In the year 1993 the Italian band The Night Watch was born. Singer Simone Rossetti and bass player Antonio Mauri who already played Marillion covers together, formed a band which consisted further of guitarist Francesco Zago, keyboard player Giovanni Alessi and drummer Maurizio Sancetta. Besides some own compositions (early versions of "The black cage" & "The fisherman") they played long suites of Marillion, Genesis and King Crimson songs. After the replacement of drummer Maurizio Sancetta by Diego Donadio, their first album "Twilight" was recorded during February and March of 1997. After the temporarily replacement of keyboard player Giovanni Alessi by Beatrice Gelli, the band had for a period no keyboard player at all. "Twilight" was published in December 1997 and became my favourite album of that year. In March 1998 drummer Roberto Leoni replaces Diego Donadio. The band played that year some concerts in Italy, The Netherlands, Germany and France. In February 1999 the band made a demo with three new songs. ("New Heroes", "Fading" & "When death caught me in the sleep") At that time I did see the band performing for the first time in Zwolle, The Netherlands. The band played a fantastic set which consisted out of some songs from "Twilight", the three new songs and two old Genesis songs ("Seven stones" & "The return of the giant hogweed"). At that time the band had no keyboard player but guitarist Francesco Zago who was sitting like Mr. Fripp always does, was surrounded by electronics and triggered and played the most beautiful keyboard sounds besides his guitar work which reminded me of King Crimson. Together with the Gabrielesque performance of singer Simone Rossetti, who even weared some masks and played some flute, the band showed to have a big musical potential. The atmosphere of the performance reminded me of Genesis and King Crimson shows. Simone and especially Francesco made a big impact on me. The road, which led to the second album, was a long one. And only singer Simone Rossetti and drummer Roberto Leoni are present on the new CD "Ghost", which will be released end of this month under the new group name The Watch.
Simone Rossetti - Vocals, Valerio Vado - Guitars, Marco Schembri - Bass, Sergio Taglioni - Piano and Keyboards, Gabriele Manzini - Keyboards, Roberto Leoni - Drums.
As you could read in my intro Simone Rossetti struggled for four years to get the new compositions on CD. "New heroes" was the only survivor, which we can find under the name "Heroes" on this album. The song developed into one of the best compositions on this album. In the meantime the whole band fell into pieces. The leaving of Francesco Zago has an important influence on the sound of the band, especially live I think. In the upcoming interview with Simone we will ask him to tell us all the details. But the most important thing is that after four years we can listen to the successor of the brilliant "Twilight" album. Lets concentrate on the music now.
The album opens with "DNAlien" (8:36) and this song has an intro of mysteriously keyboard soundscapes, which develops into a bombastic opening with organ and mellotron. The music of The Watch has a lot tempo changes and the atmosphere of the music has a strong resemblance with the old Genesis in the period of "Nursery Crime" and "Foxtrot". I talk now about the structure of the songs. The music itself is more a mix of Genesis, King Crimson and The Watch. The organ and the voice of Simone give that old Genesis feeling. The guitar solos are more a mix of Hackett and Fripp. It is easy to call The Watch a Genesis clone, but that is not fair. We are not talking about the British band Re-Genesis. The Watch has own strong compositions and Simone writes the music just in the way he likes it. As an old Genesis lover I love those songs.
The second track is called "The ghost and the teenager" (8:38). The opening theme of the track has a delicious emotional guitar piece. But the structure is build around piano pieces with the fragile vocals of Simone with that resemblance to Peter Gabriel. The middle section is more up-tempo. There are a lot of tempo changes and the track is for me one of the highlights of the album. The music has a great variation and there are a lot of emotional moments in the music. I would love to hear this track live with the two new keyboard players Sergio Taglioni and Gabriele Manzini and the new guitarist Valerio Vado who has some great emotional moments in this song.
Some of the fans (the die-hards) of The Night Watch will already know the next track "Heroes" (8:12) The song was on their last demo, but had than the name "New Heroes". The people who were at the last performances of the band had even the opportunity to hear it live. It was already clear then that this was a strong composition. It has up-tempo parts and pieces where the band slows down the pace. Simone sings in a very theatrical manner. His performance on stage proofs my point here. The middle section is slow and Simone sings like Gabriel in his best days. The guitar playing gives again that "Nursery Crime" feeling. But in the end the tension and the tempo is building up with walls of symphonic keyboards and screaming guitar bits to a climax. The song has developed over the last years into a real The Watch song and is better than ever.
The next piece (1:15) is an instrumental bridge of mysteriously synths for the track "Moving red" (6:34) It is an up-tempo song with a catchy refrain. But as the title "Moving red" already suggest the VU-meters of the mixing console are sometimes into the red section, which results in some distortion in the music. The word red is maybe a link to the "Red" album of King Crimson but it can be also a coincidence. Because the name of the band is also changed from The Night Watch into The watch. The Night Watch was a link to a King Crimson song, which was a link again to the famous painting "De Nachtwacht" of a Dutch painter. Maybe the distorted backing vocals have a purpose but I simply don't like this. There are no weak compositions on this album, but this song is not my favourite.
"Riding the elephant" + " And the winner is " (3:38 + 10:12) The last two tracks belongs together as a suite. The first one is a ballad with beautiful keyboards and tastefully vocals of Simone. The vocal refrain is very beautiful. The second piece starts with acoustic guitar and a fragile vocal line of Simone. This is the ultimate old Genesis track of the album. The Watch can create that atmosphere perfectly. Maybe it is not very original but it is done so tastefully and with such a dedication that it becomes almost a thanksgiving to that period of symphonic rock. But The Watch also put their own original style into that melting pot and brews a delicious mix of old and new sympho. The music is played with a lot of passion. This track is absolutely the highlight of the album. The last (too short) guitar solo of Valerio Vado is played with such an emotion that it brought almost tears into my eyes.
The fans who already knew this Italian jewel of sympho, had to wait a long time for "Ghost" the successor of "Twilight". There stands a complete new band but the spirit is more or less still the same. Maybe that tells something about the dedication to his music of Simone Rossetti. So all lovers of the old Genesis must buy "Ghost". It is only sad to see that after four years the band comes with a total of 47 minutes of music. I think it has something to do with the departure of Francesco Zago. "Ghost" is a good album but there is something missing in the music. After listening to "Twilight" again, I knew it was Francesco himself. Not only a very good musician left the band but also his typical Fripp/Hackett like style of guitar playing. The King Crimson influences are almost gone. It was the combination of King Crimson and Genesis influences that made The Night Watch so very special. The music is now more Genesis orientated. But the atmosphere of the music is still great. The music is played with a lot of dedication and there is a lot of emotion in it too. And if The Watch is developing a more own style like the mix of Genesis and their own as in the song " And the winner is " The Watch has the potential to become the winners themselves and get the bigger audience they deserve. If you have the chance to see Simone Rossetti performing live with The Watch, don't miss it.