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Old 10-13-2022, 09:20 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Words Get in the Way: Trollheart's Reviews of Instrumental Albums

There are few albums harder to review than instrumental ones. I mean, sure, if you're a musician you might be able to describe all the music, but even so that's going to sound boring. Without lyrics to talk about, without any themes or ideas what the songs are about, what's left to write? Well, I've managed to review quite a few instrumental albums - or sometimes almost all instrumental; maybe there might be one vocal track or some sample or sound effects, but to all intents and purposes the album would still be regarded as instrumental - and to be honest, yes, it's been a challenge but it's also quite a triumph when I get it right.

If you can get from my writing a basic idea of what the album is, what it sounds like and what it is I think it sets out to do, then my review has, I think, been successful. Of course, almost every genre has its instrumental offerings, and I've reviews post-rock, prog, ambient, classical, electronic and other genres, but let's get going with one of my favourites, which mixes a sort of classical sensibility with rock overtones, and which made the band temporarily in vogue for a while back in the early 1980s.

Sky 2 - Sky - 1980 (Arista)


I believe this was the first fully instrumental album I ever owned, and it's still one of my favourites. I bought it after hearing what was their single in the charts at the time, "Tocatta", of which much more later, and though a lot of the album is not really anything near the updated, rocky treatment they gave poor old Bach, it's pretty much a winner all round, and there's kind of something for everyone on the album. If you like classical music, progressive rock with a twist, jazz or even instrumental pop music (think Hooked on Classics and you're somewhere close) then you're probably going to find at least one track on this album that you'll enjoy. If nothing else, you can luxuriate in the meshing talents of five musicians from pretty much wildly varying genres, all at the top of their game, all coming together to produce something pretty special, and something, to be fair, they would not repeat or reproduce ever again. A unique album, in many ways, and worth taking the over sixty minutes it runs for to listen to.

So, who are, or rather were, Sky? Nowadays of course it's BSkyB, the satellite megamonster broadcaster, who almost have a copyright on that thing that hangs over each of us, you know, the one with the sun, the moon and the stars in it? But back in 1980 Sky the channel were only really getting going, and were in fact under threat from Superchannel (a battle the latter lost) and Sky the band were hitting the charts with a number one album and a number five hit single. Seems unlikely these days, but back then a lot of off-the-wall stuff could get into the charts; in fact, in some ways, the quirkier and more different it was the more chance there was that people would buy it, if only out of curiosity or for the novelty factor. Also of course explains why songs like Clive Dunne's (may he rest in peace) "Grandad" got to number one! But occasionally among the novelty and specialty records there was one that stood out, and Sky's "Tocatta" was one such. Still, I once again get ahead of myself.

Sky were formed around 1978 when classical guitarist John Williams (no, not that one!) collaborated with bass player Herbie Flowers, who had played with T-Rex, and Tristan Fry, a drummer whose impressive resume included work with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, both of whom had worked on Williams's solo debut album and were then joined by Francis Monkman, founder of Curved Air, to help him record his second, and thereafter bringing in guitarist Kevin Peek they formed the band which they named Sky. Their debut under this name was released in 1979 to great acclaim. It was their second however that would bring them their biggest success, and conversely, a highpoint which their career would not scale again. Sky 2 was the point where the band realised, hey, this is not just a project between like-minded guys: people actually like this music we're making! The debut was I suppose akin to throwing out feelers, or if you prefer casting a net into a wide and possibly uncaring sea, whereas Sky 2 was a huge haul of delicious and valuable proportions that made the boat heave as they pulled it aboard.

Ah, fishing metaphors, eh? Ya shoulda seen the one wot got away! But the trouble was that Sky didn't keep this rather balanced mix of classical updates, straight classical recordings, prog rock and jazz with a smidgeon of pop and easy listening. On their next album they tried pushing the jazz element more, this mostly brought about by the departure of Francis Monkman, who had been their main composer, and though the album was popular - and Sky the band remained so - their attraction was beginning to wane a little. But more of that in the closing section. Right here we're concerned with this album, their second, Sky 2, and how it just ticks all the right boxes and became a minor classic, one of the few fully instrumental albums to top the UK charts.

