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(71:06, Progrock Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. My Darkside 7:26 2. It's You 7:04 3. Solaris 13:00 4. Emotionaut 3:55 5. That Child 5:52 6. Flesh 2:49 7. Dreamlord 11:30 8. Southampton Railroad 4:11 9. Sonya in Search of the Moon-V 5:47 10. The Lighthouse Song 9:32 LINEUP: Cristiano Roversi – keyboards; Chapman Grand Stick Marco Tafelli – el. & ac. guitars; violins Simone Baldini Tosi – vocals; ac. guitar Maurizio Di Tollo - drums, percussion Mirko Tagliasacchi – bass
Prolusion. The Italian band MOONGARDEN has been around since the early '90s, and has previously released three albums on the Italian label Mellow Records, and one critically acclaimed CD on the Swiss label Galileo Records. Following four years after their previous release, "Songs from the Lighthouse" was released on the US label Progrock Records. Related reviews: here and here.
Analysis. Since their last album in 2004, Moongarden has had a line-up in change, one of numerous such in the band's history. For this latest release former vocalist Simone Baldini Tosi has returned to the band, and Maurizio Di Tollo has become the new drummer. Both of these fine musicians have put their mark on "Songs from the Lighthouse", vocalist Tosi in particular. The main musical focus for the band seems to be symphonic progressive rock. They are not fully committed to this style, but most of the tunes here are to a greater or lesser degree dominated by elements of this brand of music, with layered keyboards as the central element conveying constituting this approach. Electric and acoustic guitars are the other dominating instruments, weaving moods, melodies and atmospheres throughout the compositions, sometimes underscoring the keyboards and synthesizers and at other times underscored by them. A dominating trait in the songs containing vocals is the absence of guitars in some of the segments with vocals, most often the verse part of the tune in question. These sections are lush affairs with mellow, layered keyboards as a beautiful foundation for the vocals, often with an intriguing bass line underneath. And said vocals are a third vital element in the soundscape when used, especially when on tracks like My Darkside, Solaris and Dreamlord the voice of Simone Baldini Tosi, with its slightly rough, melodic but still fragile sounding quality, adds emotion to the songs by the bucketful. His voice comes across as strikingly similar to pop artist Seal, which I did find quite fascinating. With guitars and keyboards being the dominant instruments, the vocals do have a secondary role on the album as a whole though. They are vital for the parts where they are utilized, but this is very much an album where the instruments have the centre stage much of the time. There are long instrumental passages where vocals are added as background effects at best, with dreamlike and often lush atmospheres created the by guitarist and keyboardist, and there are also a couple of instrumentals where the keyboards in particular have the most important part when it comes to delivering melodies and moods to keep the listener's attention. There are a few weaknesses in the execution here though. Although songs like Sonya in Search of the Moon-V and the brief but effective instrumental Flesh are brilliant, the other tunes lack some elements to get to this level. Even so, most compositions here are seen by me as clearly above average, with just a very small number of tunes coming across as nice but no more.
Conclusion. Followers of neo symphonic progressive might be the ones who will get the most out of this release, dominated by melodies, layered keyboards and dreamy soundscapes as it is. People into melodic rock might also find this release intriguing, with the opening track My Darkside in particular having a strong commercial potential.
OMB: May 22, 2008
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