Having recently reviewed the debut release from Rafael Pacha & Kimmo Pörsti I find myself back-tracking to The Samurai of Prog’s The Spaghetti Epic 4, released in the summer of this year, a couple of months prior to Pacha & Pörsti’s Views From the Inner World. For those still unfamiliar with The Samurai of Prog, they are led by composer and bassist Marco Bernard, Kimmo Pörsti on drums and percussion, along with a third long standing member, multi-instrumentalist Steve Unruh, who although absent from the last two albums, returned on the recent Anthem to the Phoenix Star. As always, the TSoP line-up is augmented by with a plethora of guest musicians and vocalists.
As we are on to The Spaghetti Epic 4, and in case you missed the first three, perhaps a little background is required on the previous releases. The first of the ‘spaghetti epics’ dates back to 2004 and was released in conjunction between Finland’s Colossus magazine and French label/distributor Musea Records. The opening shot was the double CD The Spaghetti Epic (Six Modern Prog Bands For Six ’70 Prog Suites). As the title implies, an ambitious undertaking which tasked six bands with writing and performing an ‘epic’ (over 20-minutes in duration), heavily influenced by ’70s Italian prog and taking its theme from Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time in the West. The Spaghetti Epic 2 (The Good, The Bad and The Ugly) emerged in 2007 and the finale The Spaghetti Epic 3 (The Great Silence) was released in 2009. Throughout and linking Colossus and The Samurai of Prog is founding member, Finland-based, Italian composer and bassist Marco Bernard.
So some thirteen years after the last Western themed album, TSoP have donned their spurs and pistols to breath new life into the spaghetti concept, paying tribute to director Sergio Leone’s Trilogia Del Dollaro movies and the music of composer Ennio Morricone. And keyboardist and multi-instrumentalist Marco Grieco’s opening gambit does exactly that – sound effects, chiming bells, a whistled theme, male choir, shouts, trumpet, a galloping rhythm, and the all important twangy guitar. If you have seen the Clint Eastwood films you are probably whistling or humming it now. With the scene set, Marco Grieco and the TSoP gang wrap it all together in a distinctive proggy poncho.
As with the ’00s releases, The Spaghetti Epic 4 features, as might be expected given the title, two lengthy tracks, firstly Mimmo Ferri’s Mira Al Cuore [Aim To The Heart], followed by Alessandro Di Benedetti’s La Resa Dei Conti [The Showdown], collectively clocking in at just shy of three-quarters of an hour. The six part Mira Al Cuore takes on the first of the Clint Eastwood films, A Fist Full of Dollars and across the twenty-three minute track, Ennio Morricone’s film score is frequently referenced.
Now at this point it’s probably as good a time to take my gun out of the holster and shoot myself in the foot by saying I’m not a huge fan of ‘Italian’ prog!
‘Kill the Gringo!’
OK, I appreciate this is a sweeping statement, and I can think of numerous ‘exceptions’, but in general it’s not a genre I naturally gravitate to. So, not the greatest introduction to the main body of The Spaghetti Epic 4 and more specifically the aforementioned Mira Al Cuore and La Resa Dei Conti, which take up the lion’s share of this disc. Therefore I see little value in dissecting the composer’s music or the excellent musicians, and simply say that Italian prog fans should find much to enjoy here…
There are however three remaining tracks and, as mentioned in the opening paragraph, Rafeal Pacha, a regular contributor to TSoP and side projects, turns up with his composition Snakebite. Not only is Pacha a multi-instrumentalist, but one who regular unearths the right instrument for a particular track. Here we have an Indian ‘mohan veena’, a 20-stringed modified guitar where only three strings are played, five are drone strings and twelve sympathetic. A curious choice for a Western themed album, however it works very effectively for this blues tinged piece. Along with this Pacha adds acoustic and electric guitars, viola da gamba (a type of fretted viola), keyboards, banjo and the final touch comes from Marc Papeghin on trumpet. The end result is a contrasting track but one befitting the album and its concept.
David Myers’ wonderfully titled The Fabulous Felipe and His Dancing Squirrels eschews the perhaps obvious honky-tonk piano in a bar room setting, and is therefore a little incongruous. Still, it is a delightful solo piano interlude.
The album finishes, as it started, with a Marco Grieco written creation, High Noon. Unlike the opener, the Morricone references are less overt allowing Messrs Grieco, Bernard and Pörsti the freedom to shoot it out. High Noon is chock full of fiery bombast, great synth work and a suitably dynamic finale to the album.
As with all TSoP releases they have turned to graphic artist Ed Unitsky for the cover and booklet artwork design. The mixture of Black & White photos encased in Ed’s lavish graphics offer context to the album’s theme.
The Spaghetti Epic 4 should certainly appeal to those who have a penchant for Italian styled progressive rock.
01. Dead or Alive (6:04)
02. Mira Al Cuore [Aim To The Heart] (23:39)
– i. La Caverna
– ii. Richiamo Bella Vendetta
– iii. Un Fragore Di Tuono
– iv. Lo Scontro Finale
– v. La Morte Di Ramone
– iv. Con Un Pugno Di Dollari
03. La Resa Dei Conti [The Showdown] (20:10)
– i. Epilogue
– ii. The Robbery
– iii. The Prison
– iv. Epilogue
04. Snakebite (8:07)
05. The Fabulous Felipe and His Dancing Squirrels (3:07)
06. High Noon (6:31)
Total Time – 67:38
Marco Bernard – Bass Guitar
Kimmo Pörsti – Drums, Percussion
Tommaso Fichele – Vocals
Stefano Galifi – Vocals
Juhani Nisula – Electric Guitar
Marcel Singor – Electric Guitar
Rafael Pacha – Mohan Veena, Acoustic & Electric Guitars, Keyboards, Viola Da Gamba, Banjo
Marco Grieco – Keyboards, Acoustic & Electric Guitars, Harmonica, Accordion, Sound Effects, Backing Vocals
Alessandro Di Benedetti – Keyboards
Mimmo Ferri – Keyboards, Electric Guitars, Dulcimer, Viola Braguesa
David Myers – Piano
Beatrice Birardi – Glockenspiel, Tubular Bells, Percussion, Vocals
Adam Diderrich – Violin
Sara Traficante – Flute
Marc Papeghin – Trumpet
JJ Burnel – Bass
Record Label: Seacrest Oy
Country of Origin: International
Date of Release: 15th June 2022