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MOTHER & FAIRY

Prowlers

Rock Progressivo Italiano


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Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Delightful, melodic, and intimate

Honestly, I did not expect to be knocked out by Prowlers, an Italian band singing primarily in English and leaning well into Neo-prog territory with this release. Nothing wrong with those traits but they typically are not my thing. But playing "Mother and Fairy" they won me over with a combination of heart and ambition. This work is a carefully crafted labor of love, a 2-disc double album filled with long, dreamy songs and gorgeous art design. Prowlers were born in 1985, possibly the lowest ebb in the progressive rock timeline, but they persevered. Fans of hard rock and Barrett-era Pink Floyd, the group would toil many years developing their sound before Mellow would release their demo in 1994. In 1996 came "Mother and Fairy" where they had the honor of working with producer Ciro Perrino, a legend in the RPI field for the classic Celeste group. The material is almost exclusively composed by keyboardist Alfio Costa (later of Tilion) and features the warm, unique vocals of Laura Mombrini. (Strange, the booklet credits Costa but the back panel says all songs by G. Vezzoli, so I'm not sure who wrote the songs-maybe they will write to me and clarify). Flavio Costa (also of Tilion) handles the guitars and the band is rounded out by Marco Premoli (b), Giovanni Vezzoli (d), and Stefano Piazzi (g). Other listed band influences, all which make perfect sense after hearing M&F, are Pink Floyd, Renaissance, Jefferson Airplane, Iron Maiden, Sandrose, Circus 2000, Goblin, Osanna, and The Trip. The band lasted until 1998, when Laura and Giovanni had finally had enough and decided to leave. If my understanding of the web interview I read is correct, Costa as much as said that Mombrini was the heart of Prowlers and without her there was little point in continuing. They folded the band and the Costa brothers would re-emerge a bit later in Tilion, which continues to this day.

Let's get the negative stuff out of the way first. Reading Stefan Ludmann's review of M&F [from Progressive Newsletter, 1996] I was amazed at how different my feelings were. Stefan just savaged this band in his review, ripping the playing, singing, songwriting, production, and artwork. I won't quote him because the auto-German translator may not be "quote accurate" but I believe he actually stated that the recording was not worthy of the natural resources used to make it. Now, I can understand some of his criticisms and believe some people would share them. Even with Perrino helping, this album does have production issues. It often sounds a bit thin or muffled in places, though not to any degree that forced me off the road. Next, as much as I adore Laura's singing, both she and the male leads are capable of sounding out of tune occasionally. Last, while the playing is very competent the Prowlers will never be confused with Crimson or Mahavishnu Orchestra to be sure. Still, given the above criticisms, I come to a VERY different conclusion that Mr. Ludmann. For me "Mother and Fairy" is simply a joy that pleases me more with every listen. While I enjoy quality sound and production as much as the next guy, I am much more interested in what the music does for me. If I am moved by what I hear I can usually forgive sound issues. "Mother and Fairy" is not an album for listeners who require their music to sound as "professionally perfect" as Porcupine Tree or the like. This is music for people like me, who appreciate good melodies and intimate recordings by folks who don't have months of studio time at their disposal to make every aspect immaculate. In fact, I can state in no uncertain terms that I prefer Prowlers to many of the super-polished bands adorning the Neo-prog subgenre (or other genres for that matter.)

