

1. "Ouverture" (2:40) keyboard and acoustic guitar intro. (4/5)
2. "Sognando la Meta" (4:54) very bluesy guitar searing in the lead position. The drums are recorded rather poorly. I like the down-to-earth vocal of lead vocalist. (8.75/10)
3. "Colombo" (4:49) base on a borrowed theme from EDGAR WINTER's "Frankenstein" (7.75/10)
4. "I Tre Marinai" (7:17) a mariner's tale using the acoustic guitars from PINK FLOYD's "Wish You Were Here" to set the scene. By 1:45 the chords and styles of the acoustic guitars have morphed into something more GENESIS-like--just in time for the vocals to enter. With the fretless bass, it's actually quite nice--but then a weird, quirky abrasive guitar-based passage disrupts--for a bit--before we return to the gentler 1960s feel of the acoustic guitars. That weird passage returns for guitar soli before the song ends with a fuller version of the pastoral theme. (12/15)
5. "Ieri, Oggi, Ancora Niente" (5:54) interesting mix of styles, as if experimenting with Gentle Giant and other early prog styles. Slightly jazzy, slightly bluesy, slightly classic rock, slightly ELPian. I kind of like it despite its unfinished/unpolished feel. (8.5/10)
6. "Il Silenzio Rumoroso del Mare" (7:10) opens like a keyboard-centered jazz vamp over which fuzzy guitar solos. Yet another lead vocalist enters. He's not quite as well-trained, skilled, or confident as the previous vocalists. Then, suddenly, the song turns into a kind of Mellotron waltz before shifting back into Drive for the more impassioned second verse. At the 3:00 mark we again have another sudden stop. The bass and distant fuzz guitar are held together by thick, slowly delivered keyboard notes. Kind of cool in a dramatic Pink Floyd way. The red light is over and we race off again into a YES/CSN&Y group vocal passage. Weirdly likable in a "Certain Smile" kind of way. (13/15)
7. "Preghiera al Vento" (2:18) picked 12-string guitar with organ & piano beneath vocal. 1960s proto-prog folk comes to mind (even Rod Stewart). (4.25/5)
8. "Tre Giorni (l'Ammutinamento)" (3:36) multiple electric guitar and piano charge fast and furious into the fray with bass and drums holding the pace--until 0:45 when piano and Hammond hold out to support multiple lead voices singing in harmony. (8.25/10)
9. "Tierra ! Tierra !" (4:13) feels like a filler song. (7.75/10)
10. "Cercando l'Approdo" (3:57) a keyboard étude? At least until 1:20 when strummed 12-string joins in, then it becomes bluesy early Pink Floyd. (8.25/10)
11. "Conclusione (il Ritorno)" (2:17) keyboard flute and guitars. Sounds like something from Paolo Farina's 2014 HUMANA PROG album. Not terrible. Like a family finish. (4.25/5)

Total Time: 49:05

Unpolished music from a group of musicians in love with the early, early days of progressive rock music. 

82.62 on the Fishscales = C/three stars; a fair representation of RPI but nothing that anyone needs to hear.

In doing all of these reviews for my 21st Century and "Classic Era" RPI pages, I've come to the conclusion that, overall, RPI is a rather challenging sub-genre of progressive rock music for me: it's usually a bit too dense and bombastic for my tastes; there is a theatric/often operatic infusion to the music and its presentation that challenges my musical likes. As a whole, I think one would find my average ratings for RPI albums to be lower than, say, those for the Zeuhl, Prog Folk, or Jazz-Rock Fusion subs. I feel badly for these albums--for the musicians are obviously quite accomplished and serious in their efforts--but, in general, the Italian vision for Rock Progressivo is not shared by me (though it is definitely appreciated). 

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