Sarastro Blake: New Progmantics

Italian proggers reverently interpret British Romance art.

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Romantic love as expressed through British art and literature – that’s the inspiration behind this themed album. Mainman songwriter Paolo Pigni (ex-Mogador), forms the nucleus of Sarastro Blake, along with fellow Italians Luca Briccola and Mirco Soncini, and their collection of thoughtful, pleasantly gracious music, while neither heavy nor complex, does experiment with instrumentation, feel, and genre.

Opener The Lady Of Shalott has shades of Porcupine Tree and Big Big Train, and strains of BJH, The Strawbs or even Supertramp are there in Clare’s Song and Flaming June. Prelude To The Highlands is a Howe/Hackett-alike acoustic guitar piece, while Scotland The Place, Sonnet 116, and My Heart’s In The Highlands are steeped in trad-folk and melodic folk-rock.

Guest appearances come from – among many others – Dave Lawson (ex-Greenslade), prog poylmath Billy Sherwood (ex-Yes et al) and vocalist Amanda Lehmann (Steve Hackett Band).

Highlight track Stanzas for Music features characteristically superb piano work from Rick Wakeman. Meanwhile, copious liner notes encourage further exploration of the inspirations behind this lovingly-rendered project.