The French Impressionists

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Fete Review

by Ned Raggett

After having concentrated on his explorations of piano for many years after the brief flowering of the French Impressionists in the early '80s, Malcolm Fisher brought the name and general focus of the band back for the group's first actual self-contained album as such, Fete. Featuring a variety of vocalists and some other musicians, all mostly from Italy where Fisher is now based, it's not meant to simply be those earliest days redux, with the emphasis being less on sprightly, slightly out-of-time pop as it is on what feels like a classical recital mixed with a cabaret revue and the calmer moments of a stage musical. Fisher's piano takes the musical lead and general overall accompaniment throughout; his skills apparent and his ear for attractive melodies readily audible. A few songs feature keyboards instead of piano, and the contrast can sometimes be interesting, with the slightly squelchy bassline of "The Chimney Sweeper" standing out. Of the guest singers, Sara Cicenia has the strongest voice, projecting well (especially on the Italian lyrics featured later in the disc), whereas Cressida Jenkins sinks a bit into the music. Alberto Antoniazzi provides occasional male lead vocals, most notably on the excellent "Just Take a Moment" which, with the addition of drums and guitar, makes for the album's most rock & roll moment, as such, sung in a understatedly dramatic fashion. Meanwhile, numerous pieces are simply Fisher on his own, with instrumentals like "Madelaine" functioning as extensions of his solo work in a different overall context.

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