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Rustichelli & Bordini - Opera Prima CD (album) cover


Rustichelli & Bordini


Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.74 | 81 ratings

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4 stars Opera Prima by Italian duo Rustichelli & Bordini is an excellent keyboard-dominated symphonic album from 1973. The simplest way to describe the music here is to imagine ELP with the addition of a Mellotron and a gravel-throated Italian vocalist. This album is almost up there alongside Tarkus and Trilogy, and wipes the floor with just about everything else ELP did. The main issue with Opera Prima seems to be the vocals, which are something of an acquired taste. To be blunt keyboards player Paolo Rustichelli has a particularly gruff, ugly singing voice. However if you can get over the vocals you'll be rewarded with some of the richest keyboard textures in the RPI canon.

The album opens with an instrumental track, Nativita, which basically consists of an A-B-A structure but with several variants and transitions within that framework. The first A-section is like a fanfare initially played on piano and synth, but then joined by organ chords and Mellotron. A brief Emersonian jazz organ statement leads back to a variation on the first theme, with organ taking the lead this time around. Piano and Mellotron then introduce the serene B-section, with synth providing a melodic bass line. A transition passage climaxes with a piano arpeggio that heralds a reprise of the A-theme, this time with aggressive organ to the fore. The track finishes with a brief coda that combines the two main themes.

Icaro begins with some moody organ, until Rustichelli can unfortunately be heard clearing his throat before starting to sing. Ouch! The tempo picks up with a stirring organ melody, drums and burbling synth-bass. We then get a typical hard-rock beat complete with cowbell. Up to this point in the song Rustichelli's voice has been bearable. However in this section he sounds like one of Saruman's orcs! I kid you not. Think of the Piltdown man from Tubular Bells... yeah, that bad! Some Jon Lord inspired organ embellishments then lead into another ELP type of jazzy improvisation. This starts with organ and piano playing in breakneck counterpoint, backed by Mellotron; Rustichelli then goes on an elaborate solo using a variety of organ timbres. Bombastic organ, Mellotron and vocals bring the song to a close.

Dolce Sorella is a lovely ballad with church organ and acceptable vocals, even if these are a bit high in the mix. Actually once the drums start playing the vocals are just about right. A squelching synth line then introduces an ELP inspired melody that is to die for. Beautiful. Another verse then piano and organ duet to finish.

Track 4, Un Cane, begins with a lovely piano theme (sounds familiar... The Endless Enigma?) before drums crash in along with the vocals and a juicy synth line. This is a fairly straightforward slow-paced song, although there's some super pitch-bend synthesizer towards the end.

After a mellow organ introduction, E Svegliarsi In Un Giorno gets underway with synthesizer, drums and vocals. After a couple of verses there's some Mellotron-flute and buzzing synth, and we then get another superb ELP-type passage with organ and more synth. A military drumbeat and Mellotron slow things down momentarily, before a final verse brings the song to a close.

Cammellandia begins with a majestic piano melody; organ then takes up the melody with synth and drums playing a syncopated beat. The track then goes through an extended virtuoso section with Rustichelli finally succumbing to a bit of overkill. Mellotron-cello introduces a strange little section... I'll swear I can hear a dog howling here! This is followed by another organ and Mellotron passage, and the piece finishes with more strange sound effects.

If you ever wanted to hear what ELP might have sounded like with Mellotron then this is your chance. However Rustichelli & Bordini aren't mere ELP clones. This is one great album. I didn't actually realise just how good until I started trying to analyse the tracks for this review. All things considered, Rustichelli's voice isn't so bad after all either, with the exception of his singing on Icaro. In my opinion this is a 'must have' album for RPI fans. For everyone else I'd rate it as 4 stars.

seventhsojourn | 4/5 |


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