Tuesday, 30 April 2013


The Former Life is an Italian prog band from Vittorio Veneto that was formed in 2008 on the initiative of Andrea De Nardi and Matteo Ballarin who had previously collaborated in other bands and projects. According to the official website, the band was named after an imaginary life that the musicians dreamed to have experienced in the era of the giants of rock and was meant as a metaphor to express the shadow of our past and its merging with today’s shadows – a thin thread keeping us tied to what seems to be past and gone, and yet inevitably needs to be recalled, being the only key to access a “latter life” (a life change). Their sources of inspiration range from Pink Floyd to classical music and jazz but the final result is not too derivative and the song-writing is rather good. In 2011 they self released an interesting debut album, “Electric Stillness”, with a line up featuring along with Andrea De Nardi (vocals, piano, organ, keyboards) and Matteo Ballarin (vocals, guitars) two guest musicians, Edoardo Papes (drums, percussion) and Giovanni Scarabel (bass). Later the line up was completed by drummer Manuel Smaniotto and bassist Carlo Scalet for the live activity that followed the release of the album. 

The Former Life
According to the band, “Electric Stillness” was conceived as a conceptual work about the abandonment of an unwanted former life (or experience) and the growing desire for change and rebirth, symbolized by a beautiful jewel which “sunders” into two halves. In the booklet there's a short poem that in some way sets the atmosphere, a foreword to the music you're going to listen to... “The brightest awakening comes after the longest sleep, as the suspended chord resolves to the perfect triad... Few notes of recollection can be played but sometimes you find the right key to playback... yourself / That’s like regaining the memory of your former life...”.

The opener “Sundering Jewel” begins with an amazing, dreamy prelude for piano solo that recalls slightly Le Orme's album Florian. Then the other instruments come in and the music takes off taking you away from the Venetian lagoon, towards an obscure moon... “We’re doomed to stay apart and to play the dark songs of elsewhere / Should this remind us of a former life, we’ll escape, like we’ve never escaped / Nor we’ll obey their rules...”.

You can walk on the moon on the notes of the following “Hijacked”, an evocative instrumental track that leads to the spacey “Belong To The Stars”, a long piece blending dreamy melodic lines and dark passages, hazy memories and fading nightmares... “I’m a pilgrim in search of no land / Betrayed by oblivion and fear / Fuddled, brainwashed, wrecked and bound to be here...”. The melancholic “MesmerEyes” takes you back to earth, where love is nothing but hate in disguise and where you have to bear the burden of your mistakes. Now you have to seek for a place to start back, forgetting the past and its long shade of guilt.

London Rain” is a beautiful track divided into three parts. It's about the madness of men who forget too easily the errors of the past and turn they faces away from the blood of the innocent victims of violence. The mood is dark, there's a sense of impending tragedy, a bomb is going to explode. If you can absorb a disgrace as if it were rain you're probably insane... “There is still a huge ravine between you and how you should be, man...”.

A Milligram Of Joy” begins with an electric guitar solo that shines in the dark like a crazy diamond. There's a strong sense of nostalgia, you're looking for your past but you can't find it, you're wondering where your days have gone but there's no way to have them back... “What have they done with my stolen days? / You know your enemies are altering the game / But will you, will you let the wind erase another trace? / There ain't no angel to save us strangers / Now that I twist and burn inside / Now that I want back my milligram of joy...”.

The conclusive title track “Electric Stillness” closes the circle and brings you back to your dream, to the stage of a long gone shadow play... “Voices then came to whisper me of a latter life / I felt their wide wings caress my illusions / While calling me across the outermost boundary / I saw a sundering jewel, high above us / And we strove hard to reach it / But at the top of those white marble stairs / I was left alone, and shown the root of all my inborn weakness / Electric stillness reigned...”.

Well, on the whole I think that this is a very good album. By the way, “Electric Stillness was re-released in 2012 with a bonus track. Have a try!

