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Camelias Garden: You Have A Chance

Quirky though it may be, the wonderful illustration on the cover of the debut album You Have A Chance from young Rome band Camelia's Garden suggests something gentle, involved, innocent, yet oddly sinister, and so this album proves. Unobtrusively progressive in nature, this first venture from the trio of instrument swappers Valerio Smordoni, Maholo D'Antonio and Marco Avallone does an excellent job of bringing together European folk influences with the traditional prog of Genesis and Yes, while leaving a lasting flavour of Italian progressives such as Celeste. Acoustic guitar drives many of the ten tracks, giving a gentle airy vibe, however the vocal contribution from Smordoni, who not only sings lead, but most of the backing vocals, really holds the album together, with his accomplished, accent free voice being that of a true and skilled storyteller. Don't however take that to mean that he is a passion over poise raconteur in the style of say Fish or Andy Tillison. Smordoni can sing, he can whisper and he can belt it out in a style that immediately catches the ear through its melodic ease, yet holds the attention through a varying style and approach. Always staying supremely controlled and in control of its surroundings.

"The Withered Throne" almost sums this whole album up in just over seven minutes, with the restrained strumming setting the tone, Smordoni weaving his vocal magic. However add in wonderful unobtrusive keyboards, reinforcing bass and busy, but not too busy percussion and you have a song that is undoubtedly progressive while never feeling the need to shove it in your face. The wonderfully titled "We All Stand In Our Broken Jars" adds a surging electric guitar solo and cello to the mix, providing enough variation without veering uncomfortably into "quirk", a clever trick repeated throughout the album with eclectic instrumentation including harmonium, Taurus pedals, ukulele, flute, bassoon and violin. The skilled arrangements however prevent Camelia's Garden from ever slipping into being a self indulgence, or blurred vision. Instead there's an almost film score feel to the likes of "A Safe Haven", "Clumsy Grace", or "Mellow Days", alluding once again to a storytelling musical and lyrical style.

For a young Italian outfit, it has to be remarked upon that the lyrics are crafted and smooth, mixing themes of innocence lost, frailty, life limitations and freedom into coherent songs and an overall theme (not a concept) that strings the entire album together without feeling overbearing or pretentious.

Camelia's Garden have put together an album full of captivating songs which have both an immediacy and a long lasting appeal, leading you to both want to play it repeatedly on initial acquaintance, while still drawing you back for more once that first impression has become something more familiar. For those seeking poised prog that harks back to old days while still gently stretching out, you could do much worse than give You Have A Chance a chance to take up residency in your music player.

Track Listing
1. Some Stories
2. Dance Of The Sun/The Remark/Dance Of The Sun (Birth Of Light)
3. The Withered Throne
4. We All Stand In Our Broken Jars
5. A Safe haven
6. Knight's Vow
7. Clumsy Grace
8. Mellow Days
9. 'Til The Morning Came
10. Some Stories (Reprise)

Added: August 3rd 2013
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Camelias Online Garden
Hits: 2341
Language: english

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