Title - 'New Progmantics' (Mentalchemy Records)
Artist - Sarastro Blake
With a debut album that contains such musical gentry as members of YES, Caravan, Greenslade, Alan Parsons Project and the Steve Hackett Band, Italian Prog ensemble Sarastro Blake's release is definitely one to be reckoned with.
The brainchild of two gifted Italian music conceptualists — Paolo Pigni (bass, guitar, keys) and Luca Briccola (electric guitars, keyboards, production) — and inclusive of Prog Rock legends Rick Wakeman, Richard Sinclair, Nick Magnus, Billy Sherwood, David Paton, Dave Lawson and Amanda Lehmann, we kick-off in high flying style with the forceful, and swiftly flute-rich ‘The Lady of Shalott.' A long song, so be prepared, but one chock full of everything you would expect from such a collective.
We then head into the more vocal ‘Clare's Song,' a track that allows the showcasing of some distinctive vocal tones to bleed through. The lighter side of Sarastro Blake - vocally and musically - comes to the fore on ‘Scotland, the Place.’ A song that starts quiet but soon fairly bounces along, it tales of heartfelt love are ones we can all attest to.
The acoustic guitar work combined with the female vocals of Amanda Lehmann couple next to bring us the adorable (albeit short) ‘Sonnet 116,' before we’re back to true ensemble business with the chaptered 'Stanzas for Music.' Containing the sub-sections of 'They Say That Hope Is Happiness,' 'On the Bust of Helen by Canova,' and 'Reflect the Nature,' the ten minute track seemingly allows Sarastro Blake to showcase all their musical tricks! Scratched whirls, frantic piano, and even a taste of Circus life can be heard culled within. It’s a true showpiece of musical art if ever there was.
After the short 'Prelude to the Highlands,' next up is the rather beautiful, simply gorgeous ‘My Heart’s In The Highlands.‘ It's quite easily a luscious track to just lay back and listen to. Acoustic guitar combined with fleeting flute work and the warming vocals of Lehmann all ensure that this track is; quite easily one of the stand out cuts on the album.
The album comes to a close with the swimmingly-audacious ‘Remember,’ 'Flaming June,' the more mellow (yet lengthy) ‘Beyond' and then finally ‘Solitary Bench (Remastered Version).’
An album to listen to on a Summer's day, for sure, Sarastro Blake have searched for, and by the sounds of it found another level to take progressive rock to. And man, does it sound great where they're at!
Reviewed by: Russell A. Trunk