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NotaBene - Sei Lacrime d'Ambra CD (album) cover




Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.99 | 49 ratings

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3 stars Nota Bene have been around since 2003, releasing two albums and gaining a strong reputation as one of the leading Italian bands in running. While their sound is rooted in the '70s tradition, Nota Bene has a strong tendency to experiment with many approaches and have solidified themselves as "their own" band. They play a brand of symphonic prog that occasionally ventures into jazz and heavier rock with a dramatic flare of course; going back and forth between light and heavy, upbeat and dark, sprawling and direct. In 2005, their debut album showed considerable promise, especially in the remarkably successful blend approaches usually difficult to tackle for a young band. "Sei Lacrime d'Ambra" followed in 2007 with longer tracks and more room for Daniele Manerba to stretch out on keyboards with the departure of Rocco Vitiello (violin and trumpet). Guitarist Silver Pes also left and was replaced by Giampietro Maccabiani who fills the role nicely.

"La revolution bourgeoise" jumps off to a strong start, the vocals being an obvious strength and perfectly suited for the dark atmosphere. The first four tracks move along nicely, hitting all the necessary stops along the way-they do almost everything you'd expect from a prog band and of course some things you wouldn't expect. The first two tracks are the darkest, Maccabiani having a prominent role in driving the mood home and kicking it into hard rock territory. "Le mistificazioni dell'ombra" is classic RPI, it reminds me of Banco or Museo Rosenbach back in the day (maybe not quite as good, but that's still saying a lot). They definitely have the stop-start-switch mentality in place throughout. "La Maschera di Cera" is a nice little break, very easy going, sort of folky and pleasant to hum along with (I'd sing if I knew the words.). My favorite parts are the more traditional sounding: there are sections of this scattered everywhere but the best is the second half of the title track-almost into cantatore mode and very evocative, Andrea Alberici's voice seems tailor made for this approach and the band overall are well versed in this unmistakably Italian approach.

While the first four tracks work so well together, I might say that the sound starts to wear thin after the first few minutes of "Il treno di Obuda." I'm having a tough time explaining it, but my attention span wanes every time. It could be that it's still growing on me, even after a year, as the album overall was a bit slow to warm up and somewhat longer than the 35-50 minutes that I'm accustomed to. If anything, one of the band's strengths becomes a flaw here because they can't quite tie together all the ground that is explored. And while I love Maccabiani's guitar work throughout, Manerba's keyboard sounds can become a little generic at times on the long tracks; he's best when sticking to the more authentic sounds of piano et. al., but then again I tend to be picky about synthesizers in general. As I might expect, my favorite parts of "Il treno di Obuda" are when it drifts toward folk and classical, and when Maccabiani comes up with very tasty phrases to compliment the exuberant vocals. Hey, maybe it isn't so "boring" per just doesn't deserve 16 minutes - it's the extended sections that really drag. The second installment of "La revolution bourgeoise" is the closer and longest track here, and is considerably better than the previous as an "epic track". It's noticeably more coherent, and the band members give more punch here, carried by the guitar work.pretty good for the new guy! Also, there is a particular synth riff that works very nicely at several points - sounds like a light shining through clouds (.if it's possible for an instrument to do that). There's also more jazzy electric piano playing and dark instrumental sections - this track basically packages everything we've heard so far on the album.and there's even a syncopated marching section before Maccabiani comes up with his most dexterous solo. I've made it this far without even mentioning the solid rhythm section, Gianluca Avanzati in particular on bass does an excellent job of accenting the jazzy sections. This track probably took the longest for me to appreciate, stretching the album to over an hour, but now I'd say that this is the key attraction to prog fans, especially those who love the Italian brand. I'll expect good things from these guys, and I recommend them to anyone digging a little deeper into the scene than the heavy hitters. Nota Bene are definitely one of the more interesting bands to emerge from Italy in recent years.

PA rating: 3-3.25 , not for newcomers to RPI, but valuable within that section. There are no major flaws but nothing here breaks the plane. 'I like it, but I don't know if you will.'

The Jimmy Row Factor: 6.5/10, C

jimmy_row | 3/5 |


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