You can listen in streaming to the complete album HERE

The Former Life: Electric Stillness (2011). Other opinions:
Raffaella Benvenuto-Berry: Electric Stillness is the result of years of work on the part of two artists who, in spite of their young age, have already had extensive experience on the music scene. The care and dedication behind the album are evident right from its visual presentation, with an elegant, vaguely Impressionist cover that reflects the understated, autumnal quality of the music, and a detailed booklet including lyrics... Even if it may not be the most innovative effort on the market, it is still a classy album – easily as good as many releases by higher-profile outfits – that will delight fans of melodic prog and bands such as Genesis, Pink Floyd and Camel... (read the complete review HERE)
Conor Fynes: Perhaps somewhat like the style legends Porcupine Tree, the vintage prog sounds of synths and soaring guitar leads are fused into what is otherwise a rock style very aware of its contemporaries. Indeed, this idea of fusing the old and new is a concept about as old as progressive rock itself, but The Former Life do it a good service. Often, the band will explore several different styles within a different song, and the transitions are kept smooth, thanks to a focused approach to songwriting... (read the complete review HERE)

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Wednesday, 17 April 2013


Mogador's third album, “Absinthe Tales Of Romantic Visions”, was self-released in 2012 with a renewed line up featuring Richard George Allen (drums, percussion, vocals), Luca Briccola (guitars, keyboards, bass, flute, backing vocals) and Marco Terzaghi (vocals) plus some guests. It's a kind of concept album dedicated to some Romantic artists, painters and poets, who in some way drew their inspiration from absinthe, an anise-flavoured spirit with a natural green colour. In my opinion, the result is pretty good! The band confirm here all the good promises of their first two albums and if you like bands such as Genesis, Gentle Giant or Yes I'm sure you'll find this work very interesting.

Mogador 2013

The opener “Whispers To The Moon” is a beautiful instrumental piece that was inspired by Two Men Contemplating The Moon, a 1819 painting by German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich. It begins softly, with a delicate piano pattern and the atmosphere is dreamy. It fades into “Dreamland”, a piece in the same mood where the band interpret a poem by Christina Rossetti... “Where sunless rivers weep their waves into the deep / She sleeps a charmed sleep: awake her not / Led by a single star, she came from very far / To seek where shadows are her pleasant lot...”.

C.S. Friedrich, Two Men Contemplating The Moon, 1819

The following “She Sat And Sang” is taken from another poem by Christina Rossetti and features two special guests: singer-songwriter Agnes Milewski (female vocals) and Filippo Pedretti (violin). It's a beautiful acoustic ballad that could recall bands such the Pentangle or Renaissance... “I wept for memory / She sang for hope that is so fair / My tears were swallowed by the sea / Her songs died in the wind...”.

We Never Said Farewell” is a short, “gentle” track featuring lyrics taken from a poem by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge... “Two islands that the roaring sea divide / Are not more far apart...”. The following piece “Where Were Ye All?” recalls Yes and features lyrics taken from a poem by Emily Bronte drenched in dark nostalgia... “O come with me thus ran the song / The moon is bright in Autumn's sky / And thou hast toiled and laboured long / With aching head and weary eye...”.

C.J. Vernet: The Shipwreck, 1772

Hardships” is my favourite track on this album. It was inspired by a 1772 painting by Claude Joseph Vernet called The Shipwreck. In my opinion here the band managed to capture the spirit of the evocative, powerful images in music and words in an excellent way – by the way, this track features original lyrics written by Richard Allen – and I'm sure that lovers of Yes and Gentle Giant will appreciate it... “Pray for the men who dared to dream / Shed no tears, the sea washed them clean / Say to those men, that you shared their dream / They paid so dear, right or wrong as it seems...”.

Incantation Of The Muse” is short instrumental track for that leads to “The Sick Rose”, another nice short track featuring lyrics taken from a poem by William Blake and interpreted by the guest vocalist Jon Davison... “O Rose thou art sick / The invisible worm / That flies in the night / In the howling storm / Has found out thy bed / Of crimson joy / And his dark secret love / Does thy life destroy...”.

The introspective “Alone” is taken from a poem by Edgar Allan Poe and features the guest Gabriele Bernasconi on vocals. Another Italian prog band, Goad, took inspiration from the same poem and it could be interesting compare the two different versions. Well, Mogador's version is in some way more solemn and brighter but I like both versions and, of course, the poetry that inspired them.

