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XII Alfonso

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XII Alfonso Charles Darwin album cover
3.85 | 83 ratings | 3 reviews | 23% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 2012

Songs / Tracks Listing

Vol. I: 1809 -1835 (60:47)
1. Collection One (1:41)
2. Earliest Recollections (4:58)
3. Stolen Fruit (3:14)
4. Physics And Hunting (3:51)
5. Silent Battle (4:38)
6. Collection Two And Three (1:47)
7. The Bump Of Reverence (5:32)
8. Leaving England [Part 1] (1:31)
9. Leaving England [Part 2] (3:05)
10. The Letter From Henslow (3:19)
11. HMS Beagle (3:52)
12. Collection Four (0:30)
13. Captain Fitz-Roy (2:50)
14. Straits Of Magellan (5:12)
15. Tierra Del Fuego (7:46)
16. Darwin's Finches (3:54)
17. Homeward Bound (3:08)

Vol. II: 1836-1858 (60:08)
1. Collection Five (1:52)
2. So Many Years (3:42)
3. Strange Fossil (2:55)
4. Emma And Charles (5:55)
5. The Coral Of Life (5:07)
6. Collection Six (1:11)
7. Down House (4:32)
8. The Island Of Devil's Riding School (4:00)
9. Annie [Part 1] (2:56)
10. Annie [Part 2] (2:02)
11. Collection Seven (2:33)
12. Beloved Cirripedia (3:56)
13. An Ordinary Day (3:55)
14. Salting The Seeds (6:24)
15. Lenny (2:36)
16. It's Time To Write (2:30)
17. Collection Eight (0:56)
18. Missing Links (3:06)

Vol. III: 1859-1882 (60:05)
1. Collection Nine (0:53)
2. Bound Together (4:49)
3. Descent With Modification (2:36)
4. On The Origin Of Species (6:38)
5. Controverse In Oxford (1:27)
6. Collection Ten (0:56)
7. Slave Makers (4:01)
8. Last Human Common Ancestor (4:03)
9. Sombre Thoughts (5:27)
10. Collection Eleven (0:57)
11. Mysterious Illness (7:01)
12. The Copley Medal (2:46)
13. Vision Of The Indian Mound (6:23)
14. The Descent Of Man (4:53)
15. Collection Twelve (0:56)
16. Struggle For Existence (1:36)
17. Darwin's Burial (4:40)

Total Time: 181:00

Line-up / Musicians

- Philippe Claerhout / guitar, mandolin, glockenspiel, bass, xylophone, dan-bao, castanets. wine glasses, dolphinophone, bouzouki, balaphone, crocodile teeth, shaker, sanza, tamani, harp, metal stick played valiha, ocarina, dan tranh, ukulele, tibetian bell
- Francois Claerhout / string synth, orchestral sounds, synth, percussion, bodhran, drum programming, electric piano, palmas, rhythm box, lithophone, woodblock, goat nails, mate pot, bamboo drum, shekere, sampling, piano, whartdog teeth, pitecophone, woods sticks, choir
- Thierry Moreno / drums, tibetian bell, ride & floor tom, ride & china cymbals, snare, ride, bells, wind chimes, triangle, acoustic guitar, floor tom, tambourine, tamani
- Stéphane Ducassé / recorders, bass flute, flute, hippo teeth, xylophone, blowed crocodile teeth, theremin

