Agora were a semi-obscure Italian jazz rock band of the mid 1970s, who released two albums, Live In Montreux (1975) and AgorÓ 2 (1976), and then faded away in 1978. Their work was excellent quality Italian jazz rock Ó la Perigeo, Il Baricentro, Weather Report and Return To Forever. The band got back together in 2002. During different stages of recordings - which started in June 2003 and ended in May 2013 - they succeeded to release a new album which they named Ichinen.
However, you can't really say this is a brand new album for them. Instead it's a collection of rarities from their initial period and their lost period, after their record deal was lost, as well as some current recordings. You could say that Ichinen is the synthesis of the band's previous work. Even recording of 1978 are included.
What you get are seventy minutes of acoustic versions of songs taken from their back catalogue, mixed with songs that were written more recently. It's primarily the acoustic guitars, played by Renato Gasparini and Gabriel Possenti, that are in the spotlight most of the time. Occasionally, the piano played by Giovanni Ceccarelli and the soprano sax played by Ovidio Urbani, take the lead as well. Well, that they master their instruments is something you can't argue about. It's obvious that the entire album sounds rather mellow and laidback when you perform on acoustic instruments. Most of the music is instrumental and when you hear the female voice of Alessandra Pacheco, you can hear that she uses it as yet another instrument. Music wise, you could say that they create a Mediterranean atmosphere combined with ethnic and meditative tones on this album. Full of warm melodic themes and intense improvisations. Their early jazz rock sound can be discovered every now and then as well, however everything is done more laidback than in the seventies. The more progressive rock- oriented songs are Progressive Suite and Costa Dell'est. The tempo is a little bit higher and the electric instruments are plugged in this time.
The music on Ichinen most of all was inspired by the readings of the Nichiren Buddhist principles (Monaco Buddhist founder of one of the major currents of Japanese Buddhism), that captured the confidence in "human revolution" individual as a means to create value in respect of the sacredness of life and the environment.
Ichinen is an album that highlights the unique, intense musicality and sound of a band that has been out of the limelight for much too long. On this album they created an innovative and creative landscape in the Italian progressive rock community that you don't hear every day. Their blend of Mediterranean music with jazz rock and progressive rock played in a laidback style, worked very well for me! Maybe it's your cup of tea too. So try it, if you dare!
*** Henri Strik (edited by Esther Ladiges)
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