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Tugs - Europa Minor CD (album) cover




Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.83 | 41 ratings

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4 stars Italian band TUGS was formed sometime in the 1970's, but in their initial phase that lasted until the mid 1980's they didn't manage to record any material. Some 20 odd years later Tugs reunited, and work commenced to finalize and record the material they had created when they first started out. Come 2013 and this process was finalized with the release of their debut album "Europa Minor" on the Italian AMS label.

One thing that struck me when listening to this album was the frequent use of piano textures, especially on the first ten of the twelve tracks. A detail that generally makes me suspect that many of the compositions started out as piano creations that have later been expanded with arrangements of a more sophisticated nature. If this is the case for this band as well I don't know, but it was a distinct association I got on many of these songs.

Apart from that Tugs is a band that have a distinct stylistic expression that may be described as a blend of folk music and symphonic progressive rock. With, if I'm not much mistaken, with a fair few references to traditional folk and court dances from medieval times as a source for quite a few of the folk oriented passages.

In a balanced mix that comes across as gentle and smooth even when the arrangements are richly layered we're presented with a nifty variety of symphonic progressive rock that has a distinct vintage yet timeless feel to it. Piano motifs are almost ever present, supplemented by acoustic and electric guitars, with a firm but sophisticated bass and drums backing. The symphonic details are just as often conveyed by acoustic instruments as by keyboards if not even more, and we're treated to some truly elegant harmony sections with flute, strings or both harmonizing with the electric guitar solo to produce symphonic arrangements. When keyboards besides the piano are utilized this is done in an equally smooth manner admittedly, but it is the guitar and acoustic instrument interactions that charmed me first and foremost.

As this is an Italian band with Italian lyrics, I presume some might find it to be of interest that the vocals in this case are fairly void of the archetypical Latin dramatic effects, beyond the ones that comes natural with the language.

Just how much or not this band is similar to the classic Italian progressive rock bands I can't really tell, as I'm not well versed in this musical landscape. But for references outside of Italy there are a fair few nods in the direction of Jethro Tull here, first and foremost some brief but distinct guitar and flute detail that those familiar with Jethro Tull will recognize. While fans of Camel should enjoy the instrumental Il Sogno di Jennifer. If this compositions isn't a homage to Camel by plan it most certainly is so by accident. From a personal point of view I'd select La Brigata Dei Dotteri and Il Pianto as the highlights of this fine album, while those with a more keen interest in the material of a more purebred folk-oriented nature might opt for Canzone Per Un Anno and Nanou as the ones to give an initial listen to.

All in all Tugs very much belated debut album is a fine specimen of it's kind. Symphonic progressive rock with more of an acoustic atmosphere to it and with a fair few details of folk music flavoring the proceedings, creating an elegant and sophisticated breed of timeless but vintage sounding symphonic progressive rock that should have a fairly broad appeal. With those who have a soft spot for Italian bands with vocalists singing in their native tongue as a logical key audience.

Windhawk | 4/5 |


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