guest musicians :
- Maggie Reilly / vocals
- Sand Roman Garcia / vocals
- Elliott Murphy / vocals
- Gérard Lenorman / vocals
- Huong Thanh / vocals
- Pierre Emberger aka Freegh / vocals
- Amy Keys / vocals
- Ronnie Caryl / guitars, vocals
- Alistair Gordon / vocals
- Jayney Klimek / vocals
- Huong Thanh / vocals
- Lino C. / prattling
- Eve M. / vocals
- Louisa B. / vocals
- Myriam Z. / vocals
- Pauline D. / vocals
- Federico Zavala / vocals
- Francisco Zavala / choir
- Juan Zavala / choir
- Gustavo Zavala / piano, synth, choir
- Osvaldo Zavala / keyboards, choir
- Tadeo Zavala / child's voice, choir
- Fatima Soto / choir
- Humberto T. Correa / Charles Darwin's voice, choir
- Trio Voce / choir
- Michael Geyre / accordion, rain stick, choir
- Philippe Poirier / bodhran, detuned gongs, shells, choir
- John A. Helliwell / saxes, clarinet
- Raphaël Ravenscroft / saxes
- Terry Oldfield / flute
- John Hackett / flute
- Antoine Gramont / cello
- Hong NGuyen / dan tranh
- Stephane Micard / ukulele
- Franck Chaubert / guitar
- Tim Renwick / guitar
- Florian Berrouet / classical guitar
- Francis Dunnery / guitar
- Hugo Denoyelle / guitar
- Stephane Rolland / guitar
- Robin Boult / electric & acoustic guitars
- Ian Bairnson / acoustic & electric guitars
- Christophe Maroye / fender jazz bass, electric guitar
- Vincent Benard / bass, acoustic bass
- David Paton / bass
- Mickaël Manring / fretless bass
- Mickey Simmonds / keyboards
- Ton Scherpenzeel / proteus 2000, bass synth

Releases information

Autoproduction. Triple CD digibook with 76 pages booklet

Thanks to steff for the addition
and to rivertree for the last updates
Edit this entry

Buy XII ALFONSO Charles Darwin Music

XII ALFONSO Charles Darwin ratings distribution

(83 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(23%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(39%)
Good, but non-essential (29%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

XII ALFONSO Charles Darwin reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by ProgShine
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars XII ALFONSO is a French band formed in the late 80's but they just recorded their first album in 1996. To tell you the truth that's all I knew about them. That they were French and that they had an album called The Lost Frontier (1996).

I didn't like the album that much so I haven't really followed the band since I listened to it, but they have never stopped since 96. They had 6 albums before Charles Darwin (2012), the album I'll be reviewing in the next lines.

To say that Charles Darwin (2012) is a completely original project would be a lie. Many concept albums about famous characters were recorded during the years, especially within Progressive Rock music. The band itself already did that with their 2 volumes album about Claude Monet in 2002 and 2005. But here the band goes to a completely new level! Charles Darwin (2012) is not just a conceptual album, it is a whole big piece or art in music format. Based on the book On The Origin Of Species, written by Darwin itself, the album is divided into a 3 discs journey through the Naturalist life, every single move he made to accomplish his goals was covered with brilliant and involving music. Each album covers a period of Darwin's music and each one of them has one hour of music, 3 hours of music in total.

That's the one and only let down on the album for me, but let me explain first. I love this kind of conceptual albums and I love complex works, but 3 hours of music is a bit too much to focus on, so you'll have to digest it into pieces.

What makes the work even more amazing is the package, a digibook with hardcover material, just like a book, and it almost is, the booklet has no less than 76 pages in an excellent quality paper and press with all the lyrics, info, pics, notes about Darwin's life and a detailed part about credits and recording process (you can check this on their website - 52 songs, over 3 hours of music and more than 20 special guests. Of course it was not an easy process, 3 years of the making.

It's hard to go into details, musically speaking, it is very, very hard. I've been sitting with this album for more than 6 months now, I have listened several times from the beginning to the end and for me, it's just IMPOSSIBLE to name songs and details. Why? It's simple. The whole work is a journey, a travel of mind, where you can put your phones on or drink your favorite beer and simply get into their world. If you take that apart, it will be very hard to understand their album. Of course that some songs, like 'Sillent Battle' that I already posted in one of our Podcasts ( , 'So Many Years', 'The Coral Of Life' or 'Mysterious Illness' came into my mind. But the thing is, you really have to hear by yourself. The diversity is incredible. To help you to understand a bit many songs can be listened in this review that the band posted on their website and I advise you to do it, you'll not regret! Unfortunatelly, one of the head behind this masterpiece, the drummer Thierry Moreno passed away in 2011 after the group finished the recordings but before actually seeing the album being released.

But trust me, XII ALFONSO and Charles Darwin (2012) deserved my spot on my list of the best of 2012 ( with all merits, if you don't know the band/album yet you should. NOW!

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars XII Alfonso's 3CD, 3 hour concept album based on the life and beliefs of controversial naturalist Charles Darwin is an eclectic collection of 30 instrumental pieces with 22 vocal tracks, performed by over 50 musicians alongside the core band members. Over 70 instruments were used in the recording of the album, creating a very rich and colourful work full of emotion and mood. All the music is very accessible and easy to get in to without being simplistic, and it's carefully arranged, full of original ideas and clever variations. It covers virtually every genre progressive rock crosses over into, and there will surely be something for everyone here. Reference points might be Mostly Autumn, Pink Floyd (Dark Side-era onwards), Andreas Vollenweider, the romantic prog of Camel and Rousseau, and even a more sophisticated Alan Parsons Project on some of the vocal pieces. There's a heavy acoustic and classical sound, epic guitar solos, lots of synth/keys/Mellotron, male/female vocals and folk influences, with frequent world elements too.

Assume all tracks in this review are instrumental unless vocals are pointed out.

Vol 1: 1809-1835 - 60'14

`Collection One' is a gorgeous low-key piano and bass intro, while `Earliest Recollections' is a folk influenced rocker with female vocals in a similar style to Mostly Autumn. It has the same plodding beat as that band, with tasteful acoustic guitar and electric solos throughout. `Stolen Fruits' is a moody dramatic instrumental highlighted by cello, mandolin, classical guitar and recorder. `Physics and Hunting' is a very upbeat accordion driven folk jig in the tradition of Malicorne and Mostly Autumn again, with killer synth and guitar runs. `Silent Battle' is my least favourite track on this disc - a semi schmaltzy Beatles influenced ballad with a forced Fish-like vocal that is a little too cute for my liking. `Collection Two and Three' brings us back up with a gorgeous acoustic guitar solo backed with striking clarinet. The first longer cut `The Bump Of Reverence' is a jammy fusion improv full of evocative sax/flute and acoustic guitar, with a wailing but melodic electric guitar solo. The band are very relaxed and loose on this one! The two part `Leaving England ' begins with a short classical guitar interlude, then grand male vocals join in the heavier second half to continue the narrative. `The Letter From Henslow' has a quirky Mellotron/synth/keys heavy sound amongst some funky bass and percussion, with slight Canterbury influences in the flute. `HMS Beagle' has a very full-of-life male vocal in the chorus, with an upbeat dreamy quality to the acoustic playing. `Collection Four' is a 30 second reprise of an earlier musical theme played on glockenspiel. From here the album heads in a very different direction! `Captain Fitzroy' has a world-music style wordless sighing female vocal behind Gilmour-like guitar licks and Fender jazz-bass. `Straights of Magellan' has a very moody intro before electric piano, triangle and Spanish guitar rip into something Andreas Vollenweider might perform. Tasteful acoustic instruments, castanets, flute and strings weave throughout the dancing melody. After narration, the longer `Terra del Fuego' has an atmospheric and spiritual quality with drifting sax and percussion and delicate acoustic guitar. Then the drums and majestic electric guitar enter, with contrasting male/female vocals floating through the music with a choir at the end. An album highlight! `Darwin's Finches' is a nice come-down, a near-ambient Vollenweider-styled piece with female Oriental vocals in the first half, before an unexpected fusion-styled groovy bass, drums and electric guitar explosion in the middle! The disc wraps on `Homeward Bound', a short and pleasant ukulele and sax instrumental.

Volume One stands as a wonderfully varied and balanced combination of instrumental and vocal pieces that would stand as a successful single progressive album any artist could be proud of.

