As I was imputing this latest offering from Inner Prospekt into my database (I have so many albums I need to keep track of them all), I was stunned to visualize that I have all 14 studio albums from this amazing musician I first discovered when he was /is still a member of Mad Crayon (having all their 4 releases as well). Suffice it to say, Alessandro di Benedetti has certainly grabbed my attention as well as pulled on my loyalty heartstrings, the sheer quantity easily matched by the consistent quality over the years. He has also been a much in demand session guest on a multitude of releases from the medieval-folk project The Guildmaster, the hyper-prolific The Samurai of Prog, as well as albums by Kimmo Porsti and Rafal Pacha. One needs only to observe all the high ratings on numerous prog sites to realize I am not the only fan (though I am a superfan, just missing a chance meeting in Rome last November but sadly postponed due to conflicting schedules). Many of the afore-mentioned artists have been loyal to him as well, eagerly participating in the numerous projects Alessandro has produced, at a rather astounding pace, may I add.

“The Bridge” is the opening salvo, a lovely duet featuring bassist Daniele Vitalone and Alessandro on keyboards and drums, the spotlight clearly on some spectacularly fluid piano motifs that both display elegance and virtuosity.  From short intro to a massive epic, we move to the 15 minutes+ “Mantra”, a perfectly restrained electronic piece that sets a hypnotic soundscape, with echoing e-piano, pinging synths and ponging bass, mechanical percussion and solid drum groove, cleverly decorated with the urban Giuseppe Militello saxophone, perfectly capturing those somber ‘isolation for the nation’ Covid years, Alessandro’s hushed vocals as if still wearing those darn masks, and stating repeatedly “Everything Will be Fine”, the eternal mantra for those odd times we collectively had to endure. Forget vaccines for a second, this is panacea. The excruciatingly solemn piano spot is truly magnificent, leading into Federico Tetti’s absurdly strident electric guitar solo, within the nevertheless moody foundation that does provide a sense of future salvation. The ticking clocks avoid the piano drops of patient resolve that was needed to survive the ordeal.

The inherent sadness of “Winter Day” evokes intense appeals for forgiveness, a simple song with delicate piano, fragile synthesizer, a steady beat and a melancholic vocal, a gently child-like expression that attempts to heal the heart. Marco keeps things melodic in the background. A father’s plea for understanding to a son, who perhaps was not given enough tutelage and left to his own devices, a roll of the dice that can lead to a lot of grief.

Time for another mega piece, a near dozen minutes of appropriately delivered progressive rock bombast, initially composed for Marco Bernard’s debut solo album (I have that one too!), a childlike adaptation of the Peter pan tale.“Neverland” portrays the adventure as a symphonic soundtrack to the narrative, with Rafal Pacha providing the effusive guitar parts and Alessandro the rest, pushing forth a busy rhythm section including a whipped-up organ flurry that is just plain terrific. The classic Genesis influence is unashamedly overt and completely delightful.

“Just Five Minutes” lasts 7 minutes and 23 seconds but Italians (and Romans in particular) must be given some latitude because their innocent exaggerations are always charmingly rendered. The piece remains a jazzy counterweight to all the progginess, a reflective introspection as a respite, utterly classy and cool and thoroughly welcome. The e-piano is smoky sensual, the slick drum fills the air with pleasurable thumps, as Rafal unleashes a sterling guitar solo, taken over by Militello’s dense flirtation with emotion, as the orchestrations add all the glory one can hope for. I always said there was not enough Sax and Violins in prog (thank you Mael Brothers!).

The intensely personal “Around the Corner” is another elongated arrangement that segues nicely from the previous splendor, a musical introspection that covers all the founding blocks that makes one into an individual, for humans are inherently fragile physically as well as frail mentally. Growing pains, fears, disillusionment, sadness, self-doubt, and disappointment collide with joy, pleasure, discovery, love, achievement and happiness. Hey, it’s not easy. Music is a vessel for divulging all these conscious and subconscious feelings that make up art in general and music in particular. Federico’ s athletic guitar interventions, the pulsating percussive percolations as well as the various keyboards exhibit these emotions, imperfectly perhaps but it is a personal thing, revealing the angels and shooing away the demons.

I personally have always believed that humans are inherently capable of masochism as well as sadism, hopefully in occasional thoughts and even less in deeds but “The Question” is what amount of self-discipline and proper reflection is needed to live a life of goodness? Truth is, we do have the capacity to hurt others like a hyena and kill ourselves like the scorpion. Alessandro is joined here by the incredibly talented Carmine Capasso on lead guitar, a blistering and intense solo that expertly shines the light on these sad human weaknesses.

Bonus track “Living Like a Looner” is a continuation of “Neverland”, a final arriverdeci that has a bouncy mood, a swirling bass undertow that guides the ears, a certain vocal nonchalance in the air, some resonating e-piano shuffles paired with a whistling synthesizer solo and slashed by a terrific axe flight.

Another amazing stone placed in this imposing Roman structure, here is an artist that I can wholeheartedly recommend as a major player in Progland …and beyond. Now, about that meeting at Danny’s Bar on Via Gallia on day? 🙂

5 odd waves