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Alan Sorrenti - Aria CD (album) cover

ARIA

Alan Sorrenti

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.89 | 81 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars What a voice this guy's got, and just as wondersome as his sister Jenny. Is it because they had Welsh roots (mother's side) and the weird mix with his Napolitan upbringing? Who knows, but one thing is sure, if you don't like vocal experimentations, then stay away from the Sorrenti's, at least in their early career. Sisdter Jenny had a good start with the short-lived Saint Just group, than released a solo effort, before slipping from my radar, while Alan started with stupendous solo albums, but by the mid-decade had veered disco and pop. His solid gatefold debut release is probably one of the more striking one from these year on the peninsula and he certainly had some important musical help, including drummer Esposito (already involved with St Just) and some Spanish and French guests including Ponty on violin, but Clearly the man in the shadow is Albert Prince on keys and arrangements.

Alan's voice and how he uses it as an instrument is a strange mix of Peter Hammill, Robert Wyatt and the utmost experimental Tim Buckley. And there is no doubt Sorrenti heard all three to dare being so audacious from his first album onwards. And does Alan ever leave his voice rip it up throughout the opening side on the epic sidelong title track. Along with Ponty's brilliant violin interventions, Aria is a stunning piece of music, sometimes curdling your blood because of Alan's voice ramblings. Starting on winds, discreet mellotron and Alan's acoustic guitar, it's almost an enchanted evening; if it wasn't for the glacial choirs in the background until Prince's piano enters the fold. Then Alan's voice smoothly glides from spellbinding to first worrrysome, then menacing tone and soon becomes demented if not diabolical, shifting between Hammill's tone with Buckley's range and control and sometimes Flamenco, soon wiped by Prince's keyboards. At one point, with Ponty's violin work, we can think of the eeriness of Comus' First Utterances. Yes, that good and that weird. At other times, we're close to the mythic Starsailor or Lorca albums, and even a bit of Rock Bottom (via his voice, but also the trumpet playing). What do you mean you're not at the records shop yet???

The flipside is less thrilling with three shorter songs, of which only one doesn't really belong here. The opening Vorrei Incontrati is a calm pastoral folk song a bit similar to Crimson's I Talk To The Wind and holds the same function in a demented album, to give you breath of fresh air before returning to insane times. I will take a point of saying I don't enjoy the accordion bit, though. The following Mia Mente returns to the glacial background choirs at the start of the title track and add a superb bass line and later trons of mello, but Sorrenti's voice must wait Prince's piano to unleash itself in a Hammill style, both taking the insanity plunge in a rock-bottomed well, saved by the lighthouse keeper. Just as stunning as the title track, even if returning to it a bit too systematically: in a way, you could say that the 19-mins+ epic can be condensed into Mia Mente. As for the closing Fiume Tranquillo; it starts with a bowed bass (love it) and early Hammill-ian vocals (both solo and Graaf) and proceeds to its own adventures with a trombone and some excellent Esposito drumming, and smùoothly dying in pastoral sounds soon becoming nightmarish.

Certainly worth the investigation with his second album in tow, Sorrenti's Aria is one unconventional album out of the Italian Peninsula. It's actually a wonder how Alan could veer disco with such an experimental start. Anyway, an amazing album, and one of the most experimental from the Italian boot, along with early Battiato. Stay away if you don't like vocal digression, but if you don't mind a bit of adventure aria should just about do it for you.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |

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