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(51 min, Musea)
TRACK LIST: 1. Earth 5:19 2. A Room of Fairy Queen's 5:32 3. Lord of the Headline 7:37 4. The Lake 6:50 5. Coming off My Shadow 1:45 6. Desert 7:46 7. Wake Up 10:15 8. Into the Light 6:04 LINEUP: Mauro Montobbio - guitars; keyboards; percussion Roberto Costa - fretless bass Alfredo Vandresi - drums With: Edmondo Romano - woodwinds, sax (2, 4, 7) Alessandro Corvaglia - vocals (3, 7, 8) Valeria Caucino - vocals (2, 8)
Prolusion. NARROW PASS is a project from Italy led by multi-instrumentalist Mauro Montobbio, who also penned all the music and lyrics for their debut outing, "A Room of Fairy Queen's". Unlike those of the three men mentioned first in the lineup above (these are featured on each of the album's eight tracks), the names of the session musicians are familiar to me. Alessandro Corvaglia is a permanent singer for La Maschera Di Cera, while Edmondo Romano and Valeria Caucino are former members of Eris Pluvia.
Analysis. The first thought that came to my mind after I've listened to "A Room of Fairy Queen's" is that this collection is a sort of absorbent of classic symphonic Art-Rock of both Italian and British schools, Neo Progressive and various types of folk and ambient music. Precisely half of the tracks are songs with English lyrics, although one of the instrumental creations - the opening number Earth (its short finale, to be precise) - features a female narrating in French to the keyboard passages and naturalistic effects. The primary storyline of that cut draws me a picture typical of Italian Sympho Prog, yet with a strong Spanish feeling, which is explained by the fact that the acoustic guitar solo that crosses the length and breadth of all the basic arrangements is done in a Flamenco style. Allowing for some electric guitar sounds (elicited in the manner developed by Steve Hillage) which can be heard in its brief introductory theme, Earth is the most original composition on the CD, though I wouldn't say the others are less compelling. Sung by Valeria Caucino, the title track is built around some varied interactions between flute, acoustic guitar, keyboards, bass and metal percussion, while the drum kit surfaces only in the concluding section. Structurally similar to Glares of Mind from Eris Pluvia's "Rings of Earthly Lights", this tune follows the romantic traditions widely adopted in Italian Art-Rock, the flute being the only instrument that seems to be 'responsible' for providing folk colorations - everywhere you hear it on this album. While there is no flute on Into the Light, Valeria sharing the lead vocals with Alessandro Corvaglia, the overall construction of this piece has much common ground with that of the previously described track. On the other hand however, Into the Light reminds me strongly of Don't Give Up from Peter Gabriel's "So", where Peter sings in duet with Kate Bush. The two instrumentals, The Lake and Coming off My Shadow, following one another right in the middle of the recording, leave a sensation that they are parts of the same composition, monolithic in its design. Blending together symphonic, folk and ambient elements, The Lake begins and finishes with only acoustic guitar, flute, bagpipe and piano in the mix, while its middle section is an up-tempo Camel-like electric guitar-laden Art-Rock with a full-band sound, which in turn is just what Coming off My Shadow is about overall. Inasmuch as Corvaglia's vocals, and his way of singing as well, are not entirely unlike those of Peter Gabriel, both Lord of the Headline and Wake Up resemble classic Genesis upon the first spin. However, a more intimate examination suggests the music is somewhere between Genesis's "Winds & Wuthering" and Marillion circa "Misplaced Childhood", the latter band's influence being striking in the second half of Wake Up, which is noticeably more diverse than Lord of the Headline. It contains several instrumental sections, the concluding one revealing only synthesizer passages and guitar pizzicatos that refer directly to Steve Hackett's work. The remaining track, the instrumental Desert, is my favorite tune here. This is a kind of collective figure, embracing features typical of any of the first five solo creations by the maestro mentioned in the previous sentence.
Conclusion. Despite the numerous influences, this is a delightful creation that doesn't lose its attraction after a few repeated listens. Recommended to fans of the contemporary Italian school, such as Eris Pluvia and Finisterre, but also the originators of pastoral Progressive - Genesis, Steve Hackett, Camel and Mike Oldfield.
VM: November 14, 2006
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