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STORMY SIX - L'Apprendista - CD 1977 Vinyl Magic








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Category:

Progressiv /
Manufacturer: Vinyl Magic
Original release year: 1977
Manufacturing year: 2005
Cat. Nr.: VM 107
Medium:CD
Country:Italy
Extras:Mini-LP
Processing time:1 day
Sound link:Listen to the album

Link auf die Plattform der EU-Kommission zur Online-Streitbeilegung: http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/odr

Stormy Six were the oldest of the original RIO bands, having released their debut album as early as 1969. As a result, they were pretty far into their career before they started to sound remotely 'RIO-ish,' and while L'Apprendista is quite complex and certainly 'progressive,' it's not nearly as avant-sounding as its successor, Macchina Maccheronica. While that album is as hardcore RIO as you'll find anywhere, this one has a lighter tone, eschewing harsh dissonance in favor of quirky, mostly acoustic chamber music with odd chord progressions. It tends to get compared to Gentle Giant, and while that's not entirely inaccurate, it's also somewhat misleading. What we do get is occasional tinges of Renaissance and Baroque music (the flourishes at the beginning of the title track could be right out of Telemann), and detailed counterpoint, including some wonderful three-part a capella polyphony in 'L'Orchestra dei Fischiettei.' What we don't get is keyboard synths, vocals that sound remotely like Kerry Minnear and Derek Shulman, or anything approaching a rock-out. Picture the instrumental opening of 'Schooldays' or the middle section of 'Black Cat' instead of 'Experience' or 'Proclamation' and you'll start to have a better idea.

Qualifications aside, this is a very nice piece of work with some outstanding tracks, and it's both accessible enough for most mainstream prog fans and complex enough for most RIO fans. Aside from the vague similarities to Gentle Giant, there is also an influence of Italian folk music which gives the album a cheerful character, especially on the first few tracks. As the album continues, it gets gradually more serious -- one of the highlights is 'Il Barbiere,' in which the music begins to take on a more strident sound, including some wonderful sections in which the vocals sing triplets against duplets in the accompaniment. The song also contains a long section in which Franco Fabbri's vibraphone solos over a constantly varying chromatically tonal groove in the bass and lower string instruments, providing a much-needed contrast to the twiddly counterpoint of the surrounding tracks.

Also of note is 'Il Labirinto' -- easily the 'proggiest' track here, with the electric instruments and saxophone more prominent than anywhere else on the album, and a spacey, jam-like section in the middle that wouldn't feel out of place on Gong's Camembert Electrique. Oddly, the more experimental elements of the band suddenly crop up at the end of the album, giving us the largely atonal art-song of 'Rosso,' which actually reminds me of Ernst Krenek in his twelve-tone period. The last song, 'L'Orchestra dei Fischietti,' is more tonal, but manages to encompass more genres in six and a half minutes than any other piece I can think of, including jazz, Renaissance polyphony and freeform noise improv.

For me, there's only one thing that keeps L'Apprendista from being great, which is the lack of variety around the middle of the album. While the songs from 'Carmine' through 'Il Labirinto' all have distinct characters due to their arrangements, their main tunes and chord progressions sound rather similar to me -- a problem made worse by the vocals, which aren't bad per se, but are rather flat and uninflected. As a result, I sometimes find myself skipping 'Cuore.' This is still a good album, but it's not on the level of Macchina Maccheronica. - Alex Temple [May 2002]





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