Mangala Vallis Dreams

Mangala Vallis
The Book of Dreams (2001)

If Jon Anderson were singing on this CD, you would swear it was a new Yes album. I think this is mainly due to the distinctive Rickenbacker bass. Despite being an Italian band the singing is in English and very good.

Reviewed by: Clayton Walnum, June 2002
Italy has a new progressive-rock band, but the group sounds decidedly un-Italian. Instead, these folks sound very much like the English prog of the 70s, Genesis in particular, though you can also hear dashes of Yes here and there. According to the band’s website, “Gigi, Mirco and Enzo developed the idea of Mangala Vallis in 1998. The band wandered in the world of progressive rock, and the result of three years of hard work is The Book Of Dreams, a concept album inspired by the fantastic book-writer Jules Verne and his great books. Completely in love with the sound of the early 70’s, Mangala Vallis is influenced by the music of that golden era, even if its music is filtered through its own taste and vision.”

So there you go. The band’s description of themselves is entirely accurate. If you like 70s style Genesis and Yes, you’ll probably go for this album. A caveat though: While Mangala Vallis does a good job of reproducing that 70s sound, the songs here aren’t as intense as the ones after which they are modeled. Also, although the compositions are long, they are less complex than the stuff Genesis and Yes were doing back in those golden years. The resultant sound is actually more neo-prog, with a strong 70s flavor.

A case in point is the track “Is The End The Beginning?”, which starts off sounding like Spock’s Beard doing Yes, but soon turns to a Genesis-inspired instrumental section. Maybe “Genesis-inspired” is actually an understatement, because this section’s rhythms are taken almost directly from Genesis’s magnificent “Apocalypse In 9/8” [section of “Supper’s Ready”] on the Foxtrot album. The instrumentation here isn’t as complex, though, and doesn’t build to anywhere near the intensity of the original. There are, in fact, several places where the band lifts almost directly from Genesis. For example, parts of the song “The Book Of Dreams” will more than bring to mind Genesis’s “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe),” and “The Journey” has a guitar part that sounds suspiciously like something from “Watcher Of The Skies.” Still, while Mangala Vallis draws boldly from yesteryear, on several tracks, they do attempt to forge their own way, albeit much in the style of Genesis. The tracks “Under the Sea,” “Asha (Coming Back Home),” and “A New Century” probably represent best Mangala Vallis’s own sound. The songwriting and performances on these tracks (and on other tracks, except where that borrow heavily from Genesis) demonstrate that the band knows what they are doing and have a lot of potential.

Mangala Vallis is a three-piece with a drummer, guitarist (who doubles on bass), and a keyboardist. Guest vocalists, including Vic Fraja, Matteo Setti and Bernardo Lanzetti (of PFM fame), provide the singing. In many cases, the vocalists go for a Peter Gabriel sound, both as far as their tone and their expression go. Let’s just say that Mangala Vallis may love English prog in general, but there’s no doubt who their favorite English group is. The frequent lack of originality notwithstanding, the band sounds very professional, playing well together and putting together some terrific vocal parts. The band’s guitarist is no slouch either and churns out some tasty solos. The recording is crisp and clear, with every instrument easily audible.

All things considered, I like this CD quite a bit. Maybe next time out, Mangala Vallis can drop the imitations and go for the real gold. I know I plan to keep my eye on this band.