The album is a double, and opens on "Hotta", with some bouncy percussion and almost Alan Parsons-style guitar joined by synthy keyboard building up in intensity and creating a nice boppy little tune, with a strong guitar line and some slick bass. Some very proggy keyboard runs from Monkman take over then, leaning into Jean-Michel Jarre territory for a time, before Peek's squealing guitar comes back in and Williams joins him on classical guitar. Near the end of the piece Tristan Fry cuts loose with a drum solo that would probably have raised some disapproving eyebrows back at the Royal Philharmonic, but here adds teeth to the composition before Peek takes over again with Flowers keeping the tight bassline and bringing the opener, er, to a close. "Dance of the Little Fairies", despite its giggle-inducing title, is a soft little piano piece that showcases the talent of Francis Monkman with some harpsichordal sounding keyboards too, and Kevin Peek adding in guitar flourishes while Flowers' steady bassline pulses through it all like a heartbeat.

A carnival-like organ then fleshes the song out as it gets a little more intense and some fine guitar from John Williams adds to it, and for a piece that only runs just slightly over three and a half minutes it's got a lot going on. "Sahara" then is Kevin Peek's composition, the only one he writes solo on the album, and it starts off as a nice little laidback guitar piece with twinkling piano before Fry's percussion bursts in and the piano gets harder, the whole thing then taking off on the back of Peek's chingling (what? It's a word I made up) guitar, with a very Spanish/Mediterranean sound to it. You really get a sense of how good a guitarist Kevin Peek is here as he puts his instrument through its paces, slowing down as we head for the third minute of the almost seven the tune runs for, with a beautifully relaxing display of virtuosity, an island of calm in the storm, the oasis in the desert. Fry's drumming is big and bold here, and Monkman's piano tinkles along the edges, adding to but never detracting from or overpowering the guitar, the whole thing taking on quite a progressive rock feel again in the fifth minute, shades of mid-seventies Genesis, before on the back of Fry's punching, rolling drums it all ramps up again to the frenetic conclusion.

The longest track on the album, composed completely by Francis Monkman, "Fifo" runs for over seventeen minutes and is broken into four separate parts. Part I, known as "First movement: Fifo" is driven by Kevin Peek's electric guitar allied to Herbie Flowers' funky bass and Tristan Fry's at times almost Linn-sounding drumming, and moves along at a fine pace until the second part, or movement, "Adagio", not surprisingly, slows everything down on the back of classical guitar and piano, almost mirroring the sound of a feather falling, that sort of light, airy feel to the music, very little if any percussion at all, then "Scherzo", the third movement kicks it all back up again as a real rocky beat driven by Fry and Flowers takes the piano and organ, and accompanying guitars, into overdrive. More elements of Genesis and the Alan Parsons Project detectable in this melody, which gets quite insistent compared to the first two movements and slips into my favourite movement, the final one, "Watching the Aeroplanes". Opening on a breathy, swirling keyboard passage almost like tubular bells at times, Peek's guitar cuts in and Fry's percussion hammers the way as the composition reaches its conclusion. Some great work from Peek and some fine, steady basswork from Flowers, lovely bit of guitar from Williams and the whole thing just fades down nicely then.

After that phenomenal piece, "Tuba Smarties" comes as a bit of a letdown, though it's fun I suppose, with Herbie Flowers adding tuba playing to his talents, and Tristan Fry taking the trumpet. The whole thing is, of course, arranged around a melody on the tuba (never the easiest of instruments to write for, I would imagine) and is performed live and with a certain comic twist, and for what it is I suppose it's well played, but to me it stands apart from the rest of the music on the album, and not in a good way. I'm not a huge fan of tuba music anyway. Tubad for me I guess. Sorry. The next three pieces are straight-ahead classical compositions, the first and third with some rearranging by John Williams, though "Gavotte and Variations" is left as it was when originally written. If you don't like classical music (shame on you!) you may as well skip these three tracks, as they're not really changed or modernised in any way.

"Ballet- Volta" is of course a chance for John Williams to shine at what he does best: classical guitar playing classical music, and though laid back and chamber music it's a joy to hear. Towards the end it gets a little more lively, the guitar getting somewhat harder and more forceful, but it still sounds like something lords and ladies would dance to in the olden days. Sticking with that basic theme, "Gavotte and Variations" seems to be played mostly on harpsichord and acoustic guitar, with a very medieval feeling to it, getting a little faster as it goes along, with some fine piano and/or harpsichord playing by Monkman. It's the longest of the three classical pieces, clocking in at just over six minutes, while "Andante" is a beautiful slow classical guitar piece which perfectly complements the somewhat overlong and at times boring preceding track.