Vol 2: 1836-1858 - 60'05

The more vocal/narrative heavy Vol 2 begins with another acoustic variation of the main `Collection' theme before mid-tempo acoustic rocker `So Many Years' kicks in, with a catchy melody and raspy male vocals. `Strange Fossil' is a mysterious ambient piece with flute and cello. `Emma and Charles' is an emotionally sung if somewhat overwrought duet. While it has an admirable lyric about accepting and loving another despite different beliefs and opinions, it's full of awkward clunky lyrics that are admittedly very difficult to work into a catchy and accessible song. Lovely acoustic outro though. `The Coral Of Life' is an experimental piece highlighted by disorientating keyboards and sax, stream-of-consciousness rambling vocals with a groovy middle section, the bass mixed nice and upfront too. A brief accordion reprise of the main theme, then the wordy and slightly overambitious acoustic ballad `Down House', full of warm playing and a passionate vocal. `The Island of Devil's Riding School' is a world-music Vollenweider-styled piece, with lots of xylophone and other obscure instruments! The two part `Annie' has evocative French vocals and delicate cello, before another interpretation of the main theme on sax and flute, dirty bass and guitar over a simple programmed beat. `Beloved Cirripedia' is a whirling instrumental piece in grand symphonic prog style, full of endless variety and stunning playing. `An Ordinary Day' is sumptuous mid-tempo adult vocal jazz with a lovely accented female performance. The dark jazz on instrumental improv `Salting The Seeds' has lonely wailing sax, urgent percussion and exquisite piano. `Lenny' is an upbeat acoustic jig with the voices of children over the top. `It's Time To Write' is a somber acoustic ballad with male vocals and a nice Mellotron/sax instrumental in the outro that sounds not unlike Pink Floyd. An Oriental variation on the main theme closes the disc with the darker acoustic `Missing Links' sounding almost like the sophisticated female fronted pop/prog of Magenta.

Volume Two is still a very strong piece, with several stunning instrumental passages, only sometimes let down by trying to incorporate difficult concepts into workable song lyrics on some of the vocal pieces. Still endless things to enjoy on here, though.

Vol 3: 1859-1882 - 60'15

After a strangely vaudeville interpretation of the main theme, the semi-comical vocal track `Round Together' has a quirky and playful sound with a wonderful sax solo. A complex concept is attempted to squeeze into a poppy upbeat track in a fairly successful manner. `Descent With Modification' is a dark and moody jazz instrumental. Except for some brief vocals from Huong Thanh throughout, the classy Oriental based `Origin of the Species' is a mysterious and subtle instrumental with more of that evocative sax and lovely piano. `Controverse In Oxford' is a brief droning choir chant with almost middle eastern elements. A classical reprise of the main theme, then the band rips through `Slave Makers, a super-proggy spacey instrumental fanfare not unlike early Camel! One of the albums highlights, filled with gorgeous Mellotron and piercing Gilmour-like slide guitar! `L.H.C.A' is a somewhat repetitive interpretation of a traditional Irish piece, however it's beautifully performed by female vocalist Sand Roman Garcia. The lyric heavy `Somber Thoughts' is a reflective acoustic ballad with accented male vocals. We now hit a big stretch of instrumental pieces! The flute and acoustic guitar combination of `Collection Eleven' would not have sounded out of place on Camel's `Snow Goose' album. `Mysterious Illness' has contrasting somber passages with uplifting lead guitar and dramatic saxophone, and a synth/Mellotron heavy blowout in the middle, powerful drum-work too! A knockout track, possibly the best on the album! Again that Camel sound can be heard on the lovely flute and classical guitar of `The Copley Medal', then the funky `Vision of the Indian Mound' has middle eastern elements/synth-orchestration, classical guitar, fluid bass and spacey keys, while an endless melodic electric guitar solo weaves it's way around the entire track. Dripping with so much emotion and feeling, it's an amazing piece. `The Descent Of Man' has male/female vocals with more complicated lyrics crammed into a slightly awkward poppy song with a very wordy chorus, but it's full of terrific guitar solos. A final cello/guitar variation on `Collection Twelve', then the very strange loopy electronics, gloomy bass and piano racket of `Struggle For Existence' comes out of nowhere! The album finishes on the Flower Kings and Genesis-like uplifting and thoughtful `Darwin's Burial' with warm vocal harmonies and a soaring guitar solo. Despite a very abrupt finish, it's a very nice way to end the album, and one of the best vocal pieces on the album.

Volume 3's quality level is still very high, though perhaps by now we've heard all the real surprises the album has to offer. But the late run of several instrumental pieces and lovely finale really brings the album home.

Special mention must go to the stunning hardback 76 page book that houses the three CD's, filled with endless photographs, illustrations and lyrics, as well as further explanations of Darwin's beliefs and studies. It helps the listener understand the man's motivations and discoveries, as well as touching on some brief elements of his family life. It really raises the bar in how original and special progressive rock can be presented.

As someone who has followed strong Christian beliefs all my life, I was concerned I was going to find an insulting and negative album with `Charles Darwin'. However, with a musical experience as rich and sophisticated as this, full of outstanding progressive rock music presented in an intelligent and thoughtful manner, put together with so much devotion and skill, I am perfectly happy to accept the album for what it is. Other listeners with religious and spiritual beliefs will have to decide whether it's for them or not.

