Sunday, 12 November 2017

FROM AN ISLAND

Island Tales is the first full length album by La Rua Catalana, a band from Benevento formed in 2009. It was released in 2015 on the independent label Octopus Records with a line up featuring Leonardo De Stasio (vocals, guitars), Corrado Ciervo (violin, guitars, keyboards, synth, backing vocals), Vittorio Coviello (flute, backing vocals), Marco Coviello (drums, cajon, percussion, didgeridoo) and Carlo Ciervo (bass). After two EP and a good live activity on the local scene, the band had the chance to spend some time in the old monastery of Zungoli, near Avellino, to work on their compositions and the peaceful atmosphere and the good vibrations of this unusual location contributed to shape the overall sound of the album, influenced by bands such as The Beatles, Jethro Tull and many others...


After the pre-production, for the recording sessions in the studio they were helped by some guest musicians such as Daniele Pescatore (keyboards), Valentina Acca (backing vocals), Fabio Cesare (sax), Luigi De Cicco (guitar) and a string quartet, the Arechi Quartet featuring Lorenza Maio (violin), Federica Paduano (violin), Federica Bibbo’ (viola) and Alessandra Ercolani (cello). The result of their efforts is good, although at times I would have preferred they had used their native language instead of English...

La Rua Catalana 2015

According to the band, the title of the album, Island Tales, refers to a metaphorical island, a kind of shelter from the storms of life where time stands still and you can live your dreams. The music is not overtly complex but always well refined and the simple melodies are enhanced by intriguing parts of flute and strings. The opener, “Moon's Joke” is a dynamic ballad dedicated to the people in search for happiness that every now and again recalls Jethro Tull, then comes the jazzy “The Island” that tells of lost dreams and shining smiles opposed to a bleak reality...

The caustic “The Colonel” was inspired by the fictional character of Francis Ford Coppola's film Apocalypse Now, Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, portrayed by Marlon Brando, while the following, bitter-sweet “The clown” tells of a sad man who has to make people laugh for a living. Then comes “Song For Jeff”, inspired by the death of Jeff Buckley and musically a bit in debt with George Harrison…


The swinging, careless “Dreamland” is about an escape from reality, a visionary daydream where you can find an ideal world. Next come the cover of a Tunng’s song, “Bullets”, and the melodic, light “Escape! (Break!)”. The new romantic waves of the folksy ballad “Goodbye” bring other dreams under the moonlight while the following “Slow Down” is more complex and tells about the need to take a pause from the daily grind.

The nervous “And I'll Never Know” (about a difficult relationship) and the delicate, melancholic “Gold And Silver Wings” (about a solitary man who tries to escape from the gilded cage of his routine) close an album full of interesting ideas and light melodies that is worth listening to...

You can listen to the complete album HERE

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Monday, 25 September 2017

BLACK MAGIC REVIVED

Magia Nera come from La Spezia and their roots date back to the late sixties under the name Nuova Esperienza. In 1969 they changed their name into Magia Nera (Black Magic), inspired by the sounds of bands such as Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep and Deep Purple and started playing covers and composing original material. In the early seventies the band had a good live activity on the local scene and took part with a good success to some music festivals such as the Free Festival Pop of Bottagna. When all was ready for a deal with the label Magma Records something went wrong and the band split up without recording anything... More than forty years later Magia Nera reunited with almost all the original members to complete what they had left behind. In 2017 Magia Nera finally released their debut album, L'ultima danza di Ophelia, on the independent label Akarma Records, distributed by Black Widow Records. The current line up features the veterans Emilio Farro (vocals), Pino Fontana (drums), Lionello Accardo (bass) and Bruno Cencetti (electric guitar) plus Andrea Foce (keyboards) who replaced Orazio Colotto. The overall sound is definitively vintage and I'm sure that fan of seventies Italian prog will appreciate this work...


The dark opener "Ophelia" depicts in music and words a scene from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. The bass lines introduce a ghost dance under the moon, soon joined by the other instruments... The unfortunate Ophelia floats on the fresh waters of a brook, carried away by the current. Her corpse is moving under a willow tree, for a moment her dress is tangled up in the branches. She seems almost dancing… It was Ophelia’s last dance: now what is left is nothing but a choir of dark sirens and some salt tears mixed to the sweet waters of the brook...

The long, melancholic "Il passo del lupo" (The wolf step) tells about the last hours of a proud loser, a solitary fugitive who tries to run away from his destiny hiding in a dark forest like a wolf. Eventually the Dark Lady takes him in the land of eternal shadows and he accepts his fate without fear…


The following "La strega del lago" (The witch of the lake) depicts in deep purple colours a very strange kind of woman, a powerful bloodthirsty vampire summoned during an obscure rite from the dark waters of a lake, Lady of shadows and darkness, owner of the the most profound abysses of your soul... It leads to the lively "La tredicesima luna" (The thirteenth moon), a short track that celebrates the mysteries of obscure rites where swords and dark powers draw magic circles and witches dance on the borders between different worlds.



"Suite - Oltre la vita" (Suite - Beyond life) is the main course of the album, a long, complex piece divided into ten parts. It starts softly with a dreamy mood, then the music and words build up a solid darkness that provides the perfect theater screen on which the mind could play its fantasies. The dance of death was about to begin, and already the strings of the fiddles and guitars were smoking and the stench of brimstone and cordite filled the air... In my opinion, this short quote from The Stand by Stephen King describes the atmosphere of this piece very well and even if there are no fiddles you can find here plenty of fiery organ passages and frenzied guitar riffs. The music alternates acoustic passages to electrical storms where you can feel dark presences, coming in steady inexorable waves while the poetical, hermetic lyrics draw disquieting, Gothic images rather than try to tell a story. The influences of bands such as Deep Purple, Black Sabbath or Uriah Heep are apparent but in the mix you can even listen to a short quote from The Funeral March of a Marionette (Marche funèbre d'une marionnette), a short piece by Charles Gounod best known as the theme music for the television program Alfred Hitchcock Presents. A very good piece!

Uriah Heep’s cover “Gypsy" closes an album that is really worth listening to and that deserves the attention of Italianprog lovers.

You can listen to the complete album HERE

More info: