Tuesday, 30 November 2021

VOICES IN THE HEAD

Mad Fellaz III is the third album by Mad Fellaz and was self-released in 2019 with a renewed line up featuring Paolo Busatto (electric and acoustic guitar), Marco Busatto (drums), Ruggero Burigo (electric guitar, electric sitar), Carlo Passuello (bass), Enrico Brunelli (electric and acoustic piano, synthesizers, Hammond organ, Mellotron), Rudy Zilio (flute, sax, synthesizers, backing vocals), Lorenzo Todesco (percussion) and Luca Brighi (lead and backing vocals) plus some guests such as Luca Ardini (sax), Davide Baratto (12 string acoustic guitar), Jacopo Mazzarolo (oboe), Mattia Marangon (French horn), Sergio Orso (violin), Louise Antonello (violin), Elena Ceccato (viola) and Rolando Moro (cello). During the recording sessions they were helped by producer Fabio Trentini (Moonbound, Le Orme) and the result is a rich, colourful and refined sound that emphasizes the skills of the musicians. In some way this work can be considered a concept album telling the story of a man who tries to fight against his madness. All the pieces follow a thread and the artwork by Marco Tosin could give a clue of its musical and lyrical content... 
 

The opener “Es / Frozen Side” starts by a frenzied instrumental section, then the mood becomes dark as the music and lyrics evoke the inner voices haunting the protagonist, invasive ghosts tormenting him, sneaking into his dreams in the frozen side of his brain. He can’t stand it any more, he tries to escape but there’s no way out, his inner demons want to take control of him and surround his consciousness suggesting to surrender with soothing words... All in all, madness is a friend!
 

The melancholic “Leaf” describes the protagonist wandering around like a leaf lost in the wind, a broken man waiting for his chance but with no master plan to escape... Then the following “Liquid Bliss” with its Latin rock influences and an electric guitar solo that could recall Santana conjures up subtle, diabolical temptations... Have a drink and relax! But alcohol addiction or the use of other chemical substances can’t save the protagonist from his inner ghosts...



Next comes “Fumes From The Ruins”, an excellent short instrumental track with a melancholic, dreamy atmosphere that leads to the folksy “Under These Clouds”, a beautiful piece that begins by a soft acoustic guitar arpeggio, then soaring vocals and a good flute work depict a growing inner emptiness that makes the protagonist cry and feel terribly bad... He’s stuck under grey clouds of sadness, his world seems nasty, he left behind his memories, he lost everything, and now there’s no one that can rescue him... 
 
The dramatic “Frost” begins with a mysterious mood and an Oriental flavour, then the pace accelerates as anger blurs the sight... The protagonist wants to escape but he can’t. A softer, dreamy middle section follows but the dream soon turns into nightmare and the rhythm rises again, faster and faster, he’s falling down, breaking down. When the rhythm calms down he realizes that we’re all passengers on a train that somebody calls life. Now he feels cold, he can’t tell anguish from happiness, all the bridges have been burnt and now he’s alone and cries his eyes out because he doesn’t want to die...
 
Mad Fellaz on stage, 2019

Sweet Silent Oblivion” starts by acoustic guitar and flute. The mood is dreamy, memories fade away. The protagonist got out of control, his mind opened to the evil waves and he was dragged down... Then the rhythm rises announcing a last desperate struggling to survive but a spectral marching beat leads to a finale where you can guess who the winner is... “Monsters are real. Ghosts are too. They live inside of us, and sometimes, they win...” (quote from Stephen King, The Shining).
 
On the whole, a very good work!
 
You can listen to the complete album HERE

Mad Fellaz: Mad Fellaz III (2019). Other opinions:

Owen Davies: Whilst there is great variation on display in III, and many of the tunes have gratifying elements, the decision to combine exhilarating instrumental sections full of genre busting complexity, within what are essentially relatively straightforward vocal tunes does not always work fully. There were times when I felt that the vocal sections and melodies, which accompanied these sections, sounded unremarkable and in essence had traits, which identified them as just another prog band... (Read the complete review HERE)
 
