ORGAN THING: Saro Cosentino’s new album and can Peter Hammill save it with a perfectly placed “the” in that way only he can?

Saro Cosentino – The Road To Now (Cat Sound) – The Joke was recently made available as a teaser song from the new album by the Italian composer and producer Saro Cosentino. The song is co-written with “prog legend” Peter Hammill and features his “distinctive lead vocal”, it is full of portent with a lyric about the corporate greed and consumer habits that directly affect climate change.  Cosentino says “is pretty self-explanatory. Only a fool would set fire to his own home, but that is what we are doing. We are on a path of self destruction and need to change our priorities and reconsider our values as a society without having ‘produce/consume/die’ as a motto.”

So The Joke did indeed tease us, not sure I’d just put Peter Hammill in the box marked “prog legend”, surely he’s far far more than just that. The Joke did indeed entice and no one would ever dare to complain and nothing is gained if nothing is ventured and look, I’m a frothing fan when it comes to Hammill, he can do no wrong, that voice, that way he puts his words together, the way everything is placed and the joking in the hope of staying sane, Yes, bleak but I liked The Joke, I was ready for more.       

The third solo album by Saro Cosentino, the previous one was in 1997, The Road To Now features singers Peter Hammill (on four songs), Tim Bowness (of No Man) and Karen Eden, plus instrumental contributions from the likes of Gavin Harrison, David Rhodes, John Giblin and Trey Gunn. The joke arrives as second track in, before that a rather politely paced song sung by Tim Bowness, a rather polite, rather unadventurous middle of the road kind of opener of a song that keeps the danger out of sight – politely placed, polite instrumentation, lacking any real emotion, the temptation to fast forward two third of the way through is one that can’t be resisted, there’s only so many times I can listen to the same line repeated in such an aimlessly pointless way  I must confess I know very little of Saro Cosentino, his instrumentation seems pleasant enough, his arrangements polite enough but…  

Elsewhere, Karen Eden certainly has a voice, once again the instrumentation is politely ‘nice’ and well, rather middle of the road and nowhere near any kind of challenging cutting edge. Not that everything has to be challenging or close to the edge, not that everything needs to be pushing the envelope. November features both Hammill and Bowness,  it is mostly carried by Hammill’s sense of drams, his minimalism, once again a polite drum kicks in and well, Tim Bowness weights in with polite backing vocals that maybe weren’t needed and the safe option has once again been taken. Hey, look, just for Hammill’s voice, just for his poetic character this is (almost) worth it, but really I am struggling here and I do need the antidote from Mr X and I really am doing well to not skip forward through direness of US (Scars on Skin), and oh dear, some of those lyrics are, well let me politely move on, this, I’m sorry to say, and I’m being very (very) polite here, this is not very good.

I do find some of the decisions Peter Hammill makes in terms of collaborations to be a little strange, dare I say a little disappointing. And then he opens a song with a perfectly placed “the” in a way only he can and we’re on our way again. Time To Go is another healthy slice of Hammill, not one of his best but then the standards he sets are rather high, I’m not sure anything here is making it onto the Peter playlistHowl is a little more alive, an instrumental piece, far more than just a bridge or an interlude, a nice enough bit of mellow colour as the pound crashes and the Italians elect a far right leader for the first time since the Second World War (WTF Italy?). Surely this album needs to be far more hard hitting, biting, angry? What with every bloody emperor on the rise with the tides and the oh I don’t know. When your parents danced with the light shining bright in their eyes and well, I’ve drooled over Hammill albums, I’ve battled over Van Der Graaf, and yes I know the policy around here is that if we don’t have anything positive to say then we generally don’t bother saying or covering it but we have gone on at length about all things Hammill on these pages, there sometimes needs to be balance, as a standalone track The Joke is a positive, but as an album, I don’t think even Mr Hammill can save this one. (sw) 

The album details are here on Bandcamp

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