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(76:13 / Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Alla Corte Degli Eroi 27:03 2. The Farmers 26:19 3. The Bandits 22:33 PERFORMERS: CAP: Maurizio Venegoni - vintage keyboards; vocals Maurizio Mercandino - lead vocals Giovanni Di Biase - piano Silvia Carpo - recorders Gigi Secco - bass - drums Massimo Gorlezza - guitars Chicco Mercandino - guitars With: Pino Filoni - violin; flute Tempano: Cesare Della Noche - vintage keyboards Pedro Castillo - guitars; violin; vocals Miguel Angel - bass Gerardo Ubeida - drums Taproban: Gianluca De Rossi - vintage keyboards Guglielmo Mariotti - bass; vocals Davide Guidoni - drums With: Alessandro Papotto - clarinet, sax, flute
Prolusion. Maintaining their fine tradition of releasing epic concept albums inspired by classic movies and books, the Finnish Art Rock Society, Colossus, in collaboration with the French label, Musea Records, present another regular production in this series. Subtitled as "The Ultimate Epic", The Seven Samurai is a musical tribute to Akira Kurosawa's 1954 movie of the same name. The CD booklet reminds the listener about the various requirements that any partaker of Colossus's projects must adhere to, but I won't re-list them and will just mention that everything resolves around the precise reproduction of '70s vintage sympho-prog sound in its epic format. It's quite another matter when the finished product shows whether everything went off swimmingly in this respect.
Analysis. Continuing the thought expressed in the previous paragraph's last two sentences, I must note that occasionally it happens that a participant doesn't succeed in meeting those requirements, which point leads me directly on to the next. Venezuelans TEMPANO (whose latest two studio albums, "Childhood's End" and "The Agony & the Ecstasy", are both the works of deep, inspired, genuine Progressive), sound almost unrecognizable on this disc which, in turn, is certainly not because they decided to sing in English this time around, nor is it even due to the fact that the sonic palette of their contribution, The Farmers, isn't too rich in vintage colors. Despite its gigantic length, this composition reminds me more of Neo as such than even a neo take on '70s Symphonic Prog, even though there are some Pink Floyd-style arrangements to be found here. One of the track's mid-sections stands out for its muted, dark-colored art-rock-like movement, but it doesn't reveal enough diversity to justify its duration of about 10 minutes, to say the least (the finale, which sounds as a cross between Marillion circa "Misplaced Childhood" and Pink Floyd once more, being also overextended). No, I don't want to say it's a bad tune, not at all - just that this is something I would have hardly believed of Tempano had I not known it. There are plenty of beautiful acoustic episodes on The Farmers, but really few bombastic arrangements, besides which some of the sections aren't interlinked at any level, so I twice had the impression of hearing the beginning of a completely different track when I listened to that tune. TAPROBAN, from Italy, run into the same problem on their song, The Bandits, which takes place within a relatively long (and, overall, very impressive) theme based on some Far-Eastern traditional music whose home could equally be Japan, Philippines or Thailand etc. Otherwise however, everything is just great here. With plenty of swirling Moog, organ and piano solos, resourcefully interlocking with those of bass, developing over complex drumming that very frequently changes its rhythmic patterns, the music appears for the most part as splendid ELP-stylized symphonic Art-Rock using a classic keyboard trio, yet with quite a few unexpected jazz-fusion invasions on the part of guest musician Alessandro Papotto, who plays his instruments (clarinet, sax, and flute) both as passionately and masterfully as the trio themselves play theirs. Being acquainted with all Taproban's releases, I can assert this is their best composition to date, and when recalling their Morton from "The Spaghetti Epic", I clearly realize that, generally speaking, they've given their most outstanding creations to Colossus. Although I find the finale of Alla Corte Degli Eroi by CAP to be somewhat overextended, these Italian musicians never lose connection between the numerous thematic sections they deploy on their composition. Some of these are beyond comparison, others instantly reveal the group's passion, namely Jethro Tull. While the echoes of "Crest of a Knave", "Rock Island" (within the movements with the use of big guns) and some other albums by the Legend can be heard here and there, it is their two milestone creations, "Thick As a Brick" and "A Passion Play", that, well, would have served as apt references regarding the song's overall panorama had CAP been in all senses on a par with their benefactors. There are two guitar players in this band, but none shines with virtuosity when playing solos on electric guitar. Nonetheless, Alla Corte Degli Eroi is an excellent composition, as well as the one by Taproban.
Conclusion. "Seven Samurai" is not a masterpiece unlike most, if not all, of Colossus's previous outings, but nevertheless, this is still in many ways a remarkable creation. Recommended with some minor reservations.
VM: May 12, 2007
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