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JOHN DE LEO

RIO/Avant-Prog • Italy


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John De Leo biography
John De LEO is born in Lugo di Romagna (Northern Italy) in 1970. At the age of 20 he started experimenting with his incredible vocal extension basing on the recordings of Demetrio STRATOS. He has been in several bands of many different genres until he joined the "Hot Road Gang", a rock and roll band that later will replace the electrical instruments with classical ones and will become the Avant band QUINTORIGO.

After having a good success with the band, John leaves it in 2005 and starts working mainly as session man with a number of jazz musicians. Between 2005 and 2007 he is very often on the stages and works also as dubbing voice for the cinema. In 2007 goes into a studio and in 2008 he releases "Vago Svanendo" his first solo work, then he continues working on several collaborations, specially in the avant-jazz area.

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JOHN DE LEO discography


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JOHN DE LEO top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.88 | 6 ratings
Vago Svanendo
2008
3.95 | 2 ratings
Il Grande Abarasse
2014

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JOHN DE LEO Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Il Grande Abarasse by LEO, JOHN DE album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.95 | 2 ratings

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Il Grande Abarasse
John De Leo RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by octopus-4
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams

4 stars Much more experimental than the first solo album, it tooks 6 years to be released. During this period John De Leo has toured in Italy making not only concerts but also recitals, theatrical performances and various kinds of multimedial works. He has also realized several collaborations with various artists like the writer Stefano Benni and the Jazzist Roberto Gatto.

So there are several songs on which his impressive vocal extension and capabilities are of course the most remarkable thing, but the album is full of inventions, arrangements, overdubbing tied together by his usual sarcasm in the lyrics and quotes to famous italian pop songs.

The album is full of intelligent humour, unfortunately mostly in Italian. But also when there are no lyrics like in "Il Gatto Persiano" there's some humour. This track is complete made of vocals like Bobby McFerrin was used to do, but in this case there is also experimentation, not just "jazz".

"La Mazuka del Misantropo" is recorded like a live, and possibly it's really a live (you can't never know). The song is mainly made of acoustic guitar and vocals but recorded like it was on an old cassette tape recorder.

"Io Non Ha Senso" is grammatically incorrect. In English it could be translated as "I don't has sense". It's a slow jazz song with an orchestral base with strings, organ and sax which grows into a rock part then calms down several times. Very intriguing.

The strings of "Primo Moto Ventoso" remind to his early works with Quintorigo, but I think there's also a theremin in the background, unless it's John's voice, that's possible. A short chamber rock instrumental which suddenly leaves the scene to the rock of "50 Euro" whose main theme could stay in a 60s spy movie, but all the percussion are made of vocals. The lyrics are about paranoia.

"Apocalissi Mantra Blues" is one of the most user-friendly songs of the album so it needs to be counterbalanced by "The Other Side Of A Shadow" in which some vocalism are reminding in some ways of Demetro Stratos. This is not easy at all. Dark piano chords, vocals and speeches. At least this time in English.

The following song has a similar feelings but it's full of very good passages between rock and jazz with melodicparts in which I have the impression of hearing a bit of influence from the psychedelic period of the Beatles. The closer "Muto(Come Un Pesce Rosso)" litterally "Mute(as a goldfish)" starts as an acoustic rock-blues with the same instrumentation and similar production as "La Mazurka Del Misantropo". In the second part of the song John plays "percussion, bass and wahwah guitar" with his voice. As in the "Mazurka", at the end of the song there are some clap like it was (badly) recorded live, but some vocal things are likely overdubbed so it really sounds like a precise choice of makling it sound that way.

Even if the previous "Vago Svanendo" was probably a little better, also this album is excellent and full of good things, especially for those who like Quintorigo. He surely hasn't deluded his fans.

4 stars.

 Vago Svanendo by LEO, JOHN DE album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.88 | 6 ratings

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Vago Svanendo
John De Leo RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by octopus-4
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams

4 stars After leaving QUINTORIGO, John de Leo took about three years before releasing his first CD. The media have lost interest on the band and its former members after the mainstream success that they obtained at the Sanremo festival, even with not very easy songs, and John De Leo's first solo release was almost ignored by them.

John spent those years making a lot of collaborations and live performances, but this album is what comes from his own creativity. There's quite few of QUINTORIGO in it. The connection with the band is just in his songwriting as he was author of some of the band's songs.

