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(54.23, Black Widow Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Ouverture 2.40 2. Sognando la Meta 4.54 3. Colombo 4.49 4. I Tre Marinai 7.17 5. Ieri Oggi Ancora Niente 5.52 6. Il Silenzio Rumoroso Del Mare 7.13 7. Preghiera al Vento 2.18 8. Tre Giorni 3.36 9. Tierra-Tierra 4.13 10. Cercando l’Approdo 3.57 11. Conclusione 2.17 12. Quattro Mura 3.58 (b/t) 13. Futuro Prossimo 4.00 (=) LINEUP: Giuseppe Terribile – bass, lead ac. guitar; vocals Gino Terribile – drums, percussion; vocals Franco Piccolini – keyboards; vocals Roberto Giordana – lead el. guitar; vocals Piuccio Pradal – vocals; 12-string ac. guitar With: Pino Paolino – whistles (4) Simone Piccolini – ac. guitar (4) “Friends and Family Choir” – choir (11)
Prolusion. Hailing from Savona, on the Ligurian coast of North-Western Italy, IL CERCHIO D'ORO started out on the Italian music scene in 1974. However, at the time they only released three singles, issued between 1977 and 1979 (two of which are featured on this CD as bonus tracks) before splitting up for lack of a recording deal. After a 25-year hiatus, in 2006 the band got back together again with their original line-up. “Il Viaggio Di Colombo” , released by Black Widow in 2008, is their first studio album – though a compilation of unreleased tracks (including covers of songs by Le Orme, New Trolls and The Trip), by the title of “La Quadratura Del Cerchio” was released in 2005, just prior to the band’s reformation.
Analysis. Given the band’s origins, and Black Widow’s headquarters in the heart of the ancient seafaring port of Genoa, it should not come as too big a surprise that Il Cerchio D’Oro’s debut album is centred around the historic, yet near-legendary figure of Cristoforo Colombo (or Christopher Columbus, as English-speaking people call him), the Genoese adventurer that discovered the New World practically by chance. Interestingly, however, the album does not revolve around the events related to the actual discovery, but rather around the journey, seen as a metaphor for human life, our wishes and aspirations, the disappointments and the fulfilment of our quest for knowledge and experience. As a concept, “Il Viaggio Di Colombo” is clearly a rather different beast than the run-of-the-mill, fantasy- or sci-fi based efforts that prog bands seem to churn out with alarming regularity. Though based on history rather than fiction, the story – told mostly from the point of view of its protagonist – is more concerned with Colombo’s hopes and fears than a detailed account of the events. This is somewhat reflected by the structure of the album, where the songs come clearly across as parts of a bigger whole rather than separate entities. “Il Viaggio Di Colombo” was undoubtedly one of the greatest surprises of 2008 for lovers of Italian progressive rock, an unexpected gift from a band who, to all intents and purposes, seemed to have been one of the many casualties of the late Seventies’ decline of interest in prog. Lavishly packaged in a handsome cover and booklet, illustrated with original woodcuts and endearingly na?ve sketches, and featuring a synopsis of the whole story, as well as English translations of the lyrics, the album conveys a strong sense of hope and enthusiasm which seems to mirror the story of the band itself. “Il Viaggio Di Colombo” is meant to be enjoyed as a complete experience: the narrative (mostly told from Colombo’s point of view) is every bit as important as the music, the expressive, heartfelt vocals contributing to the listener’s involvement. Even if none of the band members are more than adequate singers, their skilful use of vocal harmonies proves essential to the fabric of the music, which blends vintage prog stylings with folky overtones, as well as the pervasive tradition of the Italian canzone (particularly evident in the more upbeat compositions). Opening with the romantic, wistful piano melody of Ouverture, the album quickly gains momentum as the story develops. The largely mellow, Pink Floyd-inspired Sognando La Meta (reminiscent at times of the slow, majestic pace of songs like Breathe or Us and Them) is followed by Colombo, a slice of driving heavy prog where the interaction between guitar and organ sharply brings Deep Purple to mind. The core of the album, however, lies in a remarkably intense, gripping sequence of three songs that moves from the melodic, hopeful mood of I Tre Marinai, a piano- and guitar-led piece in which three members of Colombo’s crew illustrate their own reasons for embarking on the voyage, to the slowly mounting tension bordering on despair of Ieri, Oggi, Ancora Niente, with its jazzy influences and lush tapestry of keyboards that seem to conjure the endless expanse of the sea, and Il Silenzio Rumoroso Del Mare (in my opinion the real highlight of the album), led by a haunting piano riff and featuring some compelling synth and guitar parts. While the poignant Preghiera al Vento provides a short respite, the obvious tension in Tre Giorni is aptly conveyed by some powerful guitar riffing and dynamic piano – until the almost explosive release of the anthemic Tierra-Tierra. The tale ends with the atmospheric instrumental Cercando l’Approdo, and then the catchy, though somewhat anticlimactic, Conclusione, in which the band members are augmented by an endearingly homespun choir of friends and family members. The two bonus tracks tacked at the end, while offering some insight on Il Cerchio D’Oro’s activity prior to their disbanding, do not really add anything of note to the album. They are very similar to each other, both melodic, mid-paced efforts that at times may sound a little bit too close for comfort to prog-influenced, melodic pop bands such as I Pooh. While they are a boon for completists, I do not feel that their absence would have been really detrimental to the album. As a closing remark, it is only fitting that this review bear the same date as the day in which Colombo finally landed on the shores of the New World, leading the way to dramatic changes in the development of human civilization
Conclusion. Even if not exactly an innovative proposition, “Il Viaggio Di Colombo” comes across as a mature, well-structured album that manages to capture the listener’s attention through its skilful use of melody and painstaking build-up of emotions. The English translations of the lyrics included in the booklet are a real bonus to non-Italian speakers, allowing them to connect with the story. This is essential listening for all lovers of vintage Italian prog, and a worthwhile purchase for progressive rock fans in general.
RB=Raffaella Berry: October 6, 2009
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