“If, like myself, you are a child of the 80’s and loved the great classic and prog rock bands of that era or, if you just want to hear some fantastic songwriting and music, then you could, and should, listen to ‘The River – Both Sides of the Story’.”
I wrote these words about Italian virtuoso multi-instrumentalist and producer Marco De Angelis’ first album ‘The River – Both Sides of the Story’. Released in 2013, it was one of my favourite releases of that year. When I heard that he was writing new songs for the follow up I eagerly followed any updates.
Well, fast-forward to December 2017 and that sophomore album was upon us. ‘Next Station’ consists of six songs all written, arranged and performed by Marco and is enriched by the collaboration of vocal heavyweights such as Nad Sylvan ( steve Hackett Band, solo), Robbie Wyckoff (Roger Waters Band) and Göran Edman (Yngwie Malmsteen, Karmakanic), percussion is courtesy of Cristiano Micalizzi, one of the most sought after drummers in Italy.
“Crazy dreamer, that’s the way they’re used to call you, ’cause your free will fills their life with fear..
Marco cites himself as being ‘Art Rock and Progressive Rock’ but I’d have to say there’s a huge dose of Classic Rock thrown in there as well, much like his debut release. Freewill has an involving introduction, all intricately ‘proggy’ before the velvet tones of Nad Sylvan give it a definitive authority. I love the elaborate instrumental fills, guitars, drums, bass and keys all making their presence felt but it is the cultured vocal that brings this song together. It’s catchy, edgy and quite jazzy in feel, as if Marco has been widening his musical horizons in a very good way. “Believing in them would make life easier, Though far more boring, Wouldn’t it Mr Captain.”
“Change alone is eternal, Perpetual, Immortal, Taking nothing for granted, It’s the only way to live…”
It’s a pretty impressive start to the album and things just get better with the blinding and bluesy Keep Going where Marco really lets rip with his elegant guitar technique on the slow burning opening to the song, the fiery solo is dynamic and soulful. This track has the most in common with that Floyd classic/hard rock vibe but has added layers of intensity and class thanks to Nad’s superb vocal delivery. Simona Rizzi and Cristiana Polegri give added shine with their ritzy backing vocals, especially on the great chorus. This track is six minutes of classy rock music, best listened to late at night with the lights down low and a glass of vintage red wine in your hand (other alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are available), it oozes sophistication, the cultured close a fine accompaniment to the blues-filled intro.
“Sitting on a bus, here I am, Old memories in my ears, They saw me growing up, It looks like I’m home to me, here I am, Redolent streets my mind has already walked through, I almost recognize them…”
It may have a bit of an unwieldy, cliche filled title but A Proggy Night In London certainly delivers. By a country mile, the most progressive song on the album, split into five sections, it is a totally engrossing listen with Nad’s voice almost narrating events as the music meanders across your mind, an involving and ever changing soundscape. I have to say that Nad Sylvan gives one of the best (if not THE best) vocal performances I have ever heard by this great frontman, he really seems to be performing right at the top of his game and leads this track along its lengthy, nostalgic feeling journey. Marco performs all the other instrumental duties (Bar the drums) and seems to be everywhere at once, delivering guitar, chapman stick, bass and keyboards wherever they are needed. It is a musical tour-de-force as each section ends and segues perfectly into the next and it is one that you must listen to while still enjoying that glass of wine, this is music that tells engrossing stories and ones that you absolutely have to hear.
“Dream on, /dream on/, worn out heart of mine, Don’t let the darkness hide away our sun again, Wait for that glimmer of light on the horizon, Sometimes the light can be so hard to find…”
Laid back, bluesy and soulful, Back Again introduces Robbie Wyckoff to the vocal duties and his touching delivery matches the music perfectly. There’s an intimate atmosphere to this song, as if you’re sat in a small downtown bar, one of a handful of lucky people to hear such a personal performance. Marco fires off yet another incredibly impassioned guitar solo, all too brief to my ears and the soothing backing vocals from Simona and Cristiana just emphasise the intimate feel that this track engenders. The emphatic and electrifying guitar playing that helps to close out the song just makes the hairs on the back of your neck rise in utter appreciation.
“We all search for happiness, It’s what we always do, From the first breath that we take, ’till the last tear we’ll cry…”
Funky and edgy with cool, hard rock inspired riff, title track Next Station explodes onto the scene ready to take on all comers before realising it has no competition and taking a metaphorical step back to chill out with the rest of us in a funky progressive style. Robbie delivers a subtly powerful vocal performance, stylish on the verse and then forceful on the chorus, aided and abetted, once more, by Simona and Cristiana, “New day, New Life, New Pain, Next station on my road…”
Marco delves deep into his musical box of tricks to deliver a sublime instrumental section in the middle of the track and Cristiana lends her beautifully impassioned saxophone to the melting pot to add some real spirit and fervor. A wonderfully evocative smorgasbord of influences and themes is laid before you on this inventive nostalgic musical pilgrimage through Marco’s musical life to date.
“Some red wispy clouds, slipping over a light blue sky, a blazing sunset is about to be staged, A new night, a new day, A face on the wall to fly me away from here…”
Moments of near perfection like the utterly addictive and captivating guitar motif that opens Last Train are what makes music so incredibly appealing to me and why I still listen to hundreds of new albums a year to seek them out. I’m a huge fan of Göran Edman, his expansive vocal performances with Karmakanic are amazing but we hear a much more chilled and relaxed version here and it is magical, his link up with the backing vocals is sublime. The music transfixes you from one note to the next, a song that is calm, classy elegance personified, the vocals hypnotise and mesmerise and Marco’s guitar seems to have a wistful, almost intangible life of its own. What a way to close out the album!
I’l cut straight to the chase here, you’d best open that bottle of red you were saving for a special occasion as ‘Next Station’ is it. A collection of songs that are more than that, it’s a captivating and involving musical journey led by a musician at the absolute zenith of his career. I think Marco De Angelis, joined by a stellar cast of musical guests, has just delivered the performance of his life!
Released 15th December 2017