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11 Mar 2017

Alan Sorrenti "Aria" 1972 Italy Prog Folk Rock










Alan Sorrenti  "Aria" 1972 Italy Prog Folk Rock
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Aria is justly considered as a hell of an album by many italian prog lovers. It is the debut work of this peculiar artist who started as a pure prog singer-songwriter and, just after three records, completely changed his musical behaviour becoming a disco-music hero! Yes, it’s crazy and unusual. Almost a sacrilege… 
Aria is also the splendid long epic that fills the whole first side and is an astonishing piece of art of over 19,40 minutes! Very hard to get into for its complex vocals intrigue and probably it cannot be everyone’s cup of tea. He was also compared as the one who eat a mellotron. So strange appeared to the audience his adventurous experimental way of singing and buildind such a - mainly - acoustic opus. Mellotron (his voice apart), hammond and synth harp are here, but never loudly, never shadowing vocals and acoustic intruments. Alan Sorrenti is also compared to Tim Buckley for the extended vocal harmonies. 

I use to listen to this album very often ‘cause it part dark and sinister, part melodic, warm and melancholic. Still hard though but I tell you this: a pleasant experience enriched by the wonderful contribution of JEAN LUC PONTY on violin in the self titled epic. A memorable performance! 

Lyrics are also excellent and poetic, in my humble opinion with dreamy and fantastic imaginery of love, lost and (almost) unreachable. 

Second side feature four shorter tunes still of high standard of quality as for the soft and gentle “Vorrei Incontarti” (5,00 minutes). His most melancholic contribution to the world. Fantastic! A simpler tune, but intimate, polite and relaxing as few really are. The other tracks are worth istenings, but, hey, not for mainstream prog lovers… 

I fear this album. It is great and terrible listening art the very same time. Anguishing!…… by Andrea Cortese …………… 
In a strange decision, yesterday i was having a look to the Alan Sorrenti´s page here in PA, the fact is that i had also the idea of reviewing Aria, though i first had a look to the single that comes from this studio album, which features 2 songs and decided to review it first, that single contains the second and fourth songs of Aria, maybe i found it easy or i dont know but in order to have the same thoughts written, i will stole from my own review what i wrote about those songs and put it here, hope that doesn´t bother you. 

Alan Sorrenti, luckily, could left an album that is memorable to Italian progheads and non-Italian ones who know Aria, i said luckily because this was actually the only album of hims who had a recognized success due to its uniqueness, sadly, after the release of this album he could not reach the same level with the other ones, and his music became pop and not so good, anyway what this magnific album offers is a mix of avant-gardism oriented passages with folk tones and even some experimental jazz moments, those things is what makes this album different, special, unique, i wish he was followed the same pattern in order to create other albums like this, but anyway, sometimes we can get enough with only one album, why should we want more. 

This album has 4 songs, the first one is by far the best and most ambitious composition which lasts almost 20 minutes!, this song alone is really a worth listening, believe me, it starts with a very melodic sound but something strange happens that since the first minutes it caughts my total attention and shows that is not the classic RPI album, it is different, very experimental and avant-garde to be from 1972, when probably Italian prog scene was having glorious moments, the voice of Sorrenti is also unique and awesome, he has his own style which is not easy to dig, trhoughout this long song we will find some calm and melodic passages, others which shows his vocals with a more chaotic feeling, also we can listen to a nice variety of instruments such as violin or mellotron (besides guitars ,drums, bass etc, you know), some dramatic changes in the song with a dark atmosphere provoked by his vocals and the texture of the music. Overall a unique and magnific song, you will be amazed. 

The second song is the first one who appears in the single “Vorrei Incontrati” with almost 5 minutes of lenght is a beautiful song, very pastoral with a delicate and beautiful voice as well, also as i am a lover of Italian language, then i enjoy more this kind of songs, the pronunciation for me is beautiful, the song has a lovely acoustic guitar and a very relaxing mood, we can listen to accordeon there. 

Then “La Mia Mente” is another great song, with again acoustic guitar and his voice making some noises here and there, it also has a very progressive flavour due to its piano sound and the bass notes, it has a very jazzy style when piano and trumpet sound each one in his own but that is what i like of this style, not in the same channel but at the same time together, another good song here. 

