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Phoenix Again - Look Out CD (album) cover


Phoenix Again



3.90 | 119 ratings

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4 stars The Italian avalanche of stunning 2014 releases continues unabated with the Neo-flavored Phoenix Again up for evaluation, a different appreciation is needed as their sound requires a little adjusting, mostly instrumental and on the raunchier side , veering into hard-jazz- fusion, space-rock and symphonic splurges when and where it is warranted. My first audition was underwhelming but it came after multiple trysts with Logos' recent jubilating masterpiece 'L'Enigma della Vita', a love affair that continues on my vehicle dashboard. Phoenix Again could easily have been called the Lorandi Famiglia +guests but it really comes through as a much focused (sic) affair, with occasional winks at classic Focus, among a few other influences. This took a few spins to really imbibe myself into the rather explorative nature of this mostly instrumental album. But once I did, 'I could scarcely believe all the pleasures inside'.

The voluptuous resonance of 'Adso da Melk' will instantly get the prog juices flowing, as this master 12 minute piece introduces some Gregorian chants, followed by an acoustic guitar surge that will warm your tired bones by the fire, the lead guitar paralleling the main theme with a little more bluster. It's a gorgeous melody that spawns a real cool, jazzy, free wheelin' and breezy guitar solo that is utterly awe-inspiring. The piece is then led by a resolute bass motif which signals a lengthy jam where guitar and synths exchange musical vows as well as some carnal intercourse, as keyboardist Andrea Picinelli adds a mellotron flurry for good measure. With such a sterling opener, how can one go wrong? That main theme is further enhanced by a bombastic arrangement that throws dense symphonics onto the already shimmering bonfire. What a track this is!

'Oigres' is a torrid little monster track, clocking 6 minutes and 19 seconds of pure proggy bliss, grumbling voice effects (monsters?) and an insistent guitar riff that spirals wildly, swerving with devilish bass undertow and a keyboard swarm of synthesizers and topped off with that classic Italian sound , the accordion. The picking style is deeply expressive, the riffs punchy and vivacious and the keyboard bombast there to elicit even more drama and depth.

A tremendous follow-up that is further heightened by the nuclear-powered boogie of the title track, 'Look Out' being another 10 and a half space rock jam fest, where both Lorandi guitarists (Marco and Sergio) really get to showcase their rock personality with little hints of Robin Trower, Jan Akkerman and Andy Powell. The massive Mellotron onslaught is slightly reminiscent of KC'S 'Sailor's Tale' with that that tempestuous barrage of white noise violins amid the frenzied drumming, booming bass and screeching guitar solos. Relentless like some deranged Rottweiler, the music packs a thunderous punch with drummer Silvano Silva slamming hard on his kit, in order to keep pace with the brothers. Picinelli seasons the sonic cauldron with strange cubist synthesized doodles (a la early Eno), giving the listener both a sense of chaotic order and linear dissonance.

The glittering warmth of 'Summer' brings much appreciated light to the surroundings, a classic piece of progressive rock, nothing too fancy, just very 'finesse', led by a sweet synthesizer melody that elevates the elegant piano insertion, something Chopin would be proud of, orchestrations in the background only serving to enhance the grandiose mood. No doubt that a PFM/Banco feel permeates the track, a lovely mellotronic breeze adding to the mystery. The silky finale guitar part is like George Benson meets Jan Akkerman.

Speaking of whom, 'The Endless Battle' has a raucous riff that screams out 'Hocus Pocus', comically so very obvious, one can only smile in abject respect. The guitar shrieks loudly amid the Hammond organ stop and starts, whist drummer Silva does his best Pierre Van der Linden imitation, pushing hard and fast. The solo is like a Ferrari on turbo mode on a tortuous highway of ripping notes, quick accelerations and sudden bursts of supercharged power. This attention to being fun and entertaining was what finally convinced me that this album is a total keeper.

The only vocal track 'Invisible Shame' was recorded when older brother Claudio Lorandi was still alive and strangely differs greatly from the previous instrumental-driven material. The song is strongly infected with various Marillion-isms, 'You Know You Know', Trewavas- like bass, Kelly-styled keys and Rothery schooled guitar parts. The vocals are acceptable but certainly not up there with Fish or Hoggarth. The musical parts are stellar but the piece does represent the only weak track on the menu.

After summer's warm embrace, the frigid reality comes back every year to remind us that snow and ice are a natural phenomenon (except in the tropical areas of course) and 'Winter' certainly adheres to that kind of glacial imagery. The Manfred Mann 'styled synth solo, the flowery bass attack as well as the brash riffing will provide all the bliss, rolling organ and raunchy guitar blasts go back and forth, like some crazed tennis match. Serene medieval bliss is guaranteed on the intoxicating 'Dance of Three Clowns' , where acoustic guitar, flute, violins, cello and light percussives all get to play in the garden of aural delights. Very Italian, very romantic and utterly elegant, this piece puts a fine stamp of playfulness on the recording. Bravo!

This is another fine 2014 addition to the recent and thankfully ongoing Italian prog invasion currently titillating the RPI lads as well as other prog fans looking for their fix. Well, their soccer team currently sucks but Italian bands surely are riding very high in progland lately. The artwork and cover are both sublime and inspiring. I plan to keep this one playing a lot more than I originally thought.

4.5 watchtowers

tszirmay | 4/5 |


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