Luigi Milanese – Closer to Heaven

Luigi Milanese is an Italian guitarist, who just released a new album Closer to Heaven via Black Widow records in Italy. For this album, we did something I have never done before – I reviewed it track by track while discussing it on Facebook Messenger with Luigi himself.

The opening track, Never I Did, is a very melodic, almost acoustic track, with vocals by Claudia Sanguineti. Accompanied by acoustic and electric guitar, piano (Luca Lamari) and cello (Marila Zingarelli), she sings in an enchanting, almost melancholic voice. As I wrote during our chat session ‘this could play all evening – lights low, bottle of wine, brilliant.closertoheaven

This is followed by Riot House, for which Luigi told me to ‘Turn up the volume!’. A blues rock track, which reminds somewhat of ZZ Top‘s ‘Legs‘, played by the power trio of guitar, bass and drums, and fully instrumental. A big contrast to the first track, but no worse for it. The rumbling bass of Bob Callero, the pounding drums of Frederico Lagomarsino and the speedy guitar work of Luigi combine really well.

On All the Thing I Never Said, we’re back to cello, piano and acoustic guitar, this time with Claudio only singing note without lyrics, before leaving the stage for the flute of John Hackett, who starts in a South American fashion but moves on to other things quickly. Andriano Mondini adds a nice lower end with the oboe as well.The dreamy mid section almost lulls the listener into a trance when suddenly electric guitar riffs change the mood, a nice twist into the second half of the song – with great bass work once again. [acfw id=2]

Acoustic guitar in a slightly higher tempo, in a slightly rock ballad like way opens As a Chill in the Golden Night, on which Claudia Sanguineti once again takes care of the vocals. With a slightly bluesy edge to the guitar, this could have been inspired by the acoustic tracks from the end of the 60s (think Janice Joplin transferred to 2016).

Aurora has a similar structure as All the Things I never Said, starting acoustic and ending electric, with a lead role for John Hackett’s flute once again, but it has a different sound to it. The cello has a bigger role on this one than on All the things I never Said, and the transfer to electric is less abrupt – it actually comes in quite nicely, by means of an electric piano (Luca Lamari again) and some long, slighlty distorted long guitar chords. This combination gives the track a nice jazz rock feel. I think I can understand why this is Luigi’s own favourite track on the album.

Acoustic rules is a short track that featurs as a show case for Luigi’s acoustic guitar playing abilities. Starting with a melodic part, it moves on to powerful strumming, accompanied near the end by a little bit of drums (played with bare hands by Frederico Lagomarsino).

Visions from the Well Part I starts with what sounds like the end of a symphony played by an orchestra, followed by applause of an audience, and moving on to acoustic guitar and cello. With an e-bow added to Luigi’s electric guitar this track is quite a surprise after what came before, a haunting mix of acoustic guitar and cello, painting a vision of a dream.

Internal Dynamics is a wonderful fusion track, mixing classical elements with a lead role for John Hackett’s flute and Luigi’s electric and acoustic guitar – exchanging melodies. Each instrument contributes it’s own part here though, with drums and bass being unmissable.

Visions from the Well Part 2 is proof that Luigi Milanese studied music. Cello, guitar, piano and bass all play their own melodies, but it all fits together like magic, pity it only lasts for 95 seconds.

Epilogue, which closes the album, once again features acoustic guitar, accompanied by flute and keys to lay down how Luigi feels about music. Less than one and a half minute long, but a fitting end.

This is an album that is impossible to pigeon hole – it’s not rock, not jazz, not fusion, not psychedelic, but it has elements of all. If you are looking for something that is somewhat unpredictable, without becoming overly experimental – or just a nice piece of music crafted with love, this one is definitel recommended.

Alvin’s CM album announced!

Today, we have a special announcement from Angelo’s Rock Orphanage. In cooperation with Nick Katona, I will start distributing new European releases by a limited set of new prog acts, names to be announced over the coming weeks.


