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4 stars Algebra are an Italian prog band from Benevento that was formed in early eighties on the initiative of keyboardist Rino Pastore and drummer Salvatore Silvestri. Well, this band is not one of the most prolific ones.... After a debut album in 1994, "Storia di un Iceberg", in 2009 they released this second work for the independent label AMS/BTF, "JL", inspired by Richard Bach's book "Jonathan Livingston Seagull". The present line up features Mario Giammetti (vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, bass), Rino Pastore (keyboards), Roberto Polcino (keyboards, accordion), Francesco Ciani (drums, acoustic and electronic percussion) and Maria Giammetti (alto and soprano sax, flute). In studio they were helped by some prestigious guest musicians like, among others, Steve and John Hackett, Aldo Tagliapietra, Lino Vairetti and Goran Kuzminac that contributed to enrich the sound. Algebra are great fans of Genesis, but the music on this work is definitely less derivative than on their previous one. It's conceived as a long suite and features some really good melodic and emotional passages...

It was morning, and the new sun sparkled gold across the ripples of a gentle see... The opener "Il molo deserto" (The deserted pier) begins softly, two flutes wake up, then an electric guitar solo (played by Steve Hackett) soars like a flight of seagulls... On the next track the vocals of Aldo Taglipietra, on a calm background, draw the imagine of a solitary gull, who doesn't care for food like the others... "His name is Jonathan and he loves flying / He flies far away / To touch lightly new horizons"...

Next comes "Il volo perfetto" (The perfect flight) where the emotional vocals of Osanna's leader Lino Vairetti describe Jonathan's practice until the notes of a sax solo lead to the light and delicate instrumental "Aria nuova" (New air). We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence and skill. We can be free! We can learn to fly!

"La gogna" (Stand to Center) describes the reaction of the flock against the strange attitude of Jonathan. "Jonathan Livingston Seagull! Stand to Center!" The Elder's words sounded in a voice of highest ceremony... "Jonathan Livingston Seagull", said the Elder, "Stand to Center for Shame in the sight of your fellow gulls!"... "For his reckless irresponsibility", the solemn voice intoned, "violating the dignity and tradition of the Gull Family"... The solemn threatening voice of the Elder and the puzzled one of Jonathan are interpreted by Rino Pastore and Mario Giammetti with passion, then a delicate flute passage leads to another beautiful instrumental "I gabbiani non volano al buio" (Seagulls never fly in the dark). Jonathan Seagull discovered that boredom and fear and anger are the reasons that a gull's life is short, and with this gone from his thought, he lived a long fine life indeed.

"Un'altra dimensione" (A new perspective) opens with a delicate organ sound, then synthesizers and an electric guitar solo introduce the voice of Goran Kuzminac who sings describing the meeting between Jonathan and two radiant gulls that show him the way for an higher knowledge, "Come with us they said to him / One school is finished, and the time has come for another to begin / And they disappeared together into the night". Well, Goran Kuzminac is one of my favourite Italian singer songwriter and it was a true pleasure for me to listen to his contribute on this album!

Next comes "Al naufragio del mio sogno" (The shipwrecked dream) that features the operatic vocals of Gianfranco Casiero soaring from a dreamy atmosphere and melts in the exotic percussive pattern of the short instrumental "Un battito d'ali" (A single flap of wings)... "I'm still alive / Into the caresses of every wind breath". So this is heaven, he thought, and he had to smile at himself. It was hardly respectful to analyze heaven in the very moment that one flies up to enter it.

On "Ciang" (Chiang) the intense voice of Italian rocker Graziano Romani describes a new leg of Jonathan's path to perfection and the meeting with the Elder Gull Chiang... "I am Chiang and I am the Elder Gull / I am here to teach you to fly / You will go to heaven / When you will reach the perfect speed". "We choose our next world through what we learn in this one. Learn nothing, and the next world is the same as this one, all the same limitations and lead weights to overcome... Heaven is not a place, and it is not a time. Heaven is being perfect!".

"Il fattore tempo" (Working in time) is a beautiful jazzy instrumental where Maria Giammetti's saxophone evolves upon a background of counter-bass and piano. Those who put aside travel for the sake of perfection go anywhere, instantly. Remember Jonathan, heaven isn't a place or a time, because place and time are so very meaningless... The following track, "Il richiamo" (The callback), is about Jonathan's need to come back to his old flock to show to other young seagulls what he has learned and to teach them how to fly... Hope and nostalgia mixed together in a delicate ballad with a beautiful finale where sax and electric guitar take the lead.

On "Fletcher" lyrics describe the meeting between Jonathan and his new student, Fletcher. New sensations and feelings, new thesis overcoming old rules while exotic notes of saxophone lead to the delicate instrumental "Soffi da Oriente" (Blows from the East)...

"Un'infinita idea di libertÓ" (An unlimited idea of freedom) is another excellent instrumental, joyful and relaxed in the meantime, while the following "Ritorno allo stormo" (Back to the flock) begins in a more elaborate and dramatic way... "Break the chains / They keep the thoughts in prison / Then the body will be free too".

"Presa di coscienza" (Awareness) is beautiful piece about hope... It tells about the meeting between Jonathan and a gull with a broken wing, Maynard... "If you want to fly / Open your wings / And take it easy"... And Maynard, the injured gull took off towards the sky, into the wind! "Nel vento della grande montagna" (In the Great Mountain wind) is another short instrumental that slightly reminds me of Le Orme's "Aliante" and features John Hackett on flute.

You need to keep finding yourself, a little more each day, that real, unlimited Fletcher Seagull. He's your instructor... A moment later Jonathan's body wavered in the air, shimmering, and begun to go transparent... "L'addio" (Goodbye) and the following complex instrumental final act "Atto finale" are a perfect epilogue for a very good album that could give you the chance to rediscover an amazing book...

