Sometimes bands have already been active quite a while before recording a debut album. This is also the case with the− to me − unknown Italian band Quanah Parker. The band started in 1981 in the city of Venice, but I guess they picked the wrong time to start a prog rock band, because back then punk and new wave ruled the music scene and progressive rock was completely out of fashion. It was obvious that no success could be expected and so they split up in 1985, but after a period of twenty years they returned to the music scene in 2005. This re-formation of the band was above all initiated by keyboardist-composer Riccardo Scivales. However, it still lasted seven years before they independently released the debut album Quanah! at the end of 2012.
They recorded their first effort with a line-up featuring Riccardo Scivales (keyboards), Elisabetta 'Betty' Montino (vocals), Giovanni Pirrotta (electric guitar), Giuseppe Di Stefano (bass) and Paolo 'Ongars' Ongaro (drums). Quanah! not only contains songs from the band's early days like No Time For Fears, Sailor Song, Quanah Parker, After The Rain, The Garden Awakes, Flight and Silly Fairy Tale, but also new compositions like Chant Of The Sea-Horse, The Limits Of The Sky, Asleep and People In Sorrow. All these pieces have been composed by Mr. Scivales. While listening to the album I noticed that they've been inspired by other musicians. The short opening piece Chant Of The Sea-Horse for instance, shows that keyboard players like Keith Emerson (ELP) and Rick Wakeman (ex-Yes) must have been influential musicians, especially as far as the classical connection is concerned.
However, a band like Camel seems a major influence as well, which can be particularly heard on No Time For Fears, Flight and Quanah Parker. The latter two titles, as well as Sailor Song, also prove that Happy The Man had inspired Riccardo Scivales. Only these bands have a male singer, while Quanah Parker has Elisabetta 'Betty' Montino, who has a wonderful voice with touches of Annie Haslam (Renaissance) and Kate Bush. However, I also heard similarities with Margriet Boomsma, lead singer of the Dutch band Flamborough Head . Montino sings the English lyrics about the same as this Dutch vocalist: both do their utmost to sing the English lyrics as good as possible. It sometimes gives me the feeling that they pronounce the English words a bit exaggerated. However, this never becomes annoying.
Although the songs have been written by a keyboard player this doesn't mean that keyboards dominate the album. Guitarist Giovanni Pirrotta gets more than enough room to shine throughout the album. It's a great pleasure to hear him play some wonderful guitar parts, but this also applies to the amazing keyboard parts by Scivales. The final track on the album is a kind of bonus. Shenn Menn has been taken from an original recording from 1984 with a line-up featuring Riccardo Scivales (keyboards), Roberto Noč (guitar, vocals), Stefano Corvia (guitar), Roberto Veronese (bass) and Giuliano Bianco (drums). On this bonus track it's evident how important the music of Camel must have been for Quanah Parker.
The twelve tracks on this CD are all of a high quality level and therefore I would like to recommend Quanah! to all devotees of progressive rock, but especially to the fans of Camel and Happy The Man. It would be wise for them to give this album a try!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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