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Alphataurus - Alphataurus CD (album) cover

ALPHATAURUS

Alphataurus

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

4.10 | 323 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars The year 1973 saw the peak of the progressive rock scene all across Europe and by this time it seemed like everyone was getting in on the act. While many bands were ratcheting up their progressiveness to grandiose pompous excess, many bands were just getting started and leaving behind one small trace of their imprint on the scene before disbanding seemingly as quickly as they emerged. Milan's ALPHATAURUS were in that category of flash in the pan artists that while forming in 1970 took three years to release their eponymous debut and then the very same year while attempting to record a follow up were riddled with personal conflicts and called it a day. Despite this short burst onto stage during the glory days of Italy's prog scene, this Milan unit nevertheless delivered a well respected and eternal slice of the prog rock universe that continues to see a steady growth in both interest and sales, so much so that the band reformed in 2010 to restart their career forty years after they began.

ALPHATAURUS were virtually unknown yet scored some festivals in 1972 when Vittorio De Scalzi of New Trolls scouted them out for his first musical act to be released on his nascent Magma Records. While fitting in with the overall sound spectrum of the Rock Progressive Italiano scene ALPHATAURUS was also notable for utilizing outsider influences such as England's Uriah Heep with their heavy rock approach as well as Van Der Graaf Generator with their moody moog saturated melodic passages that schizophrenically shapeshifted without notice. The band consisted of five members: Guido Wasserman on guitar, Pietro Pellegrini on piano, Hammond organ, Moog, vibraphone and spinet, Alfonso Oliva on bass, Giorgio Santandrea on drums, timpani, congas and Michele Bavaro as the passionately romantic lead vocalist. Their sole album of the 70s also consists of five tracks with three lengthy pieces as well as two shorter with each track having its own distinct identity making ALPHATAURUS' debut a nice diverse listening experience.

The opener "Le Chamedere (Peccato D'Orgoglio) delivers all the classic Italian sounding goods. Moody moog opening sequence followed by the pastoral Genesis inspired acoustic guitar passages that build into heavier and more dynamic crescendoes to follow. Stylistically Bavaro's vocal performances often remind me of Osanna's Lino Vairetti with his passionate pleas subtly ratcheting up into aggressive frenzies. Likewise some of the musical pieces can at times carry an Osanna tinged flavor albeit without the Neapolitan flavors that exist in the Southern Italy regions. ALPHATAURUS also borrow a lot from fellow country dwellers PFM with heavy Hammond organ attacks that hint of an ELP approach but crafted into strong flavors rather than bombastic head butts. "Dopo L'Uragano" follows suit with arpeggiated guitars buttressed with classical piano tinklings and Uriah Heep styled power chord progressions but catches the listener off guard by detouring into funk rock as well as with a roller coaster ride of changes that follow.

"Croma," the tiny track sandwiched between the others is a way cool spinet performance that cedes into a dramatic symphonic dreamscape. "La Mente Vola" features a wickedly cool moog and spinet combo intro with the track progressing into myriad different styles and shapeshifting gymnastics on its way to the ending smoking hot vibraphone solo workout. Augmented by a strong bass line, the guitar is allowed to soar in atmospheric free fall or in tasty blues fashion. Bavaro's vocal antics are hardly a one-trick pony. Versatile in all respects not only reminds of Osanna's Vairetti but has the chops to bring PFM, Banco and Museo Rosenbach to mind as well with sing-along style melodies that take progressive liberties with oft utilized time signature deviations and classically infused piano runs. "Ombra Muta" the near ten minute closer which continues the subtly seductive intro that ratchets up the dynamics scale until it builds into a Moog dominated soundscape with a pumping beefy ostinato bass line, heavy percussive drive and tastily delivered guitar chops complete with soloing techniques.

ALPHATAURUS may not stand out as totally original on the first couple listens as they evoke the other better known acts of the day with aspects adopted from all of them, however this band had an interesting way of presenting those elements in a distinct new form and added dynamics such as the often "reserved for jazz only" vibraphone to the mix with pleasing results. The harmonically rich melodic romps through the by then classic Rock Progressivo Italiano sound is as refined as a diamond cut from the deepest mines in Botswana. Romantic and pacifying, ALPHATAURUS flirted with bombast without ever fully diving in. While not as deftly virtuosic as Banco or PFM, nor as aggressively astute as Osanna, Area or Il Balletto Di Bronzo, ALPHATAURUS was about delivering heavily melodic compositional constructs that took the smoothness of bands like Le Orme and Il Balletto Di Bronzo and added a few new twists and turns. While some regard this as one of the greatest albums of the scene, as good as it is, it seems like it could've offered a few more original takes and not rely as much on the tricks and trinkets of their fellow countrymen. Nevertheless, this debut album is indeed a classic that kicks ass and delivers all the Italian prog goods in perfect pitch and that is a good thing.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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