"Tristan's Magic Garden" seems to be mostly played on something like glass harp, vibes or marimba, but I couldn't say which: may even just be voices on the synthesiser. But it gives a lovely effect of wind blowing across the desert, or a garden indeed, and it's very relaxing and laidback. Fry then shows his talent as a timpanist - a position he occupies with the RPO - in a dazzling display of percussion that takes the whole piece up several notches, with what could very well be a xylophone in there too. "El Cielo" then is another chance for Williams to display his talent on his instrument of choice, with fluting keyboards added by Monkman in another soft, lazy piece that just makes you think of blue skies and summer days. Sort of an accordion sound about the keys, very nice.

Kevin Peek gets to add his guitar to the mix too, and Fry's sussurating, sighing cymbals really do sound like breakers on the shore. "Vivaldi" then is obviously a tribute to the man, with snippets of the Four Seasons mixed up in a sort of classic rock interpretation of the master's work, heavy rolling percussion from Fry and sharp guitar from Peek and Williams backed up by solid keyboards from Monkman, thundering along as it goes, the whole piece very evocative of the punchy, urgent style of Antonio Vivaldi and ending on a fine guitar riff, taking us into the other large composition. Although broken into two parts, "Scipio" shows no distinction between the two, and runs for a total of just over eleven minutes, opening on an uptempo classical guitar melody, joined by bouncy percussion and some inventive bass from Herbie Flowers then some very soft and classical piano from Monkman, before he changes to full keyboards and punches it right up, the tempo rocking along nicely now, the classical guitar more or less subsumed by Kevin Peek's burgeoning electric, then some squelchy synth and hopping piano as the classical guitar of Williams makes a return.

Some very videogames-sounding keyboards from Monkman and there's more of the prog rock feel to this as it goes along, with some funky basslines from Flowers. I really can't say, as I already mentioned, where part one becomes part two, but it's not really that necessary to know, as it's just a really nice piece of music, only let down, in my opinion, by the damp squib ending, where after building up to a big guitar and keyboards crescendo it all just sort of falls away to an annoying little fiddle-type sound on the keys and just, well, fades off into the distance rather quickly. Ah, but then there's "Tocatta"...

Bringing the album to a powerful and triumphant close is the piece that hit the charts for Sky in single form, and which brought them to my attention via that single. A rearrangement of Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor", it's probably well known to most people by now, but in case you don't know it, it's a fast, rocky update of the classical piece, with great guitar runs and some fine synthwork, rolling, thundering percussion and it's a perfect ending to the album, bringing together the two main elements of Sky, classical music and uptempo rock arrangements.

TRACK LISTING

1. Hotta
2. Dance of the Little Fairies
3. Sahara
4. Fifo
(i) First Movement: Fifo
(ii) Second Movement: Adagio
(iii) Third Movement: Scherzo
(iv) Fourth Movement: Watching the aeroplanes
5. Tuba Smarties
6. Ballet - Volta
7. Gavotte and Variations
8. Andante
9. Tristan's Magic Garden
10. El Cielo
11. Vivaldi
12. Scipio, Parts 1 & 2
13. Tocatta

As I mentioned earlier, this was the album that "broke" Sky, if you can use such a word for a stellar collection of musicians who probably really didn't care if they made it big as Sky: each had his own separate and very successful career already. But this was the album that probably surprised many pundits by getting to number one and, more amazingly, giving the band a top five single. After this, however, the very nature of Sky seems to have been their undoing. Bucking the old maxim of "if it ain't broke don't fix it", they had found a formula that worked - quite I'm sure to their surprise - and immediately set about changing it. Sky 3, their third album released the year following this, not only saw the departure of Francis Monkman but also pushed the band in a more traditionally jazz direction, while their fourth went one step further, consisting only of arrangements of classical compositions, no original material at all.

By now, Sky's popularity was on the wane. The fickle public, attracted to the different sound of the band, had begun to get bored as the novelty wore off, and those who were not fans of jazz failed to buy or at least enjoy the third album, while those not overly pushed about classical were loathe to invest in the fourth album. By the time their fifth album, the first not to be numbered, rolled around at the end of 1983, people weren't really interested any more and Cadmium sold poorly. Added to this the fact that John Williams, founder and leading light of the band, departed after the album and Sky were on the road to winding down really. Their sixth album was released to little relative fanfare in 1985, with several "guest stars", one of whom was Rick Wakeman, but interest was definitely leaking away and they recorded their last album, a tribute to Mozart, in 1987.