And the last is “Un Fiume Tranquilo” this time we can hear a more intense song starting with piano notes and then the vocals (beautiful vocals) and a total progressive flavour which you can notice due to the synths work, there are also a trombone sound but the song is still pastoral, there are some moments that the vocals may remind you to Peter Hammill, so you know wheter to give a try to it or not, then the song has a change and the acoustic guitars appears. 

I have finished, this album deserves 5 stars just for its uniqueness, it is difficult to find another album like this, but since i consider it a difficult album i believe some people could not enjoy it as i do, so 4 stars would be better, excellent addition to any prog lover and highly recommended! 

Enjoy and love it! (or not)……………by memowakeman …………… 
Released in 1972, the golden year of the original prog movement, Aria is probably the least 'Italian’ of the classic RPI albums - and that in spite of Alan Sorrenti’s Neapolitan background. However, Alan was born in Wales, his mother’s country of origin, therefore his Mediterranean roots find themselves entangled with the equally old, fascinating Celtic tradition. Because of that, his debut album is one of the most intriguing, distinctive offerings to come out of Italy, and possibly everywhere else, both on account of the music - a heady, mesmerizing blend of various ethnic influences - and his unique voice. His singing style, often compared to folk legend Tim Buckley, is definitely over-the-top, but not in the way RPI singers are generally known to be. Actually, the best comparisons on the Italian scene would be his sister Jenny (of Saint Just fame), and possibly Battiato, at least as regards the Eastern flavour of many of his vocal performances. 
As is the case of many other albums of that time, the A-side of the original edition of Aria is taken up by the eponymous, almost 20-minute-long suite, while the B-side is comprised of three shorter tracks. The album is primarily acoustic, though both of the iconic keyboard instruments of the era, the Hammond organ and the mellotron, are featured. The best-known of Sorrenti’s collaborators is gifted, Naples-born drummer and percussionist Antonio (Tony) Esposito, who would go on to become a famous session man and solo artist, and would also perform on Aria’s follow-up, Come un vecchio incensiere all'alba di un villaggio deserto, as well as on Perigeo’s La Valle dei Templi. 

Aria, the song, is an intoxicating slice of music dominated by Jean-Luc Ponty’s magical violin, a perfect foil for Sorrenti’s soaring voice, an instrument in itself. World-music influences are thick on the ground - Celtic, Spanish (there is a sequence featuring flamenco-style guitar and castanets), Indian, Middle Eastern, and more. The music somehow reflects the eerie beauty of the blue-toned cover, one of the most striking yet tasteful to come out of the original prog era: it is at the same time dark and uplifting, mystical and experimental, soothing and demanding. Undoubtedly, Alan’s voice is very much of an acquired taste, and some listeners may find it irritating after a while. Here, it is still relatively restrained, while he went decidedly overboard on Incensiere, some parts of which are really a bit hard to take. 

After such an exhilarating listening experience, the exquisite, romantic ballad Vorrei incontrarti provides a kind of respite. The song was released as a single, and often played on the radio. I remember singing along to the strumming of some friend, during weekend trips to the country. As simple a song as it is, Alan’s vocals and guitarist Vittorio Nazzaro’s delicate playing take it to a higher level, together with the presence of that ultimately romantic instrument, the accordion. The last two songs, La mia mente and Un fiume tranquillo, are longer and more complex, partly reprising the atmospheres of the title-track (though somewhat less successfully), with stunning instrumental performances (check Tony Esposito’s fantastic drumming on Un fiume tranquillo) and vocal flights of fancy. 

Aria was one of the albums I encountered right at the time of its release, as a 12-year-old girl who was then getting into more 'serious’ music. It left a lasting imprint, and I was happy to 'find’ it again when my beloved husband (a huge fan of RPI in spite of his American origins) came into my life. Alan Sorrenti’s music intrigued me right from the word 'go’, and I was utterly devastated by his sudden U-turn in the mid-Seventies, when he became a very successful pop-disco artist. Talk about a waste of talent… Those later albums would make even Genesis’ pop output sound like Close to the Edge. 

