Album review: PHOENIX AGAIN – Look Out

Phoenix Again - Look Out

[Release date 28.02.14]

Just occasionally you come across an album that’s niche and evidently overlooked, but one that repays your undivided attention.  Then you come to the conclusion: why?  Especially as it’s lain for a little longer than necessary in my pile of “things to listen to” at the end of 2014.

Released in February 2014, ‘Look Out’ is the third album by these talented Italian instrumental prog rockers.  They’ve been around in some shape or form since the early 1980s, centred on the brothers Sergio (guitars) and Antonio Lorandi  (bass) and drummer Silvano Silva.  It’s a truly family affair: in 2011 Antonio’s sons Marco (guitars) and Giorgio (percussion) joined the band and together with keyboard player Andrea Piccinelli make up the current line-up.

It’s rare to get an almost wholly instrumental album that’s so consistent and absorbing.  The attention never wavers on tracks like the monumental opener ‘Adso Da Melk’ with its mellifluous blend of acoustic, jazz fusion and more strident prog.

If you like classic Camel and their contemporary progsters Caravan  or even Focus when in best jam mode – but with more adrenaline -  you will love this, and the album in general.  In fact six minutes in it recalls ‘Lunar Sea’ and that vibe is repeated on the title track ‘Look Out’ which also references Pink Floyd.

Part of the trick is that the band shifts from the reflective to the upbeat with consummate ease and there’s a really nice blend of instrumentation and atmosphere.  And even those classic mellotron keyboard textures are included to satisfy the seventies die-hards.

‘Oigres’ is a fabulous blend of fusion and rock whilst ‘Summer’ is essentially a pastoral piece led by keyboards and topped with complementary guitar.  On the frenetic ‘The Endless Battle’ there is a hint of Yes and ‘Heart Of The Sunrise’.  Even the one vocal track ‘Invisible Shame’ – with its sub-Neal Morse vibe – is perhaps surprisingly acceptable.

The highlight for me is the straight-ahead ‘Winter’, a nine-minute tour-de-force and possibly the best introduction to the whole album.  It’s an almost perfect blend of synth, organ and rock guitar interplay driven by a superb rhythm section.

All this shouldn’t really surprise us: Italy has a wonderful prog tradition (PFM, Banco, Le Orme et al) and Phoenix Again is really the latest manifestation of musical creativity under a cheery Mediterranean sun.  Wonderfully played and executed, and woefully under the radar.  Give yourself a real tonic and seek out this album.  *****

Review by David Randall

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