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Alan Sorrenti - Aria CD (album) cover

ARIA

Alan Sorrenti

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.89 | 83 ratings

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Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Genius to some, dreadful to others--I understand both views

Alan Sorrenti was born in Wales and later worked from Naples, releasing a few prog albums in the early 70s before switching to commercial pop in 1976. He is the brother of Jenny Sorrenti of Saint Just fame, and his debut Aria is notable for featuring the famed violinist Jean-Luc Ponty as a collaborator.

Aria is an experimental album featuring vocals that can only be described as a free-form experiment, they dominate the music like some animated avant-garde poetry reading over folk/chamber music. Actually the music is more of a dark cloaked, ethnic folk and acoustic blend, with generous keys, creating a murky pool over which Sorrenti lays down vocals that are among the most interesting you will ever hear. As someone used to Italian vocals which have a reputation for being difficult (though rarely deserved in my opinion), I can tell you that this album will test your limits for vocal histrionics. Here Sorrenti's baying at the moon makes Peter Hammill sound like Cat Stevens. If that sounds harsh I suppose it is because I don't really like the Sorrenti vocals, though I'll endure them for the unique music presented here. The centerpiece track "Aria" opens very quietly and acoustic, you might think you're in for something like "Rivendell" or "Granchester Meadow." But it changes quite quickly as melancholic piano and cymbals are added along with the beginnings of Mr. Sorrenti's long, hallucinogenic vocal trip. He basically turns his voice into an instrument and he moves up and down the register in a way that can seem random, he explores places which seem out of his natural range, and he provides and endless repertoire of unusual noises, bleats, and groans. And he keeps it up almost constantly which is one of my biggest complaints. More restraint or some longer places to breath would have helped the overall piece. Then again, if you like his spiel here you are in for a treat. Bass and violin soon follows as the piece gets more tension filled and spooky. I think if you cranked this album on the big speakers in your garage, a neighbor would have the police there in about 5 minutes. Horns and organ make appearances as well as the track either overstays it welcome or you get lost in the waves, there's no easy way to predict who will like this and who will not. Side two is broken in to three shorter tracks which offer more diversity but still suffer from the overbearing vocals. There is beautiful melody and interesting progressions here but it is sometimes a challenge to follow them through the vocals. I enjoy difficult music and can find beauty in harsh places as you will know if you read my reviews, but I'm just not sold that Sorrenti is as amazing as others think he is:

"Creating a blend of folk with a melodic, avant-garde jazz backdrop, Sorrenti has rendered a vocal tapestry on par with anything Van Morrison or Peter Hammill has had the energy to commit to tape. Aria is a blend of the most sophisticated form of symphonic folk I have ever heard. At times Sorrenti weaves his way through his tunes like an emblazoned Peter Hammill with VdGG, only to recess back to the solitude of a melancholy troubadour, evoking images of a soul in suspended animation." -Fantasyman, RYM

This is an atypical RPI album that was as bold and challenging as other acclaimed works like Battisti's "Anima Latina" or Battiato's "Sulle Corde di Aries." While not a favorite of mine I recognize the tortured genius (or is the pointlessly irritating and self-absorbed)? I can only recommend the album to those interested in the most challenging approaches to music, to lovers of the weird and the avant-garde. At the end of the day I feel it has the potential for brilliance, but rather than tempering the vocal a bit he just drives it into the ground. It's a tough album yet still a good one, and perhaps more. Read my friend LinusW's wonderful review which while different from mine I completely accept---there is beauty here, it's just going to take me more time to find it.

Finnforest | 3/5 |

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