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Sad Minstrel biography
SAD MINSTREL is the nickname of Fabio CASANOVA, former keyboardist in MALOMBRA (on the band's first two albums). "The Flight of the Phoenix" is the title of the awaited debut album by Fabio after the band split up. Some titles are interesting, and it's hard to choose an absolute winner among them.

"Many musical ideas in "The Flight of the Phoenix" were previously thought for MALOMBRA, but after the split Fabio has worked hard on shaping them as a new full-length album for a new and different project. Expect SAD MINSTREL to bring you through enchanted realms, where prog and psych ambiences a la JETHRO TULL mix with folk influences, specially from Ireland and Occitania." - (Black Widow)

A STRANGE RIDE! "The Flight of the Phoenix" - Each of these songs lacks for changes of tempo that provide some more of the principal characteristic of SAD MINSTREL: music to create A STRANGE RIDE on the listerner. However Fabio intends to work with various elements of folk progressive rock led by passages of classical guitar and solos of whistle. All this results in a very interesting album, NOT A MASTERPIECE!

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3.81 | 17 ratings
The Flight Of The Phoenix

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 The Flight Of The Phoenix by SAD MINSTREL album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.81 | 17 ratings

The Flight Of The Phoenix
Sad Minstrel Prog Folk

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars What a strange and delightful one shot wonder this album turned out to be, on my "to get" list for nearly a dozen years now and I finally hunted it down (thank you Greg!). Initially, I was tempted by previous reviewers that gave this album a thumbs up as well as mentioning similarities with Silver Lining, Gian Castello and Faveravola, artists I adore and religiously continue to listen to and admire (thank you Kenneth!).

Truth is I hear all kinds of other influences besides the obvious Celtic/Folk insinuations, as presented by the delightfully accomplished opener "Mad Minstrel", where a brooding organ introduces some profound sensations, whirling melodies and effects galore. The metronomic drum machine only keeps things properly propelled, as Casanova infuses some effective guitar screeches into the mix. His singing is not world-class but his voice is definitely passionate and personal.

There are hints of early China Crisis on the second track "Canzone della Bambina ", with its charming Italian folk tinge, sung in the native language and owner of a gorgeous main melody. The scintillating whistles really provide a medieval mood, certainly near Blackmore's Night or Bededeum, but the main melody is a close relative of "Gates of Door to Door" from 1983's 'Working with Fire and Steel' (a stunning pop album BTW!) . It took me a few minutes to hunt down the comparison and its quite there! The title track has a rambling electro-alternative feel, not unlike some of the 90s synth bands (like Simple Minds or even the Danse Society) with a forward bass attack, glittering acoustic guitars and swirling synth bubbles. There are strong elements of Leonard Cohen (or even Yello's Dieter Meier) via the spoken word style on this and most tracks as well as some Gothic/alternative tinges (Bauhaus) that surely derive from Fabio Casanova's day gig as keyboardist with Malombra, at least on its first 2 heavy prog tinged with Goth albums. Harrowing chorus and doomed inspiration rules the roost.

Only "Silent Revolution" disturbs by its rather implacable theatrics, somehow just not rich enough melodically to merit any massive applause. I just choose to skip this one. Then, little hints of Irish jigs colliding with assorted modernisms that truly keep things vibrant, such as the ultra-fragile "Butterfly", with whistling flutes heading the troupe. Booming drums give it all a modern prog-rock sheen. A terrific listen. The delicious "A Friend of Mine" just enforces the delicate pleasure, a gloomy melody and a wispy delivery only contribute to the dreamy, fairy tale feel. The overall mood is somewhat more symphonic and grandiose than the baroque musings of the delightful Gian Castello (2 sensational albums, both hard to find), Fabio plays all the instruments with a predilection for acoustic guitars, mandolins, flutes and masterful programming. The occasional raspy guitar makes things slightly aggressive and sweaty, which is nothing to sneeze at (such as on "The Night of Beltaine"). "The' is closer to Donovan than Jethro Tull, birds tweeting in the background forest, whistles enchanting, choir work that all give this a merry medieval feel. A beautiful and haunting song.

"The Wood of Memories" is a 9 minute workout that shutters this fine disc, a forlorn whistle skirting amid the colossal string-driven synths, acoustic guitars weaving boldly and Casanova's sad voice plaintively emoting. The Yello feel is definitely there, albeit in a less electronic cocoon, but nevertheless highly modern, ratcheting up the angst and the despair. The slow burn outro fadeout may seem tedious to some but it's a prog album, for heaven's sake!

Glad to have this in my collection, a wholly desirable addition for any progfan.It was well worth hunting for!

4 Aerospace renewals

 The Flight Of The Phoenix by SAD MINSTREL album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.81 | 17 ratings

The Flight Of The Phoenix
Sad Minstrel Prog Folk

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

3 stars This may seem to be a band, but Sad Minstrel is actually a solo project by Malombra keyboard player Fabio Casanova. Only one of the songs is sung in Italian, with the rest in English although lyrics to all are provided in the booklet in both languages. It is an album that is extremely deep, full of layers, that belongs to a time long ago. It is the sort of album that was favoured in the Seventies, with lots of acoustic guitar and flute intermingling with dramatic vocals and keyboards. Electric guitars also play their part but often these are in the background providing emphasis as opposed to cranking out the riffs, in fact it is sometimes a mandolin that is the lead.

