Luca Burgalassi: “Shadows And Fragments”
For the musical connoisseur with a bold appetite, you’re in for a delight. A sweet treat with a dash of spice for flavor, take a taste and savor. A rapturous medley of sensations awaits the hungry listener.
The 2015 release of “Shadows and Fragments” is a concept album by singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, Luca Burgalassi. It has been an ambitious project and labor of love that has taken the Italian born artist on a journey full of discoveries, revelations, joys and sorrows. The songs were started as a teen; a period as a beginning young musician and writer, continuing on to the mature artist that he has developed into today.
Luca has presented his solo debut album in a sweeping fashion. Being the artist that he is, every detail is important to his creation. Starting with the cover itself. It shows two open hands in a soft orange light, against a black background. One of the hands being larger than the other, represents the transition and growth; from childhood, to adolescence, and onward through to manhood.
There is also a warmth and glow to the scene, comforting and safe: the orange of autumn leaves and sweethearts walking through a park; the embers of a burning log in a fireplace, the scent of that wood; the wood of the instruments that make music and joyful sounds; a photograph, old and sepia toned, the capturing of an instant, a snapshot from long ago, and a distant time.
The black background is in stark contrast, and represents the night; the darkness and dangers, the unknown and unseen, the uncertainties and the shadows: a time for sleep and rest.
The color orange, is used not only on the cover, but in the title of two tracks contained in the album. The color orange: a representation or metaphor for the rising and setting sun. It is the transition from morning, the rising; to dusk, the setting. It is a cycle of time and life and the many risings and settings that we confront. We go on and move forward, to a new and another day, amidst the darkness that is within us, and around us.
These songs were started in the glow of the innocence of youth; show an incredible amount of depth and observation. They have been lovingly and finely crafted and show the development of a true artist. With a keen sense of time and spirit, exploring and evoking the myriad emotions of the human condition; the search and journey of one’s life, the ups and downs, highs and lows, and in-betweens: the love and loss, the pain and the joy; reflections and introspections. Self-realizations from the perspective of a young man embarking, how the people we meet along the way, that come and go in and out of our lives, touch us and color our view, and how they make and shape us into what we will eventually become.
We are treated to glimpses and moments; personal and bittersweet; it as if peering through a window as an observer. We take that trip alongside our troubadour. We share in his odyssey to find himself, his place, happiness and love. The road isn’t always an easy one. No life is. The little triumphs along the way that make us rise and accept and appreciate what we have. Along the way we are met with disappointments, broken hearts and broken dreams. Sometimes we get sidetracked and lose our way, we try to forget. We mourn what we lost, and what could have been; the many paths and roads we take, their twists and turns.
As an artist, his songs are like seeds, they sprout out of fertile ground of his experiences and imagination, into a garden: an Eden of sound. Like a painter, with his paints and brushes, he creates from a blank canvas works of art. He sees with depth and perception. He uses colors and various textures, brush strokes of varying degrees. Some pictures are black and white, as there are gray areas, not always so perceptible and clear.
Sit back and relax, immerse yourself in every note, let the songs and vocals carry you off and away into moments of delight. Transport yourself in time and place. Absorb the sounds and images; this is music to make you dream.
Citing such performers as Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and James Taylor as influences, he has forged his own path, with his unique blending of styles of American roots music. Genre defying: including folk, jazz, blues, country and acoustic, it is an all-inclusive body of styles. His work is a richly woven tapestry from beginning to end, starting with the first track “Shadows” to the closing track “Fragments”.
He moves in time from Medieval, to Irish ballads, to the flavor of the jazz and blues styles of the 20’s and 30’s, right into the contemporary sounds of today. The final product is a seamless, timeless creation, broad in scope, and imagination.
His song-writing is top-notch, lyrically visual: displaying a true talent of many dimensions. Tough and tender, reflective, yet brutally honest, he puts himself out there on the battle-lines, fully exposed, and vulnerable. He takes us along with him. We can relate and sympathize. A man searching, regretting and longing to find happiness and contentment, he finds it, but cannot seem to keep it within his grasp. There is sadness, even when there are moments where love seems to be his, there for the taking. He accepts the inevitable. His writing, like a good book, each chapter telling a story. We turn the page in eager anticipation. He captivates our interest as we listen with intensity. Each title is a little gem.
Although a veteran performer for over 25 years, this is Luca’s first release. He embraced American roots music, besides both six and twelve string guitars, he learned and mastered other instruments associated and recognizable to the genre, including banjo, resonator guitar, mandolin and harmonica. He has played and toured throughout Italy, and across Europe, performing in many venues, festivals and clubs, both as a solo artist and with a variety of bands. He is a well experienced performer, musician, writer, arranger, producer and vocalist.
