Sunday, 29 July 2012


Vieux Carré is an Italian prog band from Spoleto (Umbria) formed by five skilled musicians with a jazz background: Alessandro Bartolucci (piano, minimoog, keyboards), Federico Barbieri (drums), Filippo Zelli (guitars), Marco Rambaldi (vocals) and Nicola Palladino (bass). The band began life in 2003 under the name Chiaroscuro and a first demo featuring four original tracks and two Genesis covers (“Firth Of Fifth” and “Musical Box”) was released. In 2005 the name of the band was changed into Vieux Carré and a first self-produced full length album was released, “Glispiriti, icorpi elementi” (although the title has an ambiguous spelling it could be translated as “the spirits, the bodies and the minds”). Well, the overall sound has been influenced by progressive bands such as Genesis, Banco del Mutuo Soccorso and PFM, but the musicians managed to add their own touch of originality writing lyrics and music inspired by literature, cinema and history.

The dreamy opener “Palingenesi” (Palingenesis) is inspired by an epic novel by Stefano D'Arrigo, Horcynus Orca, that tells the adventures of a mariner of the Italian Navy who tries to go back home in Sicily after Badoglio Proclamation on September 8, 1943.

“Greed” is an acoustic ballad and is sung in English. It was inspired by Greed, a 1924 American dramatic silent film directed by Erich von Stroheim and taken from McTeague, a novel by the American writer Frank Norris that tells the story of a couple's courtship and marriage, and their subsequent descent into poverty, violence and finally murder as the result of jealousy and avarice... “I'm dreaming Trina freaking out / In that bed of gold with her devilish ruffled hair...”.

“Palinodia” (Palinode) is an excellent track with a good piano work and classical influences. A palinode is an ode in which the writer retracts a view or sentiment expressed in earlier poems... “I'm prisoner of four bleak walls / Dusk and silence conspires / The imagine of your smiling face discolours in the complaisance of my memories...”.

“World Of Chance” is sung in English and could recall some solo works by Peter Gabriel while the lyrics depict a nightmarish atmosphere... “Sound of raging waters down below / Something tight keeps biting at my neck / I'm hanging off the edge of a wooden bridge / My feet are trembling on a shaky plank / Dozens of rifles pointing at my head...”.

KV62” recalls some recent works by Franco Battiato and features a mystic, oriental flavour. KV 62 is the name of the tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings and the lyrics tell of its discovery... “The night is still warm when the prodigy happens / The first step emerges from the sand...”.

“Concrete Rarefaction Of Freedom” could recall Genesis and Van der Graaf Generator. It's sung in English and the lyrics are inspired by science-fiction while the following “Louisiana Story” leads us in a Louisiana's bayou, on the tracks of an attractive, mysterious creole girl who makes you fancy a new beginning...

“Mellonta Tauta” is soft and melancholic. The lyrics describe in a very poetical way the feelings of a soldier sheltered in his trench. The enemies seem an army of shadows hiding in the night, an obsessive mirage that drives you crazy... The long, complex “Riconciliazione” (Reconciliation) concludes this interesting album... “Now the dream born from your hug / Sets cohesions free as if they were butterflies...”.

You can listen to the complete album. Click HERE

In 2012, after many years of work, Vieux Carré finally released a sophomore album titled “Eteronimie” (Heteronyms). The literary concept of heteronym was invented by Fernando Pessoa and refers to one or more imaginary characters created by a writer to write in different styles and in some way it describes the content of the album where you can find many different styles and characters giving life to the different tracks. In my opinion during the years the composition skills of the band have improved, this work is very rich in ideas, less derivative than the previous one and it's really worth listening to. By the way, the art cover reminds me of another independent band from Italy, Absenthia...

The complex opener “Relegazione”(Exile) is inspired by the life of the Latin poet Ovid. In 8 AD, Ovid was banished to Tomis, a city on the Black Sea now in Romania, by the exclusive intervention of the Emperor. Ovid wrote that the reason for his exile was carmen et error - “a poem and a mistake” - claiming that his crime was worse than murder, more harmful than poetry... “Beyond the walls of Time they sing my poems / Beyond moral my voice keeps on caressing your soul / Ingenio sic fuga parta meo...”.