First release will be Alvin’s CM, the solo debut album of graphics artist and vocalist Sonia Mota. On this album, she will show that besides drawing and band marketing, she is also a skilled soprano singer. The album will contain 1-4 tracks, and it will feature a set of known musicians from the Melodic Revolution Catalog:

  • Guitars: Colin Tench and Peter Matuchniak
  • Drums: Alan Smith, Robert Wolff
  • Bass: Petri Lemmy Lindstrom
  • Fretless bass: Angelo Hulshout
  • Keyboards: Pasi Koivu
  • Backing vocals: Andy John Bradford, Lorelei McBroom and Kristoffer Gildenlöw

The album will be released in november 2016, and all the artwork will of course be done by Sonia herself.

N.B. Please note the date of this post 😉 – AH 5/4/16

Kristoffer Gildenlöw – The Rain

When I interviewed Kristoffer Gildenlöw last year, he told me that his debut album Rust was inspired by a dark period in his life. A period that he needed to come to terms with. His next album, the one I’m listening to for the umpteenth now, would be less dark he expected. To some extend he was right, but The Rain is far from party music. The concept album tells the story of a man fighting his oncoming dementia, giving in only shortly before dying. A theme that is all to common, in a world where we are still dealing with Alzheimer. From that perspective, giving some tracks of the album their first airplay during Rock against Dementia on March 19th of this year was a logical thing to do.therain

After the sounds of rain, the first violin notes of After the Rain Part II (Part I is on the 200 copies limited edition bonus EP) make clear that this album is full of emotion and melancholy. Kristoffer’s voice carries the melancholy, which is joined by Paul Coenradie’s equally emotional guitar to set the stage for the rest of the album.

On Holding On Pt. I  Kristoffers voice is joined by that of violinist Anne Bakker, resulting in a  duet full of questions and despair. The effect of the vocals, and the use of vocals as another instrument becomes even stronger on Seeking The Sun  Pt. I, where a complete choir (Popkoor Zuilen) joins in with the other two voices to create an intricate and touching layering of melodies. This matches perfectly with the piano and guitar melodies in the instrumental The Sun Pt II.  [acfw id=2]

The short piano (Fredrik Hermansson) and male vocal piece Worthy found me staring out the window into the dark of the night, ‘waking up’ to the slightly faster violin (and cello?) of Holding On Pt II. This leads up to the slow See it All, which starts with dark drums and then a piano to accompany Kristoffer’s low voice, again joined by the choir – putting down the emotions of the dementing man wanting to see it all once more. The cello (Maaike Peters) and violin on Peripheral Memory, accompanied by a low guitar riff and almost haunting drums (by Gazpacho‘s Lars Erik Asp) lead to the soft, slow Breath In, Breath Out. Here, the man gives in, knowing the end is near. The piano and Kristoffer’s voice give me shivers, reminding me of family members who died, no longrer aware of who they themselves and those around them were.

With The Evening, which starts small and ends big, and the acoustic It was me, the album works it’s way into the haunting Drizzle. This song starts with a very low voice (Norman Ebecilio) and the sound of chains and cart wheels and develops into something that is not a blues but certainly has the feel of one. A very dark one that ends in the sound of rain.

The complicated melody of the instrumental second half of She is one of the highlights of the album for me – with a lead role for the alt violin. After this, three short tracks All for You, and The Funeral Pt I and II remain, reflecting the sad ending to a sad story – with the piano and the sound of rain and distant church bells ending the album.

An intricate composition, where lyrics, vocals melodies and instruments work together as an orchestra to convey a story. Production of the album is crystal clear, making all the  layers of the music shine through. Highly recommended, but requires attentive listening.

This review is dedicated to my uncle Josef (Sjef) Hulshout, who is going through the final stages of his earthly life – no longer aware of who he has been and how he has lived.

