Finisterre - Storybook

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Moonjune Records
Catalog Number: MJR002
Format: CD
Total Time: 77:14:00

Almost inevitably, when one hears a flute in a progressive rock context, the name Ian Anderson comes to mind, as if he were the only flutist in this genre. So it was for me with Finisterre, but as soon as I thought that, I questioned whether it was the mere fact of the instrument or did Sergio Grazia really play with an Anderson influence. Well, I think it's much more of the former and a little less of the latter, but I wouldn't rule out Jethro Tull entirely as influence.

Storybook is a live album, recorded at their 1997 ProgDay performance at Storybook Farm in North Carolina. The majority of the tracks here were released on Live At ProgDay '97 last year, a limited edition CD. This reissue adds an additional track, "Altaloma." Finisterre are a symphonic rock quintet whose sound includes elements from early Marillion, Jethro Tull, and Banco, though their site names "King Crimson, Camel, Genesis, Van Der Graaf Generator, [and] Pink Floyd..." (which I agree with). Formed in 1992, the band has released 5 albums to date, including this one (under both titles). For this live performance, original flutist Grazia rejoined the band. The line up for this album also includes Fabio Zuffanti (bass/vocals), Stefano Marelli (electric/acoustic guitars/vocals) Boris Valle (keyboards), and Andrea Orlando (drums). Valle since has been replaced by Agostino Macor, Grazia by vocalist/flutist Raffaella Callea, and Sergio Caputo has been added on violin and percussion in the current line up. Four of the tracks are from their first, self-titled album, three from their second album, plus one bonus track ("Altaloma").

Interestingly, what I hear in their sound is what they were trying to not sound like, it appears. According to the band bio on their site: Finisterre "was released in February 1995 [...] and won [them] immediate acclaim in the underground circles. It's appearance in the context of a revival of 70s-style progressive rock, as opposed to the more one-dimensional and less experimental 'neo prog' in vogue during the 80s [...]." Well let me tell you why I think what I do, using "Orizzonte Degli Eventi" as an example, it being the longest track here at 15 minutes. The Marillion elements I hear are most strong in the heavy, thumping bass -- try not to think of "Grendel." Well, by extension then, we must mention that section in Genesis' "Supper's Ready," too (that being "Apocalypse In 7/8"). Listen to the pounding drums and try not to think of Ian Mosley, or the keyboards and try not to think of Mark Kelly. Interestingly, we do not get a whole lot of Rothery-esque guitar parts, as Stefano Marelli's playing is not that smooth and liquid, his style being a little closer to a metal style, though I wouldn't call him a metal guitarist by any means. There is one moment during a big guitar solo where one might think of Rothery a little bit, but not so very much. I'm not saying he's a bad guitarist, either. He's quite good and I really enjoy his playing -- but as much as the band sound like Marillion, they also don't, Marelli's playing being one reason. As Fabio Zuffanti wrote this piece, I suspect it is he doing the vocals -- he sounds neither like Fish or Hogarth, nor like Francesco DiGiacomo for that matter, but has a voice that can be very dramatic at times. This is a big and epic piece, having several movements. You can tell that this is a live performance as there are times where the band pushes the speakers near their limit, or so it sounds. During the more acoustic, flute driven sections of this track, it is Jethro Tull that comes mind, but in a very general sense. And their interplay and intensity make me think of that I've recently found in Banco. So, it's not just that they're both Italian bands. One other thing that jumped out at me with this particular track was a section where the keys...well, I thought of R2-D2's blips and bloops, frankly. All this mixed in with other space-themed atmospherics.

But, the quote on their site is also fairly accurate, as I don't really think of Marillion again until much later into the set. In between, we get some really tasty prog. The bass work in "Hispanica" really made me think of Banco, and of "La Conquista Della Posizione Eretta" (Darwin!) specifically. "Altaloma" begins with a guitar riff that seems borrowed from Eric Clapton, as if the band were going to launch into "Cocaine." Instead, Grazia's light flute comes in. Listening to this I think of Woodstock. It could be the 70s vibe to it, the Hammond like keys, the fact that ProgDay was also an open-air festival, I don't know. There is a jazz-fusion feel to this track, bringing to mind Santana. "Macinaaqua, Macinluna" is a heavy rock piece, guitar lead, with an occasional Mozart quote...and a "Shine On You Crazy Diamond"-like passage...and thus you know why they name check Floyd. During the band intro section of "Phaedra" we hear first something that sounds very much like the "on [instrument]" section of Marillion's "Margaret," with flute (cf. The Thieving Magpie) -- or did Marillion lift that from elsewhere? Though we also get keys quoting King Crimson ("In The Court Of The Crimson King"), and I suspect other quotes I'm just not picking up on. "Canto Antico" which ends the album (their encore), ends with a Genesis quote, the end of "Watcher Of The Skies" (talk about endings).

My only nitpick, and it is a very, very small one, is that it seems to have been recorded a little low. It's hard to really criticize these things with a live recording since there are so many factors involved that you don't get in a studio - namely the chance to "do over." Sure, if one is going to record their set, these things should be accounted for in the soundcheck. But as I've noticed, festivals don't give bands very long to do a soundcheck (though to do so would make the festival experience a little long...and you'd have to have a very small line up). So, I'm not going to complain too much, because once turned up, there is terrific clarity in the sound.

All in all, I really like this release from Finisterre. Add this and the band to your seek-out list. Recommended.

[Oddly enough, the catalog number for their 1999 album In Ogni Luogo is THX1138. Star Wars buffs (nerds?) will recognize that as the title of George Lucas' first film; so maybe the R2-D2 reference isn't reaching at all.]

In Limine (7:19) / Orizzonte Degli Eventi (15:29) / Hispanica (5:52) / Altaloma (10:12) / Macinaaqua, Macinaluna (8:12) / Asia (4:49) / Phaedra (13:51) / Canto Antico (11:30)

Fabio Zuffanti - bass, vocals
Stefano Marelli - electric guitars, acoustic guitars, vocals
Boris Valle - keyboards
Sergio Grazia - flute
Andrea Orlando - drums

Finisterre (1995)
In Limine (1996)
Live - Ai Margini Della Terra Fertile (1998)
In Ogni Luogo (1999)
Live At Progday '97 (2000, ltd. ed.)
Storybook (2001)
Harmony Of The Spheres (2002)
La Meccanica Naturale (2004)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin IT

Added: August 16th 2001
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1109
Language: english


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