Although Sky never officially broke up, there has been no new recorded output from them for over twenty years now, so effectively they may as well have split. Perhaps someday they may reform, who knows, but for now Sky 2 stands as a testament to their brief and unexpected worldwide popularity, showing the jaded record label executives and columnists that there was still room in the world for an instrumental band who revered classical and jazz music. Never equalled, never bettered, this album is a prime example of a zenith achieved but never repeated. The glory days of Sky. It all seems such a long time ago now.
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Old 10-18-2022, 01:52 PM   #2 (permalink)
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The penny’s just dropped that you’re talking about Francis Monkman and Steve Gray. I’m more familiar with the Monkman and Gray of KPM and Bruton. Was library music their bread and butter, and they embarked upon adventures such as Sky to experiment and express themselves further, rather than the other way round?
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Old 10-18-2022, 02:20 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Yeah like I say, I believe this was a sort of side-project, an idea of "let's get together and see what we can do" rather than something they needed to do to support themselves. Most if not all of them were already well established in various genres and respected musicians, and I kind of think the original success of the second album took them by surprise.
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Old 10-18-2022, 03:00 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Cheers for the insight, TH. And congrats for reviewing an instrumental album!
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Old 10-18-2022, 03:42 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Thanks! More to come...
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Old 10-18-2022, 07:48 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Oceanic - Vangelis - 1996 (WEA/Atlantic)


Without question one of not only my favourite Vangelis albums, but a favourite to fall asleep to, or just relax to as well. Oceanic is themed, not surprisingly, around the ocean and the sea, and such is Vangelis's talent and skill that not only do the titles reflect this, you can hear it in his music. Opening with the sound of surf rolling at the beach, this soon gives way to a cinematic introduction, all rolling drums, string sections (probably played by the man himself on several banks of synthesisers), swelling and falling like the very sea itself captured in music. Stirring stuff, and it leads neatly into the first real track, “Siren's Whispering”, featuring choral voices sounding like (as presumably they're meant to sound) mermaids, enticing the listener in until he or she is lost in the music, floundering and drowning, and quite happy about it. The music reaches for you, wraps around you and drags you under, and for just over 50 minutes you're in another world, sailing the oceans and exploring the undersea depths with Vangelis's music as your guide and companion.

The music itself is never anything less than relaxing and restful, making this perhaps Vangelis's most “new age” recording, where he eschews the stabbing keyboard chords, drum machines and the more electronic synth sound for an album which is much more organic, where you can almost imagine a full orchestra playing the symphony of the sea. An environmentally friendly musical experience, indeed.

As you might expect on such a concept album, each track flows into the next, like the sea itself, and if it isn't the actual music that melds the tracks it's the ocean sounds as they flow from track to track, the pulsating, living heartbeat of the album, the natural glue that holds it all together, the musical map that takes you on your journey and never misses a step. The music is never less than beautiful, and I defy anyone to remain in a stressed-out, bad mood after listening to this: it's the perfect antidote to a bad day at the office.

“Dreams of Surf” slips in almost unnoticed from the previous track, a truly lovely piano carrying the tune as it gently caresses your ears and seems to waft you along on the calm seas, flutes and what sounds like a harp taking it out to wider seas, and then inward towards shore, where “Spanish Harbour”, with its rolling synth and gorgeous Spanish guitar washes over you, gentle percussion taking the track to its conclusion, where once again we put out to sea as “Islands of the Orient” picks up the pace just ever so slightly, with some lovely piano and synth runs, some bassy piano chords giving this piece just a little more bite. It's also one of the longer tracks on the album, clocking in at just over seven minutes. The drums get going here, whereas up to now they have just been keeping the beat. Here, they come to the fore a little more, underlining the track and marking its departure from that which has gone before. As it comes to an end, “Islands” momentarily sounds a somewhat more ominous tone than previous tracks, before all is suddenly and gently restored as “Fields of Coral”, the longest track on the album by a few seconds, comes into play.

Carried on an echoing synth-line, the track ebbs and flows, and you definitely get the impression of diving undersea to watch the many-coloured shoals of fish dart among the coral reefs beneath the ocean. There are slight echoes of “Alpha” from Heaven and Hell here, just the barest remembrances. It's actually quite amazing how a track that lasts for seven minutes and forty-three seconds can flow along on basically the one theme, the one melody, and yet never get boring or samey. True genius at work. It seems Vangelis never has to work to make his music meaningful: it just seems to happen in the same way as day follows night, and the sun rises. Effortless, or so he makes it seem.

