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Fabio Zuffanti - La Quarta Vittima CD (album) cover

LA QUARTA VITTIMA

Fabio Zuffanti

 

Crossover Prog

3.91 | 152 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The Fabio Zuffanti legend just keeps on growing, continuously subjecting fans of Italian prog (and not necessarily only RPI) to wondrous delights. His previous tour de force, duly noted by an adoring list of reviewers here and abroad, was being mentor to the ridiculously brilliant Unreal City, whose debut disc "La Crudelta di Aprile" was met with stupendous applause. Guiding 4 young, handsome (and one sexy lady guitarist) and accomplished musicians, providing them with production and advice is testament to Fabio's incredible dedication to progressive music. His accomplishment are not given enough credit, so I will right that wrong subito! In 1995, bassist and co-leader of Finisterre became an influential motor in the revival of RPI that was blossoming with bands such as Germinale, CAP, Calliope, Il Castello di Atlante, Mad Crayon, Divae, DFA, Malibran, Mary Newsletter, Secret Cinema and countless others way too long a list to name them all. He then created Hostsonaten that featured a unique series of four albums that illuminated the 4 Seasons concept so dear to Vivaldi and classical musicians worldwide. That not being enough, he contributed to a slew of other interesting projects such as the prog-folkish Aries, the avant- jazz Zaal, the dissonant experimental La Zona, the ultra-modern Rohmer, the spooky L'Ombre della Sera, the magnificent La Maschera di Cera and a series of solo albums that have not been very popular. Being the Italian Steve Wilson or Roine Stolt means that there have been, in all fairness, a few hit and miss duds such as the ambient Quadraphonic (not his best foot forward) and the rather unpolished Merlin mini-opera with Victoria Heward. I have all of these albums, save for the solo stuff, so I do possess an appreciation for this man's obvious talents. Fabio is the type of self-imposed slave master who constantly has a few pots boiling and loves stirring the sauces, adding spices and aromas to his various recipes.

So, now we come to this 2014 masterpiece, the sensational adaptation of Michael Ende's classic novel Der Spiegel im Spiegel (1985) The Mirror in the Mirror in English, a fantasy collection of short stories for adults (he wrote children's books as well) that examine the ever so frail human condition. As usual with Zuffanti, the packaging, artwork, photos (including a humorous wink at Floyd's Animals shot of the Battersea nuke plant, one of rock music's iconic pictures) and production are truly first-class. Despite being an exceptional rock bass player, he has delegated that role to jazz bassist Riccardo Barbera while he concentrates on keys, samples and voice. Unreal City's stellar Emmanuelle Tarasconi is the main keysman, with help from Alberto Tafuri and Rossano Villa, three magnificent drummers as well as the lovely Laura Marsano on electric and acoustic guitars. Throw in some mellotron, sax, theremin, glockenspiel, violin, cello and flute and the kitchen is set.

A nearly 12 minute epic raises the curtains , "I promised you a great secret and I will not disappoint you" arrives with that cute Italian accented English we all love and admire! Nasty trembling bass threatens the skies with dark shadows, incredulous guitar riffs and mellotron blasts that are more Zeuhl than Tony Banks! Punching hard is Il Tempio delle Clessidre stickman Paolo Tixi, a manic pummeller if there ever was one, calibrated by sensual flute flutterings, Fender Rhodes e-piano liquidly pooling in a gloriously tranquil mid-section, an achingly profound lead vocal from the Z-man, doused in Villa's mellotron wake. 'Non Posso Parlare Piu Forte" indeed cannot speak louder, sliced by a Laura Marsano lead electric solo that will shiver ye timbers! Tarasconi then urges his Hammond along (a feature that did not go unnoticed on La Crudelta di Aprile!). Barbera carves hard and fast, relentless in Tixi's pursuit, I am sure the two must have been smiling at each other. Call it RPI, prog, symph, neo, I call it bloody fantastic piece of dynamic music!

Check my heartbeat, yeah okay! Need to chill, so up comes my revelation, the charmingly elegant "La Certezza Impossible" (the impossible certitude). Just as smooth and velvety as a well decanted vintage Barolo, the suave Italian voice inspires, intoxicates, hypnotizes until Marsano does her George Benson imitation guitar solo (you have to hear this mofo!) , simply gorgeous as it glides over the mighty mellotron carpets, suddenly exploding (and I mean Ka-Boom!) into a million guitar strings exertions. To then finish off with bombastic symphonic orchestrations (yeah, that bitchy mellotron again) is just pure heaven.

"L'Interno di Un Volta" is a straight forward rock song that actually winks at La Maschera di Cera, typical Italian prog song, loaded with passion and a sense of exalted emotion only the Ragazzi can dare to concoct. Drummer Saverio Malaspina rolls with the punches as the sensuous sax makes a cameo appearance full of playful romance and enticing allure. Is it me or do Italians really like sax? Just wondering, darling! The raging torrents reappear in a convulsion of erupting sound, cacophonous, grandiose and expansive.

You want movement, you admire pace and speed, the title track is another killer, a devastatingly bopping bass, hip-hopping drum patterns and flute mania galore is what you are in for. There is warranted sense of playfulness and modernism, sampled voices and supersonic Mini-Moog flurries, clavinet flirtations and lots of sax. Guitar solo? Va bene, signore, Marsano lets one rip for the ages, sounding like Holdsworth on amphetamines. A vibraphone outro will remind one of that other glorious Italian icon, Franco Zappa!

The 9 minute "Sotto un Cielo Nero" effectively introduces some blackened clouds, fueled by sermon-like vocals, forlorn drumming and funereal keyboard colorations handled here by Alberto Tafuri. Melancholia sets in, the choir 'tron doing it's seducing again, insistent rhythmic precipitations as the storm clouds come racing in, showing off some jazzy experimentation that is utterly perfected, somber cemetery organ and rifling drum fills from madman Enzo Zirilli . I thought I was listening to some old Ange instrumental section! This veers into an outright jazz improve, with sensational piano work that would make Corea, Hancock and company drool in delight. Another twist into vocal oddness and then the violin shoulders the mellotron, as if there was a finer combination then piping in a melody that will drop you jaw into the Trevi fountain. I need to catch my breath!

No respite in sight, as this is no soft album, quite the contrary, very muscular and rambunctious. A Lark's Tongues-like guitar riff and Easy Money beat scours the sonic horizons on the aggressive "Il Circo Brucia" which will spank your prog bottom with some KC fueled backhands! Brooding, heavy, chaotic and screechingly effective, the sheer creativity will keep the listener on the edge of some improbable precipice, like riding a Roller coaster without any restraint! Abruptly, tchaka tchak guitar, pooling e-piano motifs and string mellotron, beep-beep bass and tight drumming take this monster into cosmic overdrive. A final explosion and I mean, wow!

This exhausting and multi-faceted masterpiece ends on a sublime note. The sad violin and the depressed piano do a little initial coupling, as Zuffanti's tired voice intones "a Winter's Night", a simple song where time and space have vanished, blurred by the sheeted snowflakes and blanketed by cooler winds. Serenity and tranquil acceptance of nature's dominion where bass, guitar and mellotron join gloved hands in harmony, giving Marsano one more opportunity to make her axe howl, scream and cry. Someone please call 911. "Real life awaits us".

Not four but 5 victims of life !

tszirmay | 5/5 |

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