Italian project RANDONE is the creative vehicle of composer and musician Nicola Randone, and first appeared on the scene in 2002 with the album “Morte Di Un Amore”. Since then Randone has been a stable and active creator of music, with one collection, a DVD and 6 studio albums released under this moniker to date. “Ultreia (Canzoni Sulla Via – Atto 1)” is the most recent of the latter, and was released through Italian label Electromantic Music in 2014.
When dealing with Italian artists exploring progressive rock, you are bound to encounter the expression RPI at some point. This three letter expression is short for Rock Progressivo Italiano, and signifies that for at least some people, there is a marked difference between at least some progressive rock made in Italy and progressive rock made in other parts of the world. There has been calls for similar subsections in some progressive rock environments of course, but so far Italy stands alone as a nation in being given their very own subgenre in progressive rock, and one that only applies to some rather than all artists originating from that nation at that.
Those who are in favor of this specific description, and that has an understanding about what it signifies to them, should treasure this album by Randone, as it does fulfill most if not all of the criterias I have been quoted will make an artist or an album to be placed under this niche umbrella. Stylistic variety, clear and distinct references to vintage progressive rock and, most important of all, the use of the Italian language for the lead vocals.
This is an album that orients itself firmly towards keyboard driven progressive rock, where both the organ and the Mellotron are used liberally throughout, with splendid support from what mainly sounds like other vintage keyboards. Occasional jazz-oriented instrument details have their place here, and an even more frequent detail added to the proceedings are folk music, both by way of instrument details and vocals, but also with some key arrangements having a more firm folk-oriented direction. That there’s space and room for dramatic, operatic type lead vocals here isn’t all that surprising, and that occasional orchestral touches are added in is also a good and somewhat expected but still effective detail of note. That some beefy and occasional fiery electric guitar details are used liberally as well, up to and including some guitar solo runs with more of a shred style touch, is perhaps a bit more unexpected I guess. The use of what sounds like electronic instrument details, at times in a rather dominating manner, may be another detail that isn’t as common on productions of this kind, but by and large they work well in this setting.
What may be a bit more detrimental, at least for those not fluent in the Italian language, is the cinematic nature of this album. A feature increasingly more dominant are interludes of spoken voices, in form coming across as sampled dialogue of the kind you’ll find in movies where ordinary people are talking to themselves, to others or with others, with appropriate daily life sound effects. Not just at the start and end of songs, but also as interludes within the songs. I get a strong cinema movie feeling at times with this album, and as this is the first of what presumably is a series of albums, there is a concept explored here and a story being told that will remain hidden for those not fairly well versed in Italian I guess. Presumably this perhaps not so slight detail will be a strong positive for any Italian progressive rock fans, but as I am not fluent in that language myself I just have no way of knowing how well this is executed.
All in all I find “Ultreia (Canzoni Sulla Via – Atto 1)” to be a well made and versatile production, in substance and style adhering fairly closely to my understanding of the elements needed for residing inside the progressive rock subgenre RPI. Besides those who have a specific interest in this subset of progressive rock, I would guess that symphonic progressive rock fans with a fairly versatile and liberal taste in music of that orientation might want to have a go at this one.
My rating: 75/100