The album is opened by a short intro. As John explained in an interview, the four piano notes of the title have been "analogically manipulated". John doesn't like computers and is used to filter and modify the sounds using pedals and any non-digital equipment he can think of. The four notes lasts 15 seconds, what follows is 30 seconds of sonic experimentation.

John's voice, manipulated in the same way is the rhythmic base of "Freak Ship". His voice is overdubbed, filtered, distorted so what seems to be a drum solo with a funky choir is only his voice. The song is inspired to Bosch's "ship of fools".

The title track means "Vanishing I wander" and is inspired to his land. He says "far from the sea, here there's no solar music, we are on the other side" that's famous for its foggy winters. I strongly suggest to grab a translation of the lyrics as there's a lot of poetry. I find very hard describing it musically speaking. There's a bunch of classical, popular Italian music of the period between the two world wars, avant-garde experiments, just listen to it.

The acoustic guitar of Fabrizio Tarroni is heard for the first time on "L'uomo che Continua" (The Man Who Continues". On this song John uses different vocals not only in terms of pitch. It's what closer to a QUINTORIGO song can be found on this album.

"Canzo" is a truncated word as "Canzone" means "Song". It's a vocal experiment of the kind of Demetrio Stratos. The question he asks to somebody is "Why do you think I'm untuned?". I'm not sure if the trombobe behind is a real instrument or it's still his voice altered by some device.

"Tilt" is another experiment. Some Achille Succi obtains a percussive sound by opening and closing the keys of his clarinet. The song is about "madness". The "Mattia" of the subtitle is inspired to a comedy character and is a sort of schizofrenic alter ego of John. There's some early QUINTORIGO flavor in the acoustic arrangement.

A melodic moment with "Spiega la vela" (Set the Sail) that's a sort of paraphrase or a parody of the famous Italian jazzist "Paolo Conte". The second half of the song is an incredible choir obtained overlappping John's voice several times.

"Big Stuff" is a jazz standard with an unusual strings arrangement which gives it a baroque flavor. The orchestra is the "Orchestra Fondazione Arturo Toscanini di Parma" which plays on several tracks of the album. The vocal performance of John de Leo is fantastic.

"Bambino Marrone" (Brown Child) is a song about racism in a primary school. It's grotesque with its captivating melody and the rocking tempo. As John explains, the bass line is obtained from a toy little guitar with a pick up applied on it and changing the sound with an octaver. Also the blues final is very funny.

Orchestra and acoustic guitar open "Le Chien Et Le Flacon". It changes from waltz to jazz to tarantella and the part with trumpet, sax and guitar on which John first plays the bass line with his voice before turning to scat is impressive. A fantastic jazz track.

Now the closer. "Sinner" is played by a band called AIDORU (the Japanese word for "Idol") and the lyrics are written by Massimiliano Morini, a teacher of English literature. John defines this track as the most "Rock" of the album. Effectively there's a rock band behind, but even though they play rock instruments (and not only) they don't sound properly rock. I think AIDORU could fit in Post/Math. After 3 minutes there's a psychedelic section that ends at minute 5 after a guitar crescendo. Now it's effectively some kind of rock on which John sings deliberately untuned the words "Vago Svanendo". There's a bit of Beatles flavor in this part of the track, of course of their psychedelic period (Revolver, Sgt. Pepper...). A sudden end at minute 7:33. Silence. Is there a ghost track? Three minutes of silence and John speaks about music over a sax. It's very nice the fact that the sax is mimic of the spoken voice so to delete totally the meaning of what John says. It's like the Lucky's monologue on Waiting for Godot: there's apparently a sense of what John says, but there's not, and the absence of a sense is underlined by the sax. This is the same monologue included in the DVD. At minute 15:23 silence again. Another ghost track? Yes. The four piano notes of the intro are back at minute 30 together with John's overlapped speeches and the vocals mimic of percussion. In general I don't like "ghost tracking", but the two here deserve to be listened, even if this second is a reprise of the second track but with more dramatic lyrics.

This albums deserves to be listened. Even being experimental is accessible to everybody and can be a good entry-point for avant newbies.

John de Leo is about to release his second solo work. If this is not yet a masterpiece it's possible that the new work will be.

IMPORTANT: the information about the instruments used and the meaning of some songs are taken from an interview released by John de Leo to an italian website (unfortunately available in Italian only). I'm not providing the link as I don't know if the interviewer is happy.

Thanks to octopus-4 for the artist addition.

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