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Monday, 29 November 2021

IN THE COURT OF THE YELLOW KING

Jana Draka began life in Cosenza in 2014 on the initiative of Valerio Magli, inspired by bands such as Dream Theater, Tool, Gentle Giant, PFM, Genesis, Jethro Tull, Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, Pink Floyd, Steven Wilson, Haken, King Crimson or Goblin. The first line up featured along with Valerio Magli (guitar) also Luigi Conte (drums), Lorenzo Cecchetti (bass) and Danilo Pantusa (guitar) later joined by Francesco Straface (piano, keyboards). They soon started to play live on the local scene and in 2016 recorded a demo EP entitled Introspection. Unfortunately, this first line up didn’t last long and in 2018 the only two remaining members, Vincenzo Magli and Danilo Pantusa, left their home city and decided to relocate in Rome recruiting new musicians to give form to their musical ideas. In 2019 the new line up featuring Valerio Magli (lead vocals, bass), Danilo Pantusa (guitar, backing vocals), Giorgio Belluscio (keyboards, backing vocals), Federico Aramini (piano, organ, keyboards) and Valentina D'Angelo (drums, percussion) digitally self-released an interesting full length debut album entitled Where The Journey Begins where all the musicians involved give their contribute with competence and passion.


 
The short opener, “Overture”, is a beautiful, classical inspired instrumental track for piano solo that leads to the introspective “Coming Home” that depicts a strange dream where the protagonist, following the call of his consciousness, begins an endless journey towards another dimension, beyond time and space, where the concept of reality crumbles leaving room to fading memories and distorted visions...

Next comes the disquieting “Salem”, a piece that was inspired by the stories of H.P. Lovecraft and by a series of hearings and prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft in colonial Massachusetts between February 1692 and May 1693. It’s divided into two parts. In the first one we can hear the voice of a haughty, exalted bishop exorcising a witch and condemning her to the stake. Then it’s the turn of the witch (interpreted by the guest vocalist Sara Mun) who sings of ancient, unknown gods and of damned men that had the misfortune to read the Necronomicon... 
 

 
“The Outsider” is another dark track and was inspired by a H.P. Lovecraft story of the same name about a man who has been living alone in a castle for as long as he can remember and decides to break free in search of human contact and light. The music blends Gothic atmospheres and Pink Floyd echoes while the lyrics evoke cold and loneliness describing the walls of the castle and its empty rooms, a prison of solitude and sorrow...

The melancholic “A Gem’s Last Moment”, divided into two parts, is a heartfelt elegy for a brother who passed away too soon and a sad reflection about the force of destiny. Too often life can depend on the face of a coin tossed in the air... It leads to “Carcosa”, a piece inspired by Robert W. Chambers’ literary work, a piece that begins by narrative vocals reciting the "Cassilda's Song" from The King in Yellow, Act 1, Scene 2. Then the rhythm rises leading you into the storm, towards the mysterious city where satyrs dance and the Yellow King rules under a black tower...

Jana Draka, 2020
 
The long, complex “Limbo” is divided into three parts and starts by a delicate piano solo passage and soaring vocals that draw melancholic atmospheres filled with fading memories and painful regrets. Then, as the rhythm rises memories and regrets turn into a raging sense of sin and guilt for a broken relationship and its heavy burden of betrayed dreams...

The ethereal “Daydream” is an acoustic piece that deals with the spell of a charming song that leaves you speechless. Captured by its notes your mind takes off towards unknown, unearthly places where you can experience heavenly sensations and a deep feeling of inner peace...

The mysterious “Awaken” is another piece with a dark, epic atmosphere that seems coming out from the pages of H.P. Lovecraft. It evokes the advent of a new era that will break the seal of the illusionary sleep enveloping the humankind and let old terrible gods rise again and storm into our world through the crimson gates of a nightmare... Then the more reassuring notes of the piano solo “Notturno” end the album.


On the whole, a very interesting album although, in my opinion, it’s a real pity that the band did not exploit the resources of their native language for the lyrics. When they were still looking for a drummer they posted a video in memory of Francesco Di Giacomo with a BMS cover that really impressed me... Maybe next time!

You can listen to the complete album HERE

More info:
https://www.facebook.com/JanaDraka/




Sunday, 28 November 2021

THE FACTORY OF DREAMS

In 2005 Sergio Lattuada tried to reform Maxophone gathering his old bandmates. His effort led to the release of a CD plus DVD documenting the history of the band but it wasn’t until 2008 that Maxophone really came back to life thanks to the contribute of some new musicians that joined the old creative core of the band. The new course led to new compositions and in 2017 the band released an excellent album entitled La fabbrica delle nuvole on the independent label AMS Records with a line up featuring along with founder members Sergio Lattuada (piano, keyboards, vocals) and Alberto Ravasini (guitars, keyboards, lead vocals) the new entries Marco Tomasini (electric guitar, vocals), Marco Croci (bass, vocals) and Carlo Monti (drums, percussion, violin). For the lyrics, the band collaborated with the Bolognese poet Roberto Roversi, best known for his works with singer-songwriter Lucio Dalla in the seventies. Unfortunately, Roberto Roversi passed away in 2012, well before the album was completed... Anyway, the beautiful artwork, elaborated by Eugenio Crippa developing an idea of Alberto Ravasini, tries to depict musical and poetical content of this impressionistic work... 



