Monday, November 14, 2016

Rock Progressivo Italiano

With an ever-close link to all-things British, the Italian rockers in the 1960s were quite aware of the musical revolution(s) coming from the United Kingdom. Italy, France and Germany had both been popular places for British bands to travel to in order try out new music on live audiences. This may be one reason that several bands had their first successes (in terms of sales and popularity) in Italia--specifically, VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR and PINK FLOYD. In fact, both of these bands hold a special place in the hearts of many Italians to this day.
     Waiting, hungry for musical changes that could match the social and political upheaval of the times, bands like the NEW TROLLS had already been experimenting with infusions of classical instruments and structures in a couple of albums in the late 1960s, while members of proto-bands of what would become PREMIATA FORNERIA MARCONI (PFM) and BANCO DEL MUTUO SOCCORSO were quick to be taken with the new possibilities they were hearing from British bands.
     1971 became the breakout year for Italian progressive rock albums. It is said that between 1971 and 1974 virtually every Italian musical artist was dabbling in progressive rock sounds, formats, and with modified concert performances of old releases, new single releases and even albums.
     I find that the Italian progressive rock craze fades or passes with the 1977 release of LOCANDA DELLA FATE's Forse le lucciole non si amano più --an album whose sound draws striking parallels to the GENESIS shift into the more melody-oriented and radio-friendly NEO PROG established on their two 1976 releases, A Trick of the Tail and Wind and Wuthering.

My favorite albums from the Golden Years of Rock Progressivo Italiano (1971-77) include:




1. IL BALLETTO DI BRONZO Ys (1972)

Powerful, in-your-face, confrontational, emotional, and compelling music. Very thoughtful, intentional song construction and performances telling the story of an individual's encounters with darkness and Death. Rarely is music so well fit to the theme of its story content as it has been rendered here. 
     Though many give credit to singer-keyboard whiz Gianni Leone for this project, I must here give proper recognition and adulation to the other three band members as well as the female choir:  all are integral--even essential--to the overall effect of this music! I cannot begin to imagine the chilling effect of desperation and fear to be so well rendered without the wild, powerful and often jarring contributions of lead guitarist Lino Ajello, without the eery and unsettling gifts of the background "angel" vocalists, and certainly not without the incredibly tight, subtly virtuosic, and unfailingly steady groundwork supplied by bass player Vito Manzari and drummer Giancarlo Stringa. Gianni may have been in the driver seat but his vision would never be so successfully realized were it not for his highly skilled crew members (who must have fed off of Gianni's vision in order to have performed at such a laser-focused level).  

Line-up / Musicians:
- Lino Ajello / guitar
- Gianni Leone / vocals, piano, Hammond organ, Moog, Mellotron, spinet, celesta
- Vito Manzari / bass
- Giancarlo Stringa / drums

With:
- Giusy Romeo / backing vocals (1)
- Rosanna Baldassari / backing vocals (1)
- Flavia Baldassari / backing vocals (1)

1. "Introduzione" (15:11) opens with female voices followed by long, sustained organ chords before singer Gianni Leone begins to tell the story. At the three minute mark the music shifts into fourth gear. Four almost tow minutes, while Gianni sings, the band cruises along very tightly. Then everything shifts to a kind of long bridge of stops and stars, female choir singing "da-da-da-das" before the band breaks into a new NEKTAR-like groove with keyboards and then guitars taking the foreground for soloing. This goes on for over minutes with some searing organ and guitar work over the rock-solid bass and drum foundation. Then, at 9:38, everything shifts to a new spacey, almost Kosmisches section with dreamy, floating drums and bass through which Mellotron and Gianni's voice Then at 11:35 things shift back into the fourth gear for a bit before settling into a new middle-paced but menacing groove over which Gianni sings. The non-singing sections ramp up into a harpsichord-propelled higher gear, alternating over the final four minutes with the mid-paced vocal sections. This back-and-forth style is carried forward into the next "song." (I can see that the album is really intended to be one "song" as the songs all flow one into the other without breaks or gaps.)
     One distinctly gripping aspect of Side One of this album is the vocal pitch and style chosen by Gianni in his delivery of these lyrics about this individual "Voice" and his descent and travels into the depths of internal and/or spiritual darkness. Brilliant! And showing such fortitude and commitment. (9.5/10)

2. "Primo Incontro" (3:27) is a continuation of the last section of the "Introduzione" with new inputs from the lead guitar (power strums, fuzz, piercingly clear) and different variations and contributions from the chorus voices. Gianni's lead vocal melody and styling remains rock steady, consistent. (9.5/10)

3. "Secondo Incontro" (3:06) opens side two with a single full band hit which is then followed by a section of heavily echoed a cappella vocal "cries" which transitions into a kind of power bridge before Gianni sings in a more fatigued, plaintive voice styling over Mellotron. The alternating powerful instrumental sections with these sparsely backed vocal sections continues over the course of the song. (9.5/10)

