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(51:02; Melodic Revolution Records)
Multi-instrumentalist Marco Ragni (who here provides vocals, guitars, keyboards, piano and bass) is back with his latest album. Peter Matuchniak (Kinetic Element, Gekko Project, Mach One etc) returns on lead guitar, as does Dave Newhouse (The Muffins) on woodwind, Jeff Mack (Scarlet Hollow) on five-string fretted and fretless bass plus Chapman Stick along with drummer Maurizio Antonini. They were all involved in Marco’s last album, ‘The Wandering Caravan’, and the core band line-up also now includes JoJo Razor (Gekko Project) on backing vocals. There are also a few guests who make important contributions on a few tracks, namely guitarists Bjorn Riis (Airbag) and Marius Halleland (Wobbler), plus the incredible Charlie Cawood (Knifeworld) who on this release provides sitar on “Voice In The Dark”. Released deliberately on the Summer Solstice, this album ties in with Marco turning fifty this year which has led to serious contemplation, so the songs, cover and even the lyrics underwent changes during the process. But this isn’t a melancholic or depressing album, but rather one of incredible variety and dynamics. Some songs are almost folk-based, take “The Wind Blows Anyway” as an example. Plucked acoustic guitar forms the basis of this, along with electric piano and some dated synths which weave a tapestry of sound which the bass and drums manage to find their way into, but there are significant periods where Peter is sat waiting for his moment, as electric guitar is notable by its absence as the fretless bass resounds through whatever room is available. But then when Peter takes the opportunity it is deft, almost Gilmour-like with controlled sustain, which takes the song into new directions, leading into an ending I certainly didn’t expect. This is a very rich album, full of contrasts, dominated by the arrangements which are intricate, delicate, yet incredibly powerful. It is broad, controlled and epic prog, and there are times when one can hear the psychedelic influences which take his music back in time. It feels much more like a classic progressive album than one from the end of the second decade of the 21st century, and it is one which is both instantly accessible and a grower. This is an album I have thoroughly enjoyed as it moves in so many directions from Floyd through Yes and even elements of Crimson, but is very much Marco Ragni.
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