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La Maschera Di Cera - Le Porte Del Domani CD (album) cover

LE PORTE DEL DOMANI

La Maschera Di Cera

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

4.02 | 291 ratings

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MELNIBONÉ
5 stars

Prequels and sequels are common features in movies and novels, particularly within the science-fiction, fantasy and action genres (often subtitled "epic" trilogies, sagas or series). But even though science-fiction and fantasy share a lot with Prog, prequel or sequel albums are almost the exception rather than the rule. Usually, when Prog bands have a lot of material to offer (because the concept underlining and/or structuring their work was quite inspiring and thus thoroughly exploited), they'll release a double album (Yes' "Tales From Topographic Oceans", Genesis' "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway", Pink Floyd's "The Wall", Harmonium's "L'Heptade" or Crippled Black Phoenix's "[Mankind] The Crafty Ape", among others), or the even rarer triple album, such as XII Alfonso's "Darwin". Once in a while, some bands will split the body of work between two different albums : e.g. ELP's "Works Vol. 1" and "Vol. 2", Big Big Train's "English Electric (Part One)" and "(Part Two)", Steve Hackett's "Watcher Of The Skies ? Genesis Revisited" and "Genesis Revisited II".

That said, with "Le Porte Del Domani", La Maschera Di Cera has done something quite different from the examples above. Their album isn't simply a sequel, but one to an album from another band, and an iconic RPI band at that. Within the usual parameters of the Prog realm, it may seem "a bold idea", "a huge risk" and "a bold attempt" as some previous reviewers have written, but it's not so uncommon in other musical genres. Many classical composers (Beethoven, Brahms, Britten, Chopin, Rachmaninov, etc.) wrote series of "Variations on a Theme by?" other composers, which were either their predecessors or their contemporaries.

In view of that, I would venture to say that, in "Le Porte Del Domani", Fabio Zuffanti was not bold or risky, but rather conservative in his approach. After all, we should bear in mind that, under the guise of Hostsonaten (another side-project of said Zuffanti), he had previously released his own brilliant version and/or reinterpretation (in no less than four separate albums) of Antonio Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons", an iconic masterpiece of Italian baroque music that is known worldwide. This time around, Zuffanti is less ambitious, if only because, even though "Felona E Sorona" is an inescapable Prog masterpiece, Prog isn't such a big thing compared to classical music (especially in Italy). Less ambitious, but surely not less talented : Zuffanti has succeeded to compose and deliver a masterpiece sequel to an iconic masterpiece. Not a common feat by any standards !

From the outset, I have to point out that, in both cases, my review is based upon the original version of each album? and not at all because my knowledge of Italian would enable me to understand what they're singing about (in fact, I really rank below kindergarden level in that respect). It's simply because the Italian language has always been music to my ears and, thus, I can listen to the singer's voice purely as an instrument, without being distracted by (or wanting to access) the meaning of the words.

Other than one being the sequel to the other, there are some interesting similarities between Le Orme's 1973 album and La Maschera Di Cera's 2013 release. Even though 40 years have elapsed between them, their cover art is both from paintings by Lanfranco, the only differences being dominant red vs dominant blue and the couple looking younger in 2013 than it seemingly was in 1973 (a visual twist that is not without charming irony) . Both albums feature nine tracks ; they were numbered from 1 to 9 on "Felona E Sorona", whereas they're "lettered" from a to i on "Le Porte Del Domani". "Sospesi Nell'Incredibile", the first track on "Felona E Sorona", lasts 8:43, while "Ritorno Dal Nulla", which is the first track on "Le Porte Del Domani", clocks at 8:40. And that same track bridges the time gap between the two albums, as its title answers to that of "Ritorno Al Nulla", the last track on "Felona E Sorona". This last track on "Felona E Sorona" is also the only true instrumental on the album, but the number 7, "Ritratto Di Un Matino", might also be considered an instrumental piece, as its lyrics consists of a single sentence. On "Le Porte Del Domani", there is also only one true instrumental piece : it's the title-track, and it's the last one on the album. Also, echoing Le Orme's album, there are two songs that we can almost label instrumentals, as song f, "Viaggio Metafisico", and song g, "Alba Nel Tempio", both feature only nine verses each. Finally, while the total length of each release is different (Le Orme's clocks at 33:39 against La Maschera's 45:14), both fit in the usual short time slot of RPI albums.

The main differences stand in the line-up of each band. Le Orme are a trio and they've always favored an economy of means : keyboards (Pagliuca), vocals, bass and guitar (Tagliapietra), drums and percussion (Dei Rossi). La Maschera Di Cera is somewhat the opposite, lining up five members with a sizeable amount of instruments between them : acoustic guitar and electric 12-strings (Corvaglia, who is also the singer), drums and a whole array of percussion (Di Tollo), piano, Fender Rhodes, Hammond, Mellotron, Birotron and Chamberlin, to name but a few of the keyboards displayed (Macor), flute (Monetti), bass and bell (Zuffanti) ; and their two guest musicians play flute and sax (Grice), and electric guitar (Marsano).

I've pointed out these similarities and differences to give an idea of the study of Le Orme's masterpiece Zuffanti must have gone through to compose his sequel. "Le Porte Del Domani" is not simply the work of someone who admires an iconic album of the early '70s and tries to emulate it. It's much more than that : it's a work of passion and respect, and a testimony to the discipline, restraint and finesse of Zuffanti as a composer. Here and there, he uses motifs and melodies from the original work (just like classical composers did in their time), but to build upon them, to go further, to loop the loop, to knot the strands left untied by Le Orme in 1973. Zuffanti didn't try to better his model, but rather to reach the same level of excellence. "Le Porte Del Domani" is an opus of love.

Usually, for an album to be bestowed a masterpiece, it has to stand to test of time. But then, there are exceptions. As another reviewer suggested, treat yourself to listening to the albums back to back and you'll hear, and feel, and understand that "Felona E Sorona" called for a sequel and that "Le Porte Del Domani" couldn't have been different than what it is. A masterpiece following another masterpiece. Music for and from the heart couldn't be any better.

5 stellar conclusions

PS As mentioned above according to the liner notes, Agostino Macor plays the Birotron on "Le Porte Del Domani". For those unaware of what a Birotron is, it's an analog instrument developed to improve on the Chamberlin and the Mellotron, built by a company funded by Rick Wakeman in the late '70s. Only a few dozens at most were manufactured and it is believed that less than half a dozen would still be operational as of this writing. Wakeman used it on Yes' "Tormato" and "Yesshows", and on his own solo album, "Criminal Record". So, if ever you need another good reason to buy and cherish "Le Porte Del Domani", this is it, as the Birotron is arguably the "world's rarest musical instrument" around.

MELNIBONÉ | 5/5 |

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