"Mother and Fairy" is a large collection of 5-12 minute songs that float and bounce on the synths of Alfio Costa as the primary anchor of the sound. The modern (circa early 90s) synth sound was chosen by Costa here (though he does play some piano as well.) Along with the smooth and melodic guitar lines the sound is closer to neo-prog than traditional symphonic or RPI. Premoli and Vezzoli back them up with an active and interesting rhythm section, never allowing the tracks to stagnate the way I've heard others do. Laura Mombrini's vocals are the signature crown on the Prowlers package and the Prowler's bio calls her the "Italian Annie Haslam." While not as pitch-perfect as Haslam I can understand the reference. Laura's voice is intimate and appealing with a mournful, searching quality to it. I actually prefer Laura's singing over Haslam who has always been too stuffy for my taste. Mombrini handles most vocals although the boys do take a few leads as well. Occasional acoustic guitars are brought in to lend a more classical or renaissance vibe to a few tracks. The Prowlers can rock without question, but their bread and butter is really the slower paced atmospheric sections where the beauty of the melodies and Laura's singing are allowed time to fully play out. The near 13-minute "Awakening of Mother Nature" is a good example of the formula, but every track is consistently appealing and strong. It builds into a climactic rippin' guitar solo before returning to the sad acoustic verse. Another section of pure, amazing beauty is the keyboard passage from 4:23-4:50 of "Emotions" where the bass is just bubbling over Costa's gorgeous moonlit sky melody. Sadly most of the vocals are in English rather than the lovely Italian language but Mombrini seems to have a good handle on it, unlike other Italian vocalists who sometimes slaughter the usage/emphasis. The second disc was recorded in later sessions and perhaps is a bit more adventurous while the first side perhaps a bit more sentimental. There are far too many tracks to dissect in detail here but you can count on many enjoyable moments of warm and accessible progressive rock, a true gem left us by this group of longtime friends.

I think fans of down-to-Earth, melodic neo-prog or symphonic would enjoy "Mother and Fairly" quite a bit and recommend it to those fans. This is two hours of passionate music that shoots for the moon throughout-and despite the noted imperfections on the technical side, it will win your heart over if you let it. I love it and I thank the Prowlers for dreaming big here. 7/10

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Send comments to Finnforest (BETA) | Report this review (#222971)
Posted Wednesday, June 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
apps79
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Neo Prog Team
3 stars In 1995 Mellow Records released Prowlers' second album ''Mother and fairy'', actually a 2-CD prog output.Was the band so prolific to write and perform over 2 hours of music just after a year from the ''Morgana'' release?Apparently not, and the liner notes take the listener back to 1992/93, at some point Alfio Costa's brother Flavio had joined the band for the recordings of the first CD titled ''Mother''.A year later Stefano Piazzi had quit from his activities and Flavio Costa was the only remaining member to handle the guitars.During the second half of 94' the remaining quintet recorded a full-hour of music, presented in the album as the ''Fairy'' CD.

Prowlers' remain one of the oddest bands to come out from Italy during the 90's.They sure had this familiar Italian taste of romantic arrangements and symphonic underlines in their music, but their execution was definitely darker than more of the period Italian groups.''Mother'' continues from where we left the band in ''Morgana'', the music is somewhere on the line between Neo/Symphonic Prog and retro Psychedelic Rock, featuring lots of nostalgic organ, sinister synth experiments, poetic female vocals but also some heavier symphonic parts and more contemporary Neo Prog qualities in the more melodic parts.Consider this as a modern version of the French CATHARSIS or even GOBLIN minus the jazzy influences, the material is fairly-organ driven with piano and electric guitars support and some synth bursts here and there, again performed in slow-tempo arrangements, which are quite long and full of instrumental passages.One year later Prowlers had made a slight turn towards a more conventional Neo/Symphonic Prog sound, as revealed in the work on ''Fairy''.The tracks are still lengthy with extended instrumental interludes, but the music has become slightly more refined and a bit faster with more pronounced use of synths, while a few tracks contain beautiful Italian lyrics.To my ears now they sound extremely balanced between Symphonic and Psychedelic Rock, because the psych material wasn't actually gone, and the music is very original, more upbeat and even more convincing, eventually featuring strong tempo and stylistical variations in a very genuine form.What hasn't actually changed at all is the lust for a muddy, vintage production.

An EARTH & FIRE meet CATHARSIS kind of album.While not all tracks are succesful in composing terms, which is pretty reasonable for a 2-hour album, this work is usually intelligent, very atmospheric and musically flexible to satisfy fans of old or new Prog, symphomaniacs and lovers of darker listenings.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

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Send comments to apps79 (BETA) | Report this review (#1363382)
Posted Friday, February 06, 2015 | Review Permalink

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