Sad Minstrel is the name of the personal project of Fabio Casanova, former keyboardist of italian gothic-prog cult band Malombra. In this project Fabio avoids gothic elements and focuses on 70´s progressive rock influenced by folk, medieval music, and italian underground prog.
I suppose Fabio has been working several years on this album, so he is in charge of all instruments (vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, flute, tin whistle, drums, bass, effects and keyboards). In the same way all tracks (except a couple of traditional's) have been composed by Fabio.
The album, with a length of around fifty minutes, consists of nine tracks easy to listen to. Fabio is not a an amazing musician but he is a good songwriter and the compositions sound fresh.
As I stated, the music is very influenced by medieval progressive rock. Avoiding the typical references (Gryphoon or Tull), what we´ll find here is closer to underground bands like Salem or Jester, even the early albums of Spanish band Ñu. That medieval element is blended with darkest Italian progressive rock (Goblin, Balleto, Abiogenesi, Jacula). So you won´t find gothic here.
From the organ variations with electric guitar in “Mad Minstrel” (6:38), until the oasis of peace in the beginning of “Canzone della Bambina di Triora” (8:26), traditional Occitanian song sung in that language – dedicated to songwriter Fabrizio de Andre, the musical notes within this album will be enjoyed by those who love pastoral and bucolic progressive rock. This second track blends folk and progressive reaching to a amazing climax.
There are tracks like “The Flight of the Phoenix” (5:05), or the ritual “Silent Revolution” (5:06) that contains a higher electric charge and a mysterious atmosphere that could remind of bands like The Black. But always there is room for calmness with tracks like the instrumental Irish traditional “The Butterfly” (3:45), psycho-folkie “A Friend of Mine” (5:39), with nice acoustic guitars and sweet organs, or the soft and acoustic “The..” (3:26). The only time Malombra comes to my brain is when I listen to “The Night of Beltaine” (4:08), a song with epic choruses.
The closing track, “The Wood of Memories” (9:18), not only is the longest but also is the best, because tries to join all the aforementioned musical elements. The song ends with the melody of “Mad Minstrel”.
There are albums that can´t stop the world go round, and of course this won´t stop it. But we must admit that thanks to musicians like Fabio Casanova, certain underground progressive genres keep alive. You always can find dozens of albums sounding like Genesis, Yes or ELP, but… how many sounding like Goblin or Jester?