introWhen I read the credits of this CD I didn't know if to write "various artists" or "Magellan" at the top of the review. Finally I have opted for the first one. After the tributes, now it´s time for projects full of guests stars. "Leonardo" is Magna Carta´s biggest bet in 2001 and it´s an opera rock close to Broadway style, with different characters recreating the Italian genius' life. Without minimizing the rest, the most famous vocalist-actors that we can find in this CD are James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Mike Baker (Shadow Gallery), Robert Berry (Three), Steve Walsh (Kansas), Bret Douglas (Cairo), Michelle Young (Glass Hammer) and Josh Pincus (Ice Age). But when we look at the musicians we realize that the Gardner "Magellan" Bros. (Trent and Wayne) are who really conduct the whole work. Especially Trent, who sings, produces, and plays keyboards and his progressive trombone.
First problem: I have never understood Magellan´s music. I own some of their CD's and I find them quite interesting but a little bit boring... maybe because of so much instrumental complication and technical gym or maybe because of the lack of a "human" drummer. Fortunately the beautiful orchestral intros "Apparition" and "Aria for Italy" make me forget Magellan. Now I will review the CD without any kind of preconceived idea.
The structure of the work is like an opera. The characters sing depending on their roles and the music accompanies without too much protagonism. And I am surprised to see Gardner´s great sense of the composition structuring different intensities depending on the moment. But mainly this CD has lots of melody (hey, are we talking about progressive metal?!!). We have a clear example in "Mona Lisa", a very epic song that remains very much to the early Queen, but unfortunately finishes with an ugly fade out. We can find virtuosity in instrumental tracks such as "Il Divino", with nice keyboards. You can also find beautiful melodies in "First commission", a duet between Steve Walsh and Michelle Young with an acoustic structure a la "Dust in the wind"; the surprising "This time, this way", a pop-ballad with Chicago-like horns section (my God, am I becoming crazy?). Labrie sings here like he has never sung with Dream Theater, repeating vocal quality in "Shaping the invisible" (also very Queen). Another strange song is "Heart of France" in which I already become definitively crazy because I think I am listening to Styx.
The hardest moments -and the worst - are "Apprentice", confused in its verses but with choirs and moments of great quality, and "Inventions". They are not bad tracks since they have interesting instrumental fragments -keyboards mainly -, but they are overproduced with Magellan´s style. But don´t worry, it doesn´t happen in too many songs.
In general "Leonardo" is a CD very easy to listen to, very varied, and with only a couple of "errors": some tracks that finish with fade out" (hey, hey, in this kind of CD's is also necessary to know how to link the songs), and the end of the CD "End of the world", a bit precipitated. Also it would have been a good thing to include some recited parts.
If you are Magellan fans and you thought "Leonardo" will be the new Magellan´s CD, you are wrong. You do not have to be complicated if you want to be really progressive. Although "Leonardo" is not a masterpiece (Robert Berry´s "The wheel of time" is, for example, much better) Gardner has convinced me.