Stefano Testa is an Italian artist who was born in Rome in 1949 and lives in PorrettaTerme, a spa town in the province of Bologna. In 1977 he released an excellent debut album, “Una vita, una balena bianca e altre cose” (A life, a white whale and other things) where he managed to blend prog influences and “canzone d’autore”. Unfortunately the album was not successful at all and he left the music business for a long time. In 1994 his debut album was re-discovered and re-released by the independent label Mellow Records and became a cult album for many prog lovers. In 2012 Stefano Testa finally released a new album on the independent label Snowdonia, “Il silenzio del mondo” (The silence of the world), helped by Remo Righetti (who took charge of all instruments and programming). This time the influences of singer-songwriters as Fabrizio De André, Francesco De Gregori, Claudio Lolli, Leo Ferré or Tom Waits prevail and there are less instrumental parts and progressive-rock echoes than on the debut album from the seventies. Well, times have changed but I’m happy that the creative vein of Stefano Testa is not dry and I like very much this new work even if for many progressive fans it could be less interesting than the previous one.
The opener “Domani è festa” (Tomorrow is a holiday) is an amazing, bitter-sweet waltz with a strong sense of melody. It describes a melancholic day before a holiday, a long, solitary waiting for something that maybe will never come... “Beyond the gate lies the usual road / But there's something that makes the sundown sick / It really seems that the sky is falling...”.
“Trecento gradini” (Three-hundred steps) is one of my favourite tracks on this album. It's a dreamy, mystic piece featuring mild Oriental flavours and a mysterious atmosphere. The lyrics describe a fugitive man who is climbing the three hundreds steps of a marble hill. He reaches a house on top of the hill, then time and space get blurred... “I, exiled without a passport, I run away from home / Groggy from sleep, I fell asleep on those fresh sofas / And your city didn't seem so close...”. But there's no escape from life, the old fugitive can't find a way out as if was lost in a labyrinth while past and future melt in a hopeless dream...
“Metamorfosi” (Metamorphosis) features South-American atmospheres and a dark mood. It's another excellent track that describes an impending change. But not every change is positive, slogans and daily violence can transform a quiet man in a wild beast... “I see my teeth of wolf growing and this real hook / I'm waiting for the night with a new cheerfulness / And I toast to the war, and war will be! / I don't need anything but the moon, the moon of the dogs / To go down in the street looking for company and make you shake as little birds...”. A final hint to the Fascist anthem “Giovinezza” could suggest that the times that were changing were those before World War II, but you never know...
“Nel vostro quartiere” (In your neighbourhood) begins with a funky groove and a lighter atmosphere but it's only an appearance. The lyrics invite you to dig better into reality by observing what is going on around you, right near your home and family. Stories of solitude and exploitation, broken dreams and loveless children... “How many lights in our neighbourhood / How many dreams to buy and how many wishes / How many promises and how many ageless bodies...”.
“Musica” (Music) is about the consolatory power of music. It features some exotic influences with colourful echoes coming from Africa and Latin America... “Music, in the meantime a lot of music / To dance, to try dreaming once again / But, after all, this music is merciless / And makes this void even greater...”.
“La ballata dell’angelo svogliato” (The ballad of the lazy angel) is an excellent track with a dark mood that could recall Tom Waits or Nick Cave. It depicts in music and words a strange dream where a lazy angel visits the protagonist of the song. The angel is hopeless, tired of a world where the cult of power rules and vanity is stronger than mercy, where you can find nothing but ice and desert inside the hearts... “I don't know what I can say / It happened just this / If you can, keep on sleeping and forget the rest / Maybe the sleep will heal your pain / For this infectious wound in your heart...”.
“Argo soltanto” (Only Argos) is about a return back home after a long period of absence. After many years home could become just a dream and a comeback could be a disappointment. There is no one waiting for you but a dog... “Here there's too much silence / Where is life? / My home is more beautiful / It's the home of a king... Only a nosy dog was sniffing, looking for an owner...”. So, the return leads to a new departure. By the way, Argos is the name of Ulysses' faithful dog!
“Niente” (Nothing) is a bright, joyful song about the need to break the silence of the world with a positive attitude... “Nothing to sing / Nothing to play / Nothing to listen to / Nothing to dream of / Nothing to wait for / Nothing to learn / Nothing to look for / Nothing to look at / Nothing to touch / Nothing to buy / Nothing to steal / Nothing to save... We need a huge white sun to burn this silence...”.
“Pilù Pilò” (4:33) is a dark nursery rhyme where the threatening ogre is more real than in fairy-tales... “Moon, break the dark night / Shine, make him forget his fear... Sleep, rest for a while / Dream of playing in your courtyard / Dream of your mother coming to you, smiling...”.
“Magioel” (4:22) is a melancholic song about the consequences of war. An injured soldier lies in a psychiatric hospital and the nurse who brings him his painkiller is his only hope and looks like an angel... “Everyone has lost his mind / But they pretend and go on / I've been lucky / I have you, Magioel...”.
“Io con te” (I with you) is a melodic love song that invites you to dance with your sweetheart under the stars in a summer night while the following “Una canzone banale” (A banal song) is a personal song about a love stronger than time.
“Ballata della città felice (La peste di Messina, 1348)” (Ballad of the happy city – the pest of Messina, 1348) features a darker atmosphere. The lyrics depict the arrival of the Black Death in the city of Messina in 1348, carried by a ship. The happy city suddenly has to tackle the horror of the plague and everything changes as in a dream that turns into nightmare.
The final track “Camicie azzurre” (Blue shirts) is lighter and brings a bit of optimism. It's a melodic ballad about the aftermath of a broken relationship. A man finds a new balance and a new tranquillity living alone with his cat... “There not much left to say / Not for this we have to suffer anyway / We have to breathe and listen to the life who is living...”.
Well, all in all I think that this is a very good album and I enjoyed it very much. You can listen to it in streaming on bandcamp (click HERE), so have a try and give it a chance!
Stefano Testa: Il silenzio del mondo (2012). Other opinions.
Jim Russell: For those who don't mind following an artist down a different path, these are wonderful and melodic songs. They are dressed beautifully and with much care, with interesting things happening even within the confines of the simpler song structure. There are RPI styled operatic vocals, excursions into world music sounds, but most importantly, the almost childlike wonder and joy Stefano brings to his melodies and vocals... While "Il Silenzio del Mondo" is not going to appease those RPI fans looking for complex progressive rock, my feeling is that anyone who enjoyed Stefano's debut, itself on the softer side of prog rock, will also enjoy the new album. Fans of the Italian singer/songwriter tradition are surely going to want to check it out. For me it is an excellent album... (read the complete review HERE)-