Even if Sorrenti eventually decided to turn away from progressive music, his first three albums are a must for everyone interested in Italian prog, and Aria is something every prog fan should listen to at least once. It does have its flaws, though, and this is why I would rather not give it the highest rating, and go for 4 stars with the addition of a virtual half-one. However, even without the full 5 stars, it is a mesmerizing piece of music, and an authentically progressive one. Very highly recommended. ……… by Raff ……………. 

What a voice this guy’s got, and just as wondersome as his sister Jenny. Is it because they had Welsh roots (mother’s side) and the weird mix with his Napolitan upbringing? Who knows, but one thing is sure, if you don’t like vocal experimentations, then stay away from the Sorrenti’s, at least in their early career. Sisdter Jenny had a good start with the short-lived Saint Just group, than released a solo effort, before slipping from my radar, while Alan started with stupendous solo albums, but by the mid-decade had veered disco and pop. His solid gatefold debut release is probably one of the more striking one from these year on the peninsula and he certainly had some important musical help, including drummer Esposito (already involved with St Just) and some Spanish and French guests including Ponty on violin, but Clearly the man in the shadow is Albert Prince on keys and arrangements. 
Alan’s voice and how he uses it as an instrument is a strange mix of Peter Hammill, Robert Wyatt and the utmost experimental Tim Buckley. And there is no doubt Sorrenti heard all three to dare being so audacious from his first album onwards. And does Alan ever leave his voice rip it up throughout the opening side on the epic sidelong title track. Along with Ponty’s brilliant violin interventions, Aria is a stunning piece of music, sometimes curdling your blood because of Alan’s voice ramblings. Starting on winds, discreet mellotron and Alan’s acoustic guitar, it’s almost an enchanted evening; if it wasn’t for the glacial choirs in the background until Prince’s piano enters the fold. Then Alan’s voice smoothly glides from spellbinding to first worrrysome, then menacing tone and soon becomes demented if not diabolical, shifting between Hammill’s tone with Buckley’s range and control and sometimes Flamenco, soon wiped by Prince’s keyboards. At one point, with Ponty’s violin work, we can think of the eeriness of Comus’ First Utterances. Yes, that good and that weird. At other times, we’re close to the mythic Starsailor or Lorca albums, and even a bit of Rock Bottom (via his voice, but also the trumpet playing). What do you mean you’re not at the records shop yet??? 

The flipside is less thrilling with three shorter songs, of which only one doesn’t really belong here. The opening Vorrei Incontrati is a calm pastoral folk song a bit similar to Crimson’s I Talk To The Wind and holds the same function in a demented album, to give you breath of fresh air before returning to insane times. I will take a point of saying I don’t enjoy the accordion bit, though. The following Mia Mente returns to the glacial background choirs at the start of the title track and add a superb bass line and later trons of mello, but Sorrenti’s voice must wait Prince’s piano to unleash itself in a Hammill style, both taking the insanity plunge in a rock-bottomed well, saved by the lighthouse keeper. Just as stunning as the title track, even if returning to it a bit too systematically: in a way, you could say that the 19-mins+ epic can be condensed into Mia Mente. As for the closing Fiume Tranquillo; it starts with a bowed bass (love it) and early Hammill-ian vocals (both solo and Graaf) and proceeds to its own adventures with a trombone and some excellent Esposito drumming, and smùoothly dying in pastoral sounds soon becoming nightmarish. 

