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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Italian keyboardist and multi-instrumentalist Sergio Caleca not only keeps busy with his `day job' band Ad Maiora (who've put out two superb albums being `Ad Maiora!' in 2014 and `Repetita Iuvant' two years later, if you haven't investigated them yet), but he's also devoted to his own solo project Haberlard2, and just this year (2017) alone he's offered two complete studio albums! The earlier one `Maybe' proved to be a joy for symphonic and eclectic prog music fans with a touch of vocal pop-rock where Sergio was backed up by a range of notable Italian prog guests both of the vintage and modern era, but `Hustle & Bustle' sees the man go it alone, yet still managing to deliver another colourful and diverse collection of fully instrumental pieces across an eclectic range of styles.

Looking at some of the highlights, the album opens infectiously with a full-blown unexpected jazz-fusion take on classic ditty `Frère Jacques', coursing through everything from jangling guitars, funky murmuring bass and dizzying fuzzy keyboard runs! That unpredictability will maintain the rest of the album, and the laid-back whimsy with a touch of playfulness and warmth from Sergio's electric piano touches gives `Dolce' a light Canterbury flavour in parts before more strident and dramatic rises. `Giada' is a quirky electronic/symphonic hybrid, and `Alice' is a darker Hammond organ-powered symphonic workout with jazzy accompaniment courtesy of keyboard emulation (with the real instruments this could have easily popped up on any of the recent Tangent albums).

The longest piece at almost seven minutes, `Folk e Martello' is lavished with prettiness and dignified pomp, `Tragico nr.2' bristles with classic Genesis and Steve Hackett-esque symphonic majesty (and Sergio's glorious guitar soloing would have fit in nicely on a Flower Kings piece if Roine Stolt needed a day off!), and `Celtic Dream' is, sure, enough, a lovely Celtic theme both gentle and proud. Much of `DeboleFortePiano' is a sparkling electric piano-led piece with a bouncy spring in its step that means it could have shown up on many Alan Parsons Project albums, lovely Canterbury sound flavours waft through `Cinc Ghei Pusè Ma Rus' and `Seventies' is a shorter reflective interlude. The title track `Hustle & Bustle' finds a good balance of dramatic and quirky moments as it brims with colourful keyboard soloing, and album closer `Finalino' is a mix of grand symphonic rises and sprightly jazzy piano touches.

While the album would have greatly benefited from being performed with all real instruments as opposed to being constantly aped on keyboards (how about getting some musical friends to re-record some of these pieces together over time, Sergio?), `Hustle & Bustle' is no less grand in scale and ambition than its predecessor, as well as being more intimate with a thoroughly admirable `anything-goes' approach. If you want to hear a superb modern musician displaying a huge range of his technical and compositional skills, Sergio Caleca/Haberlard2's `Hustle & Bustle' has plenty to offer progressive music lovers!

Four stars.

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Posted Thursday, January 11, 2018 | Review Permalink

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