Why jellybeans, you might ask? Well, because it’s Easter, and I’ll be eating them, that’s why…and they have nothing to do with prog except for that I love them both. Honestly, I see no common thread throughout the albums which I delectably present to you this day, other than the fact that I enjoyed them all thoroughly and I hope you do too! For you Italian fans out there, BE PREPARED! You know that Locanda delle Fate has favored us what they have been holding back for several decades, and I present to you, my thoughts (no jellybeans included; buy them yourself; or a Cadbury egg, if you prefer)!
Locanda delle Fate – The Missing Fireflies
In my opinion, Le Lucciole Non Si Amano Piu was one of the best produced 70’s prog albums. How did it manage to sound so spectacular compared to other recordings of the time? When it comes to The Missing Fireflies, essentially leftovers of the earlier album, it is likewise produced to a very satisfactory level. The overall sound, from the keys to drums is crisp, punchy, and full. The performances are inspired, especially Luciano’s beautiful singing. There’s really nothing to complain about here. The Missing Fireflies basically sounds exactly like it should’ve been on the original album, and it would have been, had their not been technical limitations on the album production. If one was to complain about something, it might be that they were hoping for something that sounded like a different album, but they didn’t get it. Well, that wasn’t really the purpose here, now was it. You get loads of keyboards and pianos dueling off in magical Italian fashion, gorgeous vocals, perhaps some of the best in Italian 70’s, in my humble opinion, and compositions which show great use of transitions and moods while maintaining a magical romantic sort of atmosphere, all the while never being afraid to get ‘proggy.’
My only beef with this release is the poor sound quality of the live tracks. Unfortunately, they sound like they were recorded on a microphone in the back of the concert hall and were never mixed. It’s pretty bad, I’m not kidding. Nothing we can do about it. In the end, however, I wasn’t hoping for a Locanda live album. I just wanted the extra studio tracks, which they delivered splendidly. A real treat for fans of the band and those in the mood for a bit of Italian 70’s nostalgia.
Cucamonga – Alter Huevo
AltrOck is quickly becoming one of my favorite labels. Among stunningly creative Italian acts that it offers is Cucamonga, hailing from Argentina down in the Southern Cone. Alter Huevo offers us a good dose of Zappa-esque humor blended with mountains of jazz, avant-garde, circus music, and of course, rock. The melodies are fun, catchy, and even silly at times. In terms of instrumentation, you couldn’t ask for more (unless you were Yugen); Cucamonga delivers all around, whether it be on the sax, marimba, accordion, or glockenspiel. Pull up your chair, grab a bag of popcorn, and get ready for some head-spinning giggles. If like a little (a lot) of random in your prog, Alter Huevo will surely make you grin, as it did to me.
RPWL – Beyond Man and Time
RPWL once again delivers with a very Nietzschian album, Beyond Man and Time. I guess it makes sense that RPWL grew out of a Pink Floyd cover band; there’s something magical in the melodic structure and phrasing that recalls a bit of Gilmore mixed with Arjen Lucassen. Overall, Beyond Man and Time is a very listener friendly album full of infectious beats stemming from a sublime blend of electronic and acoustic percussion. The keys are gorgeous and thick, and the phrasing is even better. From my side, I love the tracks that tended towards doing small, but pretty things with the instrumentation, like the spacey bells of “Somewhere In Between,” the sitar like effects of “The Fisherman,” and the cosmic arpeggiation of “We Are What We Are.” In short, Beyond Man and Time is a high quality release which I believe would have great appeal to fans of Porcupine Tree (and the rest of the K-Scope bands), Riverside, Guilt Machine, and Pink Floyd.
Neograss – Atlantis
Neograss: when neo progressive rock meets bluegrass. Sounds weird, right? Actually, when you hear it, it sounds pretty normal, but in a good way! Atlantis certainly turned out to be a really nice album. If you’re a fan of bluegrass, great, but if you’re not, don’t worry, Neograss won’t scare you off; this certainly doesn’t end up sounding like ‘hillbilly’ music. The band adds some nice, original, influences in the vocals and banjo, which I thought made them really stand out and kind of add an epic folky narrative kind of feel. Overall, if you want to hear some really nice symphonic rock that reminds you that there’s still room to add new elements into your prog without abandoning a classic sound, Atlantis is an album for you.