Charles Darwin Vol I, II and III (XIIALF 07 08 09, 2012)
French progressive rock band XII Alfonso has released a colossal project dedicated to the life, work and travels of Charles Darwin. The hard cover book+CD contains three audio CDs and an extensive 76 page color book with lyrics, credits, photos, historical details and fascinating illustrations. There is attention to detail throughout the whole project, which took two years to complete.
The three CDs follow Darwin’s life and achievements in chronological order,. XII Alfonso divided the pieces into songs and instrumental compositions. “Songs tell us about his youth, his house, his dreams, his doubts… ,” clarifies the band. “Instrumental pieces are an attempt to musically translate the major concepts of his thoughts : The Coral of Life, Descent with Modification, Struggle for Existence, On the Origin of Species…”
XII Alfonso has been around for 15 years. They develop their music at a home studio in Bordeaux. Band members include the Claerhout brothers, Philippe and François, who come up with the ideas and compose most of the music; drummer Thierry Moreno; and flutist Stéphane Ducassé.
For the Darwin project, XII Alfonso invited an impressive cast of singers and instrumentalists, including vocalists Maggie Reilly (Mike Oldfield) and Huong Thanh; Supertramp’s legendary saxophonist John A. Helliwell; flutists Terry Oldfield and John Hackett; guitarists Francis Dunnery (It Bites), Robin Boult ( Fish), Ian Bairnson (Alan Parsons, Kate Bush), Tim Renwick (Pink Floyd); bassist Michael Manring; and keyboardists Mickey Simmonds (Mike Oldfield, Camel, Fish ) and Ton Scherpenzeel (Camel, Kayak).
With such tremendous talent, XII Alfonso delivers a brilliant mix of state of the art progressive symphonic rock as well as tantalizing world music pieces, folk-rock, classic rock, and evocative jazz-infused music.
XII Alfonso is known for its concept albums. The first CD was The Lost Frontier (Muséa, 1996), dedicated to the historical border between the northern “Barbarians” and Roman Britannia. Next came a musical illustration of human adventures titled Odyssées (Muséa 1999). The third and fourth albums were dedicated to Claude Monet: Claude Monet Vol. I and Claude Monet Vol. II (Muséa, 2002 and 2005). At that time, François Claerhout wrote a biography about Monet titled L’œil et le monde (Editions thôt, 2005).
The completely instrumental album, Under (Muséa, 2009), looks at the subterranean worlds. In addition, XII Alfonso released the live album This is (Muséa, 2003) and recorded an experimental album played on stalactites and stalagmites in a French prehistoric cave. The music is presented at the prehistoric museum in Altamira (Spain).
Hats off to XII Alfonso. With Charles Darwin Vol. I, II and III, they have recorded one of the great masterworks of the current progressive rock generation.