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Panther & C. - Il Giusto Equilibrio CD (album) cover


Panther & C.

Rock Progressivo Italiano

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4 stars 4 stars really! Here's another discovery from the Black Widow Records' catalogue, the second album of an RPI group from Genova. I don't like the cover art at all, but that's the only bad thing on the whole album. For the very first minute when I listened to it, I felt a bit prejudiced: the familiar intensity in playing, and a totally uncultivated vocalist who sings in a nearly shouting manner. These features are too often present in modern RPI. However, pretty soon the opening track progresses in a much more enjoyable direction, and the flute raises a happy smile on my face. Also the vocals turn out to be more nuanced than at the very beginning. The band's excellently produced sound is keyboard oriented and has a good dose of Neo Prog reminding clarity. Within a same song there may be a moment resembling the classic 70's bands (ELP, Genesis) and after that an emotionally loaded, melodic section in the style of Marillion and such.

Three of the five tracks are between 11 and 14 minutes in length, two being 4 minutes; the highly progressive compositions are well crafted, and the balance between instrumentality and the appearance of vocals is perfect. For example 'Giusto equilibrio' (13:30) has, after the fast beginning, a gorgeous slow vocal section with Neo-ish synth orientation, followed by several tempo changes, a classically flavoured keyboard solo, reappearance of vocals, and finally a great, pretty much Marillion-like electric guitar solo. If there was also the flute absent on this track, nothing could be better.

'Oric' is a ballad-like song with less progression (except for the Genesis-reminding instrumental tail featuring flute), which only makes the whole more dynamic and varied. 'Fuga dal Lago' (11:27) is an instrumental with many turns. I really love it, with all the soloing for keys, flute and guitar, and the soft, Camel-like melodicism. The long final track starts slowly, building the expectations of epicness that are luxuriously filled. I'm really happy to find out that this album sounds better with each subsequent listening. If you're into melodic symph prog as well as Neo Prog, and have a friendly attitude towards several influences shining through, this is to you. I'm sure that Il Guesto Equilibrio will appear on my list of the year's best albums.

Report this review (#1728542)
Posted Wednesday, May 31, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is a delightful album. The band Panther & C is new to me and I must search out their debut album L'epoca Di Un Altro... released in 2014 as I am mightily impressed by their 2017 release Il Giusto Equilibrio. The album has five tracks with three over 10 minutes long and the other two just under five minutes long. What struck me most on listening to the album was the long and strongly melodic instrumentals, reminiscent of early Genesis. There are also some lovely guitar solos that reminded me of Steve Rothery at his best. There are vocals but they are used sparingly. I have been listening to the album on repeat for some time and recommend anyone to give it a try. I rate it a strong four stars.
Report this review (#1779829)
Posted Wednesday, September 6, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars I first saw Panther & C. at the Fiera Internazionale della Musica in Genoa in 2014 and thought they were a confident ensemble playing an impressive melodic symphonic progressive rock, somewhere between the classic Italian style and subsequent incarnations of prog. Yet another band from Genoa, Panther & C. formed in 2003 but didn't release their debut album L'Epoca di un Altro (Another Time) until 2015. That entire recording clocks in at less than 38 minutes which may be the ideal length for a vinyl LP but, considering they had other material that was already in a polished format in 2011 and the album only came out on CD and digital formats, it's somewhat unusual for the times. That's not to take anything away from the group who play beautifully constructed progressivo Italiano and tend to mix 10 minute compositions with shorter pieces. The first release boasts two epics; the opener Conto alla Rovescia (Countdown) and the closing La Leggenda di Arenberg (The Legend of Arenberg.) It's predominantly instrumental but the vocals possess an expressive, theatrical touch. I detect hints of Locanda delle Fate, especially the interactions between piano and flute and if there's any reference to the UK prog scene, I'd suggest they were influenced by Lamb Lies Down-era Genesis. The line-up for the first album was comprised of Riccardo Mazzarini on guitar; Mauro Serpe on flute and vocals; Alessandro La Corte on Keyboards; Giorgio Boleto on bass; and Roberto Sanna on drums.

