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The Spaghetti Epic - 2004 - "6 for 6"

(132 min 2CD, Musea)


******

Prolusion. The full title of this double CD album is "Six Modern Prog Bands For Six '70s Prog Suites". This is another product of the collaboration between Finland's Progressive Rock society Colossus and the French label Musea Records, following the critically and publicly acclaimed Kalevala. Judging by the song titles, and if you've seen the artwork, many of you can be pretty sure what this is about. The concept is based on the film "Once Upon a Time in the West" by Sergio Leone, the famous Italian director, master of western movies; hence the name of the project.

Disc I (63 min)
******!

TRACK LIST:

1.  The West 20:03 (Haikara)
2.  Jill 21:48 (Randone)
3.  Cheyenne 21:47 (Tilion)

Analysis. So, six contemporary progressive bands created six 'sidelong' compositions especially for this project. However, the main thing is music of course, not a concept. To their credit, the participants all did their best in this field. In most cases, the highest level of professionalism is evident throughout: from composition to performance. A great deal of effort has obviously gone into the complex, multi-layered arrangements, as evidenced on each of the tracks. A wide variety of analog vintage instruments are well employed throughout, with the Mellotron, Hammond, mini-Moog, Taurus pedals, Rhodes, grand piano and acoustic guitar to please any lover of classic symphonic Art-Rock. With one exception, which I will point out in due time, all the songs remain within the classic definition of the genre, at least basically. Well, for some of the bands, not everything went off swimmingly with recreating the '70s' classic progressive sound, but I don't find anything negative in the matter. What is really important, none of the songs presented contain borrowings from the classics, while most of them are free of any cliches and are just brilliant. Honest! What is more, I am inclined to think that some if not most of them are their creators' best works to date. Finnish band HAIKARA, which opens the set, is the one who used some specific instruments: violins, cello, and accordion. Being viewed in the context of the '70s classics, the beginning of their song, The West, sounds not that convincing. A few themes, that the first fourth of the track is compiled of, are good as such, but are devoid of some essential connecting link and just change each other like different pictures in the projector. One of them, a drum solo, would've been completely out of place there, in the beginning, if it were longer than 1 minute. All the further things are done blamelessly and are especially impressive when stringed instruments come to the fore. There are massive arrangements in the vein of Classical music, sometimes reminding me of Bydtlo from Modest Mussorgsky's "Pictures of an Exhibition". Although the other songs (I didn't say "tracks") are richer in vocals than The West, all of them are largely instrumental as well. If Haikara offered a very good track, RANDONE arrived with a masterpiece. Like most of the others, the song is named after one of the film's central personages, here: Jill. I like Randone's creation in general, and he didn't let me down:-) this time, too. Nicola sings alone, and also being joined by his band mates, one of which is a female singer. The music is original from head to toe, is highly intriguing, and is a full-fledged Symphonic Art-Rock with elements of Opera and some of those related to Classical music. The most unexpected number in the set is Cheyenne, presented by Randone's countrymen TILION. This is a really mind-blowing composition; you'd better believe me. (It's not about the biblical Gehenna, but from a Christian standpoint, I think they have rather vividly reproduced the atmosphere of blazing inferno.) Cheyenne will astonish every listener, not only those in the know where the band was going before. Mysterious, thrilling, magical, fantastical, brilliant - the list of epithets that Tilion's work is worthy of can be continued endlessly, as it'll be the source of endless pleasure to anyone whose horizon isn't closed in the cage confined by a couple of progressive directions. That's what I see as the Fifth Element, which, in this case, includes Art-Rock, Prog-Metal, Neoclassical Music, RIO, Jazz-Fusion, Space Rock and lots of innovative ideas. It's a killer, the king of all killers and monsters taken together. I'm joking, but you know, many a true word is spoken in jest, so in some ways it's true, at least with regard to today's scene. In any case, this work is so extremely original and is so remote from the '70s classic Prog that it just perfectly fits the spirit of that era. No contradiction in the last sentence, is there?

Disc II (69 min)
******

TRACK LIST:

1.  Harmonica 21:56 (La Voce Del Vento)
2.  Morton 23:22 (Taproban)
3.  Frank 24:59 (Trion)
           

Analysis. I am so much impressed by Tilion's Cheyenne that I fear I may compromise the other tracks presented, while they shouldn't be depreciated in any circumstances. As mentioned, each of them shines with distinct originality, regardless of whether it has the classic '70s sound or not. Harmonica by English project with Italian name, LA VOCE DEL VENTO, best of all meets the initial requirements of the project, still retaining one of its principal values-achievements, named previously. Musically, the song is an absolute masterpiece, with the distinctive 'seventies' magic reigning throughout. It was very curious to watch how the originally unique vocals metamorphosed in the course of the track, more and more resembling Ian Anderson closer to the end. This is a small detail, but it makes Randone's Jill a bit more attractive to me. In that way, I consider Harmonica the third best track on the album, although compositionally these two are on par with each other. Italy's TAPROBAN is a classic keyboard trio, but their music is of another story. The heavy, distorted solos of bass often sound like guitar riffs, and they're on an equal footing with the parts of piano, organ, synthesizer and drums. The song they wrote for this project varies from soft romantic Art-Rock to intensive symphonic Space Rock to almost Space Metal and is good in most of its manifestations if they are examined separately (except the final portion, which is overextended). In other words, Taproban's Mr. Morton is also suffering from the lack of the inner unity - unfortunately, almost wholly, unlike The West. And yet, I won't finish the story in the minor key. Just recalled Transatlantic and their "SMPT: e". A good album, but I can't listen to it because of its derivativeness. Although Taproban, as well as Haikara and Trion, don't shine with some particular virtuosity, their music is honest, and I appreciate this quality much more than any achievements in technique. Led by keyboardist Edo Spaninga, TRION from Holland plays Frank, the only instrumental composition on the album. Unlike most of Flamborough Head, the music is a very solid, truly classic Art-Rock with some excursuses to Space Rock and Classical music. Edo excellently plays keyboards, especially piano and Hammond, and effectively uses the sampled sounds of Church organ and Mellotron. Bassist / guitarist Eddie Mulder is on par with him. The only flaw is the work of a drummer. He is too straightforward, which is especially obvious when the trio goes fast. He doesn't keep pace with the other musicians. So I think it won't be misplaced to say that Frank is another trump in this pack of the western-marked cards, but not the ace.

Conclusion. I believe this is the very best compilation ever released in the history of the genre. Certainly, it's not because the album does not sound like a compilation and not because the duration of each of the six tracks exceeds 20 minutes. This is a real concept album and is a fantastically successful project in general. I doubt there will be another that surpasses it, at least in the near future. Check this CD out; you won't regret it. I would not recommend of it if I weren't sure. Everything has been carefully explored, and I hope you have noticed that, dear readers.

VM: January 26 & 27, 2005


Related Links:

Musea Records
Colossus


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