The dark, tense “Song Of Saul Before His Last Battle” is taken from a poem by Lord Byron. It's a beautiful piece full of obscure energy... “Farewell to others, but never we part / Heir to my royalty, son of my heart! / Bright is the diadem, boundless the sway / Or kingly the death, which awaits us to-day!”. Then comes the short, melancholic “Le Poison”, taken from a poem by Charles Baudelaire featuring recitative French vocals provided by the guest Curzio Galante.

The long, complex “Prometheus” is another excellent piece featuring lyrics taken from an epic poem by Lord Byron. The poem is about Prometheus, a famous mythological character of the Ancient Greek, the titan who brought fire to men and was condemned by Zeus to be eternally chained to a rock having his liver eaten daily by an eagle. For Romantic artists, such as Byron, Prometheus represented the rebel who resisted all forms of institutional tyranny and here the band give life to the myth in a convincing way with an amazing suite rich in ideas and full of fiery energy... “Titan! To thee the strife was given / Between the suffering and the will / Which torture where they cannot kill...”. A short bonus track, “Absinthe Rag”, a joyful instrumental piece for piano solo, concludes an album that in my opinion is really worth listening to.

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Sunday, 7 April 2013


Live in Milan

May 11, 2013

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meanwhile in Verona...

feat. Andrea Bassato (from Le Orme)

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Tuesday, 2 April 2013


After the successful album with Luis Bacalov, “Concerto grosso per I New Trolls”, in 1972 I New Trolls released “Searching for a land” with a renewed line up featuring Vittorio De Scalzi (guitars, flute, keyboards, vocals), Nico Di Palo (guitars, vocals), Gianni Belleno (drums, percussion), Frank Laugelli (bass) and Maurizio Salvi (organ, piano). For this album New Trolls deliberately drew their inspiration from foreign bands such Colosseum, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin or Jethro Tull although trying to keep an original touch while blending hard rock with classical influences. It's a double album and it's maybe too heterogeneous and not always convincing but it has some very good moments. It was released for the international market and completely sung in English and Italian-Canadian bass player Frank Laugelli, who replaced Giorgio D'Adamo in the line up, wrote most of the lyrics signing them as Rhodes.

The opener good “Searching” begins with a nice acoustic guitar pattern and the lyrics in my opinion capture the spirit of the whole album that sometimes seems to lack a definite musical direction... “Travelling, wish I knew where I was going / Every place now looks the same / Nothing new seems to come my way / All my life I've been searching for something... But I'm happy to be free and to be able to weep / And I'm happy to be me...”.

The second track “Percival” is introduced by a nice acoustic guitar arpeggio and features a distant and filtered vocal part that I don’t like at all. It's a song about time passing by, sometimes you grow up and finally you realize that along the years you never found what you were looking for and now that you're old you have even forgotten what your goal was... “Percival is my name / My kingdom is wide...”. Good acoustic guitar solo!

“In St. Peter’s Day” is a beautiful acoustic ballad with a peaceful, dreamy atmosphere. The lyrics have religious references and the guitar and keyboards parts here are very good... “All the tears of the world have now been cried / I don't want to hear the screamin' of the crowd... For three times I heard the day bird cry / For three times your love I have denied now / I hear the beating of the hammers crucifying the soul off all summers...”.

“Once That I Prayed” is introduced by piano and vocals and is another good track with a strong classical influence. The lyrics and music evoke a feeling of uncertainty and the need for freedom, an absolute freedom that could lead even to solitude... “Goin' on my way I was trying to pray / Something may change into my life / Nothing to say, nowhere to stay / No hand to hold to keep me warm...”.

The sound of the organ introduces the rarefied, dilated “A Land To Live, A Land To Die”, an interesting track featuring a great organ work and an ethereal, dreamy atmosphere. The pace is slow, almost bluesy in some passages, and you can dream of a new promised land where to find peace and rest.

