Born in Cremona , Italy in 1956, composer and multi-instrumentalist Mario Cottarelli began his foray into music in 1970 as a self taught drummer. As his love of music expanded, so too did his musical arsenal, eventually incorporating a mastery of guitar and keyboards by 1974. It was during this time that he shifted his gaze from jazz to the more challenging genre of lengthy complex progressive compositions.
During the timeframe of 1977 – 78 he produced a collection of demo recordings only to learn that the Italian progressive movement was no longer in vogue. Divergo, the only independent label to express interest provided him an opportunity to cut an album but folded before his project was completed.
Disillusioned with the progressive genre he changed musical directions and focused on the commercial dance music of the era. In the years between 1984 and 1988 he attained a degree of success and notoriety in European circles. It was at this time he had the opportunity to collaborate with renowned GOBLIN keyboardist Claudio Simonetti.
By 1993 Cottarelli was writing music and lyrics for a variety of Italian folk and melodic dance bands, but those progressive tunes he had written many years ago were still in the back of his mind. So in 2005 he recycled the demo recordings of 1975, breathing new life into the 30 year old tunes by rearranging, changing the lyrics, and recording the old/new hybrid material with the technology of the 21st Century.
The end result is his 2007 release Prodigiosa Maccina, a collection of three epic tunes ranging in length from 21:50 , 11:30 , and 8:02 minutes. The style is unmistakably 70s’ era Italian symphonic/progressive in the vein of the pioneers PFM, Banco, Aqua Fragile, Latte E Miele, New Trolls, and LeOrme.
While Cottarelli’s musical compositions are clearly of the symphonic/progressive genre, his vocal styling seem more suited for belting out adult contemporary ballads at a lounge or nightclub. Not a bad voice – just not ‘the’ voice to compliment the music.
An example that immediately comes to mind is the FOCUS album “Focus Con Proby”, featuring American vocalist P J Proby. Proby is a great singer with a marvelous voice, and could probably do an amazing duet with the likes of Robert Goulet, Jack Jones, or Sinatra in a Vegas nightclub - but as the lead singer for a progressive jazz group like FOCUS – it just didn’t work for me. And unfortunately Mario Cottarelli’s album “Prodigiosa Macchina” leaves me feeling the same way.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on 17th, 2010