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Le Orme - Felona E Sorona CD (album) cover


Le Orme


Rock Progressivo Italiano

4.24 | 865 ratings

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5 stars A masterful composition of mood and color

Review #600 should be marked by something special. We finally arrive at the pinnacle of the Orme brand, or so we've been told. I admit to being in a state of great anticipation over this album after reading the reviews and soaking up the wonderful album cover, wonderful not because of the nudity but because the style is so European. I love the profile view of the face at the right side of the cover which reminds me of an old Antonioni film.... "L'Avventura" anyone?

While their previous album was a huge advancement over "Collage" this album does not make the same grand leap in quality or technique over "Pezza", but it does make changes in mood and composition. You still have the dependable and formidable Orme attributes: the warm and melancholic vocals, the comforting bass presence, the keys over guitar paradigm, and the crisp and fluent drumming. But here some of the arbitrary bombast and obvious melody of the previous album is replaced by a murkier, artier, more esoteric listening experience. As Linus brilliantly noted this music is "lonely" and also distant.....detached somehow. Yet it remains full of the substantive intricacies that make Orme so appealing. Tommy Schönenberg from calls this one "their most original-sounding album, as Pagliuca now had taken full advantage of the synths (both Moog and string-synths) and made them one of the most important features in the sound of the record. Even many of the organ-chords had been layered with the synths, often making it hard to distinguish the two keyboards apart from each other, resulting in a very unique sound." I am mystified at reading several reviews that suggest "Felona" has no highlights to be found, as I hear them in every track. The entire work suggests the highlight of a career, and to date I've not been more impressed by an album from the "Big 3" of Italian prog (although there are still some Banco titles I need to hear.) You will also read that this album is an ELP clone and while there are stylistic similarities, Orme succeeds by focusing on mood and detail over fireworks. I've never been moved by ELP melodies to the extent I've been here.

For me this is the best Orme title I've heard thus far, very close to a masterpiece by any measure. Whereas "Uomo di Pezza" seemed a more benevolent face for Orme, at turns nostalgic and beautiful, "Felona e Sorona" gets under your skin in a less comfortable but more seductive way. I'll agree this one takes longer to fully assimilate, but once your brain begins to dissect the layers here you will never lose your appreciation of this music. Layered and intelligent, nearly perfected arranged, and flawlessly constructed songwriting. Much more than the previous two albums, here every note from the first track seems destined and engrossing. I believe Orme learned much from the experience of the prior albums and were able to combine that experience with what was still a firm commitment to the majestic and flowery progressive epics of the moment. They had not yet switched gears in musical thought and the result is that "Felona" is the album where it all came together for this band. Listen to the way Aldo's bass takes over as lead in the mid-late sections of "Sospesi Nell 'Incredible" or the way they can drop gears from that ferocious opener right back into a folksy, light acoustic number like "Felona" without missing a beat. Both "kinds" of tracks are equally and lovingly adorned with much care around the edges, delicate piano twinkling, bells, the crispness of the strummed acoustic, the floating mellotron. The perfect transitions of tension and release, such as from "La Solitudine" to "L'Equilbrio", and the achingly beautiful melodies throughout are so impressive to me. The quiet guitar, the spooky drapery of melancholy that opens "Sorona" on side two will stop you in your tracks, makes you close your eyes and listen. The heavenly melodic conclusion of "Ritratto di un Mattino" has to be among prog's most beautiful moments---if it doesn't move you, your heart must be offline. Another perfectly ascending, long transition follows from "All 'Infuori" into the final track which is the most extroverted of the set, a true finale! The scant 33 minute running length is often decried by people as a negative; in fact, it is never the quantity but rather the quality that we should focus on. "Felona" plays very much like one continuous suite and the length is more or less perfect to me. It also has aged very well and sounds positively fresh. While many bands have claimed on Orme influence over the years, none get close to capturing the balance of factors that made the original so great.

"Felona" in some ways is more modest and less grandiose, less "over the top" than the period giants like Topographic or The Lamb. And yet it is every bit the masterpiece because it is so perfectly adorned in its moods, composition, and superb performance. It is not the prog-rock album for those looking for excitement and guitar thrills, of that much I will give its critics. It is one for fans who prefer a more thoughtful, subdued, yet enormously fulfilling experience. It's almost a cinematic experience, like the musical equivalent of 60s European modernist film. A must for RPI fans and essential for any well-rounded collection.

Finnforest | 5/5 |


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