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Acqua Fragile - Mass Media Stars CD (album) cover


Acqua Fragile


Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.22 | 98 ratings

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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
3 stars Italian band Acqua Fragile are probably most well known now for being the previous band that vocalist Bernardo Lanzetti from Premiata Forneria Marconi's studio albums between 1975-1978 used to front. They released two studio albums between 1973-1974, before Bennardo was off to appear on PFM's `Chocolate Kings' album, but the fact that Acqua Fragile pretty much dissolved at that point is not too much of a tragedy. Despite being an Italian band, there's really very few proper RPI traits to be found in their music, instead they favoured a well-intentioned and energetic take on the sounds of British progressive bands, especially Yes, Gentle Giant and Genesis. They chose to utilize English vocals as well, likely in an attempt to appeal of international audiences. This second album, `Mass Media Stars', is well-played and tasteful, yet also fairly unengaging.

Unfortunately, Bernardo Lanzetti's vocals are extremely hard to love here. His English pronunciation became stronger and clearer on the PFM albums, but here his words often seem to run together in an increasingly inane way, very difficulty to understand and focus on, and attention starts to wander from the decent music behind them. Just notice the way the album suddenly picks up whenever the vocals calm down for a moment and the band launch into lengthier instrumental passages. Sadly these sort of more magical moments are few and far between.

Opener `Cosmic Mind Affair' has a nice punchy groove throughout, moving back and forth into little ethereal drifting moments as well. The sprightly drumming is the highlight, and the jazzy piano over pulsing bass and mandolin change of direction in the middle would have been great without the bleating obnoxious vocal dribbling all over it. `Bar Gazing' pulls out every clichéd Genesis trick, whether it's the acoustic guitar chimes or the symphonic organ pomp, but the repeated chorus melody is catchy (if completely impossible to understand due to Bernardo's gargling vocal), and the electric guitar solo in the middle is pleasingly a little scratchy and rough around the edges to offer a bit of tasty grit. The band then moves onto recreating Yes for the title track, with the high-pitched group harmonies a dead ringer for the more well known band, and the chunky murmuring bass and frantic guitar runs also completely modelled on Mr's Squire and Howe. While it's one of the better tracks, with plenty of twisting and turning infectious up-tempo energy, some oriental themes that pop up here and there throughout are a little baffling, and one or two spots where the group take on a squealing female-like chorus is excruciating.

Frantic Gentle Giant-aping complex harmonies open the second side's `Opening Act', but the rest is a jangling joyful tune full of dazzling piano and strident acoustic strumming. It's made borderline unlistenable by another forced lead vocal and a confusingly oriental-like wail, a shame because the actual tune and playing is lovely. `Professor' merges another Yes-clone rocker with a Gentle Giant-esque vocal (Bernardo is probably at his best on this one), and the rattling drumming, relentless bass and bombastic keyboard blasts are top- notch, making it the best track of the album. Album closer `Coffee Song' opens as a beautiful and delicate acoustic ballad, that gradually builds in stature and power with spacey synths, classical Renaissance-like piano drama and grand organ for a final dreamy instrumental run. A more restrained vocal throughout the earlier minutes would have made it even more special, but it's another of real standout moments on the album.

`Mass Media Stars' is at it's best when the musicians can really stand out and the instrumental passages allow them to shine, but these moments are fairly fleeting, with definitely too much emphasis placed on Mr Lanzetti's difficult vocals. If you decide to investigate Acqua Fragile, the better of their two studio albums is the debut, so be sure to go for that one first. `Mass Media Stars' is not completely without merit, but the truth is that there are far many more exciting and important Italian bands from the Seventies to explore long before this.

Two and a half stars, barely rounded up to three for the final two tracks and the overall musicianship lurking throughout the album.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 3/5 |


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