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XII Alfonso - Charles Darwin CD (album) cover

CHARLES DARWIN

XII Alfonso

 

Symphonic Prog

3.87 | 71 ratings

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Rivertree
Special Collaborator
PSIKE Team & Band Submissions
3 stars Well this is a challenge for what it's worth. A few data at the first to prove something really uique - this opus contains not less than 52 episodes, divided in three volumes. While the band's core is composed of four like-minded French artists, more than 50 musicians are involved here though in total, and one could say a 'who is who' of sophisticated rock music. What immediately strikes is the wonderful package - featuring more than 70 pages the booklet belongs to the finest I've ever had in my hands, worked out with passion and love of detail. And finally roundabout 70 instruments are utilized, all pictured within the booklet.

Something superlative without a doubt. As the title implies, the album is inspired by Charles Darwin's legacy, constitutes a musical biography so to say. Philippe Claerhout (guitars, bass), Francois Claerhout (keyboards), Thierry Moreno (drums) and Stéphane Ducassé (flutes) took around two years to move along the footsteps of this naturalist, who had radically changed the understanding of biology in the 19th century. Unfortunately Moreno passed away in 2011 and could not witness the release of this album for what I know.

First CD covers the growth of Darwin, ending with his extended circumnavigation crossing the southern hemisphere, which must have been the most impressing experience in his life. Maggie Reilly, known for her collaboration with Mike Oldfield, was accorded the honour of opening the opulent guest vocal list with the first catchy song Earliest Collections - 'Goodbye Old England ' ... the optimistic HMS Beagle is highly melodic where the mystic Captain Fritz-Roy belongs to my favourites due to a psychedelic flow.

Second CD accompanies Darwin's theoretical phase and offers some lovely ballads like So many years and Downhouse for example. 'Deep in the sea, the body is dead ...' - The Coral Of Life thrills me a lot due to a slight hallucinative mood which passes over into a nice groove later, cool saxophone as well as fretless bass and wonderful vocals provided by Sand Roman Garcia again. I would also count the instrumental The Island Of Devil's Riding School to the highlights which shows the four protagonists nicely interacting, only accompanied by Mickey Simmonds on keyboards.

Third CD notes the release of Darwin's book 'On the Origin Of Species', the eponymous song strikes due to the lovely female voice of Vietnamese Huong Than. The dramatic Slace Makers shows them rocking yet again including full prog sentiment and nice electric guitar work, which also applies to Mysterious Illness where Francois Claerhout convinces with some nearly outraged synth contributions. And then the successfull Vision Of The Inner Mound bears a fusion vibe. 'Forever lying there, a simple man ..." - Darwin's burial in 1882 finally is represented by the closing song, missing any depression or pessimism though, just accepting this as the irreversible part of life.

An album consisting of three hours needs a lot of time and patience in order to assess. 'Charles Darwin' resembles a cornucopia of impressions - diverse native folk/ethno sentiment, pop, chanson, chamber, flamenco, rock - to name a few only - relaxed music in the majority which is suitable for background listening in the same way as for concentrated sessions. Take your time and you will dig a lot of details - for example synths which imitate frogs croaking aso. Lyrics and rants are given either in French or English.

Now this is made of an obvious cinematic vibe, cries for a spectacular movie. The ultimate sound for such a project is put on the table already. The rocking component takes a backseat here, you must know, and with some reason one might argue about the prog character in its entierety. Although not belonging to my favourites, it surely is an awe-inspiring work. Embellished by a fantastic booklet and the outstanding singer Sand Roman Garcia the album will find enough interest and fans ... if it can reach for the necessary reputation.

Rivertree | 3/5 |

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