Luca’s expressive vocals can have an edge and vulnerability, a playfulness and humor. He conveys emotions adeptly and effortlessly. His voice being as much an instrument as the ones he plays. His delivery is nuanced and spirited. He can express a range of emotions with an inflection of his voice.
As a player he is capable and skilled, he makes it seem effortless, smooth and silky on steel and nylon strings. His fingers slide and glide up and down the frets exquisitely, simply sublime. On stage his presence is captivating and charming, self-assured and confident. He enjoys performing and the reaction and interplay with his audience. His smile is infectious, and it shows when he is on stage.
The production quality is tight and the arrangements are crisp sounding, every note falling into place; the interaction between the band members is flawlessly fluid. It flows, creating a stellar sound. It’s mellow, it rocks. It’s jazz and blues flavors, combined with the acoustic-folk work wonderfully well together The band composed of for the most part, seasoned jazz players, that each add to the mix, their own flavor resulting in a perfect blend. The players here deserve credit for their contributions in creating such a touching and transcendent work.
The band consists of Nino Pellegrini on double-bass, Ettore Fancelli on drums and percussions and Stefano Lunardi on violin, a well-seasoned performer in jazz circles himself. His playing creates a strong backbone and pivotal throughout the album. It adds multiple layers, a consistent rolling flow, that elevates the mood of the tracks. He can be intensely wrenching: a superb combination of ambiance and atmosphere. Not to detract from the rest of the band who complete, the group cohesively, seemingly effortlessly.
Luca Burgalassi “Shadows and Fragments” – Song By Song
The title track “Shadows” opens with a sweet acoustic guitar, Luca’s harmonica adding an elegiac touch, overdubbed harmony vocals blend to create a lovely layering effect. You can feel the yearning. Later in the piece, some moody electric guitar, adds yet more fullness. The music merging with the vocals, the track sails, smooth, despite the tone of the subject. Finding one self, setting out, starting alone down a solitary road: a song of discovery and finding what is missing. Finding it in another, but afraid of losing it. A man must make his own way, no matter the risks. We all must change and grow, hard decisions, setbacks and disappointments, because life, love and fortune are not guaranteed. Our insecurities and uncertainties sometimes hold us back, and we can’t help but question when all around us isn’t always what it seems. Two souls both out in the dark, both asking the same questions: they call and long for each other, knowing they are out there. Will they meet? We can only hope our singer finds his happiness and his soul mate.
“Dust and Rust”, starts out slow and picks up the pace as it moves. It progresses with a rhythm and beat. With a pensive opening lyric, the acceleration and drive of the music builds, is in step with our singers building uncertainties, and questions. A mélange of banjo, mandolin, violin and accordion, create a climactic sense of urgency. It moves along with verve, to a violin swirling, angst and turmoil of sorts. A song of parting, still a youth, and uncertain: searching, wondering, questioning: he feels alone and vulnerable. On his own, he must learn lessons of life and love: to travel the roads and face what they out forth in front of him. From the vantage point of youth, and seeing through a young man’s eyes, what he sees, and has experienced have left him with a sense of distrust and misgiving. He is suspect and somewhat disillusioned at the turn of events. There are no answers, just time and experiences to teach us as we learn our way. The dust and rust are the debris left over of what used to be. It is carried along and away with the wind. What makes this tune standout is the cohesiveness of the band: they make it rise above ordinary, with a gypsy dreamlike quality.
The third track “Dark Cherries and Wine” is a vivid dreamy like rhapsody. From the beginning, the title itself implies physical intimacy. A couple romantic evening; a night spent out on the town. That town: a colorful, small, out of the way. Seaside fishing town. Together they had spent the night on the beach. Later returning back to the privacy of their villa, they share dark cherries and wine. High spirited and inhibitions discarded, theirs is an intimate union. He awakes in the morning to the sound of the singing birds, and gazes at her longingly, as she still lies sleeping. He is stirred by the still fresh scent of their passion, his senses awakened, as their skin brushes against the others, there is an instant of electricity, and he shivers. On her breath, still a faint taste of last night’s wine. Flooded by memories and desire, he recalls the night before, even as a new day is breaking. We are shown an intimate glimpse, deeply touching in its nuances. An encounter that is brief, but unforgettable. One that will leave a lasting impression, and though it may fade, it will never dissolve. Their interlude, though impermanent, an opaque scene is forever etched in his mind, and in time. There are traces of sorrow, as he accepts the inevitable parting. This song is hot and steamy. Vocals and music come together in the same magical way as the couple. Lucas vocals are confident, and swagger. Acoustic, electric guitars and cello are sparkling and seductive. The ending instrumental moments, fade into a climax of ecstasy.
