The Steve Rothery Band played their first concert in Plovdiv, Bulgaria and was released as a live album. This was their second concert and this too has been made available as a live album. What makes the two albums even more remarkable is that they both contain the tracks that will constitute the new studio album that is due in September called The Ghosts of Pripyat. Steve has given them a good live workout before recording them for the studio album and so they have had a chance to develop or in some cases get cut down a little. But as this is a review for the Live In Rome double album, lets have a look at what you get.
Disc one is a totally instrumental album that will be for all intents and purpose The Ghosts Of Pripyat. The second disc has five Marillion songs sung by Italian guest vocalists plus two songs by a group called RanestRane. It just so happens that their keyboard player Riccardo Romano is playing with Steve at this concert and Steve has played with them before. The other band members are Dave Foster (Mr So And So) on guitar, Yatim Halimi (Panic Room) on bass and Leon Parr on drums. And what a tight sound they make as a band. There is no way you would think this was their second ever gig.
So what does the first disc sound like. Morpheus starts very atmospheric and slowly builds into a beautiful tune. Kendris feels very Eastern and has some great drumming. It has a touch of Led Zeppelin's Kasmir about it. The Old Man And The Sea is my favourite on the album. It builds and builds until it reaches and climax that features a great guitar riff that then gets soloed over. On the studio album these solos will be handled by Steve Hackett and Steven Wilson but here Mr. Rothery does a great job. There is some in between song chat which is very relaxed but informative where we learn that the songs were created by imagining them as mini film soundtracks and that White Pass is all about a mountain pass in British Columbia where so many people lost their lives during the Goldrush. The music reflects this perfectly. Yesterdays Hero and Summers End finish off an excellent first disc that is full of emotive playing but above all, has some great tunes that keep the listener interested. Some guitar instrumental albums can get boring after a few tracks but this never does.
The second disc is interesting for other reasons. Manuela Milanese takes the vocals for Waiting To Happen and later on, Sugar Mice. She does a fine job. Its strange to hear Sugar Mice sung by a female but it gives the song a different slant. Allessandro Carmassi tackles Afraid Of Sunlight, Easter and Cinderella Search. Although he is a good vocalist he is no Steve Hogarth and in places I feel he is trying too hard. However, he gives Cinderella Search a good run for its money. Materna Luna is obviously well known to the crowd and the instrumental is well received. The final track, Monolith pt 2 is sung in Italian and has some nice guitar passages that bring this album to a close. This double album is well worth buying and I heartily recommend it. A DVD came along with this release as well. Containing the same concert. However this was not available for review!
****+ Dave Smith
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