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Notturno Concertante - Canzoni allo specchio CD (album) cover

CANZONI ALLO SPECCHIO

Notturno Concertante

Symphonic Prog


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andrea
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Notturno Concertante began life in Benevento in the eighties on the initiative of Lucio Lazzaruolo and Raffaele Villanova. Their debut album, "The Hiding Place", was released in 1989, influenced by bands such as Genesis and Marillion. It was followed by "Erewhon" (1993), "News From Nowhere" (1994) and "The Glass Tear" (1994). After a long hiatus and some line up changes, in 2002 they released "Riscrivere il passato" (Re-writing the past) and after another long period and many years of work, in 2012 they finally released a new album, "Canzoni allo specchio" (Songs in the mirror), in my opinion their best so far. The line up on their last work features Lucio Lazzaruolo (classical guitar, keyboards), Raffaele Villanova (guitars, vocals), Giuseppe Relmi (lead vocals), Carmine Marra (sax, clarinet, whistles), Carmine Meluccio (violin), Gabriele Moscaritolo (accordion), Antonio D'Alessio (bass), Giuseppe D'Alessio (bass) and Simone Pizza (drums). The overall sound of the band is more original, personal if compared with the neo-prog of their early works and features many Mediterranean colours and psychedelic touches. The packaging is very rich and features the art-work of Fabio Mingarelli a.k.a. Ming, a booklet with the lyrics and the liner notes written by the Italian critic Donato Zoppo (with an English translation) and many pictures.

The opener "Ahmed l'ambulante" (Ahmed the hawker) is a kind of acoustic psychedelic trip in a cold winter night, a bad trip. It was inspired by a poem by Stefano Benni describing in a surreal way the death of an African hawker, a "vu cumprÓ". It happened in the middle of the night under a desert arcade in an Italian city when a bunch of hooligans smashed his merchandise and hit him in the head with a stick, just for fun. Ahmed died but the goddess of the night came down to take his spirit back home... "Ashiwa, the goddess of the night came to set me free / She kissed my temples and healed my wounds / They didn't see her / I didn't die in a canvas bag but on a big pyre of ebony in the heart of the forest / And my people sung for forty nights...". This is a really good track but Notturno Concertante were not the first band who interpreted Stefano Benni's verses: in 1994 the Modena City Ramblers recorded another excellent song inspired by this poem on their debut album Riportando tutto a casa.

Next comes "Young Man Gone West", more relaxed and lighter. It's an instrumental track featuring violin and whistles in the forefront that drives you from East to West in a musical journey full of colourful nuances. According to the liner notes, this piece is dedicated to five young Kurdish migrants who died during their journey to Western Europe and whose corpses were found near Grottaminarda, not far from Naples. It leads to the dreamy, melodic "Come il vento" (Like the wind) that was inspired by a reflection about the charming, seductive power of words. The lyrics describe the feelings of a man who can hear the words of his lover echoing in his head in a starry night. The words are like a raging river that could submerge him... "Speak to me / Whisper to me / Mumble in my ear / Like the wind...".

"Le anime belle" (The beautiful souls) is another beautiful, dreamy ballad. It's a piece dedicated to all the daydreamers who keep on fighting against the windmills in name of their ideals. "The daydreamers are volunteers in a war that they want to lose...". According to the liner notes this song was written to honour the memory of the late Antonio D'Alessio, bassist of the band who died in 2008.

"On Growing Older" is a short acoustic instrumental track built upon a nice guitar arpeggio. It leads to "The Price Of Experience", a piece sung in English that recalls the neo-prog sound of the early works of the band (you can find a first version of this song on the album The Glass Tear from 1994). The lyrics evoke hopes sacrificed to the needs of the daily life... "All at once everything seemed to loose its magic and everything was so hard to bear / Someone said this is the price of experience, but I felt like I just had enough / When did I become another house with no door? / When every distance seemed to break my heart...".

"Lei vede rosso" (She sees red) is a melancholic track featuring a nice sax work. The lyrics describe a woman on the verge of madness, everybody knows her but how can people really understand what's going on in her mind? She keeps on staring at the washing- machine and can't see nothing but blood, the blood of her lover who died in a car accident... "A veil falls behind her eyes / Your world becomes completely red...".

