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EZRA WINSTON

Symphonic Prog • Italy


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Ezra Winston biography
Hailed as one of the most influential Italian prog bands of the 1980's, Ezra Winston took a variety of styles and became a melting pot for all sorts of colors and emotions in music. Any given song could start off with a definite neo feel, but then angle off into jazz or classical reminiscent of medieval times. Ezra Winston weren't content with following a certain path, but blazing trails not often heard in neo progressive music.

In 1988 the band (consisting of Mario Bianchi on rhythm samples, synthesizers, piano, organ, Mauro Di Donato on solo samples, synthesizers, vocals, bass, Daniele Iacono on drums, percussion, vibes, Paolo Lucini on flute, piccolo, and Fabio Palmieri on classical & electric guitars) released Myth of the Chrysavides, the music is a mixture of classic Camel with a bit of Steve Hackett thrown in. A very daring debut by a band eager to make a name for themselves.

In 1990, Ezra Winston returned with the adventurous Ancient Afternoons, which has been widely acclaimed as a masterpiece. For example, the opening of the first track, the Painter represented by a lone flute is answered by the King, played by the entire band. As described by Remco Schoenmakers of DPRP, "The main track, the 26 minute symphonic poem of Ancient Afternoon also combines all previously mentioned style-figures. It is quite chilling in atmosphere, calm yet threatening, despite the classical opening, which reminded me of some wedding track. Wonderful movements flow seamlessly into each other. The 1996 bonus track Shades of Grey is also very nice, indeed sounding a bit more modern."

At the time of this update, it is unknown what is ahead for Ezra Winston. According to the band's website, guitarist Fabio Palmieri has left the band and has been replaced by Steve Pontani, who played sparingly on Ancient Afternoons.

Eric Walker

Ezra Winston official website

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Ancient AfternoonsAncient Afternoons
Import
Musea Records France 2006
Audio CD$49.99
$17.94 (used)

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EZRA WINSTON discography


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EZRA WINSTON top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.47 | 27 ratings
Myth of the Chrysavides
1988
3.40 | 42 ratings
Ancient Afternoons
1990

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EZRA WINSTON Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Ancient Afternoons by EZRA WINSTON album cover Studio Album, 1990
3.40 | 42 ratings

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Ancient Afternoons
Ezra Winston Symphonic Prog

Review by Tarcisio Moura
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Well, I understand all this praising for this album. After all, it is a journey back to the time of the great prog bands (and their love for Genesis Trespass and PFMīs Per Un Amico is more than evident). Usually I donīt mind derivative music, as long as it is well done. And this the biggest problem here: the songwriting department and the vocals. While it is clear that all band members are skilled musicians, the vocals are awful, which is really strange since they are from a land of great singers like Italy. Most of the time itīs like whispering voices, recorded too low in the mix (maybe intentionally, I donīt know, and I donīt care, since the results are the same). The songs tried to emulate a lot of those aforementioned bands and are well executed, but no melodies stuck even after repeated listenings. Itīs that typical case of terrific players in dire need of an equally great composer to match.

So itīs easy to understand why those guys never made it. And most of the praising comes from the fact that this band came in a time not too many progressive combos were not coming from Italy (a country that gave us so many outstanding and unique works they became a league of their own). Donīt get me wrong, there are indeed some nice passages here and there, but thatīs all. No real "songs" or epics as such, everything seems to have a lack of structure, like a good beginning or a climax to end. A real pity, for the inspiration is right, the intentions are good and the overall technique (minus the vocals) is flawless. But with no good tunes to go along with them, the results are at best interesting.

Definitly for collectors and fans only. Two stars.