The Tea Club – Grappling

One of the bands for which I reviewed every album, maybe the only one. That’s The Tea ClubNot because they sent me a complimentary review copy of every album, but also because I like their music. It’s not what I play most, but every time I play it, I hear something that catches me. With their 2015 release Grappling that’s no different. grappling

The intro of The Magnet immediately grabs my attention, although I have no idea why exactly. It just works. Maybe it’s the combination of guitar and keyboard melodies, or the vocals of the McGowan brothers, Dan and Patrick, no idea really. With Remember Where You Were (a song which’ title reminds me every time of where I was when I heard David Bowie died earlier this year), that only continues. The emotion in the vocals combined with the organ in the background are ear candy. [acfw id=2]

The darker and gloomier Dr. Abraham contains interesting musical moves, as does The Fox In a Hole, which at first hearing seemed to start with a violin. In earlier reviews of The Tea Club albums, I referred to their nice blend of influences, which never becomes a copy of what other bands do. On The Fox in a Hole, it’s the first time I was under the impression I was listening to an old, unreleased Genesis track, with a little bit of Caravan mixed in. Still, it’s a unique thing, not a copy attempt, and still very welcome in the midst of all the 70s clones of the past few years. The same can be said about The White Book, the closign track of the album. No copies, just influences.

Now I skipped quickly Wasp in a Wig, in order to make it into the closing paragraph of this album review. This track is a bit guitar heavier than the rest and giving a bit more foreground to the bass. It starts slow, almost melancholic in the vocal sound, but moves on to a dual vocal, very varied track. It changes and comes back, without loosing coherence, and is very much my favourite on this album. An album that shows that even after 8 years, the quality and musicianship of The Tea Club is still on the same great level. Highly recommended.

Unified Past – Shifting the Equilibrium

On the day that guitarist and keyboardist Stephen Speelman asked us whether it is true he looked like Yanni in the 90’s, it’s time for me to fill ina promise: the promise to review the latest album of his band  Unified Past. The band I had heard about long ago, but I never really listened to their music until this album came out. Mainly due to the fact that they are classified as progressive metal, and I’ve not been interested in metal for a number of years. That changes every couple of years, and so also now.

Unified Past - Shifting the Equilibrium - cover-art by Ed Unitsky

Unified Past – Shifting the Equilibrium – cover-art by Ed Unitsky

On this album, Speelman is accompanied by bass player Dave Mickelson, who’s rattling strings might have been a bit more up front in the mix, drummer Victor Tassone  and vocalist Phil Naro. The latter two I also know from projects like Andy John Bradford’s Ocean’s 5 and Corvus Stone, which are musically quite different from Unified Past.[acfw id=2]

The music of Unified Past certainly isn’t the kind of sky rocketing freak metal as we find for example on the albums of bands like Dream Theater in the last 10-15 years. Instead it’s more a mix of 90’s and 00’s metal, with the keyboards and guitar tunes playing an important role – making it all quite nicely bombastic at times.

Instrumentally, the band is as capable as vocal chameleon Phil Naro is on vocals (check his other projects and random Youtube videos to see what I mean), and as tight as 1980s hardrock skinnies. I haven’t tried to count, but I doubt there is a lot of 4/4 beat going on on this album, tempos change every time, and it’s hard to spot mistakes.

My favourite track is impossible to identify, every track on the album has its own strengths. I love the keyboards on Smile, despite not being a big keyboard fan, and the vocals on Edged In Stone give me goose bumps. Peace Remains in this World could’ve been a hard rock classic from the 80s yet doesn’t sound dated at all, and Deviation from a Theme is a wonderfully built up instrumental – this time not going from small to big, but rather the other way round – with a shiver inducing guitar solo near the end.

The only issue I may have with the album is that the sound is quite dense, a little more dynamics would’ve been nice – even if this is classified as metal (the dynamic range meter gave a level of 6 as explanation)

Definitely recommended – and rock enough to also appeal to those who are not into full on metal.

My radio show got a special mention in a Murky Red review…

My radio show Angelo’s Rock Orphanage got a special mention in a Murky Red review by Memowakeman on

“I first knew about Murky Red thanks to Colin Tench, a wonderful man who I’ve been in contact with for some time, who talked me about this Belgian band and project in which he is also involved. Later, listening to Angelo’s (our PA’s Angelo) radio show I listened for the first time to a Murky Red’s song, and later in the chat, I met Stef and Yolanda flaming, both musicians who are part of this band and who kindly shared to me their music. Now with this brief introduction, I would like to dedicate the review to these four great people.” ~ Memowakeman (Guillermo), Progarchives Special Collaborator

David Bowie – Blackstar

When I ordered David Bowie’s Blackstar at the end of 2015, I was excited – looking forward to reviewing the album, as my first review of 2016. I was never a big fan of Bowie, until just over a year ago, and it was magical to discover his first 14 albums while getting the announcements of a new album that was ‘going to be different than anything he’d done before’. The video for the title track, and the audio track for Lazarus, which only got video added the day before the album was released, certainly showed that Bowie was up to something very new. Electronic music, with a jazzy, avant garde feel to it, and weird images of a blind folded Bowie in the video – indeed things he had never done before.