The following track “Orange Rooms” is a touching homage to early 20th century, Italian artist and sculptor Amide Modigliani, a tragic and doomed figure. He spent his most creative years living in France. An alcoholic, he was also stricken with tuberculosis and died in 1920, with his love Jeanne Hebuterne by his side. The relationship was not met with favor by her family, and they would not allow her to marry. Together and unwed, they had a daughter. To further the tragedy of these star-crossed lovers, unable to go on, and stricken with grief at his death. She leapt out of a window to her own death; she was eight months pregnant at the time. On this lovingly sung ballad, the Parisienne ambiance is captured with a level of sophistication throughout. It delicately captures the pain, despair and anguish. . In his weak and fragile mind, it is palpable, heart-wrenching and wistful. Luca with his vocals is able to transcend the limits of time and immerse himself into the character. As he lies close to death, Jeanne by his side, he dreams of the two of them returning to Tuscany. He is near death, but in death, his soul is free, and he is together with his love. That is all he wants, all he needs. On this track as others, his skills with his vocal register and phrasing, he effortlessly and effectively is able to create an emotion, mood or feeling with a simple intonation of his voice. With his natural resonance, he can convey a copious array of sentiments, ranging from humorous and teasing, to serious and melancholic, to passionate and exuberant. Here he is tender, touching and vulnerable. He has a versatile and amazing range and uses it to the fullest capacity. The violin and accordion add a bitter-sweet and haunting sadness to this piece. The band fuses into a seamless cohesiveness: a fitting coda.
“Highs and Lows”, kicks off with an up-tempo beat. An acoustic, bluesy tune with some fine guitar licks. There’s bit of twang and jaunt, another rocker. This will leave you swinging, and tapping your toes. You will want to get up and dance. Despite the title, there are more highs than lows in this. It’s uplifting in its way. He may be low, he may be blue, but he still has his confidence intact. A minute’s too long to be waiting he sings, but it does feel all right, because a reunion is not far away. The instruments on this track combine in a perfect, polished way. The drum brushing gets some moments to shine, a one two punch with a rollicking sound. Luca once again delivers a vocal that is bluesy, but also has a mellow and soulful element, enhancing the sound, in contrast to the rhythm and beat of the song. (Review continues below)
Luca Burgalassi “Shadows and Fragments” – Song by Song (Continued)
“Lord Randal”, the only track which lyrics are not written by Luca, but he has done a fine job with writing the music, producing and arranging. He has adapted a traditional, medieval Scottish ballad, creating a rich and a lovely duet with British jazz and, classical soprano singer, Wendy Nieper also a member of the group, The Swingle Singers. The music truly seems to be from the period. Dream-like, you are transported back to long ago times. The imagery of minstrels at court is vividly reproduced with the results being an amazing track by any standards. The violin and mandolin are in the forefront providing the ambience to set the piece. The vocal interplay between Luca (Randal) and Wendy (his mother) fittingly evokes the essence of the song. It tells the tale of a young lord, who has been poisoned by his lover and knows he will die soon. He wishes to return to his mother to the comfort and security of her arms and his home. Luca powerfully uses his voice in multi layers and facets, to portray the desperation and resignation of the doomed man with his one last wish. He achieves the affect, more than successfully. Credit should also be given to Wendy for her role. A gifted singer in her own right, she brings an urgency and distress to her voice. She knows his fate, and wants the chance to console him and say good-bye, and to give solace to her beloved boy one last time. The band here is superb: kudos to such fine musicianship.
Moving on to track seven: “Starless Night Blues” another bluesy feeling tune with a jazzy opening guitar. Luca is gifted and like a fine craftsman, he constructs his songs with quality and substance. His nylon string guitar intro is sultry and silky smooth. There’s a vibe of ethereal eroticism in this. He has a boyishness charm and attractively, flirtatious wit. His accent brings a facet of suavity and flair. He appeals to his friend not to go; at least not for one night. Hoping he can charm and persuade her to stay. Against the backdrop of a dark, starless night, sleeping city and dark streets, all foreboding signs, he does his best to convince her for one more chance, one more dance. The moody guitar and bass interlude emphasizes the atmosphere and again his use of back tracking vocals is flawless in setting the pleading tone. He regrets he could not persuade her, thinking with pangs of regret, if only he would have given more of himself. The few short notes on the harmonica, lend a lonely air of walking away alone on an empty street, bars and clubs al closed. The track is a little gem and a stylistically imaginative arrangement with nylon and electric guitars.
