Prolusion. RANDONE is a contemporary Italian band led by the singer, lyricist and composer Nicola Randone. I reviewed Nicola’s debut CD"Morte di Un Amore" (2002) some three years ago, and recently I received two more CDs from him: "Nuvole e di Ieri" (2003) and "Hybla Act 1"(2005). The artist’s website is abundant in various information, but doesn’t feature his or the band’s bio either. However, I’ve found that there is one more CD in the band’s discography, entitled "Ricordo" (2004). I haven’t heard this 40-minute album in its entirety, but I well remember its centerpiece, the 21-minute suite Jill, which is described within my review of "The Spaghetti Epic".
Analysis. There is a certain common ground between the first Randone album and "Nuvole e di Ieri", but the latter is more progressive, showing a solid improvement in everything: from composition to the musicians’ technical mastery. Subtitled as "Suite da un Viaggiatore", it’s a concept work, a true suite consisting of 18 parts/tracks. There are no pauses between them, and since the music is normally in a state of constant and logical development, it’s often hard to notice when the next section begins without looking at the display on the CD player. If I were about to describe the material very briefly, I would have certainly chosen the term Rock Opera. Although Nicola’s vocals aren’t really operatic, they are distinctly theatric in character, and their specific combination with the music as such paints a pretty distinctive picture of a one-singer Rock Opera, bringing to mind such titles as "Tommy" by The Who, "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" by Genesis or any concept album by King Diamond. Though of course, it’s clear that there is nothing in common between the said and implied works but a specific fairytale-like atmosphere, the resemblance arising on more of a subconscious level. As ever, Nicola has written all the music and lyrics for this album too, but it’s his band mates who’ve done most of the arrangements this time out, and their activity in this field is much more obvious here than before. Five of the eighteen sections are instrumental pieces. But while most of the others are rather abundant in vocals, there are few repeats of the previously sung themes, the instrumentalists never stopping to weave intricate patterns around vocal lines, which, incidentally, are also amazingly diverse. The suite is fully composed, revealing powerful melodic elements and refined counterpoints by virtue of four lead instruments, namely vocals, keyboards, electric and acoustic guitar. Nicola, who, apart from singing, actively plays acoustic guitar, is the main provider of the melodic component, delivering all his parts with remarkable taste and beauty. Marco Crispi is often responsible for imparting harshness to the sound, masterfully operating with his electric guitar while doing either solos or riffs. Beppo Crovella’s keyboard equipment consists exclusively of the famous vintage models: Mellotron, Moog synthesizer, Hammond organ, ARP string ensemble, etc. He is a notably inventive musician, and above all it’s thanks to him that the music has such a pronounced ’70s sense. Some part of the band’s melodic strength is rooted in Italian folk music, but overall, most of the stuff falls squarely into the category of classic symphonic Art-Rock, with the alternation of intense and quieter arrangements, contrasts between louder and delicate passages being an integral part of the overall picture. That’s how the events unfold on the five songs: Parienza, Chiaro Mattino, Regina Mary, Il Fantasma del Musicista and Risveglio, and on each of the five instrumental pieces: Preludio, La Casa Maledetta, Vonto Tra le Foglic, La Danza andNuvole e di Ieri Reprise, except the former, which was performed without the rhythm section and is quiet in its entirety. The border between the said and most of the remaining tracks is quite thin.Amsterdam, Confuso e Smarito and Un Vecchio are much in the vein of the primary style, but there also are elements of Prog-Metal, while Prima Notto, Piano il Sonno Giunge, Raccolgo un Sasso Nero andBuona Notte refer equally to symphonic Art-Rock and the Baroque Classical music, the quieter moments being filled with passages of Mellotron, string ensemble, piano and acoustic guitar. The largely instrumental La Strada is a blend of Art-Rock and Prog-Metal and is the one that is intense almost in its entirety.
Conclusion. Randone’s "Nuvole e di Ieri" is one of the most impressive works of Italian Prog I’ve heard in recent few years. Top-20-2003. This is not all, however. There is a weightier conclusion on the band’s creation in the review of their latest CD,"Hybla Act I".
VM: January 8, 2006