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Alex Carpani

Microcosm

Review by Gary Hill

I have previously reviewed quite a few releases from Alex Carpani, yet I don't think I was prepared for this one. The blend of classic and modern prog sounds on this is impeccable - dare I say, "perfect?" I will be shocked if this album doesn't make my "best of 2022" list. This is a masterpiece of progressive rock that touches a lot of different bases from AOR angles to more purely meaty ones. Carpani himself provides a lot of the sounds here, handling lead and backing vocals, keyboards, synth bass, Mellotron and more. He's got some notable guests on the set including David Cross (violin), Jon Davison (vocals on "Kiss and Fly," David Jackson (saxophone and flute) and Theo Travis (saxophone).

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2022  Volume 3. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2022.

Track by Track Review
Starless
Percussive elements bring this cover of King Crimson in from silence. I've always loved this song, so I'm destined to be a fan of this as soon as it gets going. The track is played somewhat faithfully, but some electronic percussive elements and other things bring a different angle to the track. There are points on this where Carpani's vocals sound identical to John Wetton's. This is just such a great (albeit shortened) rendition of the classic cut.
Kiss And Fly
As good as that opener was, this blows it away. Fast-paced, prog based and so cool, this is a powerhouse. It has some intriguing twists and turns. It's meaty and challenging on the one side, but it's also catchy in some other ways. This is just such an amazing piece of music.
God Bless Amerika
The vocals on this are again rather like John Wetton. The music, on the other hand has linkings to the old prog super-group UK and also Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Yet, it's still original and unique. This is another standout track on a disc that's full of exceptional music.
The Mountain Of Salt
Another up-tempo prog rocker, this feels a little more modern in scope and texture. That said, there are still plenty of classic prog sounds here. I'm reminded a little of Billy Sherwood's work on this. The dropped down, slower movement is a nice touch.
We Can't Go Home Tonight
This is cut with a great balance between mellower and more rocking sections. I'm reminded of both UK and King Crimson on this one to some degree. There is a dream-like quality to much of it.
Footprints In The Hearts
Starting with a nearly acapella arrangement, this track works out from there to a more mainstream sound. It has some jazz in the mix, but not as much prog as some of the rest, at least for the song proper. The instrumental break is pure progressive rock goodness in a classic way. There are things about this that make me think of the Asia school of AOR prog.
Prime Numbers
This has some almost metallic stuff, but it's all encased is a powerful, up-tempo prog jam that has some definite fusion in the mix, too. This prog instrumental is a killer tune and one of the highlights here.
What Once Was
I dig the bass line on this thing. The cut is another that probably lands closer to the "AOR" angle. It has a great almost jazzy groove in some ways. It has more of that King Crimson and UK vibe at play. There is some scorching hot keyboard work on this thing. Some scorching guitar soloing comes in after that. It returns to a short reprise of the song proper to end it.
When The Tears Roll Down
I love the accessible chorus on this number. It's another tune that makes me think of Billy Sherwood to a large degree. This is another more on the mainstream side of the prog angle.
The Outer World
This number has a melodic prog vibe with hints of folk prog in much of its running time. Yet there are some dramatic, and at times bombastic, prog breaks built into this thing.
Redemption
A vocal and piano concept starts this, and the track moves outward from there with a lot of style. I love the instrumental break late in the piece with it's killer keyboard work. The later sections of this seem to have an almost soaring quality to them. The track really does grow well.
Microcosm
The closing title track starts a little less intense and builds out gradually into some inspired and dramatic melodic prog rock.
 
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