On the whole I think that this album could be an excellent addition to every prog collection.

Report this review (#271275)
Posted Friday, March 12, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars 3.5 stars really

The second album of this discret band comes 15 years since their debute named JL is concept album inspired by Richard Bach's "Jonathan Livingston Seagull." The music is far more superior and mature then on Storia, with more elegant and complex arrangements, like must sound a symphonic prog album. There are also some famous guests here like Steve and John Hackett, Aldo Tagliapietra of Le Orme fame and Osanna's Lino Vairett. Here Algebra sounds little less genesis derivate then on previous album , the passages are well constructed like a suite and overall is pretty decent work. The guitars, the organ the pleasent vocal lines , beautiful instrumental arrangements, make from this albuma really nice and enjoyble ride, almost totaly unknown in prog circles. One of the lesser known bands from italian school and with this album they proved to be a named to take in consideration.

Report this review (#1037823)
Posted Wednesday, September 18, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The years following ''Iceberg'' were spent by Algebra on playing live and stabilizing a secure line-up.Mario Giammetti's sister Maria, who guested on sax in the first album, was promoted to a full-time member and in 1995 Roberto Polcino joins the band on keyboards.However original drummer Salvatore Silvestri leaves Algebra in 1998 and he is replaced by Francesco Ciani.From this point begins a huge presence of Algebra on tribute albums, including participations on works dedicated to Genesis, ELP, Gentle Giant, Camel, Jethro Tull and The Moody Blues among other compilations.Passing through the mid-00's they focused on working and recording their second album ''JL'', based on Richard Bach's book ''Jonathan Livingston Seagull''.The work of the band attracted some impressive guest stars among others like John Hackett (flute on three tracks), Steve Hackett (guitar in the opening track), Le Orme's Aldo Tagliapietra (vocals in one track) and Osanna's Lino Vairetti (vocals in one track).The album was released in October 2009 on BTF.

Stylistically Algebra's music has not changed significantly, 15 years after their debut.The concept flows in 21 short pieces, where the band explores the elegance of smooth Symphonic Rock and the power within the acoustic textures, mostly coming as a cross between GENESIS, CELESTE, CAMEL and PREMIATA FORNERIA MARCONI.Of course the material lacks any pompous textures or strong interplays to be fully compared with the aforementioned legends and it is based more on atmosphere with soaring synthesizers, light symphonic keyboards, soft electric guitars and plenty of acoustic soundscapes.Impressively the production is a bit flat, recalling mainly the 90's than a more recent album, with a few flat keyboard sounds in the process, but in general the music is pretty good, melodic and deeply emotional.As expected by a concept work the album contains also lots of lyrical passages with nice Italian vocals and even some Pop sensibilities and Lounge Jazz ambiences in a few pieces, propably serving the needs of the unfolding story.While Algebra's album once more lacks in power and dynamics, it has a good instrumental depth with synthesizers, organ and guitars in evidence and if the production was better the album could be a great surprise among the 2009 Prog releases.

2010 sees the last appearance of Algebra on Marillion's tribute album ''Recital for a season's end''.Do not write this band off the map though, because they have showed us that they are capable of a comeback in a few years.

''JL'' is a great album if soft, polished and melodic Progressive Rock is among your prorities.Obvious references to the classic bands of the 70's will also be appreciated by fans of more vintage sounds.Warmly recommended.

Report this review (#1131601)
Posted Friday, February 14, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars What a remarkable return: in 1994 Italian band Algebra released their debut album entitled Storia Di Un Iceberg, then they disbanded but in 2009 Algebra produced this successor with the very short title JL. It's a concept story based upon Richard Bach his work Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

The first, pretty atmospheric track Il Molo Deserto contains wonderful flute and harder-edged guitar runs, it turns out that is performed by ' Steve Hackett, what a surprise to discover this symphonic rock guitar legend on a relatively unknown Italian progrock album!

But more surprises are underway, in the next, dreamy song Jonathan (fragile classical guitar, compelling work on the harmonica and in the end sensitive solos on electric guitar and violin) I got the idea that I hear Le Orme's singer/bass player Aldo Tagliapietra ' and indeed, to my delight he IS the singer. And what a great and very distinctive voice this man legend has, I am on the albums Felona E Sorona and Uomo Di Pezza!

Also the song Il Volo Perfetto has a surprise, now it's other Classic Italian Prog legend Osanna their singer Lino Vairetti who delivers a strong contribution to Il Volo Perfetto, wonderfully blended with pleasant organ and a strongly build-up saxophone solo.

The final surprise is the collaboration of Steve Hackett's brother John on flute in the compositions La Gogna (compelling with passionate vocals), Ritorno Allo Stormo (beautiful classical orchestrations, a swirling flute solo and fiery guitar leads) and Nel Vento Della Grande Montagna (catchy beat with delicate synthesizer sounds).

Remarkable on this CD is the huge variety: a modern sound collage in the instrumental Aria Nuova ' ... male opera vocals in Al Naufragio Del Mio Sogno ' ... percussion and xylophone in Un Battito D'Ali ' ... fretless bass and sultry saxophone in the jazzy Ciang ' ... tender piano with warm strings in the soaring Soffi Da Oriente ' ... rock guitar in the swinging Un'Infinita Idea Di Liberta ' ... and pure symphonic rock in Un'Altra Dimensione (wonderful keyboard sound and moving guitar work) and Atto Finale (compelling bombastic climate with splendid guitar).

What a wonderful album and what a contrast with their mediocre effort in 1994. Because this second effort sounds strong and varied, released almost 10 years ago. Perhaps in 2024 another surprising return .. ? My rating: 3,5 star.

Report this review (#1886050)
Posted Friday, February 16, 2018 | Review Permalink

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