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Maurizio Di Tollo - Memorie di Uno Sparring Partner CD (album) cover


Maurizio Di Tollo


Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.97 | 10 ratings

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4 stars Italian multi-instrumentalist Maurizio di Tollo certainly keeps busy with a wide range of progressive music related work! The last few years have seen him drumming on La Maschera di Cero's well-received `La Porte del Domani' and several Hostsonaten discs, playing keyboards and drums on a cool self-titled instrumental album by the trio `Arena Di Tollo Marras', and even delivering a superb solo prog-rock album all his own entitled `L'Uomo Trasparente' in 2012. He presents a follow-up to that one in 2015 with `Memorie di uno Sparring Partner' (Memoirs of a Sparring Partner) , and it's a shock to discover it's not really much of a progressive rock album at all. Now before all the RPI and prog-fans start clenching their butt-cheeks in panic, make no mistake - Maurizo and his musical guests here (many of them Italian prog notables) have delivered an intelligent and very modern rock album full of extremely well-played instrumentation around very strong song-writing and effective melodies, but prog elements do show up, just in skilfully executed shorter passages in and around the actual tunes, which are always the focus.

Along with Maurizio's own world-weary vocals and a general melancholic air that pervades all the tunes, `Memorie...' isn't really too far removed from Steven Wilson's recent solo works, as well as the darker moments of Fabio Zuffanti's more recent projects. The moody and sometimes dark rock of the album also mixes in elements of electronica, jazz and a definite singer- songwriter quality, though not in a folky manner that the term is often applied to. Instead the pieces revolve around very personal and reflective thoughts, which will likely be even more appreciated by those who speak Italian.

Looking at some of the particular highlights, piano-driven opener `Sempronio' comes to life once it picks up in tempo with subtle jazzy vibes, and it also holds a beautiful trumpet solo in the final moments. A definite solo Steven Wilson-like sound burns through `Il Cielo e' un Uomo Solo', where plaintive piano, gently humming Hammond organ, whirring dreamy synths and warm acoustic with emotional heart-wrenching electric guitar solo spots weave a seductive mix together, all while the tune itself holds a particularly lovely melody. Same goes for `La Vita Buona', a seductive the late-night contemplation of creeping electronics, ghostly piano, Anathema-like slow-burn electric guitar smoulders and dramatic upfront drumming behind Maurizio's raspy vocal.

`I Padroni del Vapore' is a welcome harder diversion with a crashing brooding heaviness and snarling vocal, `Se Questo e' l'Amore' is a stark piano rumination, `Il Poeta' a tough rocker, `Amore Mio, Hai Ragione' a powerful ballad fuelled by Mellotron on the chorus, and instrumental interlude `A Occhi Chiusi' begins on delicate piano before the whole band roar to life, aggressive chunky bass and hard driving drums the highlight. The longest piece at over seven minutes, `La Paura' is definitely one of the more overtly proggy pieces, a soaring theme with heavy bursts, programed loops and even triumphant and uplifting moog soloing, and Maurizio delivers a confident, commanding lead vocal fitting of a final closing musical statement.

After the initial disappointment that this isn't a full-blown prog-rock work to compare to his previous work (and sure enough, closer inspection of the BTF Records press release about the disc states that particular fact ' always pays to read the fine print beforehand!), `Memorie...' still quickly reveals itself to be a perfectly impressive work all its own. As prog-rock listeners, it's nice to sometimes take a step back and listen to something less busy or complex, yet no less intelligent and artistic, and Maurizio and his musical collaborators have definitely delivered that here. If you're in the mood for a thoughtful, early A.M hours kind of introspective listen and can give it several plays to link it sink in, ` Memorie di uno Sparring Partner' proves to be a fragile, haunting little gem.

Three stars as a prog album, four stars as a stylish and smart rock album.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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