WOW! What a great release this is! It might have taken a period of ten years to put this all together, (the band actually formed in 1993, from Trento Italy and went thru several lineup changes but it is so worth it!).“Ptah” starts out with a beautiful classical guitar, then in comes harpsichord along with flute and bass, to give the listener a early music intro. Quickly drums enter and a more progressive rock along the lines of Gryphon and Enid (nice combination isn’t it?) flows along like a butterfly on an endless meadow. Easy to see how the first cut is called ‘Overture’. As the songs play, there are far more comparative bands one will hear.
This is my first intro to this excellent Italian band. It is their first and only release. I first thought this was a new band since the release was 2010 but Phaedra actually have been around quite a while. They played many live concerts in the 90's and you can check out their website to see a set list of cover tunes they used to do (great set list I might add, as they covered King Crimson, Genesis, Steve Hackett, Pink Floyd , ELP, etc) but never did finish making their own record. So now we have that gem, which the band calls a rock opera ( it’s not like any rock opera I have heard. It’s much more like a collection of great songs with a concept).
Song 2 (“Dicono”) has vocals, as do many of the other ones. The instrumentation is superior throughout. The arrangements are first class and creative (the way you want your progressive music to be). Lots of nice keys, violin, with winds and the staples of drums, bass, guitar. The third song (“Il Cielo Stellato”) brings a thrill as it starts with a 12 string guitar so much like early Genesis (with Anthony Phillips). This song is simply fantastic!. You can hear a sweet PFM influence as well. I love the water in the recording too. This song also really reminds me of the best of the Belgium band Machiavel (Jester and Mechanical Moonbeams).
Many of the 14 songs flow into each other on “Ptah” (songs 3,4,and 11 all have multiple sub titles like much missed 70's epic progressive rock usually did) so there is much to love here. You get a giant dose of fine crafted music in old school progressive rock wardrobe (75 minutes of it) with not a boring or bad stitch anywhere to be found. It’s been quite a while since I have found a new release that has this much incredible consistency, creativity, and that holds your attention like a mind magnet. In fact the music is so good, I just want to listen to it over and over. I even hated writing this review while I was listening, because the review took my attention away from it for minutes at a time. Now that is impressive music. Even after I had listened to this recording three times, I was still wanting to hear it again. Some might assume that there couldn’t be anything new or fresh for the classic progressive rock genre but this proves them wrong. Happily so!
“Ptah” takes you through many states of mind, and gives you a multitude of images as you listen. This is one you certainly should not drive with, make love to, or do anything else to, but just sit and listen. Does anyone do that anymore? *raising my hand * I always sit and listen. Just like reading a book! Phaedra gave me chapter after chapter to enjoy and be just totally satisfied with. Every corner had another wave of greatness. It is clear how long it took to write all this and record it. Some extremely hard work went into it, that is for damn sure. Anyone who buys this (or just gets a chance to hear it) will appreciate the combinations of all the best Italian prog bands like Formula 3, Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso, Locanda Delle Fate. Le Orme, Quella Vecchio Locando, Aqua Fragile, Celeste, (you get the idea), with heavy early Genesis influence,, and even some psychedelic and nature recordings thrown in at spots. There is really no way to cover every style and sound of this release but it is absolutely great, and filled with thick rich classic progressive music with some occasional more modern sounds to give it their own stamp. Every time you blink they change something. You will hear more than a dozen band similarities (depending on just how many recordings you have heard from all over the world, over the last 40 years). I just have to end this with a gigantic recommendation and hope you can attempt to imagine how good this is. I have given many reference bands to wet your appetite. I do not have anything exactly like it, and I am happy about that. It means I add one more ultra great CD to my collection, and more than that, to my listening pleasure. One of the best of the best from Italy!
Reviewed by Lee Henderson on February 24th, 2011