The melancholic “Terra Nova” is inspired by the ill-fated expedition to Antarctica led by Robert Falcon Scott (the expedition was also the subject of a 1948 film directed by Charles Frend, Scott of the Antarctic). It begins softly with an acoustic guitar arpeggio... “They arrived before us / I can already see the flag with the cross of the north...”. The music and lyrics describe disappointment and dismal, the landscape is bleak and the long come back for the men of the expedition is sad, dangerous... “Farewell dreams of glory / I can't fight any more / How beautiful is to close my eyes and let the sleep come...”.

“Praz!” features many changes in mood and rhythm. It's a complex track inspired by the life and work of eccentric Italian critic Mario Praz... “They say that my karma is ill-omened / That I sow conflagration and destruction / The fragments of other lives feed me / My identity is the glance of Medusa...”.

Il cardine storto” (The crooked hinge) begins with a nice piano intro, then the rhythm rises. It's an interesting track inspired by the work of the American writer of detective stories John Dickson Carr... “The art of the murderer is like the art of the conjurer / It consists in attracting your glance in the wrong place...”.

El Gabal” is a particular ballad inspired by the story of a homosexual Roman emperor, Elagabalus, and of his lover Hierocles. It begins softly and the mood is dreamy... “Come on, Hierocles, lay with me / Rest awhile, help me to dream...”. A sax solo provided by the guest musician Enrico Battisti marks a change in mood and the romance turns into a slaughter... “They look at me with disgust / Because in my face there's the pride of the hetaeras... I can smell my blood / I fear the sun is going to leave me...”.

Evans” is a short instrumental for piano solo dedicated to Bill Evans. It leads to “Tenno”, a nice track that could recall Franco Battiato and that is inspired by the childhood and youth of the Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa. Then comes “Ramo di lillà” (Lilac branch), another track dedicated to a famous film director, Sergei Eisenstein, an to his Mexican odyssey... “From human sacrifices to the haciendados of Porfirio Diaz / Look at me straight in the eyes / Que viva Mexico, it's the time of the uprising...”.

Inquietudine” (Restlessness) begins with a nice piano pattern and is jazzier. The lyrics are inspired by the life and work of Portuguese poet and writer Fernando Pessoa and some passages are taken from a poem titled Tabacaria... “I am nothing / I shall never be anything / I cannot wish to be anything / Aside from that, I have within me all the dreams of the world...”. After a short pause, a delicate, dreamy hidden track inspired by the poetry of Samuel Taylor Coleridge concludes this excellent album.

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Thursday, 26 July 2012


Il Tempio delle Clessidre is an Italian prog band from Genoa that began life in 2006 on the initiative of Elisa Montaldo and Gabriele Guidi Colombi (two musicians who previously had been both members of a band called Hidebehind) who met with veteran Stefano “Lupo” Galifi, vocalist on famous Museo Rosenbach’s album “Zarathustra” and later rock-blues singer in local cover bands. The first line up was completed by Massimiliano Costacurta and Corrado Bronzato. The name of the band means “the temple of the hourglasses” and was inspired by the title of a part of Museo Rosenbach's suite “Zarathustra”. The initial idea of the band was to play on stage the whole album “Zarathustra” with the original singer using vintage sounds and new arrangements, then turn to the composition of original pieces in the same vein. After some line up changes, in September 2010 the band released an eponymous debut album on the independent label Black Widow Records containing only original pieces. The present line up features Elisa Montaldo (keyboards), Stefano “Lupo” Galifi (vocals), Fabio Gremo (bass), Giulio Canepa (guitars) and Paolo Tixi (drums).

The main sources of inspirations of the band are the prog masters of Rock Progressivo Italiano, not only Museo Rosenbach but Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, Locanda delle Fate and Il Balletto di Bronzo as well (just to name a few!), but the album is very rich in ideas and in my opinion sounds fresh an convincing. The art cover by Maurilio Tavormina in some way describes the content of the music and lyrics drawing a surreal panorama where time and space are blended with dreams and hopes.