The opener “Un ciclone sul Pacifico” (A typhoon on the Pacific) starts by a classical inspired first part, decadent and melodic, where an emotional typhoon begins to build up from a sea of dissatisfaction and disenchantment. Then words turn into water and wind, the rhythm rises and the music becomes more complex and frenzied. When the rage storms out, nobody can say what’s true any more, nobody can say what can break the wall... Nonetheless, those raging, forbidden words are the words of the future!

Next comes “Perdo il colore blu” (I’m loosing the blue colour) that every now and again reminds me of PFM. It begins with a frenzied rhythm and describes the feelings of a man who dives into a busy life as an antidote to the poisonous consequences of a broken relationship, a man who works to forget...


 
“Il passo delle ore” (The pace of hours) is a melodic piece that underlines the importance of finding the right partner to share your time and your decisions. Those who have the bad chance to be lonely like stones are condemned to climb an endless stairway to the moon...

Then it’s the turn of “La fabbrica delle nuvole” (The factory of the clouds), a magnificent instrumental track that starts with the pace of a gentle giant in a glass house. Try to imagine a factory producing dreams and expectations through words and notes and listen to the sound of its cogs and wheels...

“La luna e la lepre” (The moon and the hare) is a beautiful track with a medieval atmosphere and excellent harmony vocals. It tells the story of a hare that was charged by the moon to bring a message to humanity... Unfortunately, the hare forgot the words of the moon and delivered a wrong message provoking sadness, shadows and ice...


 
The bitter-sweet “Estate ‘41” (Summer ‘41) evokes the image of two lives on the border. Dreams falls down and a magma of memories throws stones into a fragile heart... And yet, there’s still time to listen to strange sounds, the beating of the drums seems like the voice of screaming giants. The war is raging outside, it’s a difficult time for two lovers but their kisses are able sweep off all the words and the sense of distress...

The following “Nel fiume dei giorni i tuoi capelli” (In the river of days your hair) opens softly. It’s as if the arms of a clock would start to go back in time seeking for the memories of lost summer days, as in a hypnotic trance. Then the music becomes bolder and Gentle Giant could come to mind again while the notes begin to play hide and seek over a sea of a thousand words...

Maxophone, 2011

 
“Il matto e l’aquilone” (The madman and the kite) starts by a classical guitar intro, then the music goes through many changes in mood and rhythm while the lyrics conjure up the image of a madman in love who lives inside his desires and dreams to take off like a kite in the midst of a thousand colours and powerful sounds of thunders and bells. For him, life is just a flight beyond the sun, in total freedom...

The closer “Le parole che non vi ho detto” (The words I haven’t told you) is a melancholic song led by piano and violin where regrets pour down like rain on a man who’s thinking of the words he would say to his parents if he could meet them again...

On the whole, an excellent blend of poetry and challenging music and a great album that grows spin after spin.

You can listen to the complete album HERE

Maxophone: La fabbrica delle nuvole (2017). Other opinions:
Michael “Aussie-Byrd-Brother”: While it can't possibly live up to the status that the popular 1975 debut enjoys, `La Fabbrica delle Nuvole's strength lies in the fact that it's a real grower that impresses more and more with every listen. It's an eclectic, colourful and tastefully performed comeback with plenty to recommend about it, and another example that no country delivers better and more rewarding modern prog albums from older acts than Italy. Lovers of Maxophone and Italian prog fans in general should end up having a terrific time with this unexpectedly vital, highly surprising and greatly inspired work... (Read the complete review HERE)

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Saturday, 27 November 2021

FROM THE VAULTS

Maxophone's From Cocoon To Butterfly is a special deluxe box set including a CD with 10 vintage tracks recovered from out-takes and alternate demo material from 1973-1976 plus a DVD with live footage from a 1976 concert at the RAI studios in Turin. The booklet is very rich and includes old pictures of the band, a complete biography and detailed information about the content of the CD and DVD (in Italian and English). 
 