Certainly worth the investigation with his second album in tow, Sorrenti’s Aria is one unconventional album out of the Italian Peninsula. It’s actually a wonder how Alan could veer disco with such an experimental start. Anyway, an amazing album, and one of the most experimental from the Italian boot, along with early Battiato. Stay away if you don’t like vocal digression, but if you don’t mind a bit of adventure aria should just about do it for you………by Sean Trane ……… 
As far as the 70’s Ital-Prog scene one of the clear standout album IMHO is Sorrenti’s ARIA. A strange dream-like folky prog album for sure with the centrepiece superlative enigmatic vocal escapades of Alan Sorrenti. The 70’s Ital-Prog scene was watermarked with creative and many unusual yet strong and beautiful vocalists (ie.Francesco Di Giacomo, Demetrio Stratos, Gianni Leone, Linio Vairetti). One could and should add Sorrenti’s name to this long list and one listen to the 20 Min epic title track “ARIA” will clearly encapsulate you deep into this album ! Sorrenti is supported by a great band that includes the e-bow master Jean-Luc Ponty ! Musically this album ebbs and flows from Genesis-like progressions to the folk solemness of Nick Drake…all surrounded by the theatrical and powerful voice of Alan Sorrenti. Absolutely essential for any fan fo 70’s Ital-Prog…..by loserboy …………. 
ALAN SORRENTI was and is a singer and composer who was born in Naples, Italy to a Welsh mother and spent as much time in the city of Aberystwiyth, Wales as in his native born Italy. As a result SORRENTI became fluent in both Italian and English languages and culture. While he would release a very sizable discography since his debut album in 1972, in 1976 he abandoned his early flirtations with progressive and psychedelic folk rock of his first few albums and jumped into full-on dance music. ARIA is his debut and fits firmly within the eclectic progressive rock arena that displays a whole plethora of musical influences including a healthy dose not only freak folk that meets psychedelic rock but shows his affinity with the progressive Italian rock scene as well as the most obvious influence of all, namely, early 70s Peter Hammill in the form of Van Der Graaf Generator. In fact SORRENTI almost perfectly mimics Hammill’s vocal style only with an Italian flair. Understandable that SORRENTI would have been exposed to VDGG as Italy was the country where they experienced their greatest success. ARIA is in a way paying homage to the great UK eclectic prog band that found its home in a distant land. 
The 19 minute and 45 minute title track begins the album and not only swallows half the album but mimics many a great of the day with not only Hammill style vocal acrobatics along with his singer / songwriter skills that were so prominent in VDGG but also the progressive freak folk instrumentation of Comus which comes to mind as the instrumentation comprises mostly of acoustic guitars accompanied by the brilliant violin playing skills of guest musician Jean Luc Ponty. There are also plenty of Hammond organs and mellotrons to create a thick lysergic atmosphere that enriches all the twists and turns of the song structure. While the VDGG and Hammill comparisons may lead one to expect a rock experience, this is first and foremost a psychedelic folk album that never once delivers an electric guitar riff or solo but rather incorporates a rich tapestry of acoustic and classical guitars and on this title track even ventures into the gypsy foot stomping territory of Spanish flamenco all the while SORRENTI’s vocals do their own little dances around the melodic developments. 

While the musical deliveries on ARIA are top notch, it is truly SORRENTI’s vocals that are the star of the show here. As the liner notes explain: “SORRENTI’s voice is treated with effects that compliment his experimental tendencies. Lines rise to crescendo and echo wildly in space. Falsettos tremble and vibrate. Lyrics disintegrate into exultation where SORRENTI’s voice mutates into a musical instrument. Words are gently warbled, caressed, cosseted, vibrated and violently expunged. Styles of music melt and congeal together.” I couldn’t possibly top this first-rate description of the vocals, so i won’t even try. The fact is this album comes off as if it were a long lost psychedelic recording of Van Der Graaf Generator. This is a dilemma for me as i find the album quite the brilliant experience but am a little put off by the blatant Hammilisms expressed in every musical cadence throughout the album despite the lyrics being totally penned in the Italian language. Some remaining short tracks to have more of an Italian feel and less of the VDGG textures. “La Mia Mente” actually has more of a Robert Plant feel. 

Overall i’d have to say that i dig this album more than feel any sense of animosity. Yes, the influences are more than worn on the sleeve and stand out strong and bold, but SORRENTI actually has a more varied vocal style than Hammill and the music despite feeling like a counterpart in some alternative universe of the VDGG experience still manages to be captivating and complex with many instrumental workouts underneath the strident and bravado filled vocals that dominate the soundscape. The listener is treated to a plethora of keyboards and acoustic guitars, bow bass and trombone, trumpet and synth harp. Despite my usual resistance to give albums that take the influence thing a little too far, i have to admit that i find this particular release more than mesmerizing. This really is worth hearing over and over again…..by siLLy puPPy …….. 

