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Maurizio Di Tollo - L'Uomo Trasparente CD (album) cover


Maurizio Di Tollo

Rock Progressivo Italiano

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Refined and atmospheric

Maurizio Di Tollo is a multi-instrumentalist known for his wide array of work with people like Fabio Zuffanti and others. His debut solo release "L'Uomo Trasparente" is a lovely and sophisticated work primarily in Italian symphonic prog territory. The music is well on the refined side of RPI with great care taken in the songwriting, arrangements, and instrumentation. It really feels like every detail has been labored over. Like many Zuffanti projects or older stuff like Basso's debut, the songs are safe and pleasant, preferring beauty and majesty over wild and crazy, but in this case the material is anything but bland. They take beautiful melodies and adorn them with the usual Italian icing like piano, flute, and strings, but there is a somewhat unusual atmospheric element introduced as well. Spacey quiet moments, poetic spoken word narrations, intricate percussion, and sound effects all give the tracks a richer mouthfeel. Di Tollo is a very capable vocalist with a great feel for the keyboard mix, soft mellotron, vibrant synth, and piano all work in unison. Of Di Tollo's collaborators Laura Marsano in particular does an amazing job providing elegant and tasteful guitar leads throughout, her playing is filled with emotion while avoiding any silly fireworks. This is but a short early review designed to get the ball rolling at PA for this fine album. It should be heard by fans of prettier RPI, such as Locanda delle Fate, Celeste, and Ubi Major, or for a non-Italian comparison I'd mention Steve Hackett. While it may not please fans of truly rowdy RPI it is an excellent album that I personally enjoyed more than all Hostsonaten and most Finisterre.

Report this review (#791936)
Posted Saturday, July 21, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Maurizio "Mau" Di Tollo is an Italian artist who was born in Ortona, Abruzzo and now lives in Genoa. During his career he has been playing drums with bands such as Distillerie di Malto, La Maschera di Cera, Moongarden and Hostsonaten (just to name but a few!), but he's also an all-round musician and a sensitive composer. In 2012 he released his first solo album, "L'uomo trasparente" (The transparent man), that features the collaboration of poet and painter Ksenja Laginja who took charge of the art work and provided evocative recitative vocals reading some of her poems. On the album Maurizio Di Tollo sung and played drums, percussion, synthesizers, Hammond organ, Moog, Mellotron, Glockenspiel and piano. During the recording sessions he was helped by many friends such as Alessandro Corvaglia (vocals), Christian Marras (bass), Andrea Monetti (flute), Laura Marsano (guitars), Rossano Villa (piano), Fabio Zuffanti (vocals), Agostino Macor (Moog), Michele Savino (piano) and Matteo Casu (acustic guitar). The result is a refined album full of soft nuances where poetry has an important role and music peacefully flows away following an introspective path. In fact, you won't find here any hyper-technicality or astounding drum solos but a well balanced compositional style. The album is conceived as a long suite and there is no pause between the different tracks that describe in words and music the end of an important love story and the overcoming of the emotional trauma that follows.

The short opener "L'uomo trasparente" sets the atmosphere... "Here I am, sitting on my years / Clinging to my memories / In this silent house / Naked and transparent...". The suggestive voice of Ksenja Laginja conjures up poetical images and depicts the need to ride your time overcoming the foggy, limited horizon that you can see from your window... It leads to "Tannhauser", a track about the need of dreams to live on, to overcome the daily grind and the lack of ideals of the people who surround you. A dream could mean a rebirth or a bitter pain, a light on the frontier or a mask of wax, a place where men can grow up free, an ideal place whee you can stand up and follow the beating of your heart... "Only dreaming can save me / Let my blood running on the streets of Tannhauser...".

The melancholic "Pioggia sulla memoria" (Rain on the memory) draws memories washed away by the pouring rain. Lost chances, words carried away by the wind, a broken relationship... "It melts into the water, as tears in the river / Your absent-minded eyes are shut behind a shield...". The dreamy, visionary "La curva dei pitosfori" (The bend of the pittosporums) evokes a sequence of images, a kind of film where fragments of life slide away in a dream of beauty... "There's nothing left but a frame without eternity / The smell of the pittosporums and your skin I miss so bad / And a finale fading out on an unknown life...". "Io sono quel cespuglio" (I am that shrub) is another bittersweet, reflective track in the same vein... "I am that shrub / An undecipherable point in the distance / A neglected park / A thought without shape nor substance / Nonetheless I stand out firmly / I don't need you... You can ignore me but I'm here...". It leads to "Casomai" (Just in case), a beautiful track featuring piano and vocals in the forefront... "I shout in the wind / I'll find again what I'm losing now, living on...". Then comes "Pioggia ripresa" (Rain, reprise), a short instrumental reprise of the third track.

"La poesia della carne" (The poetry of the flesh) features an oriental atmosphere full of sensuality where the voice of Ksnja Laginjia introduces a vibrant instrumental part... "Love the pure beauty of the heart / Love the poetry of the flesh...". "Milioni di occhi al cielo" (Millions of eyes looking at the sky) describes the beginning of a new deal after a troubled split up. It begins softly with soaring vocals on a delicate piano pattern... "A tape that I re- winded / It's my identity... Millions of eyes looking at the sky / And a new fire that dissolves the ice... Soul in tears, have a rest now / I'm coming back home...". Then the conclusive "I topi saranno i vincitori" (Mice will be the winners) celebrates the rebirth of a man who is able to forgive an soothe his rage.

