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Sophya Baccini - Aradža CD (album) cover

ARADŐA

Sophya Baccini

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.65 | 17 ratings

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Raff
Prog Reviewer
4 stars According to Neo-Pagan belief, Aradia was the daughter of the goddess Artemis. However, in spite of the occasional supernatural and mythological references (not surprising in a Black Widow release), Sophya Baccini's solo debut is a concept album mainly based on a tale of friendship between women - to use the artist's own words, the story of a woman who finds herself thanks to another woman's help and support. The album is clearly a labour of love, a project very close to the artist's heart whose making lasted over three years.

The album is built around a 50-minute suite divided into 13 parts, which relates Aradia's tale in emotional, often visionary terms. Even if both Sophya's vocal style (somewhat reminiscent of Annie Haslam) and the overall musical atmosphere may be an acquired taste, the whole composition shares the sophisticated, gothic-tinged vein of Kate Bush or Tori Amos, though liberally flavoured with the uniquely Mediterranean flair for romance and lyricism. A strong symphonic component holds the various tracks together - the violin is a steady presence throughout the album, while other, more exotic instruments such as the bouzouki or the accordion add a folksy note to the proceedings.

Opener "La Pietra" immediately sets the mood for the entire disc, with Baccini reciting the opening lines of Aradia's story over a lush orchestral background. The 9-minute-plus track, the longest on the album, and a mini-suite in itself, alternates sedate, atmospheric moments with more dramatic ones, dominated by Sophya's soaring vocals, and tempered by her gently lilting piano and some beautifully melodic guitar work. The following songs are all markedly shorter, some of them conceived like interludes connecting the more substantial pieces of the story. Though Sophya's vocals are understandably the stars of the show, the other instruments contribute to the building of a rich, enthralling atmosphere. Some of the many highlights of the suite deserve a special mention: in "Studiare, Studiare", the lilting sound of the clavinet can be heard on a lush tapestry of strings and mellotron; while the melancholy strains of the accordion enhance the romantic, tango-like melody and passionate ending of "Will Love Drive Out the Rain?". "Non E' L'Amore Il Tuo Destino" sees Sophya's ethereal voice contrasted with Osanna singer Lino Vairetti's expressive, powerful tones over a sparse background of piano and flute.

If I had to level one particular criticism at the album, it would regard the lyrical rather than the musical aspect. In fact, even though Sophya's efforts in writing her songs not ony in Italian, but also in English and French, are indeed to be appreciated, mistakes such as the one in the title of the song "When the Eagles Flied" could detract from her credibility on the international scene. "Aradia" would also have benefited from a shorter running time - the last four tracks, appended to the disc as a sort of afterthought, could have been omitted without doing any real damage to the final product, especially since the album is almost 70 minutes long.

A finely-crafted, deeply personal album, "Aradia" will undoubtedly appeal to fans of female voices, especially those who do not mind a touch of operatic grandiosity with their music. On the whole, a very promising solo debut from one of the best female vocalists on the current prog scene, and a worthwhile addition to the ever-growing roster of interesting new Italian bands and artists.

Raff | 4/5 |

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