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LIVE AT PROGDAY ’97 (Proglodite PDAY003)

ProgDay is an annual event in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, which was launched in 1995. Based on Greg Walker’s west coast ProgFest, and the short-lived Baltimore ProgScape, ProgDay is, like NEARfest in Pennsylvania, a weekend devoted to more than a half dozen progressive bands in concert.   Typically, one or two of these bands will be from Italy. In 1997 ProgDay’s Italian band was Finisterre.

At that point Finisterre had released their first two studio albums. And earlier that same year the band had recorded the live tracks in France and Italy which would make up FINISTERRE LIVE (reviewed elsewhere here). Indeed, the French concert (ProgLive, in Corbigny) occurred only one week before ProgDay – and was performed by the same personnel (Andrea Orlando on drums, Sergio Grazia on flute, plus the three ongoing members of the band, Stefano Marelli on guitars, Boris Valle on keyboards and Fabio Zuffanti on bass).

But this concert was not only equal to those earlier recorded concerts in terms of performance, it was unique for a different reason: the band was playing on mostly borrowed equipment. As Fred Schendel puts it in his liner notes, “Since they were using equipment provided for the most part by Volare, this recording provides an interesting perspective on their music since it is probably the only time you will hear a Fender Rhodes piano so prevalent in their sound!” The Fender Rhodes piano sound is that of an “electric piano.” It does make for a different sound in places, creating unique versions of Finisterre’s music.

This 67-minute Live At ProgDay 1997 covers most of their concert performance.   The first three pieces are drawn from the second album and the remaining four pieces from the first album. The set overlaps that of the LIVE album by about two-thirds, and includes “Phaedra” in which the band members are introduced and King Crimson and Genesis are quoted – but less extensively than on the LIVE version. The recorded sound quality is excellent.

This album has been issued in a limited edition of only 500 copies, making it an almost instant rarity. This is one to snap up if you have enjoyed Finisterre’s other albums.

In other Finisterre news, Fabio Zuffanti (whose previous solo projects were issued as Hostsonaten) has released MERLIN, “The Rock Opera,” a 2-CD set (in oversized packaging) from Finisterre’s new irIdea Records (2000-6-2 AB). This overblown “rock opera” draws upon only Finisterre’s sometime drummer, Andrea Orlando, in addition to Zuffanti; the other musicians involved are from outside the band.   I found it disappointing on initial listening but will listen to it further before making up my mind about it. Look for an update here when I’ve done so.

NEW UPDATE [June 2001]:

Finisterre’s LIVE AT PROGDAY ’97 has been rereleased in June, 2001 by Leonardo Pavkovic’s MoonJune Records as STORYBOOK (MRJ002) for general distribution.  

This version of the album has one additional track for over 10 more minutes of music (the CD now clocks in at 77:21) – a cover of PFM’sAltaloma.”   Unfortunately, this is one of PFM’s weakest pieces – usually used in live concerts as the basis for improvisation – and here it remains a loose-jointed jam, the least of the pieces performed by Finisterre at ProgDay. It’s easy to understand why it wasn’t included on the Proglodite release.

Nonetheless, the added track just makes this album more desirable, and MoonJune has made it more easily available.   They’ve packaged it in a variation of the ecopack (rather than a jewel box), and printed the Proglodite photo cover on the CD’s label, using the Proglodite label pic for the inside covers – the package lacks the insert booklet of the Proglodite release. (I was trying to figure out why the ProgDay art is all on the inside and the outside covers show a New York City subway scene – but then I got it: The subway train is an F train, its identifying front-window letter-in-an-orange-circle more or less duplicating the letters-in-colored-circles used for the title logo.   That’s something of a reach; the art director’s tail is wagging the dog.)

The MoonJune release is part of a major change in Finisterre.   MoonJune has set up a new website for the band, which offers this news:

“2000 brought the biggest changes for the band, with the arrival of a new keyboard player, Agostino Macor, who made his live debut with Finisterre in Barcelona, and more recently the addition of two new members, lead vocalist and flautist Raffaella Callea and violinist Sergio Caputo, making the band a sextet for the first time in its existence. Finisterre has recently signed with the very ambitious MoonJune Group, a division of New York-based Music Magnet Media, which will handle all aspects of band's promotion, marketing, public relation, touring and music distribution, worldwide. Plans for a new studio album (to be released by Iridea Records in Italy and MoonJune Records in the USA) are being made, with studio sessions already booked for the Spring of 2001, with further live dates in USA and Mexico in meantime, and later on the new USA/Mexican tour with eventually an excursion to Japan and Korea.”

IN OTHER NEWS, rumors to the effect that ProgDay had seen its last show as of 2000 have happily been proven false. The 2001 ProgDay festival has been announced for Labor Day weekend, 200l, thus returning to its original time period and continuing afresh.   (My personal regret is that it conflicts with the World Science Fiction convention in Philadelphia that same weekend.)

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