Oh how I become overjoyed when Progstreaming gets in a slew of BTF releases. As of recently you should be filling your earbuds with lots of delicious remaster’s of classic Italian works since Progstreaming just got a whole bunch. As always, it is my pleasure to present my opinions to you, which I will preface by saying that this is a great to renew your love for some beloved classics and maybe even find a few gems you may have missed along the way.
Campo di Marte – Campo di Marte
For fans of RPI, this Florentine band should already be very familiar, as should their self titled album since like a number of great RPI bands, this is the only studio album they released. This BTF release of the classic 1973 album preserves the original track order, which starts at “VI Tempo” and goes to the end before starting at “I Tempo” because Campo di Marte considered the second half much stronger. Regardless of how they view these pieces, the album is fantastic across the board, delivering uplifting symphonic rock that surprisingly sounds very classical despite the lack of overblown keyboards that the great Italian bands have accustomed us to. In terms of instrumentation, mostly what we get is your standard rock setup plus flute and french horn (yes, you heard that right, and it’s glorious). From sublime french horn lines to Crimson-esque vibes, great classical guitar, baroque organ, and melodic flute playing, there’s a bit of awesomeness everywhere on this album. While it doesn’t knock off my socks completely, Campo di Marte has proven itself to be another solid example of why we all love our classic 70’s Italian so much.
Hostsonaten – Mirrorgames
Let me start out by saying that Zuffanti is a genius and that Mirrorgames gives us a great glimpse into the early days of his amazing band, Hostsonaten. If you’re already a fan of Fabio Zuffanti, you most likely have heard this or own it. If you aren’t, Hostsonaten’s sophomore record can be a mixed bag that gives you inspired moments while still being a bit rough around the edges. The bottom line is you will hear brilliant section after brilliant section on this album, but oftentimes the transitions are lacking, producing a sort of disjunct feel to some of the songs, especially the whopping 24 minute opener, “The Dream.” Although I believe Zuffanti’s composition was still in the process of maturation when this record originally came out in 1998, he definitely was showing the spark of brilliance, both in this project and his others (mainly Finisterre at the time). Mirrorgames certainly is ambitious in its scope and content; it’s easy to forgive these guys at times because of their level of ambitiousness as they tackle several very long pieces, including the fantastically delivered “Elipsis.” We even have the joy of looking back now and seeing in hindsight the early stages of what would later become Hostonaten’s latest effort: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Perhaps my personal favorite, however, is “The Garden, Parts 1-4,” with its dark synthesizer intro followed up by loads of ambient textures that will put you in a nice, relaxing trance, not usually what I look for in a Zuffanti piece, but works fantastically in this case. Bottom line is, Hostsonaten’s convincing 70’s aesthetic in production combined with a varied approach in instrumentation hits the nail on the head across the album. From the somber and mystical folk sections recalling the medieval to soaring analog synths and lush trons, there’s a lot to be loved on this record.
Panna Fredda – Uno
My exposure to the one and only release by Italy’s Panna Fredda ended up being a strange one, starting really high but ending a bit dissappointed. “La Paura” kicks the album off with fantastic vocals over mesmerizing instrumentation, and then leads into some fantastic classic rock pieces as well as an incredibly enjoyable prog piece, “Un Uomo,” full of haunting melodies and great progressions. The real treat of the album is “La venta, la luna, e Pulcini blu”. This is a serious nine minutes of prog with great vocals, circus charm, and lots of sparkly plucked instruments and bells to make you smile. Unfortunately, at track seven, “Strisce Rosse,” which chirps in with some nearly unbearable pop that takes sappyness to an extreme level never before known to man, the album takes a sudden spirally descent into the abyss. Suddenly, and seemingly out of nowhere, we jump from really good pyschedelic proto-prog to song after song that might have easily gone on the radio; these pieces, which continue until the end of the album, are short, vocal driven tracks that are so distinct from the first half of the album that I could swear we were listening to a different band. Still worth your money, but it’s good to know what’s coming on this one. Either way, the first half of the album is really good.