The short, sumptuous instrumental opener “Verso l’alba” (Towards the sunrise) sets the atmosphere describing in music a restless night and leads to “Insolita parte di me” (Unusual part of me), a piece about the risks of an escape from reality. The warm, heartfelt voice of Lupo Galifi draws a dreamy landscape under a crescent moon, a dark road that drives a struggling soul right down into reality. But reality can be unpleasant and you are tempted to go back into the world of dreams thanks to absinthe or other substances, crossing the doors of perception... “As if my mind was running at light-speed / I go over the present and I enter the unknown...”. Soon you realize that all you can feel is filtered by deception and by the ambiguity of your brain, then the rhythm rises while slapping keyboard waves suggest anxiety and confusion. “I'm overwhelmed by incomprehension / Everything vanishes into the nothingness of empty glances...”. You can't escape from reality and all your efforts are vain. If you can't live you can't be happy and if you keep on trying to overcome reality you risk to loose yourself...

Next comes “Boccadasse”, an amazing track inspired by a beautiful place. In fact, Boccadasse is the name of a picturesque old mariners' neighbourhood in Genoa... “Suddenly the sunrise lights up / The fresh breeze is lightened by the pale sun...”. At dawn you can admire a magnificent landscape and your eyes are caressed by the colours of the tiny houses and of the narrow alleys. A sail on the sea becomes a metaphor of your feelings, then comes the rain and you can listen to its sound and to the cries of the seagulls. Time passes by and you can't move until dusk when the small beach shelters the people who look for an inspiring place to let their thoughts run free... “The sail flows / It ploughs the sea coming up to you / Its wake paints your soul and runs after your memories...”.

“Le due metà di una notte” (The two halves of a night) begins softly. The atmosphere is dreamy and calm. The night is falling down while the last rays of sun shine like slivers of opal in the dark. Reality slowly fades out while sweet dreams start dancing around you... “Now magic keeps the spell of every moment written into the eyes / My heart is shivering inside me...”. The sun rises, it slowly creeps in... “Come on, run fast, follow me / Don't be scared, trust me / We shine like stars in the sky / While we are waiting for the sun, my life...”. Then the rhythm rises and the music brings in a positive energy painting the colours of the day.

“La stanza nascosta” (The hidden room) is an introspective track where memories slowly flow covering time and space. Under an imaginary curtain you try hard to find out what your mind can't discover. Your eyes shine like fire into the mirror while you observe the leftover of your mediocrity fading away. You try to pursue your spiritual experience and your mind takes off running after dark planets of crazy ideas. You can find what you have always been looking for in a hidden room that lies just one step beyond reality... “There are different dimensions / Their doors are invisible / A few people know / Many people dream suffocating in worn-out pages...”.

“Danza esoterica di Datura” (Esoteric dance of Datura) and “Faldistorum” form a Gothic suite that tries to evoke a Sabbath with witches singing and dancing in the night. The first part is instrumental but in the booklet you'll find some verses taken from William Shakespeare's Macbeth that help to explain what the music is about... “Double, double toil and trouble / Fire burn and cauldron bubble / Cool it with a baboon's blood / Then the charm is firm and good...”. The second part features a narrative part provided by the special guest Max Manfredi, a well known singer songwriter from Genoa... “In the end the sky lights up / The dance transform the souls into light... This is the night / This is Samhain!”. An impressive church organ solo concludes the suite.

“L’attesa” (The waiting) is tense and dark. It's about the need to wait for something better. “Lost in time / I live every moment looking for order, lucidity / I'm hanging on, I'm shaking in the void of this darkness without ideas...”. Sometimes a bit of poetry or a dream of freedom that comes true can change your mood and you can see the light of a new day shining in the dark... “A raw torment burns in my heart / My desires feed it / But as if it was rising from the dust / A thought lights up in me from oblivion / It spreads out, it grows with me...”.

The long, complex “Il centro sottile” (The thin centre) begins with a delicate piano pattern. The atmosphere is dark but full of nuances. Time passes by, day after day, night after night. Every time at night the darkness seems to erase the deceptions of reality but after the night there comes another day and nothing changes, there's no way out... “I'm losing my soul tonight...”.

