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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Beppe Crovella What’s Rattlin’ On The Moon

Beppe Crovella
What’s Rattlin’ On The Moon - a personal vision of the music of Mike Ratledge
Moonjune Records

Mike Ratledge’s concise and cerebral compositions for Soft Machine were always in contrast to his acerbically pungent sheets-of-sound soloing. It’s partly this containment of ice and fire that made the band such an exciting and adventurous prospect.

What Beppe Crovella (keyboard maestro with Italian prog-fusioneers, Arti & Mestieri) has done is to take ten tunes from the Ratledge songbook and use them as a jumping-off point for a series of elaborate, stream-of-conscious fantasias.

Both imaginative and novel in its approach, it’s as much about his love for the nostalgic patina arising from vintage analogue instruments, as it is about Ratledge’s melodic inventiveness.

One wants to applaud Beppe for not being too obvious or literal, but very often Ratledge’s scorching musicality is submerged beneath waves of turbulent mellotrons or darting shoals of distracted electric piano. It’s sometimes impossible to catch the inspirational spark amidst the contrapuntal wreckage and swirling harmonic debris.

More satisfying are Crovella’s six original compositions, especially Moon Geezers, an elegy to deceased Softs members, Elton Dean and Hugh Hopper. Despite the preceding florid keyboard wizardry, it’s this simple tune that’s easily the most affecting, emotional moment on a well-meant but uneven homage.

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