Francesco Benozzo,
Llyfr Taliesin
(Frame Events, 2004)

It is unusual to pick up a CD and find that the lyrics were written as early the 6th century. It is equally surprising to find an Italian singing in Welsh, and antique Welsh at that. But both are the case on Benozzo's superb disc.

Benozzo, who lived four years in Wales, appears to have a deep affection for and affinity with that country.

This CD is, as advertised, based on the Book of Taliesin, written in part by that poet (dates thought to be 534-599) with the music written and performed by the young Celtic harpist from Modena. Since the Book of Taliesin was produced in the Middle Ages, some of its poems also date from that later time.

Benozzo's voice, a kind of happy growl, and his lovely harp playing make this an enjoyable listen. Also featured on this disc, and giving it texture, are: Peter Busse, various percussion; Han (G.B.H. Jones) on bass; and Elwyn Williams, keyboards and percussion.

If the bass and keyboard, where used, gives it a contemporary feel, the percussion (congas, djembe, tablas) lends a more ethnic or ancient atmosphere, as on the track "Pleasant are the Fruits of Harvest Time."

Besides the 10 tracks of Taliesin, the first and final track on the CD are a recording of the late poet Peter Goginan reciting a Waldo Williams poem in a tavern in Aberystwyth, over and above the chatter in the bar, as a set of bookends for the disc.

A nice beginning is made with a memorable tune, "Can y Gwynt," the Song of the Wind: "Over the sand that covers me, always the wind rages." And the recording proceeds naturally from there. If the various tracks tend to feel alike to ane another, that only adds to the overall coherence of the sound of the disc.

As a bonus, the lyrics on the disc are translated from the ancient Welsh into both English and Italian. This is a find, a disc that bears repeated listening, for those interested in the Celtic harp and in the poetry of the Celtic lands.

review by
David Cox

16 February 2008

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