If ever an artist might have been influenced by Tim Buckley’s avant-garde period – or, put another way, if ever there were such a thing as an Italian Tim Buckley – the evidence might have been Alan Sorrenti’s 1972 album Aria. Though he’s not an explicit Buckley imitator, certainly Sorrenti does share some notable characteristics of the style Buckley employed on his late-'60s/early-'70s albums Lorca and Starsailor. There’s the wide vocal range; the unpredictable leaps around that range, sometimes to blood-curdlingly high notes, and at others to stream-of-consciousness speaking-in-tongues-like phrasing; and the impossible-to-pigeonhole shifting of the musical accompaniment between somber folk-rock and avant-garde jazz. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the nearly 20-minute title track, which moves from a tranquil, spacy instrumental opening evoking empty windy fields to tortuous jazz-rock fusion/improvisation. A prominent, virtuosic violin part from guest musician Jean-Luc Ponty adds tension as Sorrenti ascends and descends the vocal register with quivers and shakes, like a man in the midst of an anxiety attack. It’s not all angst, though, flitting back and forth between serene, almost sentimentally folky sections and ones in which things get antsy all over again. While the other three tracks on the record aren’t nearly as epochal, they too are an unnerving blend of wistful (if slightly edgy) troubadour folk-rock, jazzy instrumental accents, almost experimental jazz-rock improv, gothic dissonance, and a certain sense of pained falling-into-the-black-hole distress to both the melodies and Sorrenti’s vocals. For international listeners, this is perhaps even less accessible than Tim Buckley’s out-there stuff, as Sorrenti (though part Welsh) is singing in Italian, not English. It’s undeniably impressive and original, however, if perhaps more something to admire than to play over and over, such is its oddball intensity……by Richie Unterberger ………….. 

Few records were able to break through a music scene as “Aria” by Alan Sorrenti. It was 1972, Progressive Rock was at its peak, and basically out of nowhere appeared, as a lightning from a blue sky – on EMI / Harvest record label among other things – Alan Sorrenti, a half-Welsh artist heading from Naples. Parsons Project, from Naples but half Welsh, from the mother. This is a debut album at the same level of Banco’s eponymous LP, P.F.M.‘s “Storia di un minuto” or Area’s “Arbeit Macht Frei”. 

The album, it must be said, is not too much accessible for everyone, due in particular to the 20-minute long suite that occupies the entire first side: it sounds like a stream of consciousness transposed into music, with a high dose of improvisation, especially as it regards Sorrenti’s voice. When you start at the highest levels is difficult to keep on the same, and in fact Alan would never be able to reach the same incredible heights of this LP, today considered a masterpiece of Italian prog, and at the time of its release, perhaps with astonishment by the same artist, incensed by critics and consequently by the public. Sorrenti was among the first ones to use the voice as an instrument, even before Demetrio Stratos in the aforementioned Area; he was also one of the few solo artists to excel in a world, that of the progressive rock, almost exclusively reserved to bands. Among the various guests, the most famous is undoubtedly the French Jean-Luc Ponty, whose contribution on violin embellishes this record’s title-track. 

This reissue is identical to the original 1972 one in its artwork, and makes available again in LP format an album that, despite its popularity, is very difficult to find even in the most recent reprints. A welcome return, another ‘must-have’ for Italian prog listeners!……………. 

The avantgarde Aria is the first album from Sorrenti. Originally released in 1972 on Harvest, it opens with the long title track, which occupied all of side A of the original vinyl. It’s a dreamy suite that starts with acoustic guitar, ends with a remarkable violin solo from future Mahavishnu Orchestra member Jean Luc Ponty and features the incredible instrument-like voice of Sorrenti. Creating a blend of folk renderings with a melodic, avant-garde jazz backdrop, Sorrenti has rendered a vocal tapestry on par with anything Van Morrison or Tim Buckley has committed to tape. …………. 


Line-up / Musicians 
- Alan Sorrenti / vocals and acoustic guitar 
- Antonio Esposito / drums and percussions 
- Vittorio Nazzaro / bass guitar and lead classic guitar 
- Albert Prince / organ hammond, accordion, mellotron, synth harp 
- Tony Bonfilis / bow bass 
- Jean Costa / trombone 
- André Lajdi / trumpet 
- Martin Paratore / spanish dancer 

Guest musician: 
- Jean Luc Ponty / violin 

Songs / Tracks Listing 
1. Aria (19:49) 
2. Vorrei Incontrarti (4:58) 
3. La Mia Mente (7:36) 
4. Un Fiume Tranquillo (8:01) 

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..