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 Ancient Afternoons by EZRA WINSTON album cover Studio Album, 1990
3.40 | 42 ratings

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Ancient Afternoons
Ezra Winston Symphonic Prog

Review by seventhsojourn
Special Collaborator RPI

3 stars Named for a Latin American comic-book character whose sidekick had a fancy for travelling back in time, Ezra Winston (the band) seems to share that penchant for looking to the past. They are one of only a small handful of Italian bands classified as Symphonic Prog in the PA database and as other reviewers have already noted there is something of an inclination to 'Trespass' on this album. While it's not a mere doppelganger, it's not difficult to imagine Ezra Winston centring their attention on the talismanic Genesis album and they even included some 'White Mountain' fragments in the flute melody of 'Glares'.

For sure, this is an epic work and involves what seems like a retinue of thousands of musicians. The album is meticulously presented with a lavish booklet that includes all English language lyrics and explanations of the songs. The opening track 'The Painter And The King' is a fine example of telling a story through music, with brass fanfares for the painter's arrival at court and the death rattle of percussion during his execution. 'Verge Of Suicide' also manages to convey its different moods effectively although the singer's Gabriel imitation isn't, for me, a patch on the broad-chested vocals of so many of his countrymen.

'Ancient Afternoon Of An Unknown Town' is the album's magnum opus, the big cheese, the full bhuna, the big kahuna. It's an enormous, sprawling piece that concerns the further sombre myths of the Chrysavides. It begins with the lovely Baroque-inspired 'Prelude' and this clearly transmits a feeling of grandeur, but the shiny stuff quickly wears off and I'm less convinced by what's left. It's all too fragmented and it fails to really take shape. Rather than having the impression of reading an epic story, the feeling of going on a long and fitful journey spreads through me and I'm glad when I reach the end.

'Ancient Afternoons' is good without being particularly exciting; I don't condemn it to the stake but I can't exactly sing its praises either.

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 Myth of the Chrysavides by EZRA WINSTON album cover Studio Album, 1988
3.47 | 27 ratings

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Myth of the Chrysavides
Ezra Winston Symphonic Prog

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
Special Collaborator Symphonic Prog Specialist

2 stars 2.5 stars would be more adequate

Many people see the 80's as the lost decade, I used to think like this until a few years when I discovered some excellent bands from the era, but in general terms, we are talking about my least favorite decade. But once in a while I find a great band that breaks the rules, avoiding the exclusivity of GENESIS or PINK FLOYD references behind and creating a new fusion of sounds of styles that sound fresh and kept our hopes of a rebirth alive. Sadly EZRA WINSTON is one not of them.

Their debut Myth of the Chrysavides is a very uneven album, with excellent moments but most of their tracks are terribly predictable and even boring. It's obvious for me that they try to escape from the Neo Prog parameters and even when the vocals and some keyboard solos sound very close to Pendragon, their style is much richer, they constantly use dissonances, plus some Jazz Fusion touches, make the band unusual for any Italian group, normally more focussed in the gentle melodies and pastoral passages, sadly, they are not able top keep the high level for long periods of time.

Myth of the Chrysavides. is divided in four tracks:

"The Bird and the First Flight" works as an introduction for the two epics that occupy 80% of the album, this track begins soft and melodic mainly with flute and keyboards, somehow reminds me of ANTHONY PHILLIP'S, even when gets faster and with lush keyboards as the time passes, it's obvious we are before an introductory track.

"The Journey in the world Above" misleads at the start with a soft and even pastoral entrance, but as soon as the keyboards join, it's obvious this band tries to do something different, the Jazz elements are notorious, the problem begins with the vocals that are too bland for my taste not forgetting the fact that Italian bands and English language, don't make a good combination. To make it worst, all the rich blend of the start morphs into a soporiferous ballad.

The second epic "The Journey in the World Bellow" has some amazing passages, but again suffers of the same problem as the other songs, it's too uneven, after vivid passages with amazing synth solos supported by a solid rhythm section and a beautiful classic guitar, they return to the narcotic ballads that induce to a good sleep. Even when the acoustic guitar and the GENESIS inspired passages are quite nice, the song is completely inconsistent.

