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Rick Wakeman - Rick Wakeman & Mario Fasciano: Stella Bianca Alla Corte Di Re Ferdinando CD (album) cover


Rick Wakeman

Symphonic Prog

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4 stars A hidden gem in Wakeman's really vast catalogue. 'Stella Bianca' is the follow-up to 'Black Nights', an album made in collaboration with italian singer Mario Fasciano based on neapolitan style melodies. I find this second CD a bit more varied and likeable. The title track is among Rick's best songs: besides the great melody, a harpsichord-like sound makes you really feel like a journey back in time to the italian Renaissance. The rest of the record is also very beautiful, specially the only instrumental track. And, above all, this is one of the few Wakeman records in which the singer is not annoying!
Report this review (#27548)
Posted Monday, February 16, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars During '70s, I was the first Rick fan, but I was too disappointed since "Rhapsodies". However, after many years, as I love Italian symphonic rock, I decided to check out this cd, and I bought it. A very nice purchase, even when it isn't one of the mandatory Wakeman's albums and it's far from an indispensable Italian classic.

But this album is, IMHO, the best RW realisation in the last 25 years. Although it isn't a masterpiece and conserves some "poppy" rythmical cliches (since 1980, the lineal drumming was a constant in Rick's rock discography), there are some elements making this stuff very interesting.

The Italian singer, Mario Fasciano, has a high range and his voice is quite emotive sometimes. The album's structure is simple: non-complex and short songs format, with the Southern Italian delicious flavour and the always impeccable Wakeman's keyboards, sometimes reminding vintage synth sounds. "Stella Bianca", "Ariel", "Aria Di Te" and the instrumental "Romance Napoli" are highlights, not precisely hiper-elaborated songs but really enjoyable.

Some cd edition includes, as bonus track, a miserable dance version from the song "A Quatte Mane". A shame, try to skip it.

Report this review (#27549)
Posted Wednesday, May 12, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars A very short but highly enjoyable Wakeman album. It's main flaw is the linear and dull electronic drumming. Other than that, this is a great melodic album with nice keyboard embellishments. It's title track gives a perfect imagery of the renaissance with the harpsichord work and the style of singing. The last song of the album is a cover of Wakeman's Ocean City, and I find this version even better than the original. All the other songs are decent melodic songs consistent in quality

Highlights : Stella Bianca, Carcere 'e San Francisco, Romance Napoli Letdowns : none

My Grade : C

Report this review (#42813)
Posted Sunday, August 14, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Yes it's true that "Stella Bianca Alla Corte de Re Ferdinando" can't be compared with "Six Wives of Henry the VII" or "Myths & Legends", because it's a different sound and most important a different era.

Rick had spent most of the 80's making some sort of New Age in order to survive in a tough decade and after a terrible contract with A&M Records, and he was rebuilding his career as a musician interested in serious conceptual Symphonic Rock, but this takes time, sometimes more than starting a career from zero.

The album has a couple problems

The concept based apparently in Ferdinando IV King of Naples is hard to locate historically due to certain events in the album, mostly seems an excuse to release songs based in beautiful Neapolitan music, and the electronic or Synthesised drums, that are always hard to accept.

But the achievements are so strong that any problem can be forgotten. The unusual election of the melodic and almost troubadour style of Mario Fasciano is a great asset, because the powerful vocals of guys like Ashley Holt would collision with the soft melody and the atmosphere of the album.............Emotion instead of power is a good change in this case

"Stella Bianca Alla Corte de Re Ferdinando" is opened with "Stella Bianca", a song that perfectly captures the essence of the Italian Courts enhanced by the fantastic vocals of Mario Fasciano, the atmosphere is hard to decipher, some Medieval hints with a pastoral flute (synthesised obviously) and the usual extravaganza by Rick with his lush and pristine keyboard solos, incredibly beautiful.

"A Quatte Mane" is a weird song even for Wakeman, now the atmosphere is even harder to discover, but this time the keyboard solos are simply delightful, taking us back to the 70's when he was considered The Cape Crusader.

"O Core" is a very interesting fusion between Neapolitan music and some sort of Hard Rock with aggressive keyboards in which Rick proves us his skills remain intact, he seems to get more confidence and allow himself some of the excesses that we love so much, and Fasciano's vocals are more than adequate.

"Ariel" is a softer melody with some Sicilian touch, this time Rick relegated the Moog and other complex Synths to give priority to the ´piano and organ, well at least until the middle of the song when he adds a breathtaking Moog with very nice chorals to complement.

"Aria Di Te" is an extremely beautiful melody for piano and vocals, the song is extremely melancholic and sentimental and only around the end Rick allows himself to add some electronic keyboards, nut mainly an acoustic tune.

"Romance Napoli" strangely reminds me of MARILLION and specifically to Mark Kelly, absolutely dramatic and full of melodic nostalgia, the inclusion of a delicate Harpsichord creates a better atmosphere.

"Sologoccia"has little relation with Naples and it's music, it's clear that Wakeman created an intermezzo to allow himself to return to his roots and sound as in the early 70's, preparing us for "Carcere's San Francisco", a pompous track with Neapolitan sound and a lead female vocal to make the change, very nice ending.

This time I have strong problems with the rating, the album is not a masterpiece, it seems that Rick manages to control himself along most of the album, but hey, it's strong music with excellent melodies that any Prog listener will enjoy in his collection.

So will take the risk and go with 4 stars.

Report this review (#236110)
Posted Monday, August 31, 2009 | Review Permalink

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