Two words to start: flute and mellotron. If for whatever odd reason, these two instruments are not among your favourites, please stop reading promptly. Phew, now that we got that out of the way, Celeste will always be remembered for their luminous 1976 debut album “Principe di un Giorno”, a perennial monument of classic RPI with massive doses of the two instruments in question. Echoes of a future past is the title’s translation, and it perfectly frames the music within the grooves, while the lovely cover art is as typically prog as one can hope for, a variation on the Roger Dean theme. Seven lengthy pieces should occupy your attention for the hour and 4 minutes, an aural voyage where the flute and mellotron  mentioned at the start rule most authoritatively, giving enough spotlight to numerous saxophone interventions, ornate piano fluttering, and a solid rhythmic pulse. Two lesser known but legendary keyboard instruments are sprawled all over the album, namely the Eminent (an early Italian string synth) and the Solina (an ARP string ensemble), much to the pleasure of any vintage keyboard fanatic.

Surprisingly, the preliminary seduction is outright jazzy in its groove, the suave guitar and piano breezing along like two tanned lovers on the beach, until the warm mellotron arrives like a zephyr to thrill the skins’ senses. “Pigmenti” is a gentle lilt, with a piano, bass and drum mid section that adds a mid-afternoon pace of calm reflection. Soon after, a relaxed vocal line paves the way for a glorious mellotron chorus, where a crowning sax takes the arrangement straight into the sky above, a liquid lead guitar solo adding just the right splash of intensity to the theme.

The lengthiest track appears next on “Sottili Armonie”, a nearly 11-minute fluffy musical tapestry with a myriad of ‘subtle harmonies’ that titillated the senses to no end. Restrained pace, a focus on serenity and an unhurried buildup, still steeped in a jazzy mold, a platform for Francesco Bertone on bass and drummer Enzo Cioffi to set the atmosphere that would be ideal for any kind of introspective reflection, where flute and sax can conjure various pleasant sonic images. A delicate electric guitar solo from Mauro Vero seals the deal, inspired by a sensual Sergio Caputo violin cameo.  This could have been Sade without her singing a single note.

Though the title might hint at a more experimental flip side of the coin, “Aspetti Astratti” (Abstract Aspects) actually seeks only to maintain the casual tempo, though a magnificent fretless bass solo is featured front and center, just in time for another radiant brass flight. The mighty ‘tron enters the fray briefly, in partnership with the flute, just in time for Bertone to take an additional rubbery flex on his 4 stringed monster.  Needless to state, I am gaga over this.

Another 10 minute+ composition, “Attese Sottese” (Underlying Expectations) has the acoustic guitar, flute and piano on the forefront, weaving a filigreed melody of pastoral beauty (a Celeste trademark after all), with an unforeseen saxophone solo blasting through the lace and elevating the tempo as the rhythm section revs up their engines, with Cioffi in particular hitting all the right beats. Bubbly Arp 2600 additions within the massive string synthesizers, give this piece that grandiose orchestral feel unique to Celeste.

Change of pace on the beguiling “Misteri Evoluti” (Evolved Mysteries), again forging a unique arcadian setting with a predominant acoustic guitar immersed in a kaleidoscope of sonic mosaics, before a brash sax takes the lead in flinging the track into a flute and bass romp in the rustic garden. The comfortable jazzy groove is delectably alluring, especially when all the instruments fuse in perfect harmony.

The crushing exquisiteness of “Madrigale” is heart wrenching, the most delicate music one could even dare to imagine, with a timeless melody that squeezes the arteries with loving affection. It has everything, a lingering passion that is skin deep, yet fragile, as expressed by the operatic female aria from guest Ines Aliprandi and a whopping saxophone outburst, one of the most emotionally charged one I have witnessed in ages.  Utterly gorgeous.

The outstanding “Circonvoluzioni” (Convolutions) finalizes this melodious masterpiece with the mighty mellotron taking its rightful place as the leading feature, though the Hammond flirts temptingly when called upon, carving a massive symphonic wall of sound. Ines does another appearance on the microphone, adding more sophistication to an arrangement already moored in contemplative intricacy. A playfully whimsical saxophone fades into the celestial horizon.

All keyboards are handled by founding member and composer Ciro Perrino, while the piano was played by Marco Canepa, who also did all the mastering and engineering.  A delightfully cohesive assembly of tracks that literally flow into the next one with nary a hint of boredom or rehash, this was quite the revelation, as I perhaps need to revisit my other 2 Celeste albums Il Risveglio del Principe (2019) and Il Principe del Regno Perduto (2021). Definitely candidate for Top album from Italy in 2024.

5 heavenly resonances