The final minute (yes, a full minute) of the track is taken up by the sounds of surf and wind, with just the tiniest of keyboard notes here and there to accompany it to the end, then the pace lifts again slightly for “Aquatic Dance”, with the return of the choral voices from “Sirens' Whispering”, some lovely harp-sounding runs, steady heartbeat bass and sad violin - one can almost imagine the lovely mermaids or sirens performing their hypnotic dance in the sea, to attract unwary sailors. The track ends on a sad fluting sound which takes us into the endgame, as “Memories of Blue” begins, with its almost retrospective of what we have experienced on this journey, taken along by crystal clear piano, its notes floating on the breeze as we sail along, turning now towards home, our journey almost at an end.

As our home harbour drifts into sight, “Song of the Seas” takes us there, the sounds of surf and seagulls and wind wafting us closer, Spanish guitar leading us along as the percussion clicks gently in the background like a metronome, counting out the beats as we sail towards our home once again. The album ends, as it began, with the sounds of the sea breaking against the shoreline, and our journey is over.

It's hard to review a Vangelis album to be honest. He does everything: there's no band to single out, he composes all the music and he also produces his own albums, so it's in every sense of the word a one-man-band, but what a band! The music really has to be heard to be properly appreciated: no words I've written here can ever do justice to the beautiful tapestries Vangelis weaves with his music, so if you're unsure then click on the YT below. If you're having trouble sleeping, need to relax or just want an album that will make you forget, for nearly an hour, the rat race, then Oceanic is one you should definitely have in your collection.

TRACK LISTING

1. Bon Voyage
2. Sirens' Whispering
3. Dreams of Surf
4. Spanish Harbour
5. Islands of the Orient
6. Fields of Coral
7. Aquatic Dance
8. Memories of Blue
9. Song of the Seas


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZe_7440NfI
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Old 01-02-2023, 08:33 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Ulisse: l’alfiere nero - Progenesi

I’ve plenty of time for instrumental albums, even if they are a little harder to review than ones with vocals. But there is an inherent problem here.

This is a concept album. Now I know the likes of Rick Wakeman, even Vangelis have created instrumental concept albums, but I have always found it hard to follow a story when there are no words. This, apparently, is based on the journeys of ancient Roman hero Ulysses. better known perhaps by his Greek name, Odysseus, from which comes the title of Greek playwright and poet Homer’s “The Odyssey”. I love Greek myth - all myth really - and I feel like I’m going to be unintentionally cheated on this album, because first of all I won’t be able to follow any concepts just by the music and secondly, even if it were a vocal album it would be in Italian most likely, so there’s no way I could follow it.

But such it is, and if we try to leave aside the concept (hah!) of the concept album, and just concentrate on the music Progenesi play, then perhaps we can approach this album from a different angle and appreciate it on its own merits, rather than compare it to something like Hostsonaten’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which does use vocals, and English ones too. With a name like Progenesi you’re probably expecting a lot of the style of Genesis in their music, and you would not be disappointed. Or you would, if instead of expecting you were dreading. But I have a feeling the word in Italian means something like firstborn or something like that, so the similarities to Collins, Gabriel, Banks and Rutherford may not be actually inferred from the name of the band. But it doesn’t stop them sounding at times like an Italian Genesis. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing depends on your view on the progressive rock giants.

We’ve only got six tracks, and “La gioia della pace” starts us off with a riproaring ride on the keyboards, very Marillion on “Market Square Heroes” I find, boppy and uptempo with some nice guitar. It’s no surprise that the album is so keyboard-driven when you learn that the man behind the keys, Guilio Stromendo, is also the composer of this whole thing. Great work on the Hammond joins the busy synths as Omar Ceriotti drives the beat along behind the drumkit. It all slows down near the end to give way to soft piano and the first taste of sweet violin, provided by guest musician Eloisa Manera, and with the sounds of tinkling piano and some pizzicato strings we’re off to “La strategia” (I think even I can translate that one) where honky-tonk piano gives way to brassy synth in a sort of dramatic, upfront sort of melody with some staccato drumming from Ceriotti.

It slows down about halfway with a marching drumbeat and sparkly keys in quite a Yes vein, and rather interestingly at the end they rip off the ending from the full-length version of Prince’s “Purple Rain”, but Manera does it so tastefully it doesn’t seem like it’s being copied. A beautiful slow piano and cello from Issei Watanabe, another guest, takes “Il blue della notte”, which is either blue night or blue north. My Italian is crap, basically nonexistent. A nice jazzy keyboard rhythm then unfolds, with for pretty much the first time really that I can hear the guitar of Patrik Matrone making itself heard, and very good it is too. Stromendo though soon reasserts his somewhat iron grip over the composition and it’s Hammonds, pianos and synths all the way. We then get a boogie blues tune in the third minute, with another eight still to go.

