Although as a performer, studio player or producer Marco De Angelis has been involved in the music industry for three decades, The River Both Sides Of The Story is his first solo release. In terms of style this Italian multi-instrumentalist, including being one of Italy's few Chapman Stick experts, provides a gently Progressive album which owes as much to Mike + The Mechanics, as it does Fish, It Bites, Karnataka, or at times especially Pink Floyd. This is commercial fare and possibly not one for serious Progsters, however don't take that to mean it is lightweight or throwaway. Instead The River is a concept album which dives from idea to idea through some stunning musicianship and tightly crafted songs. De Angelis handles most of the instruments himself, only aided by drummer Cristiano Micalizzi, a group of wonderful female backing singers and the simply fantastic lead singer Marcello Catalano. DeAngelis is undoubtedly the main force here, composing, producing and playing most of what you hear, however it's no exaggeration to suggest that without Catalano's expert vocal delivery, this album would only be half as effective and ear catching as it is. The vocalist's attack varying from something akin to Ray Wilson and Neal Morse, to touches of Fish and Nik Kershaw a fine mix in anyone's book.
The concept behind the album explains how life is a river we all travel down and that we can chose from either side to stop off at, whether they be good or bad, male or female, night or day, or life and death. The songs having ambient noise between them to illustrate aspects of the choices made and revelled in or the regret of mistaken decisions. However it is all done with a lightness of touch and always an eye for melody, leaving songs which don't overbear in a way this concept easily could. There's a real mix of attacks with "Snowbound" reminding of RPWL, the use of Chapman Stick on "One Love" bringing a touch of Peter Gabriel and where vocally Fish is a reference point, although we're actually close to Def Leppard here too. Add to that the ever so gentle "This Time", where again Catalano shines working against acoustic guitars and shimmering keyboards, while "Take It Away" employs a similar slow approach but adds a gritty atmosphere which latter day Genesis often evoked. Although Gilmour led Floyd is a far more obvious influence on this track both vocally and in terms of the guitar sounds and style.
In the end there's no denying that for some this album will be a little too easy going, possibly even pedestrian. However for someone like myself who derives as much pleasure from AOR as I do Neo Prog, there really isn't a dull moment and the overall effect simply grows with each listen, always drawing you back for more.

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