I have a confession to make...The very first time I heard about Stefano Panunzi and his second release A Rose, was after reading a review of it in the iO Pages magazine. Apparently,† the reviewer in question really liked the album, as it got the highest score. So, I searched out Panunziís website and MySpace page and listened to some samples, and I must admit, the songs I heard were beautiful. So I got in touch with him and via the Background Magazine editor, I got hold of the album.
Now I could hear for myself if all the excitement was worth it. But, for those like me, who have no idea who Stefano Panunzi is, a short background: Panunzi is a keyboard player with a strong background in film music. With Fjieri they released an excellent album, Endless. From what I gather from his MySpace page, he has a strong liking/connection with Japan, as he has worked with Richard Barbieri and Mick Karn. Panunziís debut album Timeless received many good reviews and is heavily promoted on a David Sylvian fansite.
This link with Japan is found also on A Rose, as Mick Karn is listed as guest musician. Mind you, Panunzi has a list of guests on his album that can compete with almost any Ayreon album. No less than 21 people are listed, excluding Mr. Panunzi himself. Next to Karn, I also note Tim Bowness (No-Man) and Theo Travis. The rest of the musicians and singers are not known to me.
Now how to describe the music on the album...itís not typical prog. Think more in the vein of No-Man, very ambient, sometimes a bit poppy even and very atmospheric-maybe even some touches of Enigma. † A Rose is a great album to relax with. Let the stress of the world go away and fill your mind with the soothing tunes of Stefano Panunzi. Trust me, it works! Listen to the beautiful trumpet by Mike Applebaum in Unreality and just close your eyes...
This album is a nice change from all the obligatory prog epics and complex songs, with the 10 tracks of the album all varying between 4 and 6 minutes. Despite the many different musicians and singers, the album sounds coherent and despite itís relaxing effects, it keeps my attention.† But beware, Panunzi will not just let you nod off to dreamland by listening to his album..Oh no. With Where Is My Soul, he gives a little jolt and brings you back to reality. Yes, in the person of Markus Reuter, we get some more rock. This is more in the line of prog rock. This is the only less mellow song on the album and after this one, we can doze off again, albeit a little less, as the tone has changed a bit. The rock still remains a bit, just below the surface of the songs. The album ends on a high note with Light And Shades, a very nice instrumental. After that itís either hit play again, to keep dozing or back to reality.
SoÖhow do I feel about the album, after having listened to it quite a bit? As you can tell by my score, I am not as enthusiastic as my iO Pages colleague. Yes, I really like the album and enjoy listening to it. It gives me the same feeling as listening to No-Man: beautiful, but after a while a bit boring and then I need something more epic or complex. But once in a while I will revisit† A Rose, to calm down and get rid of the stress of todayís life.
***+† Marcel Haster (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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