I'm sure there will be some arguments that the album might have made a better double album than a triple, but overall most of the music is of such a high quality, full of truly stunning playing, arrangements and performances, that the 3 disc format is justified. Perhaps it might have been even better if each of the three discs had a unique sound of it's own, other than being three volumes of endless varieties and genres overall. Although the vocal pieces are all generally effective, you really notice how much the album picks up and comes alive in all the incredible instrumental tracks. But if you are a fan of thought-provoking, intelligent and lush symphonic progressive rock, and you have the patience to persist in giving the 3 hour album repeated listens, you'll find a hugely satisfying and rewarding listening musical experience.

Four and a half stars.

Review by Rivertree
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Band Submissions
3 stars Well this is a challenge for what it's worth. A few data at the first to prove something really uique - this opus contains not less than 52 episodes, divided in three volumes. While the band's core is composed of four like-minded French artists, more than 50 musicians are involved here though in total, and one could say a 'who is who' of sophisticated rock music. What immediately strikes is the wonderful package - featuring more than 70 pages the booklet belongs to the finest I've ever had in my hands, worked out with passion and love of detail. And finally roundabout 70 instruments are utilized, all pictured within the booklet.

Something superlative without a doubt. As the title implies, the album is inspired by Charles Darwin's legacy, constitutes a musical biography so to say. Philippe Claerhout (guitars, bass), Francois Claerhout (keyboards), Thierry Moreno (drums) and Stéphane Ducassé (flutes) took around two years to move along the footsteps of this naturalist, who had radically changed the understanding of biology in the 19th century. Unfortunately Moreno passed away in 2011 and could not witness the release of this album for what I know.

First CD covers the growth of Darwin, ending with his extended circumnavigation crossing the southern hemisphere, which must have been the most impressing experience in his life. Maggie Reilly, known for her collaboration with Mike Oldfield, was accorded the honour of opening the opulent guest vocal list with the first catchy song Earliest Collections - 'Goodbye Old England ' ... the optimistic HMS Beagle is highly melodic where the mystic Captain Fritz-Roy belongs to my favourites due to a psychedelic flow.

Second CD accompanies Darwin's theoretical phase and offers some lovely ballads like So many years and Downhouse for example. 'Deep in the sea, the body is dead ...' - The Coral Of Life thrills me a lot due to a slight hallucinative mood which passes over into a nice groove later, cool saxophone as well as fretless bass and wonderful vocals provided by Sand Roman Garcia again. I would also count the instrumental The Island Of Devil's Riding School to the highlights which shows the four protagonists nicely interacting, only accompanied by Mickey Simmonds on keyboards.

Third CD notes the release of Darwin's book 'On the Origin Of Species', the eponymous song strikes due to the lovely female voice of Vietnamese Huong Than. The dramatic Slace Makers shows them rocking yet again including full prog sentiment and nice electric guitar work, which also applies to Mysterious Illness where Francois Claerhout convinces with some nearly outraged synth contributions. And then the successfull Vision Of The Inner Mound bears a fusion vibe. 'Forever lying there, a simple man ..." - Darwin's burial in 1882 finally is represented by the closing song, missing any depression or pessimism though, just accepting this as the irreversible part of life.

An album consisting of three hours needs a lot of time and patience in order to assess. 'Charles Darwin' resembles a cornucopia of impressions - diverse native folk/ethno sentiment, pop, chanson, chamber, flamenco, rock - to name a few only - relaxed music in the majority which is suitable for background listening in the same way as for concentrated sessions. Take your time and you will dig a lot of details - for example synths which imitate frogs croaking aso. Lyrics and rants are given either in French or English.

Now this is made of an obvious cinematic vibe, cries for a spectacular movie. The ultimate sound for such a project is put on the table already. The rocking component takes a backseat here, you must know, and with some reason one might argue about the prog character in its entierety. Although not belonging to my favourites, it surely is an awe-inspiring work. Embellished by a fantastic booklet and the outstanding singer Sand Roman Garcia the album will find enough interest and fans ... if it can reach for the necessary reputation.

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