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Cottarelli; Mario: Una Strana Commedia

Last year when I reviewed Italian multi-instrumentalist Mario Cottarelli's Prodigiosa Macchina album I began the review by commenting on what a lacklustre cover the album had, with the man himself strolling along with his cardigan draped over his shoulders. On his latest release Una Strana Commedia (which translates to A Strange Comedy) we get a picture of a rather grumpy looking cat. Thankfully, as before, the contents are decidedly more inspired than the image fronting them.

Cottarelli again handles all the instruments on this album, although keyboards is really his forte and that is proved by how strongly they dominate almost every aspect of this release. The only other area allowed to shine on occasions brighter than the keys is Cottarelli's voice, with his deep, rich Italian language vocals resonating strongly in the slight gaps left in the grandiose themes and dextrous finger work. Personally I think the vocals do add quite a lot to the music, bringing a change of focus and counterpoint to the musical themes. However for many they are going to be a love it loathe area of Cottarelli's music, especially those more adverse to non-English lyrics. Musically things are less polarising, with the mixture of bright, progressives themes being prodded and poked by some more avant-garde bursts, making for sharp, dramatic off shoots which are a welcome addition to the Cottarelli sound.

Last time round Mario constructed three long tracks which danced round central themes, however for album number two we are presented with five tracks varying in length from six to twelve minutes. This slightly more disciplined approach makes for a variance in theme and sound that offers welcome diversions and differing moods from song to song. However the biggest advance between albums is the amount of energy with which tracks such as "Bianca Scia" and the album's title track are injected. As with all albums of this ilk, where basically Cottarelli spends 75% of the time behind his keys, only appearing from time to time to sing and add guitars, a live drummer would certainly raise the sonic quality of the end results. However ignoring that, Una Strana Commedia is one of the more captivating prog keyboard albums I've heard in recent times.

Not quite the finished article, Una Strana Commedia does certainly represent a step up from its predecessor and also one which needs less devotion to get to grips with. For those with a disposition towards this style of music, Mario Cottarelli is a name that should be firmly fixed on your radar.

Track Listing
1. Una Strana Commedia
2. L'occhio Del Ciclone
3. Corto Circuito
4. Bianca Scia
5. L'orgoglio di Arlecchino

Added: October 17th 2011
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Mario Cottarelli MySpace
Hits: 1764
Language: english

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