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Il Cerchio D'Oro - Il Viaggio Di Colombo CD (album) cover


Il Cerchio D'Oro


Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.77 | 60 ratings

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RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
4 stars Given the band's (and their record label's) Ligurian origins, it should not come as a surprise that Il Cerchio d'Oro's debut album is centred around the figure of Cristoforo Colombo, the Genoese adventurer (whose expedition was financed by the Spanish Crown) that discovered the New World while looking for 'the Indies'. Interestingly, though, the album is not concerned with the actual discovery, but rather with the hopes and fears of the main characters during the journey, seen as a metaphor for human life. This makes "Il Viaggio di Colombo" a rather different beast than the typical fantasy- or sci-fi-based concept albums that prog bands seem to churn out with alarming regularity.

The release of "Il Viaggio di Colombo" was one of the most pleasant surprises of 2008 for lovers of Italian progressive rock, an unexpected gift from a band who seemed to have been one of the many casualties of the late Seventies' decline of interest in prog. The lavish package, illustrated with original woodcuts and endearingly na´ve sketches, features a synopsis of the whole story, as well as English translations of the lyrics - a real bonus to non-Italian speakers, allowing them to connect with the story. Indeed, the album is meant to be enjoyed as a complete experience: the narrative (mostly told from Colombo's point of view) is every bit as important as the music, which blends the lush sounds of vintage prog with folksy overtones, as well as the pervasive influence of the Italian canzone. Even if none of the band members are more than adequate singers, their skilful, expressive use of vocal harmonies contributes to engaging the listener in the development of the story.

As in the best concept albums, the songs show a strong connection, parts of a bigger whole rather than separate entities. Opening with the romantic, wistful piano melody of "Ouverture", the album quickly gains momentum as the story develops. The largely mellow, Pink Floyd-inspired "Sognando la Meta" is followed by Colombo, a slice of hard-rocking, guitar- and organ-driven heavy prog very much in the Deep Purple mould. The core of the album, however, lies in a remarkably gripping sequence of three songs, moving from the hopeful mood of "I Tre Marinai" - a melodic, piano- and guitar-led piece in which three members of the crew illustrate their own reasons for embarking on the voyage - to the slowly mounting tension of the jazzy "Ieri, Oggi, Ancora Niente", with its lush tapestry of keyboards conjuring the endless, unchanging expanse of the sea, and finally "Il Silenzio Rumoroso del Mare" (possibly the real highlight of the album), led by a haunting piano riff and featuring some compelling synth and guitar parts. After the short respite provided by the poignant "Preghiera al Vento", the tense, ominous atmosphere of Tre Giorni (L'Ammutinamento) is aptly conveyed by some powerful guitar riffing and dynamic piano - until the almost explosive release of the anthemic "Tierra! Tierra!". The tale ends with the gentle instrumental "Cercando l'Approdo", and then the catchy "Conclusione (Il Ritorno)", in which the band members are joined by a choir of friends and family members, celebrating the historic discovery with suitable (though somewhat na´ve) enthusiasm.

The two bonus tracks tacked at the end of the CD version, while offering some insight on Il Cerchio d'Oro's activity prior to their disbanding, are definitely not as interesting as the main body of the album. Rather similar to each other, they are both melodic, mid-paced efforts that at times sound a little bit too close to prog-influenced, melodic pop bands such as I Pooh. On the whole, I feel that their absence would not have been really detrimental to the album.

Even if not exactly innovative, "Il Viaggio di Colombo" comes across as a mature, well-crafted album that manages to capture the listener's attention through its skilful use of melody and painstaking build-up of emotions. This is essential listening for all lovers of vintage Italian prog, in the hope that the band will stay together to produce more quality music.

Raff | 4/5 |


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