Again Matrone comes in and adds his flourishes to the music, and they’re welcome. I love keys but this album is perhaps a little too concentrated on one instrument, and no matter how well it’s played that eventually gets a little jaded, which is why it’s nice when the violin or cello break through, or as here, the odd guitar solo or passage. The longest track on the album, there’s no denying the quality here, and to think this is a debut effort is pretty stunning: these guys sound like they’ve been at this for years. Always the measure of a good epic or even long track, it’s heading towards the end and it sure doesn’t seem like it’s been eleven minutes.

Technically that is the longest track, but the next two almost go together and if you add them then their combined length is five minutes over the previous one. “Il rosso della notte” (which I think may mean “the north wind”? Don’t know where that came from, but somewhere in my mind it’s saying the word rosso is wind in Italian?) is split into two parts, with part one being a fast, almost frenetic ride along Hammond and keyboard rails, slabs of church organ thrown in there too and a thumping drumbeat accompanying it all. Great to hear Matrone cut loose with a real rocker of a solo too, but Stromendo isn’t prepared to let him have the limelight for long and is soon back in front. To be fair to him he’s a wonderful keyboard player; I just wish he wasn’t so almost dictatorial about the band, or at least this is how he seems. Maybe they’re happy playing the little bits he gives them. Hmm, yeah. You ever know a musician, especially a guitarist, who was content to stay in the shadows?

I am hoping we get some more of that beautiful cello and that exquisite violin though before the album ends, and as we head into part two and it all slows down with an eerie, otherworldly atmosphere I think perhaps we may meet up with them again here. It’s dark piano to set us off though and then climbing, dramatic synth backing it before Matrone gets to reel off a lovely acoustic guitar piece and yes, there they are, the sumptuous violin of Eloisa Manera and the stately cello of Issei Watanabe. Just beautiful. An extended keyboard solo by Stromendo leads into a nice duet with Matrone and Manera’s violin is there adding its colour too. Then the bass of Daio Giubileo finally gets a moment to shine before the man behind the keyboard is off again, kicking up the tempo and pulling everyone along with him in yet another superb solo, and everything slows right down and fades away, with the first (and probably only) spoken words (in Italian of course) as the song draws to a close.

A powerful finish then as “Un grand eroe” (I assume “a great hero”) bounces along on exuberant keys and some unfettered guitar from Matrone, sort of a reprise of the basic melody of the opener, with the violin and cello also making their voices heard. This is also a long song, just over ten minutes, and goes through some changes, slowing down after the third, then picking up on rippling piano and Hammond in the fifth, some of the piano semi-jazzy. And again we’re six minutes into the ten before I even know it. I think I could listen to these guys all day. In for the big finish then and really this album could hardly be any better, unless it had more guitar or strings in it. But what’s this? Even the drummer gets to rack off a solo right at the end. Maybe this guy Stromendo is not such a tyrant after all!

Whether he is or not, Guilio Stromendo has here put together one hell of a band and a debut that sets the benchmark for RPI for the future. I predict great things for Progenesi. Superb, absolutely superb.

TRACK LISTING

1. La gioia della pace
2. la strategia
3. Il blue della notte
4. Il rosso della notte, part 1
5. Il rosso della notte, part 2
6. Un grand eroe

In a way, I’m kind of sorry I discovered that this is a concept album, because when I just listened to it before researching anything about it I could really enjoy it for what it was. I still can, of course, but now I’m left trying to tie the great music into the story of the Greek hero, and while it’s not impossible it is a little difficult and leaves me perhaps not concentrating so much on the music and more on the plot of the album. But even if you ignore that - and you probably should, unless you’re a musician and can see where Stromendo is coming from here - you will find it hard to deny that this album is pure musical gold all the way through.

Really. It’s rare to find an album, much less a debut, much much less an instrumental one, that has literally no bad tracks. There’s nearly always one that mars what could otherwise be a perfect record. But here, everything is a gem. There’s not one track I can find fault with and I am quite in awe not only of the proficency of these guys --- I know some of them came from other bands, so it’s not like they’re a bunch of sixteen-year-old kids coming together for the first time, but it’s still mighty impressive --- but of the composing skills of Giuilo Stromendo. I may not know what his vision is, or what passages are meant to represent what, but with his bandmates here he has created an album to rival the best in current prog, and even give the old masters a run for their money.
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