Roberta De Francia & Band – Kaleidoscope Stars – Album Review
Very, very interesting.
After nearly a full day’s worth of time spent immersed in the hip-hop/electro & rap genres yesterday…I’m starting today with what I might not even know how to label myself had I not seen all these accurate tags describing the music of Roberta De Francia & Band. Words that stood out and caught my eye…avant-garde, alternative, folk, jazz, funk…all I could assume before listening was that I would indeed be in for a combination of sound and overall experience unlike many others I’ve had.
Flash-forward to a few listens through the album later…and I’ve decided to take a moment here and chastise these guys in the nicest of ways that I can…what is up with ‘Band?’ Roberta! M’lady, I know this project sails with you steering from the helm…but just generic, ordinary, plain-old ‘Band?’
I say this…cause she HAS to be able to hear what I’m hearing…there’s a tremendous amount of creativity and superb skills backing up her sweetly toned vocals…I may/may not just be being a smartass here; but I think they truly need a superior name…or at least something other than the generic label of ‘Band!’ While Roberta certainly delivers with her vocals; no argument can be made against the ‘Band’ behind her, they’re incredibly gifted musicians. And now I want to know just as much about them as I do Roberta herself! But that…unfortunately…seems to be the information that I can’t find…perhaps I’m not looking in the right places, or perhaps ultimately the focus is to be placed upon Roberta herself.
I tease…immensely. You can also find this project going by the moniker of Roberta Y Ricardo.
It starts on a playful & melodic vibe with all kinds of vibrant, exotic flavors in the music bursting out brightly. I found myself instantly attached to the music and the unique rhythm and pulse within it…it’s captivating stuff, right from the drop of the first song “Get Up And Go.”
Now as for Roberta herself…again, she’s certainly a fantastic singer and really shines brightly on many moments throughout the album, though I’ll admit in this first tune, it was a combination in sound my ears weren’t quite ready for.
Things calm themselves into a jazzy state pretty quickly, taking the energy down a notch in the second track, “Tonight,” but also bringing out the melody even more. Roberta floats between perfection and imperfections in the vocals throughout the verse with a sense of true freedom; you can tell this is a real artist at work. I have literally NO clue what she’s saying in about half of the chorus and I almost couldn’t care less; that’s a real example of her hitting her vocal stride and delivering with full confidence and pure, sweet tones. The music rises up with her in this chorus to a pop-folk zone that is just beautiful through and through.
Now…here’s another reason why I’d love to call these guys in the back…you know the ones I mean…those players playing music…yeah YOU guys…way in the back there…the ‘BAND;’ listen to “Talking Flowers,” it’s an instrumental cut from this album and honestly a spectacular highlight. Absolutely mesmerizing instruments and songwriting choices, perfectly played….just gorgeous. Following a saxophone lead…hmmm…perhaps a clarinet….I should know that….but whatever the lead rhythm is, it’s so well played and so…I don’t know…I keep coming back to that sense of freedom I feel in this music. Roberta De Francia & Band seem limitless in scope; they could take this music anywhere. As “Talking Flowers” plays on, it simply gets stronger and stronger, growing with intense emotion dripping right out of the instruments and notes being played.
As we all know, I try to avoid playing favorites on a full album…but sometimes there’s just no other option. “Broken Sphere,” is a gorgeously melodic, atmospheric and beautifully performed track. Roberta displays a fragility in the verse, accompanied by a perfect clarinet line (this time I’m sure…I think!). Full of incredible emotion, there’s a depth in this song that I felt had yet to be revealed on this album until this point; all good songs, but “Broken Sphere” started to change the expectations and raise their game just a little more.
Heading back into another instrumental with “One More Protagonist”…you can definitely count me in to whatever the ‘Band’ is playing; this is another excellent tune full of innovative choices and structure. Such clear sounds on these instruments, on the tracks with vocals, the whole works; the production team should be mighty proud of this one.
There’s almost a swing-meets reggae vibe going on in “Free Mind,” or jazz-meets-reggae on “Serendipity.” You certainly can count on Roberta and her Band to bring sounds you’re not hearing pretty much anywhere else….and I love that about these guys. At the very end, we get the ultimate treat of hearing Roberta sing in her native Italian tongue…it’s gorgeous, has drama and dynamics and leaves a lasting impression on a guy like me. What can I say, I love accents!
But it’s more than that. You can hear Roberta is equally comfortable in both languages, and unafraid to go after each moment in a stylistic & artistic way each time she’s in front of the microphone. It’s my wish one day…that the English language won’t always be the dominant one when it comes to music…I can’t imagine not having this final experience with Roberta’s voice now that I’ve heard it here like this at the end of Kaleidoscope Stars, but I definitely understand how universal English is when it comes to a musical career and certainly understand the choice.
Consider me interested! You know me, I love the combination of art & music together, and that’s exactly what we have here with Roberta De Francia & Band.
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