4. "Terzo Incontro" (4:33) shows an immediate shift into more uptempo jazz lines--especially from bass and drums. The electric guitar is in continuous solo mode though all of its notes are being trapped in a heavily-oscillating squealing electronic effect while piano and organs and "boom-boom" vocals coming from the angel choir. It's not until 90 seconds into the song that things thin out and Gianni begins to sing. The walking bass and jazzy drum lines remain constant and fixed throughout the first three minutes but then there is a sudden drop off and a squirrelly synth-backed vocal bridge occurs which is then alternated with a couple of full-on ELP-like bursts to the song's end. (9.5/10)
5. "Epilogo" (11:30) opens at breakneck pace with bass and drums admirably keeping up every step of the way with Gianni's classically-trained piano and organ play. electric guitar and other electric keyboard and organ sounds are introduced with a new funked up, almost military-style rhythm foundation. Very cool! Then, at 2:35, everything quiets down for some Mellotron, creepy intermittent bass and piano riffs with Daevid -like glissando guitar floating around. The intermittent and syncopated instrumental interjections continue as the vocalist seems to be acting stressed. When he does finally start singing, he sounds so tired, perhaps defeated--while the music sounds perhaps its bleakest, most horrific yet. Is this insanity? Or the state of mind just before one gives up? 
Panned, flanged drums! cool effect. Heavily flanged bass, screeching guitars sounding like screaming banshees and distonal female voices singing so creepily over the insane piano playing. This continues for about five minutes before things finally . . . die(!?) A Bar-do-like stillness with occasional ripples of activity settles in for a few seconds before an energized "resurrection" ensues at the 9:40 mark. Piano and drums arpeggiating madly, angelic voices singing in unison bursts of encouragement and . . . life? And then an end of floating, heavily treated female voices giving the feeling of noncommitment, nonresolution, mysterious as if the resolution is thrown back at you, the individual, the Voice--as if we are being told that it's all up to you, it all results are fully dependent on personal choice--on self-reliance, self-sufficiency, self-empowerment. (10/10)
       What a shocking, surprising end! Was he saved or entering Purgatory/the Afterlife? I guess only Gianni Leone and Il Balletto di Bronzo know.

While I consider this a masterpiece of both rendering and performance, as well as of conception, start to finish--the style of music and dated period-entrapped sound are not nor have they ever been my favorites. The creative delivery of this material using all kinds of incredibly inventive effects and techniques is worthy of high, high praise, for Gianni Leone and Il Balletto di Bronzo have left behind this, a stellar masterpiece fully displaying the true and ultimate potential of music, progressive or otherwise.

96.0 on the Fishscales = five stars; A; a true masterpiece of human artistry.





2. PICCHIO DAL POZZO Picchio dal pozzo (1976) My favorite Canterbury Style album ever made in the "Classic" era.   In 1976, this debut album caught everyone by surprise for its unmistakable Canterbury feel and familiarity--and this from a group of Italians! I mean, Dutch, French, and even Belgian and German 'members' of the Canterbury Scene might be understandable. They are, after all, just across La Manche from County Kent and the great cathedral town of Canterbury. But Italy?!! And an amazingly excellent album did Picchio dal Pozzo come up with! 


1. "Merta" (3:18) Whenever this song comes on my iPod playlist (which is quite often) I find myself thinking that this is a Robert WYATT song! The vocals, unusual weave of instruments, lack of drums, and Andrea BECCARI's odd horns sound just like something RW would have done in his SOFT MACHINE/MATCHING MOLE days. (10/10)


2. "Cocomelastico" (4:25) is another song that always tricks me into thinking I'm listening to SOFT MACHINE. I love the way the horns play off of each other, and I love the odd synth playing far in the background throughout. Even the odd vocal is not unlike some of the Spanish stuff Robert Wyatt has done. The laid back, jazzy feel placed within the bar/cantina setting is brilliant. Just like the Softs or Caravan! Awesome song that I could listen to forever! (10/10)

3. "Seppia" (10:17) opens with some TANGERINE DREAM-like repeating synthesizer arpeggio which is soon joined by some oddly treated tuned percussion. When the vuvuzela-sounding horns enter with the big bass notes and, eventually, a kind of hypnotic driving rhythm, it's as if the band is trying to either drive the listener crazy or display what a drug trip or psychotic breakdown might feel like! It's actually quite fun--and very much like the feel and effect of a GONG or even Robert WYATT song. The band must have had a lot of fun doing this one. Wild, cacophonous, and random. Then there is a flute-filled break in the music, with a visit to a barnyard, followed by a pretty foundational weave of arpeggios from two electric guitars while a woman recites something dramatic over the top. Horns and then electric piano and tuned percussion then join in before some "Wah-wah" vocals enter the weave with several woodwinds. Gorgeous! This song unfolds similar to, though the opposite of countrymates YUGEN. (9/10)

