In 2006, I reviewed an album that made me very happy! I could hardly sit still in my chair while listening. The album I refer to is A Room Of Fairy Queen’s by Italian band Narrow Pass, brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Mauro Montobbio. That album contains music with influences from several bands like Camel, Genesis, early Marillion, Iona, but traces of guitarist Steve Hackett as well. The mixture of prog rock and Celtic rock really grabbed me instantly at the throat. I really felt deeply touched by the emotional compositions and that is why I gave this masterpiece the highest rating. Therefore, this album was mine number one progressive rock album of 2006.
The same year Mauro Montobbio began to work on a follow-up album. I wrote that we could expect another masterpiece very soon. It took eventually three years before Narrow Pass released their second album. Is it again a masterpiece? At first, I thought that I was listening to A Room Of Fairy Queen’s, Part II. Many melodies and solos sounded the same as on the first release, but after a few spins in my CD-player I discovered that I was wrong. Of course, their first album left its traces in the music. The guitar solos still sound like Steve Hackett or Andy Latimer played with a lot of emotion and passion. Only this time we can enjoy more folk influences brought about by the frequent use of acoustic guitars and some splendid performances on the violin, saxophone and flute. A bit like Doracor did on their latest album Lady Roma. Mauro Montobbio practically asked the same musicians for this second album and they play their instruments in a very delicate way. ‘Never change a winning team’, Mauro must have thought. That is why we hear the fabulous voice of Alessandro Corvaglia of La Machera Di Cera again on a couple of tracks and the same applies to the fantastic voice of Valeria Caucino. On this second effort, Valeria has become a full time band member and thus she was much more involved in the writing of the new material. She has a very strong voice that often reminds me of great female singers like Annie Haslam (Renaissance) and Christina Booth (Magenta). For that reason, it is obvious that she sings on more tracks than on the debut album. In spite of that, my personal favourites on the album are the two instrumental pieces Beyond and Somewhere By The Sea/Timeless. On both tracks, Mauro proves to be a true master on keyboards and guitars. On Beyond I heard some influences of Mike Oldfield in his early days, mainly due to the use of acoustic guitars and flutes.
However, the question remains after listening to this album a few times. Is In This World And Beyond a true masterpiece or is it not? Well, although the album did not grab me at the throat right away, it does not mean that it is a weaker album. Certainly not, because all tracks have a high quality level and you can hear the musicians putting a lot of energy in it to make the album something special. Therefore, I can only judge this release with the highest rating again. Bravo Mauro and Valeria, as far as I am concerned you delivered again a masterpiece!
***** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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