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(57:41, ‘Northford Pines Music’)
TRACK LIST: 1. Intentions / Letting Go 8:40 2. Voyage 8:17 3. Dance of the Gnome 6:12 4. The Great Unknown 12:01 5. Sacred Ground 8:42 6. Corridor of Doors 5:29 7. A World Away 8:20 LINEUP: Robert Giannotti – vocals; guitars, bass; flute; keyboards; drums With: George Clini – drums, percussion Mike Soldan – drums; piano Natalie Tanner – vocals Nicole Tanner – vocals Jack Tanner – vocals Ryan Graveline – vocals Collin Graveline – vocals
Prolusion. The US project GIANNOTTI is the creative vehicle of Robert Giannotti, a composer and musician with a distant past as a member of progressive rock band Jasper Wraith, and while Giannotti himself decided to focus on other areas of life some decades back he did reappear occasionally as a contributor to some of Jeff Cannata's ventures over the years. "The Great Unknown" marks Gianotti's return to the music scene in a more marked manner, and was released through Northford Pines Music, which is his own label (most likely).
Analysis. Giannotti has opted to do almost everything himself on the album; in addition to composing he handles the majority of the instruments himself, alongside vocal duties, mix and production. In essence, this is a one-man band affair with just a few outside musicians lending a helping hand here and there and then first and foremost on the final track. Mastering was done elsewhere though. As such this is a rather impressive creation, as it takes some skill and effort to accomplish all of this by ‘yourself’. In terms of the music itself, Giannotti appears to have a strong fascination for acoustic rock, folk music and classical music, as his material, by and large, combines features from these three genres throughout. Wandering acoustic guitar motifs are a mainstay feature, sometimes with more of a rock music approach, at other times with more of a traditional or folk music orientation. The rhythms, when present, alternate between gentler percussion details, more of a rock music backbeat and occasional detours into what I'd typically describe as tribal sounds. Keyboards are used extensively throughout to create rich but often ethereal textures, of the kind that violins would be sued for in a classical symphonic orchestra. On rare occasions this latter aspect will also take on a stronger, more dramatic vibe with a stronger orientation towards those pastures as well, and the more naturally dramatic sounds of the organ does find its way into these compositions from time to time too. Elegant flute solo runs are a frequent inclusion too, at times closer to the likes of Zamfir than to whatever favorite rock flutist you may care to namedrop in this context however. Elegant, atmospheric laden guitar solo runs of the later day Pink Floyd variety are also very much present in its unique, subservient manner. It should probably also be mentioned that Giannotti isn't afraid to include tones and timbres that add something of an exotic, world music timbre to his creations. The core ingredients, as well as the arrangements that develop and the themes that are explored, all have a well-made and compelling nature to them, but, at least as I experience this album, something is lacking in the execution and finish. Nothing massive or dramatic, but a small array of subtle details that prevent this production from gaining the edge and the character that would have made it a truly captivating experience. The vocals are too often merely functional, and they often sound a bit odd in the overall mix. Nothing I can really point towards specifically, but a professional sound engineer might grasp the how's and why's of this. Much the same is the case with the mix and production. The instruments are well separated, but appear subtly unbalanced. The drums in particular have a tendency to become too loud compared to the other instruments, and the instruments in general appears as ever so subtly too sharp and too much in your face. I can hear what might have been and perhaps should have been majestic, dream-laden sequences of spellbinding, harmony-oriented music, where sharp sounds and subtly too loud instrument details break up the moods and atmospheres created, the musical equivalent of having a mosquito buzzing just a bit too close to your ear when enjoying a cold beer on a warm summer evening, if you catch my drift. I hear and sense the spirit of something really good or possibly even great on this album, and for many with a less sensitive set of ears than what I have the album will probably provide such an experience. For me, this is a case of hearing what might have been however.
Conclusion. US composer and musician Giannotti has created an ambitious first venture out as a solo artist, exploring a blend of acoustic rock, traditional folk music and classical music within what merits a description as a progressive rock general context. The compositions appear to hone in on qualities such as mesmerizing, dream-laden and atmospheric, with harmonies, melody and the arrangements themselves being more important than the individual instruments. Certain aspects of mix and production leave something to be desired though, so those sensitive to such issues should approach this album with some caution. Other than that, this should be a fine album to get familiar with if progressive rock of this general nature is something you tend to enjoy.
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