After getting to hear his 80s work, which I didn’t like at all at the time, and discovering his 60s and 70s releases 30 years later, I can only confirm the obvious: Bowie was a chameleon, and very eclectic artist. Writing in past tense here, only a week after the release of Blackstar gives me the shivers. I’ve never been witness to something as unexpected as Bowie’s death, two days after releasing this magical album. Magical, and obviously created by a man who was aware of what was going to happen, but not ready to stop exploiting his own brilliant creativity.

With a lot of things in the world going bad, a lot of discussion was happening about the meaning of Blackstar, when the video was first released. Was it about IS, or about aliens, or something else? Either way, it is dark, electronic track, opening with haunting, twisted vocals in the first part, and a sound that is almost threatening. The switch to a more ‘classical’ Bowie vocal half way for a few minutes is just fitting, as well as the bit of saxophone at the end. Title track, and opening track to a short musical journey.

‘Tis A Pity She Was a Whore, also released as a single earlier is more upbeat, and has the saxophone sound in it from the beginning. With a title like this, it’s pretty clear that despite his distinguished looks off late, Bowie was never part of the politically correct establishment – always a rebel. This track is good old Bowie on moderne electronic jazz with a beat, and with his typical knack for lyrics. The almost out of tune sax work is ear catching once again.

On par in terms of darkness and thread with Blackstar, is Lazarus. A slow track that opens with sax, keys and a characteristic bass line. As became clear in the past week, this track was a farewell message from David Bowie to his listeners. Slow, musical and with Bowie’s emotional vocals, it gets the message across. His life, his ambitions, his goodby – packed again in typical Bowie lyrical style:

“This way or no way
You know, I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Now ain’t that just like me”

The dark, haunting beat with occasional riffs at the end, with no vocals, makes the listener feel the gap of Bowie being gone.

The opening riff of Sue (Or in a Season of Crime) which follows is a little more rocky, but is soon followed again by the electronic jazz sounds of Donny McLaslin’s quartet, a band selected and hired by Bowie for this album. Slow and dark, with an almost danceable pulse, the music carries Bowie’s vocal. Singing about a Sue, who has disappeared – without ever getting it clear whether she died or went to another man.


After the closing notes of Sue, Bowie comes in singing something that sounds like a hysterical children’s rhyme at first, as a slow beat kicks in. This is Girl Loves Me, which has an almost industrial feel to the music, also due to the vocal effects. After January 10th, the repeating closing line ‘Where the fuck did Monday go’ is burned in my brain.

Dollar Days is a song that could’ve fit on one of his 70s albums, it has a great feel to it and features a wonderful saxophone solo by Donny McCaslin. Lyrically, it covers everything gone wrong in the world, if one is prepared to ‘listen through the lines’.

The follower I Can’t Give Everything Away is possibly another hint at what was going to happen, Bowie singing about something being wrong and not being able to say more. Initially, the music very brielfy hints Tonight, due to the beat, but the saxophone and guitar change it back to fit with the style of the rest of the album. A mesmerising, hypnotic track to close a great album.

David Bowie was a very special artist. He changed styles more often than some people change underwear you could say, and most of it worked. Some artists go on and burn out, a lot go on for too long. Bowie never stopped, just started taking his time, and following time. This time, he managed to show how music can still progress, by mixing electronics, jazz, hip-hop and a hint of his own 70s work. If an artist has to go out on a  high, delivering a master piece, David Bowie has shown how to do it here. May he rest in peace and be with us forever.