“Giga” is just a short, nice acoustic guitar track that leads to the following “To Edith”, another dilated, dreamy track with an excellent keyboard work that closes the first part of the album. The lyrics are taken from a poem by Bertrand Russell... “Through the long years I sought peace / I found ecstasy, I found anguish, I found madness, I found loneliness, I found the solitary pain that gnaws the heart / But peace I did not find / Now, old & near my end, I have known you / And, knowing you, I have found both ecstasy & peace / I know rest, after so many lonely years / I know what life & love may be / Now, if I sleep I shall sleep fulfilled...”.

The second part of “Searching For A Land” was recorded live and I think that is less interesting, with more hard rock and less classical influences. “Intro” is a long instrumental track where the members of the band showcase their great musicianship while the following “Bright Lights” is an uninspired hard rock track and in my opinion the weakest on the whole album.

Next comes “Muddy Madalein”, a hard, bluesy track with a flute solo in “Jethro Tull style”. The lyrics tell about a man who, while walking in the street with his child, is puzzled by the meeting with the prostitute who was his “first shot”.

The long final track “Lying Here” begins with classical reminiscences (Gregorian chant, flute and organ passages) that after six minutes melt into hard rock with clear references to Deep Purple and ample room for drums and electric guitar solos.

Well, on the whole “Searching For A Land” might not be a masterpiece but I think that it is worth listening to and could be an excellent addition to any prog collection.

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With their sophomore album, “Per un amico”, Premiata Forneria Marconi developed the ideas of their debut album. The line-up is the same and features Franco Mussida (guitar, vocals), Mauro Pagani (flute, violin, vocals), Giorgio Piazza (bass), Flavio Premoli (organ, piano, mellotron, moog, vocals) and Franz Di Cioccio (drums, percussion, vocals). You can still find here the influences of King Crimson and EL&P blended with classical music patterns, Italian folklore and a touch of jazz: anyhow the result is an album without weak moments, well balanced and where the music streams fluently with many changes in rhythm and mood...

The opener “Appena un po’” (Just a little bit) begins softly, the music is clearly classical influenced and the mood is dreamy and a little bit melancholic... “Away from here, away from here / I wish I could go away from here at once / How I wish I could go / I would leave, I would run towards another truth / If only I could believe it, that would be enough / I know I would set off... Away from here, away from here at once, away from here / I would find myself in another reality / Just to see open space in front of me / Away from here, away from here at once, away from here...”. Well, the lyrics are about the desire to escape from reality and in my opinion they’re a little bit “naïve”, but they perfectly match the music and the result is good... You can find another version of this track in “Photos of Ghosts” as “River Of Life” with English lyrics written by Peter Sinfield, but I prefer the original version.

Generale” is a good instrumental track where all the members of the band show their great musicianship. After a “jazzy” beginning with great drum work, a military march breaks in led by drums and flute... Then come organ, violin and the other instruments for the “finale”. The version of this track on “Photos Of Ghosts” (“Mr. 9 till 5”) features English lyrics provided by Peter Sinfield and weak vocals... I prefer by far the instrumental version!

Per un amico” (For a friend) suggests a soft way to “revolution” giving “friendly advice” about the need to come back from dreams to reality and to fight for a better world... “Don't ask me if one day it will change / Start to do something and it will change with you / It will change... You run away, you hide yourself and that is not possible / You live your compromises and that is not possible / There’s no time for dreams anymore / You must fight harder, harder...”. There are no screams or rumours of war here: the dreamy vocals and the romantic mood of the first part of the piece contrast with the more “struggling” instrumental closing section and the lyrics fit the music very well. In my opinion the English version called “Photos Of Ghosts” (with completely different lyrics) is not so good...

Il banchetto” (The banquet) is a complex and “politically engaged” song. The simple lyrics draw the image of a banquet in a king’s court while outside the people are whining. The beginning is soft, with acoustic guitar and vocals in the forefront... “Sir, His Majesty / Reverent as always, here we are / Sir, that’s us / The poet, the killer, and His Holiness / All together, your faithful friends / Ah, His Majesty... Please, my friends / You know I can’t stay without you / Hurry up, take a seat! / At the banquet we were just waiting for you / As always, as every day that will come / As long as love and peace will rule...”. Then, there’s a long, complex instrumental middle section with clear classical influences that melts back in the “reprise” of the main theme... ”Everybody smiles / Only the people don’t laugh, but you know / They always whine / They’re never satisfied / Who knows why...”. A little prog gem!

