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Pholas Dactylus - Concerto Delle Menti CD (album) cover


Pholas Dactylus


Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.75 | 53 ratings

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4 stars Challenging 53 minute Italian opus

Pholas Dactylus is a classic Italian one-shot that released their "Concerto Delle Menti" back in 1973. The group formed in '72 near Milan and worked up the "Concerto" on the festival scene prior to recording it. Reaction to their live shows was said to be very good and they even supported Amon Duul 2 for a while. Despite good reviews of their album the band split at the end of 1973, really tragic given the quality of the material here. "Concerto Delle Menti" is not a simple album to appreciate. Firmly in the more "difficult" camp of Italian progressive, the 53 minute 2-part piece has been described as avant-garde for its unusual spoken vocal style. Much more saucy and challenging than the friendlier Italian albums of the day, CDM is approaching "Palepoli" territory on the strangeness meter. It took me MANY plays to appreciate this album and I really loathed it at first, thankfully I force myself to stick with albums for quite a while. This one clicked with me on minute 14 of my 37th listen..kidding, but it took a while.

As I mentioned the albums vocals are strange in that they are not sung, but spoken. They occasionally seem like they are starting to sing but then pull back. Don't let this scare you off though as there are also long sections of instrumental as well. The lyrics of the piece are rather controversial. Someone at Wiki wrote that they are "rich of visionary symbolism, dealing with an apocalyptic end of Earth, full of Biblical and mythological visions. Authors like Henry Miller and Baudelaire has been cited as inspiration for the lyrics." In the "Return of Italian Pop" book Mr. Barotto calls them "very valid." And yet our own Raffaela would certainly not agree with Paolo as I recall her using the word "overwrought" and telling me they were generally just laughably awful. As I can't understand a word of Italian, to me they are simply another instrument in this band I enjoy very much, they are dramatic without being overly distracting (at least once you get used to the style.)

Musically this is undeniably good and a feast for the prog-head. Carefully arranged, detailed, complex, challenging, jamming. Rock and jazzier styles are traded and even some Krautrock sounding passages find their way into the mix. There is a good balance achieved between the guitar portion of the album and the keyboards. The keys use both organ and piano while guitars range from clean to distorted electric. It is obvious the piece was helped to gel by repeatedly playing it live prior to recording, parts were no doubt discovered and others probably dropped. But I love how the guitars and keys will be doing two completely different things seemingly so you almost have to pick what to listen to..then, at some point the hypnotic effect of this falls away and you notice how well their parts relate. Same with the vocals when they enter. I love the wild guitar improv happening in the 15-18 minute period, really adventurous. There are some wicked cacophonous dissonance sections that are disturbing in their clatter, the one near the 21 minute mark making you grateful for the gentle vocal and guitar that follow. Another great section is 33-35 minutes in when the bass is just pounding as the piano and guitar trade pointed, feisty barbs. There will be some group chantings and some lovely piano sections which always grabs me. Daring and truly original in a genre often wrongly accused of simply following the lead of others, this album is a must for Italian fans and will likely move onto my top 25 Italian list. For its ability to merge controlled tension with borderline chaos, to merge a heavy darkness with other section of pure musical fun, I believe it deserves a round-up from 3 territory. I believe it would easily appreciated by fans of Osanna, Cervello, or RRR.also Gentle Giant, maybe Zappa and Gong fans as well. The sound is a bit spotty on the Vinyl Magic issue but don't let that stop you. 7/10

Finnforest | 4/5 |


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