(All Album Reviews by Jonathan Pine)
Mangala Vallis come from Italy and The Book of Dreams is their debut release. This album is dedicated to the memory of Jules Verne the French writer, precursor of modern science fiction. That’s why all the 6 lyrics (six not 8 because ,not including the short “Overture,” there is one instrumental piece –“Under The Sea”) here which are sung in English are based on stories taken from his novels. Actually, the band’s name was also taken from one of Verne’s works it was a name of some imaginary valley on Mars.
Consisting of well-experienced musicians: Gigi Cavalli Cocchi (drums), Enzo Cattini (keyboards) and Mirco Consolini (guitar and bass) Mangala Vallis can be described as a trio. However, the vocals on Book Of Dreams are delivered by three different guest singers: Matteo Setti, Vic Fraja and last but not least Bernardo Lanzetti (ex lead singer of PFM). You can also find on the list of guests Stefano Menato (saxophone), Elisa Giordanella (viola) and Kimberly Duke (narrator). Musically, the album sounds a bit like “Watcher Of the Skies” era Genesis with a touch of the old and good Marillion (with Fish I mean).
Besides, the overall atmosphere of it reminds me of Rick Wakeman’s Return To The Centre Of The Earth which was also inspired by Jules Verne’s novels. The Mangala Vallis music has a lot of power, feeling and emotion. Without a doubt its advantages are strong vocals, compelling melodies and wonderful harmonies. The album opens majestically with a short “Ouverture” which is a pleasant to my ears introduction to the atmosphere of the album. The first vocalist displaying his talents is Matteo Setti (“Is the End the Beginning?”, “The Book of Dreams”) and I must say that he is very good. The bass-line on the title track is very strong and slightly reminiscent of Marillion’s “Grendel”. Both songs sung by Mr. Setti have a classic prog feel and the same can be said about the entire album. The tracks that follow are really marvelous and memorable tunes. Particularly worth mentioning are my favorites: ”The Journey”, “Days of Light”, “Asha” (the vocals provided superbly by Vic Fraja and closing the album “A New Century” (sung by Bernardo Lanzetti).Though I must add that I like listening to the album from the beginning to the end and I never get even slightly bored by it.
”The Journey” is the longest piece on the CD (12:13). Beginning nicely with slow, ballad like pace, it features very melodic guitar solos. I would not say, however, that the song is lacking teeth. Apart from being a pretty ballad, it contains tasty instrumental excursions (keyboard and guitar backed by solid rhythm section). A melancholic “Days of Light” showcases nice guitar and keys parts with some warm sax work to compliment them. “Asha”is another slow paced track moody and accessible with memorable melodies (the bass playing stands out here).
The only track sung by Bernardo Lanzetti is the closer “A New Century”. A nicely arranged and strong piece, though to be truthful I must add that Vic Fraja’s vocals seem to be more appealing to me.
The production of “The Book of Dreams” is also very good, providing a pretty clear and polished sound.
To sum up, this is a superb effort, an excellent disc, and worthy of any prog collection.