Report this review (#797843)
Posted Wednesday, August 1, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The ball is rolling for this mercurial recording, penned by the amazing Maurizio di Tollo, a drummer of impeccable credentials and sublime style, having graced numerous successful recordings from Finisterre, Höstsonaten, La Maschera di Cera, Moongarden etc?and rightly so, it's simply put, splendid. Here, Mau surprises by showing numerous other skills on a variety of keyboards, as well as supplying the rather unique vocals.

I am unashamedly one of those softer RPI fans that prefer the lyrical purity and sensational melodic sense so firmly rooted in Italian popular music, going back all the way to the Roman Empire! Not that I dislike the harder style, it's just a slow-maturing process that happens to all of us eventually, this eternal quest for musical beauty. So I just leaped on this, as soon as it was available, not only because of my esteemed colleague finnforest's enticing review but rather for my brewing respect for this talented percussor in recent years. I remain convinced that his placement on my top 10 current prog drummers list is perfectly warranted. Yet, this is not a drum solo exhibition by any stretch but an introspective and deeply heartfelt compositional work of incredible emotion. We are in the presence of something special, a highly personal offering of stupendous art, glittering poetry and evocative music all rolled into one.

First off, a mention must be made about the exquisite glossy cover art that rekindles images of Peter Sinfield's "Still", a mysterious and romantic image that one could stare at ,effortlessly inspired. After a brief spoken female word opening to set the proper mood, "Tannhauser" is an epic slice of modern prog, named after Richard Wagner's famous opera, a piece where pulsating drums, palpitating orchestrations and palpable emotion rule the grooves, as Maurizio vocalizes within a synthesized microphone. Little dabs of flute and then, the first of many electric guitar leads expertly handled by my new axe queen, Laura Marsano. The keyboards are expertly handled by the genial Di Tollo while the synths are twiddled by Agostino Macor, a tremendously talented musician who colors with a strong sense of emotion and passion, not surprising really if one looks to his body of work with various Zuffanti led projects such as Zaal, La Maschera di Cera, Höstsonaten etc?The music is heroic, dauntless, stately, edgy and memorable. Repeated listens will offer constant imagery that underlines the personality of the composer. There is also a strong, classic PFM tinge to the arrangements that wink at a legacy of RPI that is still beating strong in 2012.

The misty "Poggia Sulla Memoria" is arguably the most memorable track here, a clue being that it will be gifted by a reprise later on in the recording. A moody and hypnotic slice of melancholic progressive rock as only the RPI master school could produce. A doom-laden bass rumbles forward timidly, caressed along by some simple cymbal work, as the dirty windows of the past are washed away by new liquid impressions (the greasy guitar does wonders with the imagination!) , as Mau whispers his reflected annoyance. This is a voyage in psychedelic heaven that will be a classic.

"La Curva Deo Pitosfori" is perhaps more down to earth, a strong melody led by a groping bass (Christian Marras), reminding us of the strong RPI connection with traditional Italian song and seductive poetry (here recited courtesy of Ksenja Laginja, who opened the album). Once again, Mau delivers a personal vocal that exudes simplicity and heart-felt emotion, while Laura pierces another prog heart with a short guitar arrow. The lyrics are simply sublime, expressing the ongoing quest for understanding the human spirit and seemingly, always failing to grasp it, never giving up the urge to fight on.

The next 3 tracks form a mini-suite as first "Io Sono Quel Cespuglio" wavers over troubled waters, a melancholic ditty chock full of fragile honesty and a perfect companion to "Casomai", a piano and vocal cry from the heart , both 3 minute+ long slices of poetic anguish and finished off by the dreamy "Pioggia" reprise, densely atmospheric and ethereal. "La Poesia Delle Carne" (Poetry of the Flesh) returns to more expansive themes, first with light atmospherics, sultry spoken word while the Andrea Monetti flute flutters and then, BAM! a brief symphonic explosion, synths and axes blazing, announcing the delicate glockenspiel ( such a delightful instrument) which then is combined with the mellotron and the searing lead guitar ( a deadly prog combo). Forging ahead with ornate piano and a more bombastic disposition, the track just flows onward like a torrent of feeling. The final 2 tracks keep the ebb and flow pulsing through the speakers, "Millioni di Occhi al Cielo" reflects on life's unwavering and ongoing mystery, the pain of a wounded soul and the human ability to withstand the deepest tragedies. The lyrics are all about revival, resurrection, survival and victory. The finale celebrates this new renaissance and the realization that hope will vanquish despair, by being resolute, fighting on and never giving up. Perhaps not the proggiest or most Tolkienesque of inspirations but the human soul has always been a source of interest to the romantics of this universe). Marsano's shimmering guitar sortie is resplendent and hopeful, a positive sheen on a miraculously private album.

Italians have a strong sense of tradition that is to be commended and revered. This glittering joyride is example of a style that lives on radiantly and will never die. Fans who understand Italian will simply fall to their knees in exalted wonder, but the music and the honesty expressed throughout cannot be denied or deemed as boring.

4.5 invisible men

Report this review (#802886)
Posted Friday, August 10, 2012 | Review Permalink

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