4. "Napier" (7:28) opens with multiple woodwinds creating sustained cords before relinquishing the reins to a circus band. The use of dissonance here is wonderful--very Robert FRIPP/KING CRIMSON-esque. Soon the circus band moves more toward a MIKE OLDFIELD medieval troubadour sound before everything drops out at the 3:00 mark for a little odd piano play. Organ-backed male vocal singing in Italian moves us into a new section--one that is much more Canterbury jazz with the awesome multiple horns all soloing and weaving with voices, cymbals, octave climbing bass notes and piano. Horns, cymbals and electric Rhodes piano take us through a full minute before the jazzy quintet plays out the final half minute (which is faded out rather suddenly--poor engineering). (9/10)

5. "La floriculture di Tschincinnata" (4:24) is a rapidly changing and diverse song that would be very fitting among the CARAVAN or SOFT MACHINE repertoire. Several really awesome melodies and chord progressions are explored here as well as some really fun crazed soloing--all at the same time--from the horn, Casio-sounding synthesizer, electric guitar, and drums--all while the bass keeps the steady time that provides the foundation for the song to rest upon. This is where the 21st Century's Italian Canterbury style torch bearers, HOMUNCULUS RES, get their inspiration for silliness and tight group play! (9/10)

6. "La bolla" (4:31) repeats the Robert WYATT wordless vocal style that I heard in the album's opening song, "Merta"?creating over a melody line that is played over a repetitive JOHN COLTRANE-like piano chord progression--a melody line that will eventually become picked up by the horn and acoustic guitar before being woven in with the voice. (10/10)

7. "Off" (4:48) opens like another JOHN COLTRANE tune with harp-like arpeggiated piano play covered by mellifluous flute play. Absolutely gorgeous! At 1:56 a male voice enters up front and center singing more wordless "wah-wah"s into the tapestry. Gentle, beautiful, pastoral song that would be fitting if performed out-of-doors. Definitely one of my favorite Canterbury songs. (10/10)

Over all this is an album of playful, fun, gorgeous melodies, and wild and at times complicated jazzy instrumental weaves very much in the Canterbury vein of musical approach. Due to the joyful emotional reaction I get when each and every song comes into my ear, Picchio dal Pozzo has supplanted KHAN's Space Shanty as my favorite Canterbury Scene album.


95.71 on the Fish scales = 5 stars; a true masterpiece of progressive rock music!





3. PREMIATA FORNERIA MARCONI Per un amico (1972) the perfect blend of complex experimental virtuosity and haunting melodic memorabilia. My only complaint is in the very low sound levels for the soft, delicate parts contrasted with the loud levels of the dynamic parts.

(PA review from 2/28/2009:) My renaissance into the world of progressive rock began one year ago with the discovery of Prog Archives. (Thank you all!) With it I at first concentrated on refamiliarizing myself with all of the music I purchased and loved in the 1970s, I am now beginning an adventure into all of the music I missed which Progarchives.com reviewers have praised. I am now the VERY HAPPY owner of my first PFM disc, Per un amico. Just as all the reviewers have raved, it is clearly a classic, with excellent songwriting, instrumentation, musicianship, vocals, pace, melody, and very few flaws or 'misses.'

Line-up / Musicians:
- Franco Mussida / lead vocals, electric & acoustic guitars, 12-string guitar, mandocello, theorbo (?)
- Flavio Premoli / lead vocals, Hammond & Pari organs, MiniMoog, Mellotron, harpsichord, piano, spinet, tubular bells
- Mauro Pagani / flutes (contralto,piccolo), violin, backing vocals
- Giorgio Piazza / bass, backing vocals
- Franz Di Cioccio / drums, percussion, backing vocals

The opener, 1. "Appena Un Po'" (7:43) is so tight and full of surprises and twists with such wonderful balance of melody and superior musicianship, both acoustic/classical and electronic rock instrumentations, that it cannot fail to win over the new listener immediately(--as it did me). Classical guitar, flute, and harpsichord help get us started before the rock band joins in. The song structure remains complex in a kind of classical style even as the song moves into the rock domain. The vocals are delicate, soft, and beautifully arranged--are perhaps my favorite part of this song. A ROBERT FRIPP-like guitar play with mellotron, chunky bass, Michael Giles-like drumming, and haunting Arp synth solo occupy the mid-section after the first vocal presentation. A second instrumental section using a kind of carnival sound and feel then follows. By the end of the sixth minute, the vocals return and take us into a final Mellotron, organ, and synth-drenched KING CRIMSON "Court of the Crimson King" section to the end. [9.5/10]