The last track, Antidoto mentale” (Mental antidote), is featured as a bonus track and you can find it on the vinyl version of the album. It's a short, joyful melodic track that concludes this excellent work with a gust of optimism... “I've understood that to run away I have to trust the wind, the music and my soul / Now it's time to live again everything I lost / And to smile at all the things that don't have any power against me any more...”.

Il Tempio delle Clessidre: Il Tempio delle Clessidre (2010) Other opinions:
Jim Russell: This debut should break through the RPI fan community into the wider prog-rock community, because it is a title that will hold appeal for any fan of classic progressive rock. The majority of the music is quite beautiful and I would say holds most appeal for those who love refined and melodic progressive rock, as opposed to the wild and crazy, abrasive stuff. This title has everything in one package: Sweeping, majestic compositions filled with passages of great beauty and dramatic overtones; a vintage sound approach but with great audio quality; highly proficient and energetic performances on bass, guitar, and drums; extended instrumental passages which allow the guitar and rhythm section to work up some gorgeous themes... (read the complete review HERE)
Raffaella Benvenuto-Berry: Blending the warmth and melodic flair of the Mediterranean musical tradition with the driving energy of rock and the artistic ambition of prog, Il Tempio delle Clessidre’s debut deserves to be hailed as one of the standout releases of 2010, and one of the most promising albums to have come out of Italy in a long while. While taking their cue from the music produced in the Seventies – and, thankfully, not pretending to reinvent the wheel – the band manage to sound fresh and up-to-date, and not a mere exercise in nostalgia. A flawlessly performed, lovingly presented effort, Il Tempio delle Clessidre will surely bring a lot of listening pleasure to the many fans of Italian progressive rock... (read the complete review HERE)
Conor Fynes: There's no denying; the album is one of the best progressive rock albums to have come out of Italy since the '70s. One minor gripe I might have with the album is that it is stylistically very similar to much other symphonic progressive rock, but its strength lies simply in how much it is able to do with the sound, on an emotional level... (read the complete review HERE)

Read the interview with Il Tempio delle Clessidre at Progarchives. Click HERE

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Sunday, 22 July 2012


The present incarnation of Osanna took off on the initiative of founder member Lino Vairetti, who gathered around him a bunch skilful young musicians such as Gennaro Barba (drums), Fabrizio Fedele (guitar), Nello D’Anna (bass), Sasà Priore (keyboards) and Lino’s son Irvin Vairetti (synth). In 2008 they were in tour, with David Jackson as an additional member, performing new versions of their best pieces. I had the chance to attend one of their shows and I was struck by the vitality and the enthusiasm of all the musicians on stage.

Osanna 2008

Osanna could have tried to capture the energy of their performances in a live album, instead... They chose to record the new versions in studio looking for the best sound quality available and received the precious help of friends such as David Cross, Tim Stevens, Gianni Leone, Oderigi Lusi, Sophya Baccini and others... Well, this album is not a simple collection of old stuff and the result is absolutely good (far better than their previous work “Uomini e miti”). Osanna’s family tree has got deep roots and the “hot gold” of their music still glitters, although reshaped with a modern taste. All the tracks are linked as in a long suite and every track fades imperceptibly into something else...

The opener and classical inspired “Tema”, from the OST of “Milano Calibro 9”, melts into a fiery “Animale senza respiro” (from Palepoli) that ends into a nervous “Mirror Train” from the debut album “L’uomo”... Osanna and David Jackson perfectly work together giving new life to pieces of music that are part of the history of Italian progressive rock, the music flows for more than seventy minutes without weak moments and the sound is perfect. Less known episodes as “’A zingara” and “Ce vulesse ce vulesse” from the album “Suddance” or “Il castello dell’Es” from “Landscapes Of Life” here are brilliant and convincing like the tracks taken from “Palepoli” or “L’uomo”. There are many changes in atmosphere and rhythm, from classical to traditional “canzone napoletana” (you can even find quotes of “Funicolì Funicolà” and “O sole mio”), from the bluesy and Mediterranean “Neapolitan Power” to the British prog of VDGG’s “Theme One”. It’s like a long breathless running from the start to the finish line where you can’t stop!

The packaging is very good as well, featuring a funny art cover design by Lino Vairetti himself and a booklet featuring many pictures and all the lyrics.

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