The only instrumental track, “34, Orange Road”, a solo, is a showcase of virtuoso guitar artistry and skill. It has a dreamlike quality, luxuriant and velvety. You can lose yourself, your imagination taking flight, dancing and dreamily contemplating. Just a touch of sadness and remembrance for things past against the freshness and vitality of youth The sound and composition seem intricate but he makes it seem simple, with his six string finger-picking style, in open D tuning.
On “Shipwreck”, we find a more acoustic composition with a rollicking, rousing violin and mandolin. An imaginative, allegorical piece; the shipwreck, is emotional wreckage, and a very deep hurt. There’s a sad parting of ways, she wasn’t ready. Each afraid to fall or to take a chance. Unsure of what is, and isn’t real, other than he can’t control or help how he feels. He wants what he wants, but it is unreachable. It goes on and on. Nothing is left of what used to be. Like the ship, what once was, is now a wreck. It had washed ashore broken a long time ago, to sail no more. No more games, he has resigned and accepted that he must move on, no matter how painful. The sea that isn’t there, like a mirage: smooth sailing was it all just a dream? There aren’t even any tracks, no remnants or traces, they’ve vanished. The vocals rise and fall, like a ship a sea. The loss is conveyed through his plaintive delivery. The instrumental arrangement gives an English folk / Celtic sound, with strumming guitars violin and harmonicas sounding like the wind. It is ominous, but also has a litheness to it. Storms are a part of nature, unpredictable and turbulent. We have no control over them. In our lives we will find ourselves in their paths. At times we knowingly head straight toward them, other times through no fault of our own we get caught in their fury, stranded and struggling, as they wreak their havoc. Until they pass, we seek shelter and security in a safe harbor, in the arms of one we love. Yearning for what used to be, what was lost and the price we had to pay.
The final track “Fragments” concludes the recording and it is perhaps the most shattering track. Shattering like the broken fragments. It is a lovely, slow acoustic ballad. The finger-picking acoustic guitar opening is somber, the mournful cello and violin stirring the soul to a feeling of pathos. Once a couple, but crumbling: their home, life and all they have built, represented in a porcelain building; white, pure and fragile. Love is now a game. They battle and test each other’s wills. Easy to relate to, we all make sacrifices, and try to hold on, when we know we should let go. The foundation is gone, but we continue when there is to go on, hoping it will work out. Imaginative with sorrow, forlorn and devastating, I picture a rainy night and the man alone reflecting, who is to blame? The fragments, a metaphor on a relationship, shattered: broken most likely beyond repair: the man on his knees trying to hold on to what used to be and lamenting. The vocal has a broken quality to it underscoring, the heartbreak, and regret, and coming to the finality of acceptance. This track is the most emotionally touching. The vulnerability seeping out of the vocal and the accompanying score. The acoustic, 12-string, and nylon string guitar produce a rich harmony to the overall sound, yet it is delicate, like the lyrics. A hint of harmonica, double bass and light jazzy drums added to set the tone. Everything is perfect for this final track. A sad ending: there is a sadness and longing that permeate throughout this recording. The lighthearted tracks provide balance to this fantastic, from beginning to end recording…
Ten jewels, rich in breadth and depth: a landscape of colors and complexities. The warmth and heat, the coldness and rejection and finally acceptance, you must go ahead and forward. “Fragments” brings us to the epilogue of our troubadour’s stories in song; his search for completeness, meaningfulness and purpose. We see from his perspective, with his eyes and feel from his heart, every array of emotion. From the last breaths of the doomed, to an irresistible lothario with the swagger of a savvy sophisticate. He encounters along the way moments of sweetness and intimate passion, love that bloomed and blossomed in the warm wet spring, only to wither and blow away with the winds of autumn, into fragments and shadows.
Luca’s album is available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, YouTube, Bandcamp, Reverbnation and Soundcloud. With possible showcases here in the US sometime in late 2016. He has a Facebook fan page for more information as it develops. He is also a member in the bands, Acoustic Dreams and The Main Road Band. They are well-known and popular at their live shows and have received a lot of press.
On stage he is charismatic, and genial. He has an affable personality that shines through his songs and in his presentation. A performer and musician that give credence to the meaning of a true artist: please support Luca by purchasing his album.
As a musician to achieve the sound and mood to suit each tune, Luca has an array of guitars to choose from his collection. Each produces its own unique sound, tone and textures, with varying chords and tunings for the rhythm, tempo and melody. He uses 6 and 12 string acoustic, nylon string and electric guitars, a vintage 60’s Fender Stratocaster, and a vintage Gibson ES-335 electric, as before mentioned he also plays harmonica, resonator guitar, banjo, mandolin and lap steel.