Wow! Every once in a while, I receive a CD that doesn’t fall completely in the prog category, yet manages to blow me away as a total work of art. Nicola Randone’s new CD, Morte di un Amore, is such a work. The first thing that every listener will notice about Nicola’s music is his voice. He is one of the best Italian rock singers I’ve heard, and he proves it 30-second into the first track. His instantly likeable voice is somewhat pop-oriented ala Eros Ramazotti, yet it’s so rich with melody, feeling, and expression that prog fans will instantly dig it. There is a noticeable theatrical and cabaret influence in the vocals that will especially impress fans of Italian and French prog. What is funny is that a few weeks ago I wrote a review for La Maschera di Cera in which I stated that young Italian singers have lost touch with the beautiful vocal melodies that their parents where singing in the late 60s and 70s while prefering a droning sort of whine. Well, Nicola proves that some young people are interested in continuing the Italian vocal tradition at the highest quality. Instrumentally speaking, Nicola seems to prefer a grandiose symphonic sound that allows his voice to soar. Modern keyboards take care of the symphonic sounds, while acoustic guitar strumming lies deep in the mix. I’m reminded a bit of Dream Theater at their most symphonic, yet Nicola’s music is not prog metal. Some ambient, Reggae, and pure-pop influences appear from time to time, but overall this album is mostly artistic symph-rock. I rate this CD one of the top releases this year, and especially recommend it to fans of Italian progressive rock. Don’t expect anything complex musically, but the vocals rate up there with Locanda Delle Fate, Banco, and I Giganti. Maybe La Maschera di Cera should hire Nicola for their next album.

Interview with Nicola Randone (08/22/02)

Hegede : Can you tell me more about your origins. Is “Morte di Un Amore” your first CD? 
Randone : Hello Steve. First of all, thanks for your compliments – in my country compliments are a rarity. Unfortunately, in Italy the universe of music is in a poor condition: the lovers of prog are not numerous… But now to your question. Morte di un amore is my first solo album. Before it – exactly in 1998 – I published an album with my now extinguished band Grey Owl. The release failed to reach a large audience because of the lack of a real promotion and also because, being a debut work, it had been recorded with poor means.

Hegede : You are one of the strongest vocalists I’ve heard from the Italian scene. Who are your influences? 
Randone : Very nice appreciation, thank you! My primary infuences are some local prog singers, in particular Leonardo Sasso of the original Locanda delle Fate line-up. I always liked his vocal power. I’m also fond of Le Orme singer Aldo Tagliapietra’s mellow style. And it was Francesco Di Giacomo of Banco who has taught to me how to use the explosive loads – yet, Francesco’s technical skills remain unsurpassed.

Hegede : Who are your favorite bands from the classic Italian prog scene? 
Randone : The Italian prog rock of the early 70s is among the best things ever produced in my country. Some of those artists were great, doubtless. They created an original sound, allowing to me to grow in an artistic way. Here I mention the popular groups Banco, Orme and Area, together with quite obscure bands like Panna Fredda (“Cold Cream”), Biglietto per l’inferno (“Ticket to the Hell”), Osanna and Locanda delle Fate (“The Fairies’ Inn”). The jazz matrix of prog rock has then found its culmination in the oeuvre of Arti e Mestieri (“Arts and Trades”), whose keyboardist Beppe Crovella is presently managing the distribution of my CD. Crovella will probably involve me in an upcoming short-term production – I hope it!

Hegede : Who composed the music on the CD? How do you start out writing a song? 
Randone : The integral paternity of this stuff is mine. Only exceptions are L’Infinito and Morte di un amore. L’Infinito I’ve written in co-work with Giovanni Bulbo, Morte di un amore was realised together with my old band Grey Owl. All the tracks on the CD have been arranged by Gianni Bulbo, who, I guess, has understood better than any other person to interpret my ideas, enriching them with powerful arrangements which fit well to the actual sound landscape. 
Concerning the birth of a song – it’s the result of an uncontrollable impulse that, by the simple aid of my guitar, of a portable recorder, and of a pen and a sheet of paper, leads my hand to freed the emotions which are crummed inside me. A sort of catarsis. I pray that this force will never extinguish, even if at times I’m not able to write anything for months. I would like to have much more time at my disposal…

Hegede : What are your plans now, any tours? 
Randone : This is a difficult question. As an unsigned artist, I find too expensive to support an own live tour. Beyond it, I had to perform like a god to be able to catch the attention of a larger audience. At the moment I’m just concerned to go on in writing new songs. Sure, if someone – or something – wants to help me to become a professional musician, I could risk and try to realize my dream. But wonders don’t happen every day.

Hegede : Thank you, and good luck! 
Randone : Thank to you, Steve, for having spoken to me about my work in such a friendly way.