Italy has always been a hotbed for progressive rock artists, and the popularity of this genre still runs strong in this country. Unfortunately few Italian artists seem willing to expand their base beyond Italian shores. This is because of two reasons. The first is that the Italian population and the popularity of the genre is enough to sustain the band without having to work outside Italy and secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the Italians have a strong language barrier even though Italian is one of the most beautiful languages to which music can be composed.
Morte Di Un Amore (Death Of A Loved One) by Nicola Randone manages to cross quite a few musical boundaries within a superbly produced album. There is a tinge of melancholy within most of the themes of the album, which are not necessarily progressive but verge into the well-crafted pop/AOR musical scene. Nevertheless, this is one of the more interesting albums I have come across this year. Randone stated his musical career with the now defunct Sicilian prog-band, Grey Owl who also had recorded an eponymous debut album. Much of the musical ideas found on this album were composed when the band still existed and their roots can be found in classical Italian prog-bands such as Le Orme , PFM and Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso , just to name a few.
The album opens with Visioni (Visions), a mainly instrumental piece which immediately showcases Randone’s powerful vocals amidst a sequence of synthesiser sounds much in the Tangerine Dream vein. Il Pentimento Di Dio – dopo la fine del mondo (God’s sorrow after the end of the world) is an indicator that this album is not just a classical progressive rock album. The basis of the track is within a reggae setting and is a sharp contrast to what one would be expecting, both from the title of the piece as well as when set against the opening piece. However even this piece reserves a delightful twist with the use of monk-like Harmonies in a very Franco Battiato -like fashion.
With a language like Italian as your mother tongue, ballads seem to come too easily for musicians from this country. Tutte Le Mie Stelle (All My Stars) is one such ballad which Randone utilises to fully express his vocals while L’Infinito (Infinity) allows the listener to glimpse into the slightly more progressive nature of this musician. The keyboards emanate a full sound, but add little to the overall musical dimension though they tend to allow the listener to be enveloped in the musical aura Randone wishes to create. With Un Cieco (A Blind Man) the guitar takes up a more prominent role in PFM style while with La Gostra (The Merry-Go-Round), Randone makes full use of a variety of sound bytes that evoke the Second World War. In fact the track deals with the atrocities of war, especially those committed in concentration camps such as Auschwitz. Stylistically one could say that is neo-progressive, mainly because of the way the synthesisers are arranged as Randone creates an interesting effect by overlapping his vocals giving an answer and response sensation.
By Strananoia , the harder edge of Randone’s music seems to be coming to the fore, though the sound of recorders sound totally out of place. However, this track is one of the few pieces which actually shows a variety of shifts in both time signature as well as overall musical variety within the same piece. Amore Bianco (White Love) sees a return to the ballad-like presentation that featured so prominently earlier on though the synthesisers, for the first time on this album, actually pull the piece by the scruff of its neck and carry it away with some lush orchestral arrangements. The final (and title) track, Morte Di Un Amore (Death Of A Loved One) is the only piece that was not actually a solo Randone composition, but was created when Grey Owl still existed. This is the album’s true epic piece, and Randone saved it till the end. In fact he has managed to incorporate all the influences that appeared on the individual pieces on the album from ballads to reggae to heavy guitar work that at times verges on the progressive metal. The backdrop is filled with the sound of string instruments until it gives way to a lengthy dreamy synthesiser piece that calls the album full circle. Just as the album began with a Tangerine Dream inspired piece, so does Morte Di Un Amore .
Though not exactly a progressive rock album, Morte Di Un Amore deserves a worthy spin on your CD player. An impressive album with some great arrangements, Nicola Randone has come up trumps and hopefully he will get the recognition that he deserves with this album and hopefully manage to break through with a record label deal. Try this album, you won’t be disappointed.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10.