All the recordings on the CD have been carefully remastered but even a good remastering can't perform miracles when the sources are demos or home-made recordings... Nonetheless you can find here four very interesting tracks never appeared before. Particularly good are the opening track "Kaleidophonia", a long instrumental where the band showcase their great musicianship blending classical influences and jazz, and "Dadaida". Both tracks had been composed for a second album that was never completed and, although they're just demos, the recording quality is good. "L'isola" and "Il lago delle ninfee" are two good tracks that didn't find room on their 1975 eponymous album and it's a pity that the sound quality of the original tapes was so poor... The other six tracks are just alternative versions (sung in English) of material originally released on their aforementioned 1975 eponynous album.
 


The DVD footage was professionally filmed by Italian TV in 1976 and there’s also a bonus video track of the re-formed Maxophone in 2005, playing one live track at Radio Popolare studios in Milano, an instrumental version of "Mercanti di pazzie". The DVD also includes bonus features such as interviews with all the members of the band (an English translation is available). The quality of the video is really good. Maxophone were one of the most interesting "one shot bands" of the Italian progressive scene in the Seventies. As you can read on the booklet, "Maxophone's first and only album matured over the years like a bottle of expensive wine, becoming exquisite in taste and has gradually gained prestige". This work is complementary to that album and its aim is to give you a full overview of the band's activity... If you like Maxophone this could be an excellent addition to your prog collection.

Friday, 26 November 2021

NOCTURNAL FIREFILIES

 After Locanda delle Fate’s split up in 1980, the band’s keyboardist Michele Conta completed his medical studies and focused his energies on his career of physician. Anyway, his passion for music didn’t die and after a long time he pulled out of the drawer some of the pieces he composed during the years and gave a definite shape to his sketches with the help of sound engineer and arranger Simone Lampedone and guitarist Ermanno Brignolo. After a long, passionate work in 2019 he finally released a solo album, entitled Endless Nights, on the independent label AMS Records. Along with Michele Conta (piano, keyboards) and Ermanno Brignolo (guitars, vocals) the recording sessions involved many guest musicians such as Max Arminchiardi (guitar), Gianni Branca (drums), Gavin Harrison (drums), Lele Melotti (drums), Segio Pescara (drums), Gianni Cicogna (bass), Effe Quartet (strings) and Leonard Plumbini (cello). The result is absolutely worth listening to...
 

The instrumental opener “E’ nell’aria” (It’s in the air) begins by the sound of a storm in the background and a dynamic piano solo passage, then the other instruments come in bringing a change in rhythm and atmosphere. It’s an excellent piece that mixes frenzied, heavy electric guitar riffs with calmer, dreamy sections dominated by piano and keyboards and that could recall the old pieces of Locanda delle Fate with an updated sound...


With You On The Walk Of My Life” is a calm, romantic track featuring English lyrics about the importance of a long lasting relationship and the good luck you have finding someone who can help you in times of trouble, support your dreams or simply hug you when you come back home. It’s another track that recalls Locanda delle Fate but the vocals in my opinion are not completely up to the task... Then it’s the turn of the dreamy “Notte infinita” (Endless night), another excellent instrumental track that alternates delicate, relaxed atmospheres with more livelier moments and soaring keyboards flights... 
 

The following “Growin’ Up” takes us back to the times of Locanda delle Fate. In fact, this is a new version of an old track of the band, “Crescendo”, that was not included in the 1977 album Forse le lucciole non si amano più and was not officially recorded in studio until 2012. The lyrics deal with the passion for rock music and the experience of being part of a band... In a rehearsal room the notes of the instruments are like atoms moving in a perfect chaos that match, crash and collide providing an incredible energy. Unfortunately, again the vocal parts sung in English are not up to the beauty of the music and I miss Leonardo Sasso’s operatic exuberance.


The reflective, melodic “In riva al mondo” (On the shore of the world) starts by a sound of church bells, the nocturnal atmosphere is calm. The music and lyrics (in Italian) evoke visions and memories inspired by the view of a sleepy city from the window of a room, in the middle of the night... 
 
Michele Conta, 2019

Fiori nascosti” (Hidden flowers) ends the album alternating a first part characterized by a soft, mellow mood with a more varied second part where there are sudden surges of rhythm and joyful flights of notes. The short vocal part (in English) invites you to look around and start searching for the beautiful things that are so close to you but the hectic rhythm of live can hide from your sight... You’d better find them before it’s too late!


On the whole, a good work with a strong nostalgic vein.

 

You can listen to the complete album HERE

 
Michele Conta: Endless Nights (2019). Other opinions:
Nick Hudson: Conta has given us a lush, symphonic album deliciously reminiscent of the classic days of ‘70s Italian prog, without sounding stale or dated, and allows the other players on his album room and space to elevate this beyond the stereotypical keyboard album... (Read the complete review HERE)

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