To summarize, "The Journey in the World Bellow" has more or less 9 minutes of brilliance and 9 minutes of boredom, which is sad, because we are talking about very capable musicians.

The album ends with the most solid track "The Waiting and the Knowledge", which despite being a bit repetitive, has the most brilliant passages of the record, a good closer for an average album.

As usual I suffer with the rating, and Myth of the Chrysavides places me before a real problem, they don't deserve less than 2.5 stars, but Prog Archives only admits full stars, so I have to decide the less unfair rating. Being that I gave three stars to much better albums like the ELP debut or Going for the One by YES, I have to go with two stars, recognizing that EZRA WINSTON deserve a bit more.

Just hope that their second release "Ancient Afternoons" which I recently bought is more consistent and keeps the level high all along the album.

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 Myth of the Chrysavides by EZRA WINSTON album cover Studio Album, 1988
3.47 | 27 ratings

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Myth of the Chrysavides
Ezra Winston Symphonic Prog

Review by toroddfuglesteg

3 stars This album from Italy is a bit of a surprise.

Released at the end of the nasty 1980s, this album has been a bit bypassed by those who are looking for a good Symph/Neo Prog album. Which is a shame. The music here is very good indeed.

Music wise, I do not subscribe to the notion that the music is entirely Symph Prog. The vocals and most of the instrumentation here sounds like Pendragon to me. That and the added flute and some vintage brooding keyboards which takes them towards RPI territory. You can also add the 1980s soundscape too and you get this band. Symphonic Prog ? Maybe....... Well. The two fifteen minutes plus songs may take them in that direction too.

The quality of the music is good throughout. My main gripe is the lack of some really great songs here. Only the closing track The waiting and the knowledge is hinting about greatness. There are also some sporadic great melody lines inbetween the pretty good stuff here. But the lack of some variations and colours on this album is really hurting the final outcome. Despite of these grapes, this is a good album well worth checking out.

3 stars

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 Ancient Afternoons by EZRA WINSTON album cover Studio Album, 1990
3.40 | 42 ratings

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Ancient Afternoons
Ezra Winston Symphonic Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars EZRA WINSTON is a highly thought of modern RPI band who released their first album in the late eighties.This is the followup called "Ancient Afternoons". There's no questioning the talent of this band but for my taste this was a long listen. Not a fan of the vocals although they certainly don't ruin it by any means. It's that Classical flavour that bothers me the most I suppose, although it's more than that.

"The Painter And The King" opens with the birds singing before flute and orchestral sounds take over. Man I don't like this at all. Talk about getting off on the wrong foot. Thankfully it gets better when the guitar comes in around 1 1/2 minutes. Vocals before 2 1//2 minutes and it's very pastoral. I like the atmosphere after 3 1/2 minutes then the drums start to build as the guitar then sax comes in. Not a bad track overall.

"Verge Of Suicide" is mellow to start with vocals and flute. There has to be fairies prancing around too. Marching style drums arrive before 7 minutes then it's pastoral again. "Night-Storm" has this tasteful guitar with a beat and vocals. I like the guitar late. "Ancient Afternoon Of An Unknown Town" is the 26 minute epic. For me this feels like it's patched together too much, although there is one section that I like from before 19 minutes to the 24 minute mark. It's led by drums and horns. "Shades Of Grey" is laid back with vocals. Flute after 1 1/2 minutes then it kicks in somewhat with drums and guitar.

I must admit it's hard to even offer up 3 stars for this one, but out of respect for the fans of this album especially tszirmay that is my rating.

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 Myth of the Chrysavides by EZRA WINSTON album cover Studio Album, 1988
3.47 | 27 ratings

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Myth of the Chrysavides
Ezra Winston Symphonic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

4 stars 4.5 stars really...