"La milonga di Milingo" (Milingo's milonga) is a nice instrumental featuring warm, sensual Latin American influences. The title is a kind a "calambour" (a pun) that combines the words Milonga (a South American dance) and Milingo, a criticized former Roman Catholic archbishop. It leads to another track full of sensuality, introduced by a saxophone solo, "Canzone allo specchio" (Song in the mirror). It's a love song that starts from an image in the mirror which push a man to reflect about his errors... "You know there is nothing to say / Silence speaks for us today / I just remember that I was lost / And you found me...". The romantic, short instrumental for classical guitar and piano "Ark En Ciel" (Rainbow) concludes the album

On the whole "Canzoni allo specchio" is a very nice work. I suggest to listen to it in streaming from the official website... Judge by yourselves!

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Send comments to andrea (BETA) | Report this review (#722091)
Posted Wednesday, April 11, 2012 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 'Canzoni Allo Specchio' - Notturno Concertante (7/10)

Halfway between proggy folk rock and smooth jazz, the latest album from Notturno Concertante is a bit of a tough egg to crack. Although this Italian act originally went for a melodic neo-progressive sound a la Marillion, "Canzoni Allo Specchio" demonstrates the evolution that has come along with age. Notturno Concertante may have an original approach, but fans of Italian prog music will find themselves instantly at home. At times the band's mellow approach tends to underwhelm, but fans of Italian prog rock will find "Canzoni Allo Specchio" a worthy listen.

Although the aforementioned 'smooth jazz' leanings may send up red flags for many proggers, it should be stated up front that Notturno Concertante never give up the sense of sophistication first introduced in the prog folk powerhouse "Ahmed L Ambulante". One thing that also tends to stay consistent however is Notturno Concertante's soft approach to music. As is the case with "Come Il Vento" (among others), "Canzoni Allo Specchio" does show its rock influence, but only sparingly. Regardless how complex the arrangements between the guitars, accordion and string sections get, Notturno Concertante's music flows over the listener as a string of beautiful, cinematic passages. The closest thing I might compare it o in that sense is a technically proficient, progressive form of restaurant music; "Canzoni Allo Specchio" focuses in on creating a mood, and they stick with it.

Of course, Notturno Concertante's progressive roots tend to lie with their compatriots, and listeners may find themselves comparing "Canzoni Allo Specchio" to a slew of their favourite RPI records. The laid-back mood and heavy use of non-rock instruments does give Notturno Concertante an original twist, but the vocals are deep within what will be familiar to a fan of Italian prog. Giuseppe Relmi's vocals are a warm vessel for the beautiful phonetics of the Italian language. The music is conventionally beautiful, and the vocals fit the same description.

Although the complexity of the compositions becomes clear after several listens, the mellowness does often get to the point where it's easy to let it sink into the background. Although I'd hate to think myself intrinsically 'against' a genre of music, the smooth jazz elements in Notturno Concertante do not sit comfortably. Although the tenor saxophone worship that pervades much of the album is the most apparent 'smooth' aspect, Notturno Concertante will occasionally throw away their brilliant sophistication in exchange for pure pleasantry; chord progressions that seek to sound pretty, but fail to create more than a 'background music' vibe. "Lei Vede Rosso" is the worst offender for this, a romantic piece that may not sound out of place in a department store elevator.

Suffice to say, "Canzoni Allo Specchio" is not the most exhilarating RPI record, but the beauty and warmth is herein full. Not to mention that the band have gone from a fairly basic Marillion tribute to something they can call their own, Notturno Concertante can be proud of this.

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Send comments to Conor Fynes (BETA) | Report this review (#774271)
Posted Tuesday, June 19, 2012 | Review Permalink
Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Italian band NOTTURNO CONCERTANTE has been a going concern for almost 20 years, citing 1984 as their year of formation. The first half of the 90's appears to have been their most active period, with a substantial amount of years between new album releases from the second half of the 90's and onwards. "Canzoni Allo Specchio" is their sixth full length production, following 10 years after their previous album.

Notturno Concertante have made themselves a solid sixth full length production, a smooth and well produced affair that emphasizes on accessible, harmonic melodies and finely controlled arrangements. As it is a CD that broadly can be described as progressive folk rock for the first half and accessible but sophisticated jazz-oriented music in the latter half, and those who tend to enjoy both of these stylistic expressions explored in an accessible manner should be a key audience for this album.

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Send comments to Windhawk (BETA) | Report this review (#807130)
Posted Sunday, August 19, 2012 | Review Permalink

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