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3 stars Pleasant toe-tapping folk-rock from the Basque region of spain. The material here is mostly acoustic but there are some killer rock sections as well. Flute is used on almost every track. Fans of early PFM will find this enjoyable. I was going to give it 4 stars but took off one because it's a little bit *too* derivative of PFM.
Report this review (#37281)
Posted Wednesday, June 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
Carl floyd fan
5 stars This reminds me a little of jethro tull. but very beautiful and pleasing to the ears. for 1978, quite an orginal album. This is mor eof a folk rock album that a symphonic one and one of the mosty under rated ones I have ever heard at that.
Report this review (#39057)
Posted Sunday, July 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars Although the Basque were better known for their prog folk groups, Itoiz, while remaining inherently Basque, was probably the most symphonic of all of those late 70's group from the rebel provinces and in all likelihood the Basque group most likely to please the progheads. Graced with one of the stranger artwork around with a large plastic window (making it one of the most sought-after Spanish-related records ever), the quintet's debut album is a particularly enjoyable and is quite a poetic affair with heavy symphonics, but staying firmly rooted in "latin" roots, if the Basque will allow lumping their culture in an ocean of Latin culture surrounding them. The line-up is your standard prog quartet plus a flutist and both the guitarist and bassist are singing.

While hardly flawless (it appears that the lead guitarist, JC Perez, could not sing and play at the same time, but I am not positive about this, but he is also the main composer), this first oeuvre is a rather impressive flute-laden Genesis or Camel-influenced prog, but somehow also prefacing the 80's symphonic or neo-prog. It is rather hard to say much more about this album, but if you love Italian prog lyricism, this stuff will simply overwhelm you, like only PFM, or QVL can. Never groundbreaking, not even original, but damn well executed for a debut album.

While they were not really among the forerunner of the Basque musical upheaval, Itoiz remains one of the best remembered and even if they changed quite a bit over the years, they were the ones that had the longest career, recording into the late 80's. While a little pompous (and certainly not helped by the Basque lyrics) and the above-mentioned "latin" feel, this music is always very melodic and never offensive to the ears, but seems to lack a little imagination or personality that would've made it that extra special to make it stand out. Close but no cigar.

NB: while most/all other Basque groups provided translation in French and Spanish of their texts, Itoiz does not and neither does their label which happens to be the same as the other group's.

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Posted Tuesday, December 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
4 stars It seems that the death of Franco and the establishment of a democracy in Spain also unleashed some pent up progressive rock, such that the golden age for Basque prog was the late 1970s. This 1978 debut by Itoiz is one of the best places to start your Basque prog collection.

This is delicate and sumptuous folk rock with many progressive aspects. The longing melodies, plaintive vocals, and versatile organ consistently distinguish themselves. The album opens very strongly with "Phuntzionariat" which is a bit atypical, being more classically proto progressive a la Procol Harum or Beggars Opera. While most people seem to point to the longest track "Goizeko Deiadar" as the best, I actually think that its at times cacophonous nature just does not fit with the generally pastoral mood of the album, although the band does really cook here.

My favourite songs are the two "Hiltzori", the first with its insistent flute/guitar interchanges over syncopated drums, and the second with its mysterious organ motifs, wrapping up with a reprise of the theme of the first. "Foisis Jauna" is another great one, especially the fuzzy guitar in the break. The closer "Astelehen Urdin Batean" brings us back to the laid back style and sounds more Latin in a jazzy way than most of what is here. It provides a fitting end to a mostly mellow classic.

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Posted Friday, August 31, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars One of the hottest names of the Basque Prog Folk scene,Itoiz started around mid-70's under the guidance of guitarist/singer Juan Carlos Perez and members coming from the towns of Mutriku and Ondarroa.Initially named as Indar Tapes,the band begun as a dance music group performing in evening festivities and soon developed their own style,mixing rock with Basque Folk.They were renamed to Itoiz (after the valley of the same name in Navarra) and debuted with an eponymous LP in 1978 on the biggest Basque rock label,Xoxoa.