EZRA WINSTON may place themselves among the legends of the new wave of Italian progrssive rock of mid- to late 80's.At the darkest age of progressive rock,the band came to life in 1984 and responsible for this were singer/keyboardist/bassist Mauro Di Donato and guitarist Fabio Palmieri,who later added keyboardist Mario Bianchi in the line-up.This trio started composing the material for the band's first album,whose recordings started in summer of 87',after they were joined by flutist Paolo Lucini and drummer Daniele Iacono.

March 1988 finds EZRA WINSTON releasing their debut ''Myth of chrysavides'',an entirely self-produced LP.Following the steps of classic prog bands,EZRA WINSTON's debut is a weird concept album around butterflies,born from cocoons on a mountain,looking for their meaning of existence,while travelling their way home.Notice that the whole story is written in English.

Musically speaking the album is an absolute winner!From the short opener,regarding the butterflies' birth,the band sets the listener in its pastoral mood.Mellow acoustic guitars and warm flutes lead to an electric outburst,surrounded by excellent moog synths.''The journey in the world above'' is the other composition of side A,a great 16-min. opus.Sort of a cross between PFM,GENESIS and early MARILLION,this track passes through different soundscapes all the time.From a pastoral and medieval acoustic atmosphere to PFM-like flute-driven passages and from elaborated GENESIS-influenced electric moments to vocal-led dark moments with an intense MARILLION-esque taste.A true prog classic!

Side B opens with another grand opus,the 18-min. ''The journey in the world below''.This time things seems to be less darker but a lot more complex than the previous track.In fact the first minutes of the track contain complex interplays with nice guitar/organ/synth battles,while flutes come in a little later.The light electric guitars of Palmieri are now closer to STEVE ROTHERY's style,while the moog synths are again so dreamy and atmospheric.You will have to wait for more than ten minutes before acoustic guitars return in their heaviest form and you can't ask for more listening to the classical inspired keyboard-based ending section.''The waiting and the knowledge'' closes the album in a nice,almost spacey way with good interplays,fantastic drumming and obscure synth effects,while the last minutes will remind you again of the great PFM (beautiful flutes,bass and organ).What a great listening is all I can say...

Not much more to be written.How this album hasn't find its way for a CD re-issue by a major prog label is a matter of discussion.This is one of the best Italian symphonic prog albums of the second generation and a monumental prog file next to the best of NUOVA ERA,ERIS PLUVIA,SITHONIA and MALIBRAN.

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 Ancient Afternoons by EZRA WINSTON album cover Studio Album, 1990
3.40 | 42 ratings

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Ancient Afternoons
Ezra Winston Symphonic Prog

Review by Andis

3 stars This is a strange album. Got it on LP and today I was thought I was going to listen to it carefully and write a short review. The first song is like someone taped the band at 3 o clock in the middle of night and the band wasn't aware of it. Did they even try to write a song? Boring keyboards for the last five minutes makes this a pain. Second song is a lot slower and almost puts me to sleep, I have a hard time to stay awake here. Too little is happening and the song is too long. Dreamy acoustic guitar with flute...zzzzzz. At the time of the third song the band starts to wake up but unfortionately this is not good enough, the song goes of too long and doesn't contain anything really good.

And here comes the strange part of the LP, the fourth and last song (the LP doesn't have the CD bonus track) the band starts to play really decent Genesis/Camel inspired progressive rock. Well it's not really in that class but still really worthwile good progrock. There are som interesting moments of stops and turns and some really intelligent songwriting. Unfortionately there are som boring dreamy vocals at som times but here the band starts to shine. They keep me awake for all the 25 minutes witch is a good grade for a song that long.

Conclusion: there are 25 minutes of good quality progressive rock here. The rest is rather boring. My rating would be 2.5 and I'll be nice and give it three stars only for the last 25 minutes.