The final track “Geranio” (Geranium) features almost whispered vocals and an oneiric mood... “The wind dances in the night / It dances slowly in the street / A melted dream dances / The shadow of the moon dances / Barely touching time and fortune / It dances softly, it dances down there...”. Well, in my opinion the lyrics here are not particularly inspired and the music, though not bad, is not at the same level as the other tracks. You can find an English version of this piece in “Photos Of Ghosts” as “Promenade The Puzzle” and I think that this is the only track where the lyrics of Peter Sinfield fit the music better than those of Mauro Pagani...

Though perhaps not perfect, on the whole “Per un amico” is without any doubt one of the most influential albums of the Italian progressive scene of the early seventies and an essential one in every prog collection. 

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Monday, 1 April 2013


Osanna's fourth album, “Landscape Of Life”, was released in 1974 and is the last album recorded by the original line up featuring Lino Vairetti (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Danilo Rustici (guitars), Elio D'Anna (sax, flute), Lello Brandi (bass) and Massimo Guarino (drums, percussion) although during the recording sessions they were helped by Corrado Rustici, Danilo's younger brother and Cervello's guitarist, and by percussionist Enzo Vallicelli. At the time there were contrasts inside the band about the musical directions to follow and as soon as “Landscape Of Life” was released, Osanna disbanded: Danilo Rustici and Elio D’Anna joined forces with drummer Enzo Vallicelli and went to England forming a new band called Uno, while Lino Vairetti and Massimo Guarino reformed their old band called Città Frontale with new musicians. In some way the music and lyrics capture the spirit of doubt and incertitude hanging over the recording sessions...

The long, complex opener “Il castello dell'Es” (The castle of Es) begins softly, then turns into a wild jazzy finale expressing doubts and fears about life and future and a strong need for freedom, freedom to love, freedom to dream, freedom to live and to believe in God... “I am fire / I am Time / I am water / Perhaps I am nothing...”. 

Next come the title track, an acoustic ballad featuring English lyrics and a nice flute work... “The long road before me / Lie ragged watchin’ my body die / Feel like dying / My mind is overcrowded with fat thoughts...”. Well, I think that this could be a wonderful track but the vocals and lyrics do not match the beautiful music. Well, this album was conceived for the foreign markets but in my opinion Osanna seem not at ease when they sing in English and I prefer by far here the two tracks sung in Italian.

The following “Two Boys” is a hard rock track with English vocals and a strange flute and sax work and in my opinion it’s not completely convincing. The lyrics are about diversity and tell of two twins who painted their faces to differentiate one from each other. One of them painted his face in green, the other in yellow and as time passed by the colour of their skin changed too... “Two boys, they lived in the garden of the world / One day they were playing...”. 

The long, complex “Fog In My Mind” begins with just organ and English vocals in “Motown style”, then the rhythm rises and turns first into “hard jazz-rock”, then into samba with a great percussion work and finally back into hard rock... “I hate my hands / I hate my voice / I hate everything / That has created / Fog in my mind...”. The following “Promised Land”, features Corrado Rustici on vocals and guitar and is a short, weak acoustic ballad with English lyrics describing the hope for a happier world where children can grow up in peace and everyone can sing. In my opinion this is the weakest moment of the album.

Then comes “Fiume” (River), a wonderful, dreamy ballad with vocals in Italian and a great flute work... “Cathedrals of rocks / Horizons of lights and sounds / A landscape of white snow / Spaces without limits, smell of grass / Colours of hope: joy...”. The music melts in the instrumental conclusive track “Somehow, Somewhere, Sometime”, featuring a guitar sound that reminds me a little bit of Carlos Santana. 

Well, on the whole I think that “Landscape of Life”, though not at the same level of Osanna's previous album “Palepoli”, is a good work and could be an excellent addition to any Italian prog collection. Not only is it worth listening to but it features a remarkable art work as well. The album cover was painted by Massimo Guarino and the inner gatefold drawing by Lino Vairetti.

You can listen in streaming to the complete album HERE

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