''Itoiz'' blends nicely the softness of Basque Folk music with the adventure of synth-driven Progressive Rock.The tracks are split between two styles: those closer to Basque Folk music with delicate flute work by Joseba Erkiaga,mellow piano parts by keyboardist José Antxon Fernández and the acoustic guitars and dreamy vocals of Juan Carlos Perez and those deep into the progressive rock aesthetics with strong use of moog synths and a fair amount of electric guitars.The later are almost always wrapped in well-crafted symphonic arrangements with a strong sense for harmony and melody,while the vocal lines add often a dramatic touch.Both styles are satisfying for the prog listener with a good balance and enough space for instrumental action.

For those who want to come in touch with this particular progressive rock genre,''Itoiz'' is a great place to start.The album contains good interplays,warm vocals and semi-complex arrangements and comes strongly recommended for both fans of Folk and Symphonic Rock...3.5 stars.

Report this review (#544883)
Posted Friday, October 7, 2011 | Review Permalink
Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars The debut album from these talented Basque-Spanish musicians. The folk songs and lyrics here are firmly immersed within rock elements, start to finish.

1. "Phuntzionariat" (3:40) sounds a bit like a foreign cover Zager and Evans' "In the Year 2525." Nice embellishments by the flutist and the drummer. Definitely a prog song--especially in that wonderful final minute. (8.875/10)

2. "Goizeko Deihadar" (9:58) opens sounding like a British pop song from the 60s. In the third minute things ramp up into a driving blues rock jam with some nice electric guitar soloing and poppy British choral vocal work. In the fourth minute, then, we move into CAMEL territory with a synth-backed, cruising bass-supported, electric guitar jam. Great motif! Continues to evolve with new motifs while integrating the previous ones quite adeptly. I don't really like the near-disco/80s techno pop predictor in the ninth and tenth minutes but it's still good. Overall, the song feels a bit rushed--as if the band is trying a bit too hard--but what can you expect from a first album from a bunch of youthful enthusiasts? (18/20)

3. "Zati Txiki Bat La M'En" (1:54) what sounds like a more traditional acoustic folk song. Nice three-part vocal arrangements. Nice song but nothing extraordinary. (4.333/5)

4. "Lau Teilatu (4:02) opens with Gordon Lightfoot-like acoustic guitar picking before sole voice enters front and center in what sounds and feels like a ballad presentation. Relaxing, engaging, and quite polished--with a very confident and pleasant lead vocal. Piano adds a nice touch in the final third. (8.875/10)

5. "Hilzori I" (7:08) delicately picked acoustic guitar is joined/backed by piano and then, in the second go round, flute, each setting forth the main melody. In the second minute a pause allows the solo piano to set up the classically-based folk rock motif that launches a few seconds later. Everybody slows down as Juan Carlos sings (in a bit of an unsteady/pitchy voice) before ELOY-like prog soundscape sets up. The Hammond is quite prominent through all of this despite the continued presence of the piano. Flute and cymbals play over arpeggiating piano in the second half as a more extended rock jam plays out. Electric guitar begins to add his two cents to the mix, not quite weaving with the others but going where he thinks he should go; not a smooth mix. (13.25/15)

6. "Hilzori II" (4:36) really a continuation of the previous song, only separated by a shift in dynamics. The harmonized vocal arrangements continue, feeling a bit out of sorts on the bottom end. The swirling Hammond arpeggi, constant flights of high flute, and delicate cymbal play are effective support animals and the sliding guitar notes in the final solo cool, but the fast-changing TULL-like finish is the highpoint. (8.75/10)

7. "Foisis Jauna" (3:13) more boisterous in a Martin Cockerham/SPIROGYRA kind of way. (8.6667/10)

8. "Astelehen Urdin Batean" (5:48) more constructed as a soft jazz-pop kind of song--despite the extended narration in the middle--this one is hypnotically melodic but slightly off from what might be a chart-topper. (8.75/10)

Total time 40:19

If it weren't for the inconsistent quality of the vocal performances (and arrangements) I might very well uphold this album above the band's followup--which is considered by many to be their masterpiece.

B/four stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection--especially if you like rock-supercharged ethnic folk.

Report this review (#2922027)
Posted Saturday, May 6, 2023 | Review Permalink

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