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Alan Sorrenti - Aria CD (album) cover


Alan Sorrenti


Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.91 | 106 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars ALAN SORRENTI was and is a singer and composer who was born in Naples, Italy to a Welsh mother and spent as much time in the city of Aberystwiyth, Wales as in his native born Italy. As a result SORRENTI became fluent in both Italian and English languages and culture. While he would release a very sizable discography since his debut album in 1972, in 1976 he abandoned his early flirtations with progressive and psychedelic folk rock of his first few albums and jumped into full-on dance music. ARIA is his debut and fits firmly within the eclectic progressive rock arena that displays a whole plethora of musical influences including a healthy dose not only freak folk that meets psychedelic rock but shows his affinity with the progressive Italian rock scene as well as the most obvious influence of all, namely, early 70s Peter Hammill in the form of Van Der Graaf Generator. In fact SORRENTI almost perfectly mimics Hammill's vocal style only with an Italian flair. Understandable that SORRENTI would have been exposed to VDGG as Italy was the country where they experienced their greatest success. ARIA is in a way paying homage to the great UK eclectic prog band that found its home in a distant land.

The 19 minute and 45 minute title track begins the album and not only swallows half the album but mimics many a great of the day with not only Hammill style vocal acrobatics along with his singer / songwriter skills that were so prominent in VDGG but also the progressive freak folk instrumentation of Comus which comes to mind as the instrumentation comprises mostly of acoustic guitars accompanied by the brilliant violin playing skills of guest musician Jean Luc Ponty. There are also plenty of Hammond organs and mellotrons to create a thick lysergic atmosphere that enriches all the twists and turns of the song structure. While the VDGG and Hammill comparisons may lead one to expect a rock experience, this is first and foremost a psychedelic folk album that never once delivers an electric guitar riff or solo but rather incorporates a rich tapestry of acoustic and classical guitars and on this title track even ventures into the gypsy foot stomping territory of Spanish flamenco all the while SORRENTI's vocals do their own little dances around the melodic developments.

While the musical deliveries on ARIA are top notch, it is truly SORRENTI's vocals that are the star of the show here. As the liner notes explain: "SORRENTI's voice is treated with effects that compliment his experimental tendencies. Lines rise to crescendo and echo wildly in space. Falsettos tremble and vibrate. Lyrics disintegrate into exultation where SORRENTI's voice mutates into a musical instrument. Words are gently warbled, caressed, cosseted, vibrated and violently expunged. Styles of music melt and congeal together." I couldn't possibly top this first-rate description of the vocals, so i won't even try. The fact is this album comes off as if it were a long lost psychedelic recording of Van Der Graaf Generator. This is a dilemma for me as i find the album quite the brilliant experience but am a little put off by the blatant Hammilisms expressed in every musical cadence throughout the album despite the lyrics being totally penned in the Italian language. Some remaining short tracks to have more of an Italian feel and less of the VDGG textures. "La Mia Mente" actually has more of a Robert Plant feel.

Overall i'd have to say that i dig this album more than feel any sense of animosity. Yes, the influences are more than worn on the sleeve and stand out strong and bold, but SORRENTI actually has a more varied vocal style than Hammill and the music despite feeling like a counterpart in some alternative universe of the VDGG experience still manages to be captivating and complex with many instrumental workouts underneath the strident and bravado filled vocals that dominate the soundscape. The listener is treated to a plethora of keyboards and acoustic guitars, bow bass and trombone, trumpet and synth harp. Despite my usual resistance to give albums that take the influence thing a little too far, i have to admit that i find this particular release more than mesmerizing. This really is worth hearing over and over again.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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