Once in a while up pops a masterpiece with a big M and this new triple album from French symphonic prog band XII Alfonso fits that description big time. In a lavish package, beautifully designed in cardboard gatefold with an amazing 74 page booklet (incl. facts, knowledge, drawings & pictures) and of course the music on 3 cd´s !! WOW ;-) what about the music then?! Well for starters I have always liked the band´s music, but this time they have outdone themselves. Not only that, wait till you see the (namedropping) guest list. The planning, arranging and recording must have taken quite some hard work and time! Ok here comes some of the names, who participates on this concept mega piece, are you ready? John Helliwell (Supertramp), Terry Oldfield (Brother), John Hackett (Brother), Maggie Riley (yes it is she), Ton Scherpenzeel (Kayak), Ian Bairnson & David Paton (Alan Parsons Project/Pilot), Tim Renwick (guitar de luxe), Francis Dunnery (It Bites) and many more ;-) hows that, for a guest list?! Thats all good and well, what about the music, I hear you say?!
Cd 1. Starts off with a beautiful and gentle piano melody. "Earliest recollections" is an up tempo tune with female (Maggie Riley) vocals and great underlay solo guitar (could have been Knopfler) from Renwick. "Physics & Hunting" a great instrumental with folk rock sequences and excellent guitars (from Boult & Claerhout) to the fore. " Silent Battle" fine tune with great (Almost Bowie like) vocals from Elliott Murphy. "The Bump of Reverence" a somewhat lazy jazzy theme, with flute and saxophone, but also the fine guitars (especially the solo guitar) of Francis Dunnery, another great instrumental track. Let me state right away, there are NO thunder chords and speed scale guitars, nor hoarse screaming vocals. What you get here, are beautiful music, folk scented, progressive induced and rock tinted, with classical/cinematic influences here and there, very excellent delivered, produced and arranged!! "HMS Beagle" nice story of Darwin´s thought on departing England by boat, song by Alistair Gordon ...ooh and nice harmony vocals! "Captain Fitz-Roy" a brilliant solo voice (no words) ridden theme song by the band, XII Alfonso, that is!! "Straits of Magellan" has this strange, but intriguing tango staccato effect, works great!! "Tierra Del Fuego" a slow moving song, almost hypnotic in its punctuation, with male choir and sax (Helliwell).. excellent stuff! I have been selective in my choice of mentioning song/tunes as there are many sequences/interludes and other musical vignettes along the way! Mind you, all brilliant and cohesive to the whole concept!
Cd 2. The former cd ended with a nice acoustic theme and this theme opens cd 2, a red tread if you will! "So many years" again Alistair Gordon pleases us with his fine vocal timber. Actually this comes through as a pop song, that could have been on an Alan Parsons Project album! "Emma & Charles" is a beautiful song dialogue (Amy Keys & Ronnie Caryl) we are entering the Andrew Lloyd Webber area here, but not to worry folks it works fine in context! "Down House" Ronnie Caryl soothes our ears with reciting/singing about Darwins house, his ways and study and backed by a beautiful melody. Nice track! Now for the third part of this amazing release! Yes there were more tracks on the 2 cd, but I leave some for your own expectations!
Cd 3. Yes..starts off with main theme. "Descent with modification" has this sort of complex melody line with cello and several ancient like instrumentation growing into a sax ridden outro! " On the origin of Species" a very oriental like tune and the special voice of Huong Thanh.
I think This is far enough, I think I have proved my point! This is a masterpiece and a future MUST HAVE for every serious prog collector and indeed for every serious music collector!! In my book, this goes on my top 10 list of best prog album EVER, along with Pink Floyd, Yes and the other great stars in that universe called Prog Music!! THIS IS A MUST HAVE !!! So go get it ;-)