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(61:47, Lizard Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. La Zona D'Ombra 7:24 2. Road to Hell I 3:10 3. Non Ho 3:39 4. Li Fuori 3:12 5. Home 6:12 6. Road to Hell II 1:54 7. Lettere Di Annie 4:24 8. Piccola Ala 4:47 9. La Gabbia 7:50 10. Nel Mio Nome 2:35 11. Ellis One 4:33 12. Corridoi 4:19 13. Road to Hell-3 4:26 14. Black Out 3:22 LINEUP: Alessandro Di Cori – guitars, e-bow; synthesizer; vocals Donatella Valeri – piano, keyboards Claudio Carpenelli – drums; vocals Bruno Tifi – guitars; vocals Simone Papale – basses Chiara Gironi – vocals
Prolusion. The Italian band MAGNOLIA (not to be confused with the Swedish outfit of the same name) has a hiostory that can be tracked back to the ‘90s and a band called Eclissidra that released an EP back in 1995 and then folded a few years later. They had changed their name to Magnolia prior to calling it a day though, and decided to maintain this latter name when they reunited in 2010. "La Zona D'Ombra" is their debut album, released by Lizard Records in 2012.
Analysis. The dominating feature throughout this conceptual album is the lead vocals. Magnolia has opted for a female lead vocalist, and in Chiara Gironi they have a talented singer at hand. She has an adaptable voice that is used to good effect throughout, a vocalist just as able to have a soft, fragile expression as she is on using her voice in a more powerful, impact-inducing manner. She's also able to give her voice a sharper edge when needed, and I get the impression that the music pretty much revolved around her voice and the story told by the lyrics. Which isn't all that surprising when you have an able vocalist at hand and a concept album where the band have a story they want to tell. As far as the music is concerned, I wasn't really all that charmed by the totality of it however. Initially I got a favorable impression, experiencing a band able and willing to blend cinematic sounds, textured details that may or may not contain nods in the direction of post rock, and harder edged guitars and keyboards with more of a retro-oriented heavy prog tinge to them. Elegant, pleasant escapades with acoustic guitars, piano and keyboards also have their place in this initial phase of the production, as do occasional jazz-tinged rhythms and some instances of more dramatic, dominating guitar riff details. As the disc unfolds the pleasant sequences featuring acoustic guitar, keyboards and vocals in a mainly harmonic arrangement tend to dominate a bit more though, or perhaps the initial novelty impact starts to subside. If it is one or the other or both I'm still not sure about, but from the halfway point this album starts loosing its attraction for me. Pleasant music without a doubt, easy both on the ears and the mind and with some nice and effective instances of ear candy too, but for me it gets to be a bit too harmonic, too pleasant and somewhat lacking in contrast, nerve and vitality. The songs are all fine, the mix and production are retro-oriented, organic and warm, and the aforementioned vocals of Gironi still as striking and finely executed. But the goosebumps-inducing element just isn't present for me. This as all such cases is one of individual taste of course, and I suspect that someone with a taste for both progressive and mainstream rock would probably find this production a lot more appealing. As would it for someone with a stronger affection for high-quality female vocals in their own right, as I listen to vocals more like instrumentation and a part of the overall arrangement than as an individual element within the overall context.
Conclusion. Pleasant, harmonic progressive rock with distinct mainstream tendencies is what Italian band Magnolia provides us with on their debut album "La Zona D'Ombra". High-quality female vocals are the dominating elements on the album that blends textured post rock elements with careful, almost ballad-oriented sequences with and without symphonic-tinged keyboard support, with occasional forays into a harder edged variety of heavy, ‘70s-style, progressive rock. A production that merits an inspection by those generally fond of artists blending progressive and mainstream rock, and in particular if you have a soft spot for high-quality, female lead vocalists.
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