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 Ancient Afternoons by EZRA WINSTON album cover Studio Album, 1990
3.40 | 42 ratings

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Ancient Afternoons
Ezra Winston Symphonic Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

5 stars Dateline 1990: the Dictatorial Rule of the Corporate Music Industry has crushed the remaining stubborn prog dinosaurs into oblivion. Yet little did the corporate bigwigs know that within a year Metallica and Nirvana would conspire to "tear the playhouse down" again and bring in the grunge/alternative era of noisy guitar crap and wounded (or MIA) melodies (sorry Kurt). Prog was forced into the "maquis", becoming jungle guerillas, a few trembling survivors fighting on bravely and in silent lucidity(Queensryche-Empire, Ant Phillips-Slow Dance, Ozric Tentacles-Erpland, Oldfield's Amarok, After Crying-Overground Music and Fish-The Vigil ). Needless to say, times were tough in Progland during the blitz. Yet among the smoking ruins and strewn corpses of the once all mighty (Yes, Tull, Floyd, KC and the traitor Genesis), there was a fabulous little treasure that few knew about, away from the usual Brit-Yank commercial infested stage , in a country known more for food, drink, fashion and history but also once a pivotal school of prog-rock : Italy. Far removed from the maddening hypocrisy of the flavor of the month rock band philosophy was Ezra Winston and its mythical "Ancient Afternoons", a heady follow up to their equally resplendent 1988 debut" Myth of the Chrysalides". Composer and multi-instrumentalist Mauro di Donato put together another symphonic masterpiece with heavy Medieval/Renaissance influences (identified by some reviewers as Trespass-era Genesis) meshed with outright classical orchestrations leaning heavily on assorted wind and brass instruments. There are some strong similarities with Hackett's debut "Voyage of the Acolyte", with some typical PFM/LeOrme arrangements (the latter's Aldo Tagliapietra is a guest on bass and vocals) and plenty lush symphonics that will leave you speechless. There are no outright flashy solos but rather a team concept all focusing on the sum of the parts that make this slant towards a classical prog monument. The nearly hour long recording is an utter stroke of genius, a masterpiece of Italian symphonic prog that has few peers and deserves to be in any prog collection. Amazing for 1990, still stunning today. That means 5 pounds of marlboros.

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 Myth of the Chrysavides by EZRA WINSTON album cover Studio Album, 1988
3.47 | 27 ratings

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Myth of the Chrysavides
Ezra Winston Symphonic Prog

Review by ProgLine

4 stars 1988 was one of the most dryest period in Progland... The prog revival with Marillion was already far away and at the moment we would have done anything to hear anything new that sounds even a little bit prog. Then came Ezra Winston like an oasis in the desert and it became an instant favorite for all the remaining prog lovers because of its symphonic flavours (Italian Old School) : Great instrumental parts with bombastic keyboards, interacting guitars, flute... So, what's the problem with this masterpiece? The question should better be why Ezra Winston is not as famous as Anglagard, for instance? The reason is quite simple : The two albums were only procuded in few amounts and only in the LP format but it was not until 2005 that this record was reissued in the CD Format, even if it's still hard to find on the market....

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 Ancient Afternoons by EZRA WINSTON album cover Studio Album, 1990
3.40 | 42 ratings

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Ancient Afternoons
Ezra Winston Symphonic Prog

Review by bertolino

5 stars Ancient Afternoons may have a place in my "top ten desert island..." in prog, and within the nineties, no doubt it figures very high. Yes, the pastoral side of early Genesis is preeminent, as the romanticism and folk influence of the 70's italian school. But all is so well integrated, the construction surprisingly reminds me of another great band of that period, Anglagard,even if the sound greatly differs as each one reveals his national origin. Vocals are not great but still unintrusive. Others have mentioned the appreciated inclusion of flutes and horns to vary the sound, and i do agree much to this point. At the end the gratest quality of the music is that all the musicians are suborned to the music, no long solos or free virtuosity even if all are top notch ā la Anglagard (still), even if keybords really shine.

I remember the first time i put Ancient Afternoons in the CD player, in those times i turned to other genres than prog music; it truly caught me back with expectations that there could still be something good in prog for the coming new century. And there is!

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