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Maxophone - Maxophone CD (album) cover




Rock Progressivo Italiano

4.26 | 439 ratings

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5 stars Maxophone's debut has recently earned its place as my favourite record from the whole RPI scene. For me, even better than any PFM or Banco album, and the only 5-star rating I think I'll ever give in the sub-genre, having already heard the most exalted works within the sub-genre. Those who undermine "Maxophone" often use the veiled insult of calling them the Italian band for those who don't like Italian prog, therefore rendering the band untrue or even dishonest to the genre. To an extent I'd agree with this fallacy, but more in the vein of it being a combination of it both drawing illustrious symphonic influences with colourful moments of jazz, and also the more intimate RPI sound. Kind of like when people call "Hot Rats" the Zappa album for people who don't like Zappa - it doesn't make it any less of a masterpiece. Frankly, I often have a reluctancy to distribute 5-star reviews to any albums I've recently heard (as a result of it being merely an anxiety of a momentary hype), but I sincerely doubt my opinion of this glorious album will waver. The magnificence and intricate musicality, tightly wound by the band's chemistry make this an irresistible listen, and unequivocally essential to a progger's collection.

"C'e Un Paese Al Mondo" is possibly the greatest Italian album opener, its only real competition being "Appena Un Po" off of PFM's highly regarded "Per Un Amico". I still remember the first time I heard it, nodding along with admiration to that dreamy and pensive piano intro, and subsequently shellshocked by the blistering, harsh guitar. Honestly, it's everything I look for in a prog song, as the textures thickened and I just didn't have to try to find anything to enjoy. Even after a dozen or so listens, I'm still utterly overwhelmed and astonished by the dexterity and absolute perfect balance between all its climaxes and musical/rhythmic elements. I seriously cannot begin to articulate the state of awe that this puts me in - just listen to it for yourself, and you may experience what I did and still do.

"Fase" obviously has a lot to live up to, but the fully-formed sound and endless variety displayed does not diminish whatsoever in this track. There's some gorgeous instrumentation and unique harmonies throughout, with numerous first-class instrumentals (as with the whole record). The piece frequently changes its musical direction without any indications, but manages to sound not at all laboured in doing so - certainly a respectable feat to accomplish. Again, it has a concrete structure, leaving just enough room for experimentation without going off on a tangent, and ah! Looking back, these 2 tracks could almost constitute as enough for a 5-star album - there's so so much to say.

"Al mancato compleanno di una farfalla" is another faultless track in its own right, primarily exhibiting the band's more tentative side. A delightful classical guitar intro leads into a beautiful rustic setting, emphasised by the flute. The slightly sharp harpsichord line is just so delectable, and almost makes you root for these Italian underdogs. Furthermore, those little glitches in production like the accidental guitar mute midway through, make it yet more warming and relatable. Another unique quality this record possesses is the consistent use of phasing, that truthfully makes certain parts more bloated, but the great sentiment of a desire to push boundaries and the vibrant personality it contributes easily outweighs this minor flaw. 5 minutes through, an organ solo just explodes after a very gradual growing, which goes to show how discrete Maxophone can be, and the energy they come at you with after a seemingly minimal change or contrast.

"Elzeviro": yet another mindblower. There are some truly astounding and effective chord progressions here. The diminished compressions that just elevate and reveal some extremely vehement vocals. More fantastic horn sections, plus one of the several musical pinnacles on the album, with that isolated piano note. The arrangement is just flawless when analysed, and the forced tempo changes are another sumptuous imperfection on here. The manic vibrato guitar seems to add just enough chaos to an already explosive track. The chilling woodwind chorus towards the end illuminates the gentle landscape painted by the singer; a huge contrast to those bellowing horns. The piece is particularly credible from a technical standpoint, and nevertheless very enjoyable.

The penultimate track begins with a pastoral harp serenade that bears a much less threatening build-up for those who aren't huge on the adrenaline-driven earlier pieces. There's a yet more adventurous harmonies that are further explored by the bass on here. Watery effects and a particularly soothing guitar line lead into a fairly hypnotic coda. On first listen, this repetitiveness seemed fairly tedious, but has become something for engulfing and simply transcendent upon re-listening to the album, especially when you're caught in the right frame of mind. I suppose this would be a weaker song in comparison to the rest of the album, but really it couldn't do much better in setting out on the sound it was trying to achieve. Plus, there's no way I couldn't imagine this track not on here.

"Antiche Conclusioni Negre" closes the album all too prematurely. A particularly liberating intro with some kind of call and response going on between the group. All the instruments have effectively had their say in the first 30 seconds or so, and all of this contributes to forming a very inclusive, empowering track. An excellent composition that really feels like its one more for the road. The very under-played, falsetto delivery suddenly augments and really lifts to reveal some vociferous vocals. Then, just when you think it's drying up, they enter that unbelievable build-up before culminating at the immaculate sax solo. Very melodic with those unmistakable fusion-esque squeaks. A slightly trippy, eccentric choral approach for the coda brings the album to a close in a much more conclusive way than their Italian cohorts. Maxophone really are the unsung heroes of the RPI scene when each of the member's innate, effortless talent and affinity is taken into consideration. Thankfully, they're finally getting their recognition here on ProgArchives

A: If these guys never made it, and allegedly each had to live off a sandwich a day during this recording session, how will I ever make it in music? Maxophone appear to be as fully-formed from the get-go as King Crimson on their timeless debut. The fact that this group disbanded and have only left this one-album legacy behind makes you wonder how much potential they really had. Quintessential.

C' Un Paese Al Mondo: ***** Fase: ****.5 Al Mancato Compleanno Di Una Farfalla: ****.5 Elzeviro: ****.5 Mercanti Di Pazzie: **** Antiche Conclusioni Nerge: *****

Xonty | 5/5 |


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