If ever an artist might have been influenced by Tim Buckley's avant-garde period -- or, put another way, if ever there were such a thing as an Italian Tim Buckley -- the evidence might have been Alan Sorrenti's 1972 album Aria. Though he's not an explicit Buckley imitator, certainly Sorrenti does share some notable characteristics of the style Buckley employed on his late-'60s/early-'70s albums Lorca and Starsailor. There's the wide vocal range; the unpredictable leaps around that range, sometimes to blood-curdlingly high notes, and at others to stream-of-consciousness speaking-in-tongues-like phrasing; and the impossible-to-pigeonhole shifting of the musical accompaniment between somber folk-rock and avant-garde jazz. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the nearly 20-minute title track, which moves from a tranquil, spacy instrumental opening evoking empty windy fields to tortuous jazz-rock fusion/improvisation. A prominent, virtuosic violin part from guest musician Jean-Luc Ponty adds tension as Sorrenti ascends and descends the vocal register with quivers and shakes, like a man in the midst of an anxiety attack. It's not all angst, though, flitting back and forth between serene, almost sentimentally folky sections and ones in which things get antsy all over again. While the other three tracks on the record aren't nearly as epochal, they too are an unnerving blend of wistful (if slightly edgy) troubadour folk-rock, jazzy instrumental accents, almost experimental jazz-rock improv, gothic dissonance, and a certain sense of pained falling-into-the-black-hole distress to both the melodies and Sorrenti's vocals. For international listeners, this is perhaps even less accessible than Tim Buckley's out-there stuff, as Sorrenti (though part Welsh) is singing in Italian, not English. It's undeniably impressive and original, however, if perhaps more something to admire than to play over and over, such is its oddball intensity. ~ Richie Unterberger
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