Dedicated to the memory of David Bowie, a great artist. With a special thank you to my good friend Sonia Mota, possibly his biggest fan ever, for introducing me to his early works, 30 years late.

How Major Tom dealt with copyright floating around his tin can

Copyright on music is an issue, as we all know. Of course, in the first place, copyright was invented to protect the original author of a work, e.g. a writer, a painter or a musician. Without that, the original author would probably loose a significant potential income. Over time, this has proven not to work exactly as intended, with copyrights being transferred to record companies and book publishers at virtually no cost to them. Just think of the The Beatles‘ rights being owned by first ATV, then Michael Jackson and now Jackson’s heirs. The ‘virtually nothing’ part is probably not exactly right in Jackson’s case, but it is in ATV’s. Just imagine Paul McCartney having to pay royalties to the Jackson family every time he wants to perform a track by The Beatles…

However, I didn’t start this post to debate whether or not this way of buying and selling copyrights is good or bad. In the end, writing and composing has a business component to it, and it’s up to the author or composer to protect his own rights or give up on them.

What really triggered me into writing this post was a beautiful Youtube video by Canadian astronaut Chris Hatfield. He was in space in 2013, as part of the ISS crew, and recorded his own version of David Bowies Space Oddity. Smart as he is, he didn’t just do this impulsively while in space – he actually prepared it very well. He worked with lawyers and with David Bowies publishers to get permission for not only recording the video (which has nothing to do with copyright), but also to have it published to the general public.

That wasn’t only smart, but also very necessary, given that laws in space aren’t exactly simple. The ISS, the International Space Station, is owned by NASA and the European, Russian, Japanese and Canadian space agencies. Different modules of the station are owned by these organisations, and in each of these, the laws of the owning country (or European law in case of the European part) apply. That was originally done to protect the Intellectual Property rights of the participating countries (a form of copyright (!) on the works of scientists). On top of that, broadcasting the video (via Youtube) in different countries makes the video subject to copyright and publication laws in the countries where it can be viewed. That, and the way different copyright owners look onto this subject, is the reason Youtube has been pulling videos off the net over the past couple of years – or subjected them to being accompanied by advertisements to pay for the copyright fees.

So, Hatfield did a good job preparing this, and he obtained the rights to publish the video on Youtube for one year and consciously removed it himself when that year was over. Meanwhile, the video had gotten over 20 million views, which led Hatfield and his son to pursue prolongation of the video. Successfully, so that 6 months later, just over a year ago, the video reappeared on Youtube for us all to enjoy another two years. A video David Bowie himself described as “possibly the most poignant version of the song ever created.” Major Tom went to space, but his name was Chris, and he came back with an awesome video that should stay around for much longer than three years.



Il Ballo Delle Castagne – Live Studio

The Austrian (and according to some Italian) band Il Ballo Delle Castagne is the brain child of singer Vinz Aquarian and guitars/keyboard player Marco Gargegnani. They founded the band in 2007 and released four studio albums since then. The album under review here, Live Studio, is the fifth, and was recorded live (in band setting) in the Nadir studio in Genua, Italy. [acfw id=2]


Il Ballo Delle Cassagne is considered part of the Rock Progressivo Italiano (RPI) movement within progressive rock, but is more fittingly described as Dark Italian Prog. Unlike most RPI bands, they don’t copy the sound of the progressive rock acts that Italy brougth forth in the 1970s (PFM, Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, Le Orme, Museo Rosenbach), but rather create their own mix of styles. As a result, this album contains a mix of Italian prog, krautrock, space rock and even a little bit of jazz influences, creating a foundation for the dark, mysterious vocals of Vinz Aquarias and guest vocalist Marina Larcher. Her chants add a druidic feel to some of the tracks, lie Tema di Gilgamesh and Il Viaggio.

Musically, the album is varied, with a solid rhythm section (Diego Ranchero does seem to have some jazz background in his playing, just listen to Il Trema), space rock like guitars and enough from for some good old fashioned organ playing.