Although Fabio did much of the programming and pre-production at home it seems almost inconceivable that he managed to record the whole album in less than eighty hours. It isn't all quiet reflection as the title cut itself shows, which contains many elements more normally associated with rock. It is music that will be of great interest to those that want their music to be both approachable and accessible yet at the same time to be different to the norm; an intriguing album that brings the listener in to a world of Fabio's creating. For more details contact the label at

Originally appeared in Feedback #74, Jun 03

 The Flight Of The Phoenix by SAD MINSTREL album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.81 | 17 ratings

The Flight Of The Phoenix
Sad Minstrel Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

4 stars While the influences of Celtic folk and progressive rock are apparent in this one-off, the blending of Italian roots and Fabio Casanova's quirky spoken singing style give this album a refreshing flavor all its own. Closest reference points would be SILVER LINING, FAVERAVOLA, or GIAN CASTELLO.

The use of narratives is by no means new in the Tolkien and sci fi obsessed world of prog. What is different here is that the storytelling is part sung and part spoken and melds with the music, which is not relegated to the background during these passages, and the vocals themselves span a wide emotional range. Just listen to the opener "Mad Minstrel", which builds from quiet gentility to a dual organ-lead guitar attack before Casanova injects his angst driven diatribe, or the equally wrenching and more acoustically crystalline title cut. "Silent Revolution" is more ponderous and martial in tempo, but even this restriction does not hold Casanova back in his melodramatic rantings. The flipside is the divine "Friend of Mine", which evokes the more reflective early work of the English neo folk group OSTARA.

Only one track, "Canzone della Bambina di Triora", is actually sung in Italian. It begins with whistles conjuring open landscapes of yore, before becoming a full fledged Celtic progressive rock gem. The closer, the wondrously named "Wood of Memories", develops similarly but again reverts to the spoken style. The latter parts are simply string synthesizer bliss for those like myself that revel in such guilty pleasures, and they also recap the original suspenseful theme of the opener. Great stuff.

If you wish that prog-celtic was a booming subgenre of progressive music, or if you want to diversify a predominately metal or heavy collection with something more gentle but still edgy, I suggest you stop being a sad minstrel and listen to one instead.

 The Flight Of The Phoenix by SAD MINSTREL album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.81 | 17 ratings

The Flight Of The Phoenix
Sad Minstrel Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

4 stars Sad Minstrel is the solo debut of Malombra’s Fabio Casanova (is that his real name?!). This album was an unexpected delight that I stumbled across while trolling for on-line bargains recently and has been on my CD player’s heavy rotation ever since. This is progressive folk music without a doubt, but is in total rather unlike anything I’ve heard before. Think of flute and heavy tempo passages somewhat reminiscent of seventies Jethro Tull mixed with digital keyboard and programmed drums sequences ala Alan Parsons around the same time period, but overlaid with both English and Italian vocals of an emotive and bard-like Latin singer (Armando Tirelli comes to mind), plus lyrics that tend toward dark fanciful themes in the vein of ‘Aqualung’ or ‘Broadsword and the Beast’ and you’ll have a sense of what this album sounds like. Sort of. But although comparisons can be made to individual facets of these tracks, nobody I can think of has managed to put all of them together into a single album. That is, until the Sad Minstrel came along.

The marquee song is the title track, in which Casanova (really – is that his actual name?!) melds chanting and shouting vocals with a persistent beat and heavy guitar in a rollicking version of the mythical Phoenix’s tale of destruction and resurrection, all with a uniquely Italian warm-blooded sense of theatrics and passion. A truly inspiring piece of music.

The opening track is more subdued in tone, but a read of the lyrics sheds some light on the dark nature of these songs:

“Betrayed by false friends after timeless deceptions, by witches and bitches he once loved so much; by the cyclical tricks of his private obsessions – he watched in the mirror and saw his brain crack”


The Italian-vocal tracks tend to be more elaborated than the English ones, accented by digital flourishes and an abundance of the whistle that sounds like a wooden flute and carries the tempo to fanciful heights and dark lows. These are the embellishing tracks on the album that serve to both separate the heavier English songs and leave an indelible Latin mark on the work as a whole.

Not that every track stands out. The spoken-word “Silent Revolution” comes off as more of a stage play scene than a musical composition, and the long closing track “The wood of Memories” tends to drag on under the weight of the synthesized strings just a bit too long (and in the course of doing so teeters ever-so-close to sounding like one of the transitional pieces on Jeff Wayne’s ‘War of the Worlds’).

But overall this is a charming and engaging collection of animated and vibrant folk-tinged tunes with very modern treatments. A four star effort without a doubt, and a fun album I would recommend to just about any progressive music fan. Well worth adding to your collection.


Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to NotAProghead for the last updates

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