- Studio to live (studio) conversion
Live in studio vs. live in concert? Honestly, I’ll take live in studio any day, as it really gives the band the chance to play in a natural way, producing the spontaneity of a concert but with a level of sound production closer to a studio album. Such is the case with the Fabio Zuffanti Band and their latest effort, Il mondo che era mio – Live in Studio 2014. Going along with the theme of his recent tour which spanned Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Canada, the album delivers live renditions of tunes from various Zuffanti projects, such as Hostsonaten and Finisterre, as well as a strong emphasis on his latest studio work, La quarta vittima. In the end, it is a strong statement summarizing his career as a powerful figure in the last two decades of rock progressivo italiano.
Hostsonaten and Finisterre tracks dominate the first half of the album with “Rainsuite” and “Orrizonte degli eventi” particularly catching my attention. “Rainsuite” is a bit slow to start, but really grabs my attention when a simple piano line walks under a decrepit Mellotron strings melody, a theme that returns backed by strumming acoustics and the full band, creating a memorable melody that is extremely visual. This motif alternates with a brighter, more triumphant melody throughout the song, basically milking it for all it’s worth to create several powerful moments. The crown jewel, however, is Finisterre’s “Orrizonte degli eventi,” a truly epic journey of a piece. The opening flute intro is a huge contrast to the delicate Mellotron and cautious vocals that will follow, a fragile moment that conveys mountains of emotion. When the acoustic strums its way in it reminds me of the best folky moments of Le Orme — certainly nothing to complain about.
Subsequently, the mood turns darker with an ascending Hammond riff doubled by guitar and followed by sparse vocal interjections, leaving space for intensity to grow and delivering the angle of minimal presence exhibits power. As the vocals rise, the pressure increases until the drums enter. Various instrumental meanderings follow, spanning the gamut of tron, Minimoog and Hammond to my delight, even presenting a catchy little waltz. The compositional surprise, however, is the next vocal section, in which the mood suddenly turns bleak with a sort of avant/modern piano and a repetitive vocal line that is meant more to characterize a mood than to deliver musicality. Eventually the piece leads us towards a dark march ending its cycle with a bright major chord prior to the closing vocal sections. All in all, Zuffanti and his band deliver a brilliant rendition of this epic piece; certainly not easy to pull it off, but they make it sound oh so natural.
If there is a proper way to follow up such a gargantuan epic like “Orizzonte degli eventi,” the perfect choice certainly is “Una ser d’inverno” from Zuffanti’s last studio album. This piece is absolutely perfect, and it’s delivery live in the studio is masterful. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “Una sera d’inverno” is delicate and exquisitely perfect in the way it conveys dark, mournful emotions. Zuffanti’s voice fits this song better than any other I’ve heard from him. His fragile delivery and use of rest to convey tension is absolutely brilliant in its depth of introspection and melancholy. Even though this piece starts off small, it has the perfect build, gorgeous melodies, and an uplifting peak that leaves me ultimately satisfied as a listener. I was so glad to hear this song included on the album.
Like I previously said, the second half of the album is dominated by Zuffanti’s most recent solo material, and while at first I was hesitant to see recent studio material get treated again in the studio with so little time lapse in between, my worries were put to rest. Overall I would say that the live in studio treatment of these tunes was just right. “La quarta vittima” is a good example of these pieces in the way in which the group dynamic feels much less rigid on these re-recordings and the improvised parts, such as the jazzy flute solos at the beginning, really stand out. The Minimoog/Mellotron duo on “Non posso parlare piu forte” was especially effective on this version, and the vocals seemed much better suited here as well, conveying a bit more mystery than the previous version. Lastly, the climactic build on the latest rendition of “La notte transparente” is huge and certainly worthy of the re-recording it received.
If you’re anything like me, you likely weren’t able to get to one of the shows on Zuffanti’s tour; Il mondo che era mio is the next best thing you’ll get. A solid representation of Zuffanti’s dedicated career in prog, Il mondo che era mio offers a passionate musical insight into the heart of the prolific prog composer, Fabio Zuffanti. Definitely a little something to reward the fans as we anxiously await whatever Fabio’s cooking up for the next round.