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Corde Oblique - A Hail Of Bitter Almonds CD (album) cover

A HAIL OF BITTER ALMONDS

Corde Oblique

 

Prog Folk

4.30 | 17 ratings

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BrufordFreak
5 stars A Hail of Bitter Almonds brings RICCARDO PRENCIPE's neo-medieval music project more fully into the prog world. The Post Rock sound and format similar to ANATHEMA is present here. Also, this album has by far the greatest diversity in terms of tempos and musical stylings yet used on a Corde Oblique album. It seems that Riccardo has taken Corde Oblique from the realm of neo-classical, into neo medieval classical, then neo medieval folk, and now prog folk rock with a very consistent medieval folk tinge throughout. Once again drawing from the vocal talents of a stable of superb singers--this time four female and two male--helps A Hail of Bitter Almonds yield some truly memorable songs--though, IMHO, not quite as consistent as its gorgeous predecessor, The Stones of Naples. Still, the highs and diversity of styles and dynamics of this album makes A Hail of Bitter Almonds another gem--and more proggy.

1. "A Hail of Bitter Almonds" (2:08) opens the album powerfully--on the powerful vocal pipes of Floriana Cangiano and great violin accompaniment from Alfredo Notarloberti. (10/10)

2. "Together Alone" (4:15) presents us with a nice male vocal singing in English with standard accompaniment from Riccardo, strings, piano and drums. The shift at 2:50 is nice--and effective. (9/10)

3. "Arpe di vento" (4:58) opens with a very familiar melody--as if from the previous album ("Bario gotico"?) but then deviates into something different. Fast-pace guitar strumming and hand drumming with soloing violin accompany singer Floriana Cangiano (a CRANBERRY lead singer, Dolores O'Riordan, sound-alike) as she tells us her story. Could use a little more variation once the foundation is laid. (9/10)

4. "Paestum" (5:06) piano and strummed guitar establish a fast-paced rhythm before settling back in sparse support of singer Annalisa Madonna double tracking her vocal in two channels (!!). The song goes back and forth between delicate and rolicking. A remarkable song--especially for the vocals! (10/10)

5. "La Madre Che Non C'" (2:47) opens with Riccardo soloing, sounding as if he might be taking us on an instrumental journey, but then multiple female voices join in. In the second minute the song totally shifts into ballad-type form with, again, multiple tracks of female vocals harmonizing with each other. (Riccardo informs me that both voices are those of Caterina Pontrandolfo--the only vocalist credited to this song.) The song then suddenly shifts into the realm of classical instrumental, but then finishes with Caterina in the driver's seat again. (10/10)

6. "Slide" (2:53) is an instrumental with wooden pan flutes taking the lead--though in a very ethereal, almost sound-effect kind of way. Great melodies and effect. (10/10)

7. "Le pietre di Napoli" (5:00) again that familiar melody of Riccardo's, but then the heart-wrenching voice of Floriana Cangiano makes one quickly forget any disconcerting thoughts. What a gorgeous voice! Excellent choice for the dominant lead singer on the album. The song takes a left turn at the two minute mark, into guitar dominance, with piano, violin and wordless voice becoming more supportive. How interesting! And it works! It builds back onto a kind of dance frenzy before dying at the end. (10/10)

8. "Jigsaw Falling Into Place" (4:20) the cover of a RADIOHEAD song with mandolins and plucked violins opening with the rock band instruments before Claudia Sorvillo takes on the vocal lead. Industrial-sounding programming takes this one into territory Riccardo has not explored before (at least on tape). Definitely a sign of adventurousness. Claudia's vocal in the second half is not quite as powerful as one might want or expect. Perhaps it should've been brought more front and center. You can tell she is enjoying the singing--and the band is really rocking! Well done. (9/10)

9. "Crypta Neapolitana" (2:15) brings us back to the folk-based middle ages--until the 0:35 mark when other instruments join Riccardo and Caterina to give it a kind of Man of La Mancha feel. The male thespian voice only enhances this Spanish Broadway musical feeling. But nice! (9/10)

10. "Gioia di vivere" (3:47) guitar and Floriana Congiano return to sing an impassioned love song--with fine support from strings, distant violin, and ethereal background vocals. Gorgeous singing, gorgeous melody lines, and an awesome ending twist. This one's a keeper. (10/10)

11. "Red Little Wine" (4:14) is a full-band instrumental with lute and piano exchanging the lead. A little repetitive but nice. (8/10)

12. "The Man of Wood" (4:08). It doesn't get more folkie than this. Guitars, dreamy, layers of Serdio Panarella's MORRISSEY-like male vocal, violin, and, later, full acoustic rock band with male and female background choir (all performed by multiple tracks of Sergio and Claudia Sorvillo?). Great song. (10/10)

13. "Le Piccole Cose" (2:37). There's that melody again! Riccardo opens this gentle and gorgeous song with his guitar and violin. Caterina Pontrandolfo performs the lead vocals here with her usual calm and reassuring vocal tones. It is certainly a beautiful song! (I cannot help but ask at this point whether or not Riccardo is intentionally recapitulating this theme--as if in a concept album?) (10/10)

14. "Pietra Bianca" (3:48) opens as a Riccardo instrumental--sounding like a lullaby--before clarinet and Floriana Cangiano's wordless vocalizations join in, weaving in with the guitar, clarinet and organ. Gorgeous and powerful song! (10/10)

15. "Su un dipinto di Giovanni Bellini" (3:22). Riccardo and Floriana Cangiano close out the album with an almost-Celtic sounding song. It's nice enough but something is missing. (8/10)

A five star masterpiece on the scale of the greatest masterpieces of all-time. This album started out high on my playlist, disappeared for a while, but I found myself returning to this one--and this one more than any of Riccardo's other beautiful albums. A real grower! Check it out and then let it percolate. You'll become an addict like me, no doubt.

BrufordFreak | 5/5 |

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