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(35:59, Generation Prog Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Megas Alexandros-1 3:55 2. Megas Alexandros-2 4:39 3. Megas Alexandros-3 4:44 4. Pacifica Rampage 5:09 5. Tertium Non Datur 5:29 6. Galactic Halo 3:38 7. The Keystone Age 4:14 8. Magnolia Sunrise 4:11 LINEUP: Alessandro Bertoni – keyboards Ric Fierabracci – bass Brett Garsed – guitars Virgil Donati – drums
Prolusion. Italian keyboardist Alessandro BERTONI is most likely an unknown entity for most, although those with good memories and extensive, deep knowledge may recall that he used to be a member of the Italian band Aphelion. These days Bertoni is based in the US, and just to maintain a true international approach by luck or design he signed to the fledgling German label Generation Prog Records in 2013 for the release of his first solo album "Keystone".
Analysis. As one might expect when a keyboardist records a solo album, his talents at that particular instrument will take a leading role. Bertoni joins the ranks of many others in doing so, and when Derek Sherinian has been involved on the production side as well many will have a certain expectation about the end product due to that alone, presumably. True enough, we're treated to many pace-filled instrumental solo runs and soaring keyboard escapades, dramatic surging textures, as well as sequences porting keyboards and guitars in interwoven quirky displays or even the occasional call and answer routine. Much is as expected, up to and including an ever so slight touch of metal here and there. Dampened and subdued, but still a detail worth noting. The recurring mark of identity throughout is the inclusion of one or more details with a steady foundation inside jazz rock however. Elegant, melodic guitar soloing and jazz-tinged, playful bass guitar lines are the most distinct of these tendencies, appearing as supplemental features as well as more dominant ones. Which, indeed, means that you're treated to a bass solo or two along the way. Calmer, mood-oriented sequences, fairly often the playing field for the most jazz and jazz rock oriented escapades. Otherwise tight and compact guitar riff and keyboards driven arrangements are the order of the day here, with plenty of room for soloing and shredding. At the most intense bordering or perhaps even crossing over to progressive metal in style, but also with some less intense passages here and there. And while this may be incidental, I noted some recurring details that, to my mind, are nods in the direction of the Canadian evergreens Rush on Pacifica Rampage to state one such observation of arrangements somewhat less intense and harder edged. Concluding this fairly short and otherwise high-intensity production we have Magnolia Sunrise, a careful, delicate composition revolving around bass and piano with careful keyboard support, in a distinctly jazz-tinged manner, and subtly flavored with atmospheric effects. Just about the complete opposite of the brilliantly dramatic opener The Great Portrait in sound and intensity, but a fitting conclusion to a CD that contains fairly demanding material due to pace and intensity just as much as quirky instrumental arrangements with plenty of details to keep track of.
Conclusion. As far as debut albums go, Alessandro Bertoni delivers a high-quality one. The material is somewhat predictable admittedly: instrumental progressive rock with metal tendencies and plenty of soloing, and while the jazz-tinged details do expand the palette a bit, this isn't an album that ventures forth into any new territories as such. The compositions are well made and excellently performed however, and Sherinian delivers as expected in the production department too. A good album then, and one that those who have a taste for intense instrumental progressive rock should lend an ear too, especially if they also have a taste for artists that incorporate jazz into such landscapes.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: March 6, 2014
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