Camelias Garden are a rather new progressive rock band from Rome, Italy. The music on their debut album You Have A Chance was originally planned for a solo project of singer and multi-instrumentalist Valerio Smordoni (lead and backing vocals, MiniMoog, keyboards, piano, harmonium, acoustic guitar, tambourine, Taurus bass pedal). However, he found some excellent musicians to start a band and to record an album with. These musicians are Manolo D'Antonio (acoustic, twelve-string, electric and classical guitar, ukulele, backing vocals) and Marco Avallone (bass, bass synthesizer, Taurus bass pedal, percussion).
I'm glad he found these musicians because You Have A Chance contains some excellent compositions. With the help of Francesco Favilli (drums, percussion), Carlo Enrico Macalli (flute), Andrea Bergamelli (cello), Eliseo Smordoni (bassoon) and Giovanni Vigliar (violin) Camelias Garden created a very professional album that will be loved by people who enjoy a blend of folk rock, retro rock and neo-progressive rock. While listening to the ten tracks you'll certainly hear that some well-known prog bands must have inspired them. Throughout the album influences of Genesis come to the surface mainly due to the use of many Mellotron samples. Also the way Valerio Smordoni plays the acoustic piano displays his admiration for Tony Banks. Listen for instance to A Safe Haven and it's hard to disagree, although Mellow Days undoubtedly comes closest to the real Genesis sound. In a way this piece sounds like The Cinema Show from Selling England By The Pound (1973).
Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM), the godfathers of Italian progressive rock, came to mind as well. It's mainly the frequent use of the MiniMoog that made me think of PFM, but also the acoustic guitar, the flute, the cello and the violin often shift the music toward their sound of the seventies. The best example showing those PFM trademarks is Dance Of The Sun. However, because of the English singing without an accent the sound of the band goes in the direction of American acts like Glass Hammer or IZZ as well, but I wonder if the members of Camelias Garden know these bands.
In my opinion this new Italian band so far recorded one of the strongest debut albums of 2013. It will certainly be loved by all fans of Genesis and PFM, but also people who are into prog rock and not familiar with the above-mentioned names should check this one out. The music of Camelias Garden deserves it to be heard!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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