Itoiz – 1980 – Ezekiel
Country: Euskal Herria (Basque Country)
Style: Progressive Folk Rock
Playing Time: 43:02
CD: Japanese remaster, 2009
Format / Quality: Lossless FLAC (+CUE+LOG), mp3 320 kbps
Booklet: Scans included
Lyrics: in the booklet, in Basque, with Spanish translation
Size: FLAC 327 MB, mp3 142 MB (all incl. +5% recovery)
Another symphonic gem from the Basque region. ITOIZ was formed by Joseba Erkiaga (flute), A. Azkarraga (bass), Estanis Osinalde (drums), J.C. Perez (guitars), and Jose A. Fernandez (Fender Rhodes piano, Grand piano, Hammond organ, Kong Polyphonic ensemble, ARP synthesizer). Their style is a mixture Basque folk, prog-rock and a little jazz. Still, there are (not surprisingly) absolutely no traces of flamenco influences. The music here is quite beautiful (very Italian, in fact) and emphasizes melodic interplay between interactions of wind instruments with keyboards, and guitars. Most of the tracks have male vocals, while the best tracks have some very beautiful female vocals. But they sing in the Basque language. Their early albums are now considered classics. Although they have many albums only “Itoiz” stands out as a real folk-progressive masterpiece. Their pompous arrangements remind GENESIS and CAMEL although ITOIZ also draw from their own folklore.
1. Ezekielen Prophezia (5:11)
2. Ezekielen Esnatzea I (6:01)
3. Ezekielen Esnatzea II (4:37)
4. Ezekiel (3:01)
5. Ezekielen Ikasgaia (6:29)
6. Ezekielen Ametsa (1:52)
7. Ezekielen Erantzuna (4:17)
8. Ezekiel: Ia Maitasun Kantu Bat (5:55)
9. Ezekiel (Live) (5:38)
Joseba Erkiaga – flute
Antton Fernandez – keyboards
Juan Carlos Perez – guitar, vocals
Fran Lasuen – mandoline
Mitxel Longaron – drums
Carlos Jimenez – sax, piano
Shanti Jimenez – bass, vocals
While Itoiz’ debut was an instantly likable major folk effort with a concentrated minor in symphonic progressive, their sophomore offering is far more eclectic and much harder to penetrate. In addition to a cornucopia of instruments such as electric and acoustic piano and guitar, flutes, organs, violins, and saxophones, and the reappearance of superb voices of both genders, the album’s sprawling canvas incorporates several new styles for the group, particular jazzy elements. You could be excused for doubting this kitchen sink approach, because very few bands could pull this off with the skill and vision demonstrated herein. Your upfront investment will be rewarded manifold.
The general pattern of many of the tracks, such as the first three, is a song orientation followed by extensive instrumental excursions featuring the group’s full arsenal, and providing for continued discovery over the course of many airings. Of particular note are the rich saxes and organ in “Ezekielen esnatzea II”. The pent-up energy that had been withheld during the Franco years remained fully operative throughout this sophomore album. The approach is continued on “Ezekielen ikasgaia” where electric piano substitutes for organ, except the vocals are feminine and at times acrobatic in their versatility. Many folk orientations remain, generally paired with massed or individual children’s voices, such as on the title cut and “Ezekielen ametsa”. This apparent innocence is egged on by divine flutes even as it is belied by the accessible complexity of the compositions and arrangements.
If I had to choose a favourite, it would probably be the penultimate cut “Ezekielen erantzuna”, which casts a sly eye back to the first album without sacrificing the newly found maturity. In addition, it boasts some stunning acoustic guitar work. The backing keyboards are hypnotic, and what sounds like violin sets just a slightly Eastern European – or is it Arabic – mood. This is wisely carried over to the closer, which is highlighted by some stellar lead guitar work.
This is a uniformly consistent album and perhaps the masterpiece of the Basque progressive folk movement. It is a sequence of songs that propose and deliver an indivisible unit, which is nirvana for most progressive fans. My highest and unflinching recommendation.
03. Ezekielen Esnatzea II
05. Ezekielen Ikasgaia