The album, which is released as a limited edition CD (108 hand numbered copies and a few also hand marked promo copies) contains three covers of the band’s own idols. The most interesting one for me was their rendition of Appearance of the Voice by Eloy. The track’s lyrics were replaced by Italian lyrics, and Vinz really shines on this one. Next to this, the covers are Areknames by Italian Franco Battioto and Fire in the Sky, by Ya Ho Wa 13. Both bands I don’t know, but the way Il Ballo Delle Cassagne  plays their works makes that they are now added to my list of acts to check out further, together with Il Ballo themselves.

The darkness of the bands sound may not be something one wants to hear on a daily basis, but at the right time and in the right place this is certainly worth listening – and listening attentively as well. Recommended!



IZZ – Everlasting Instant

IZZ have been around since the 90s, and were founded by American brothers  Tom (keyboards, vocals) and John (bass, guitar, keyboards, vocals) Galgano. Over time, the band became known for incorporating different styles into their music, and for combining four vocals: the two brothers, and female vocalists Laura Meade and Anmarie Byrnes). They’ve been getting more attention since their fourth album My River Flows (2005), and released their seventh, Everlasting Instant in 2015. [acfw id=2]


For me, this album was the first I heard of IZZ, another band I had heard about but never got around to listening until this year. I got hooked quite quickly, exactly because of the aforementioned characteristics. The mix of styles means that every track is different in nature, but still fits what is apparently the IZZ sound, and the vocal arrangements are often simply mesmerising.

The opening track Own the Mystery, has such an nice vocal arrangement in its ‘choruses’, that makes for a nice addition to a soft, almost pop piano and keyboard based track. The change to Every Minute is surprising. This is  a short instrumental which introduces the bass of John Galgano, which proves to be a constant factor throughout the album – a bass that is not there for support, but to drive the music and provide it’s own melodies and riffs.

Riffs like the one Start Again, which is interleaved with very melodic vocal parts. The interleaving builds into a question answer pattern, with male vocals on the bass driven parts, and female vocals answering in the quieter more melodic sections. The second half of the track has more power and the male vocals become Sting like, but more powerful… Guitarist Paul Bremner seems to play two guitars over each other on the instrumental too.

The more jazzy If It’s True has yet again a very clear bass line, crisp bass line, with guitar and keyboard melodies moving in and out – supporting the female vocals. The synth noises at the transition from verse to chorus give it a slightly more experimental feel, and the short instrumental mid section briefly rocks before going back to the beginning.

And so it continues, with new elements in every song. The Three Seers starts with a mysterious piano and male vocal part. The first half of the song is like a 21st century minstrel telling a story accompanied by piano, while the darker, keyboard heavy second part is more desperate, and emotional.

The title track has an electronic beat, which is answered by a counter melody from a female voice, singing an almost Celtic piece. It develops from there into  more folk rock like track, then to keyboard and organ driven symphonic rock, going back to the Celtic feel in the end. If not proven already, this track shows how IZZ use vocals not just as a carrier for lyrics, but really as an additional instrument.

Keep Away is best described as ‘contemporary jazz rock’, with a ‘jumpy’ bass line, which both contrasts and supports the slow melancholic vocals, keyboards and guitar. When a second female vocal joins half way, goose bumps are guaranteed.

The two most complex tracks on the album Can’t Feel the Earth Part IV and Sincerest Life sandwich the more accessible, Illuminata. Where that track starts with a happy, thoughtless feel, brought on by an acoustic guitar and then developers into a slow neo prog track, the other two are less clearly defined. Can’t Feel the Earth starts with bass and percussion, but builds in a few steps into a 70s symphonic rock track, with a big organ and guitar sound, and a very present bass. And of course, with a great goal arrangement again.

Hardest to get into is Sincerest Life, which goes from piano piece to a wailing guitar and keyboard lead, then to a more jazzy mood, then to a shuffled rock rhythm and an intricate vocal arrangement again. Here, even more than on the rest of the album, the off the trodden path drum work also helps confusing attentive the listener.

After all this, the mellow rock track Like A Straight Line, which has a nice layering of melodies and is almost completely instrumental is a fitting end.

As I like an album more, my reviews tend to get longer, and this one is no exception. The only words missing are ‘highly recommended’, although given what others old me, the three albums preceding this one may even be slightly better.