Their follow-up effort Giusto Equilibrio (The Right Balance) (Black Widow BWRDIST 668), wasn't immediately available in the UK but I fortunately I quite like buying albums from a band's home city. The line-up changed for the second album. with Sanna replaced by Folco Fedele on drums in a move that didn't change the sound in any way. Giusto Equilibrio, like the first album, features five tracks mixing short pieces with three longer ones with a total running time of 47 minutes - and really deserved a vinyl release. Unlike the first album, Giusto Equilibrio has a loose theme linking the five songs - how mankind attempts to reconcile the human condition, finding the right balance between the competing essentials of existence.

Opener ?e continua ad essere? (...and Continues to Be...) is firmly in classic territory, commencing with a baroque harpsichord figure before being joined by wildly racing vocals and guitar which in turn subside to calm section which has some haunting Camel-like flute drifting on to the end of the track; short, but perfectly formed.

The second track Giusto Equilibrio contrasts the beauty of nature and the dark side of nature, like the lion killing the gazelle. This is the first of the extended pieces and is mostly in the classical style. There's a particular moment where the piano and organ work together in a style similar to that developed by Banco del Mutuo Soccorso and the changes in style and tempo reinforce this feeling. The track ends with a quite wonderful expansive guitar solo.

Oric is the other short track, about the 'hopes of positive feelings in the transition from one life to another' neatly distilled into a gentle ballad with mellow picked guitar chords, Mellotron strings and choir and some Genesis-like flute. It works because it provides a dramatic contrast to the other, more full-on prog. Having said that, the second of the three lengthy tracks Fuga dal Lago (Escape to the Lake) begins in a similar fashion. This instrumental has been around since at least 2011 and relates to the need to escape from the stresses of everyday life. There are some amazing melodies weaving their way through this piece, from early Crimson flute passages to some immediate post Gabriel-era Genesis guitar and keyboard lines. The earliest versions of the piece could have fallen into the new-age category and though snatches of programmed keyboard sections remain, it's now largely shaken off that feel but sounds like neo-prog rather than 70s prog.

The last song, the 13'40 L'occhio del gabbiano (The Seagull's Eye) commences with the same mellow picked chords of Oric but builds nicely. It describes a gull who witnesses the attack on the Twin Towers in New York on September 11th 2001, comparing the majesty of natural flight with the murderous intent of the hijackers. The vocals express a remarkable sadness but it's predominantly instrumental with some great guitar and synthesizer melodies (think Misplaced Childhood and post-Hackett Genesis for sounds), all expertly held together with a dextrous, inventive rhythm section.

I've spoken to the band on numerous occasions and they're really great people. There's talk of a new album with a slightly different line-up but this could be delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, it will be well worth waiting for if its the of same calibre as the first two albums.

Report this review (#2375655)
Posted Wednesday, April 29, 2020 | Review Permalink
4 stars This band is one of my favorite RPI finds of the past 10 years or so. They integrate all the sounds and melodic elements that I love from the classic Italian bands, and mix them nicely with some more neo-prog sounding sections.

The vocalist is not neo. He sings in the traditional RPI style and it is great. Very nice voice. Lyrics in Italian.

But the keyboards really make this album. Sometimes swirling around, sometimes in that dreamy mellotron state, sometimes just piano - but always interesting, and always present. Original sounding compositions, well-developed longer passages, great musicianship. Yeah, this is what you're looking for!

I love me some active bass playing, and that is a little more subdued with this band. I'll let it slide just this once. :) The flute brings to mind some Camel or even Anglagard at times. Really nice touch with the flute.

When I heard this band's debut, I gave it 4 stars even though it was only 37 minutes long. This one is clearly 4-1/2 stars.

Report this review (#2446061)
Posted Wednesday, September 9, 2020 | Review Permalink

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