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(51 min, Mellow)
TRACK LIST: 1. Morning Song 7:07 2. Coming Back to Life 4:41 3. The Eye of the Storm 12:53 4. It Struck Me Every Day 3:35 5. Crossing the Bar 5:42 6. When Night Is Almost Done 16:53 All tracks: by Zuffanti, except lyrics on 3: by A Tennyson, 4 & 6: by E Dickinson. Produced by Zuffanti & Rigo. LINEUP: Fabio Zuffanti - bass, acoustic & electric guitars Roberto Rigo - keyboards Simona Angieloni - vocals Pierpaolo Londo - drums Carlo Barreca - flute Fabio Centarini - lead electric guitar
Prolusion. One of the leading lights of Italian Prog in the course of the last ten years, bassist and composer Fabio Zuffanti has several bands and projects behind him, starting with Finisterre, and was especially energetic in creating new ones in recent years. With the eponymous ARIES debut album, this very prolific musician continues broadening his sphere of action. Perhaps he is an Aries by horoscope, and if one trusts in astrology, people born under that sign are indefatigable beings, used to easily achieving their goals. Related reviews: Maschera Di Cera, Zaal, La Zona, Finisterre.
Analysis. It was more than once that Fabio proved he is a many-sided artist. As is typical for him, the maestro moved to conquer new musical spaces under the banner of Aries too, successfully distancing from his creative past and the other beaten paths. Of course, it would've been strange if it were otherwise, since the project is new. In any case, our hero definitely has self-esteem, which continuously helps him to avoid stagnation and not to become a parody of himself. By length and construction, with two 'sidelong' epics each following two shorter tracks, "Aries" quite well corresponds to the classic LP standards, which I welcome. This album finds Fabio the composer in possibly his most romantic mood. Another significant aspect of this material concerns Fabio the musician. On each of the shorter songs: Coming Back to Life, Morning Song, It Struck Me Every Day and Crossing the Bar, he is more noticeable as a guitar player than a bassist, which is explained by their compositional specificity and, perhaps, also by the man's increased multi-instrumentalist ambitions. Except for the former track, these are more vocal-oriented (which isn't the same as song-oriented), with catchy melodies and a very warm pastoral atmosphere. Most of the arrangements are built around Fabio's passages on acoustic or semi-acoustic guitar, with Simona Angieloni's fragile, beautiful, very touching vocals in fairly good English being at the fore along with delicate flute, guitar and either piano or synthesizer solos, and the measured rhythm section complementing the picture. The music in the instrumental sections is some more intensive, but overall, the writing and the arrangement are what I'd call a light symphonic Art-Rock, which is much more to my taste (and is by all means much more euphonic) than almost anything within derivative Neo. The large compositions: The Eye of the Storm and When Night Is Almost Done are suites by their construction, with many different thematic sections and unexpected tempo and mood shifts. The palette ranges from pastoral to heavy and bombastic, in true 'classic' symphonic fashion, but without even the slightest hint to the genre's other representatives, Fabio's own projects included.
Conclusion. Most of the contents of Aries are mellower than Zuffanti's traditional stuff, generally speaking. But the emphasis here is laid on creating a special mood, which is quite atypical. I doubt there'll be anybody who would manage to catch it without repeated listening to the material, and that's one of the assets setting good progressive works apart from the rest, isn't it? Sincerely recommended.
VM: April 5, 2005
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