Alessandro Farinella -
Road to Damascus

(CD 2012, 46:14, MaRaCash Records MRC 028)

The tracks:
  1- The Battle(5:53)
  2- The Brave(13:57)
  3- Road To Damascus(8:17)
  4- Natural(6:19)
  5- Valley Of Tears(6:18)
  6- Euridice(5:19)

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Alessandro Farinella first appeared on the scene in 1987 as a founding member of an Italian group initially called Brainstorm, later known as Theatre. This is his second solo effort; he's joined by drummer Roberto Gualdi (PFM), guitarist Guido Mock and bassist Pietro Foi. Together they embark on a journey with medieval ambitions.

It took me a while to warm up to this album and I had difficulty putting a finger on what the reason might be. Somewhere around the tenth (!) listen after a several week period of it sitting quietly on the shelf − so I might gain a fresh perspective - the track Natural finally brought a greater understanding for me. This piece is wonderful in so many ways. It's melodic, full, almost glorious to hear, but it's the vocal work that made the difference. If you close your eyes and let the music flow, it really could be Peter Gabriel at the helm of Genesis during Selling England By The Pound (1973). This piece is right from start to end and if there were more pieces of this caliber, the final rating would be quite high. So I returned to the earlier pieces over and over, and though they have good points, the vocals here are indeed the primary reason why I've been unable to warm up further despite numerous listens over several months.

The first piece really involving the vocals is The Brave. Musically it reminds me at times of Salem Hill or Glass Hammer, so no problems there, but the vocals are very poorly delivered and the lack of emotion in them takes away from the beautifully crafted guitar lines. With Road To Damascus I hear exactly the same problems. First track The Battle is probably the most difficult for me. I understand why the sound effects are included at the beginning of the song, but somehow it's a tired and clichéd approach. I feel that the song would have been better without them at all. More importantly I hear phrasing choices between the guitar and keyboards that have some harsh, though admittedly brief, dissonance and while I adore well-placed dissonance, here it simply sounds like someone who has played wrong notes. I know there are no such things as 'wrong' notes technically, but when a song is presented in a specific style it's better served by avoiding out of character combinations to extremes. This should have been addressed during the final mix down at the least.

Valley Of Tears starts with an attention grabbing multi-layered harmony vocal passage. It quickly returns to the same issues that didn't work for me earlier. The sixth track Euridice is track three is track two. Though I very much want to praise this album, the overall mix leaves me flat. It sounds very much like they simply ran out of time and stopped short of beginning the mastering process. For certain I wouldn't have released it this way; it's too close to being very good for this to happen. Such small details stand between lackluster mediocrity and inspiration. I'm going to be generous and round this up from two and a half stars to three because there are some great moments here and one really good song. I'm inclined to think that it will grow on me further so maybe from time to time I'll give it a spin, but for anyone who's a fan of the teaming hordes of neo-prog Genesis & Marillion imitators there's much to offer here.

*** Thomas Rhymer (edited by Peter Willemsen)

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