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Latte E Miele - Marco Polo - Sogni E Viaggi CD (album) cover

MARCO POLO - SOGNI E VIAGGI

Latte E Miele

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.81 | 49 ratings

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Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Marco Polo: dreams & travels"

Latte e Miele (Milk and Honey) are one of the classic Italian groups who were not a "one-shot", instead releasing three fine albums back in the day. Born in Genova around 1971, the band was acclaimed for an ELP/Orme style of progressive rock fused to classical music. Examples can be heard on their first two albums, the majestic "Passio secundum Mattheum" and follow-up "Papillon." This was followed in the mid '70s with "Aquile E Scoiattoli" from a completely different line-up save drummer Vitanza. The band returns in 2009 with the original line-up plus Massimo Gori from the second line-up. While I cannot read the Italian lyrics it is not difficult to deduce that the new album is a conceptual work inspired by the life and travels of Marco Polo. Polo was a Venetian merchant and explorer who lived from 1254-1324 and is known for his journey to Asia and elsewhere. He wrote about his adventures in a book called "Il Milione" or "The Travels of Marco Polo." Latte Miele uses this epic story as the backbone for a full symphonic progressive rock exploration, similar to the way Il Cerchio d'Oro did with the excellent comeback "Il Viaggio di Colombo" last year.

"Sogni e viaggi" will most certainly make my list of 2009's standout RPI releases, though with this being an early review I'm not sure where it will place yet. But this is an album Latte Miele should be very proud of. They have delivered a beautiful comeback album with a warm, sweeping, worldly feel about it. It is an album with a larger-than-life feeling, an upbeat, updated take on classic progressive rock whose reach should extend beyond RPI fans to standard symphonic and neo-prog fans as well. The songs are rich and flowing one into the next in true concept style, it feels as though the material has been lovingly written over some length of time. Most of the material was written by keyboardist Oliviero Lacagnina and bassist Massimo Gori, with guitarist Marcello Dellacasa contributing to a few as well. The sounds of the Marco Polo journey are bathed in Lacagnina's grandiose keyboard passages, synths, gothic organ, and lovely piano. Gori and drummer Alfio Vitanza provide a sure footed rhythm section, the bass is warm and the drumming bold without being unnecessarily loud and flashy---a problem of many drummers these days, too loud and too busy beyond what serves the music. Here things are mixed and produced very well for an optimal sound.

Marcello Dellacasa is an accomplished classical guitarist, and in fact after leaving Latte Miele in 1974 he undertook serious studies in classical guitar and composition, then spent many of the years since recording and performing. Dellacasa is also a superb lead guitarist and there are many tastefully jamming electric solos throughout the album. There are also moments with delicate acoustic guitar parts and in classic RPI fashion, a strings section providing vibrant orchestration when called upon! These additional musicians, Riccardo Vartolo, Angelo Quarantotti, Andrea Landi, and Pino Nastasi add much to Latte Miele in the form of depth and grandeur. "I Crociati" is an 8-minute feast of everything a classic RPI fan could hope for: grand emotion, sound effects, mood and tempo changes, sparkling piano, plus an ending of wailing guitar over strings...bravo! "Il Deserto Del Gobi" features great string arrangements and exotic sounds that bring you right into the story. The opening and finale deserve a special mention for being exquisitely written, dynamic, and exciting, letting you know this is going to be a feast! The tracks breath life into the story through musical drama and adventure. There is a spirit here in the band to think big and bold, and this has resulted in the songs being full of life and color. In short, they nail the subject matter completely in their writing and playing: Marco Polo. Thankfully we have all Italian vocals here (no English, good choice guys!) As there are multiple vocal credits I'm not sure who sings the most lead but the singing is very good, smooth and pleasant, not overly gregarious or rough as some RPI vocals can be. Some fans of the rougher side of RPI may find the album lacks the "harshness" or weirdness they enjoy, as this is primarily very accessible progressive rock. While I generally enjoy abrasive edges in my prog as well, this is but a minor quibble. Bottom line, this material works and it works well.

An excellent album. I do not hesitate shouting to RPI fans everywhere: add Marco Polo to your buy-list asap! Fans of PFM, Rovescio Delle Medaglia, Orme, Pandora, or Quella Vecchia Locanda, you will not be disappointed in the return of the legendary Latte Miele. They prove again what they have always been: one of Italian prog's finest wines. After hearing Marco Polo, it is my hope that they have another bottle in the rack for us in the years to come. Or how about this guys? A new live DVD release of "Passio secundum Mattheum" in its entirety, complete with operatic choir! Ahhh well, you can't blame me for trying. Grazie Marcello, Oliviero, Alfio, and Massimo.

Finnforest | 4/5 |

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