2. "Generale" (4:18) is a romp through the sheer fun of Django-land. The fuzz guitar is a bit dated, but the high standard of musicianship throughout is enough to garner respect. In the second section of this song, is this possibly the first "orchestra hit" as made famous years later by the Trevor Horn with his Fairlight CMI?) [8.5/10]

3. "Per Un Amico" (5:23) shows off a gentler, subtler side with more constant mood and tempo streams, and with such wonderful clarity in the sound mixing, and, of course, the wonderful presence of violin and mandoloncello. This song is especially representative of the way PFM masterfully incorporates the electronics among the wonderful acoustic. [10/10]

4. "Il Banchetto" (8:39) opens with the wonderfully clear guitars, followed by the beautiful CS&N-like vocals and bass, before setting up the haunting moog solos, harp arpeggios, and background mellotron, before a Keith Emerson-like keyboard interlude. With the return of drums, Nash bass and vocal harmonies the group brings the song to a satisfying if sadly premature, end. [10/10]

5. "Geranio" (8:03) again opens with a quieter, almost medieval-then-Debussy/jazz section alternating with a Beach Boys "Pet Stories" theme, before taking us back to the twists and turns of una carnivale for a while. While the fuzzed-up bass and accompanying synth of the outgoing section get a bit annoying after the eight or twelfth measure, the album ends in a way that leaves the listener wanting so much more. [9/10] 

A very enjoyable and addictive listen even 37 years after its recording/release. So, I start it over again--until I can start adding the rest of PFM's classics (and maybe more) to my collection. My revised song-by-song rating system ("the Fish scales") yields a 9.4 out of ten average; making it a 5 star album on the Progarchives scale. I think this album is an essential asset to anyone's Prog collection.





4. AREA Arbeit macht frei (1973) (from my 6/12/11 review on PA:) A bona fide, certifiable masterpiece! From Italia! And not RPI! The mixing and recording of this album are amazingly clear and balanced for a 70s record. Though the album opens with an obviously ethnic folk-based tune, "Luglio, ..." (8/10), and the last song, "L'abbattimento dello Zeppelin" (6:45) (9/10) leans heavily toward the avante garde, the center four songs, "Arbeit Macht Frei" (7:56) (9/10), "Consapevolezza " (6:06) (10/10), "Le Labbra del tempo" (6:00) (10/10), and "240 chilometri da Smirne" (5:10) (10/10), deposit, IMHO, some of the tightest, most enjoyable jazz/ jazz-rock grooves of the 60s or 70s. All performers test the creative boundaries of their respective means of expressivity--voice (à la LEON THOMAS), guitars, woodwinds, keys, bass, and even drums are all "out there." The grooves laid down in "Consapevolezza" at the 1:25 and 2:15 marks are among the prettiest I've ever heard.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Demetrio Stratos / lead vocals, organ, steel drums
- Gianpaolo Tofani / lead guitar, VCS-3 synth
- Patrizio Fariselli / piano, electric piano
- Victor Edouard ('Eddie') Busnello / sax, bass clarinet, flute
- Patrick Djivas / bass, double bass
- Giulio Capiozzo / drums, percussion

Having loved the vocal talents and stylings of Leon Thomas for many years, I was immediately into Demetrio Stratus's singing. Such emotion and passion! As if his soul is on fire! Without question a masterpiece of progressive music if ever there was one! 93.33 on the Fish scales.




5. MAXOPHONE Maxophone (1975) is an album of very melodic and beautiful music, at times quite complex, especially in the vocal arrangements and support from the orchestral instruments.

Line-up / Musicians
- Alberto Ravasini / lead vocals, bass, acoustic guitar, recorder
- Roberto Giuliani / electric guitars, piano, backing vocals
- Sergio Lattuada / piano, electric piano, organ, backing vocals
- Maurizio Bianchini / horn, trumpet, percussion, vibraphone, backing vocals
- Leonardo Schiavone / clarinet, flute, alto & tenor saxes
- Sandro Lorenzetti / drums

With:
- Tiziana Botticini / harp
- Eleonora de Rossi / violin
- Susannna Pedrazzini / violin
- Giovanna Correnti / cello
- Paolo Rizzi / double bass

1. "C'è Un Paese Al Mondo" (6:39) opens with a dynamically diverse piano-based song that has what seems to be an entire orchestra making contributions and with Alberto Ravasini's pleasant, husky voice in the lead vocal position. I really like the inputs of the woodwinds and brass. It's not really until the 4:40 mark when this song really declares itself a 'rock' song with full rock band lineup and searing electric guitar lead. The choral vocal arrangements in the final minute are nice. (9/10)  

2. "Fase" (7:04) opens with an almost hard rock sound as lead electric guitar, electric bass, and drum kit churn up some. Around 45 seconds in the keyboards finally enter--first clavinet, then electric piano and two different organs. Saxes and a wide variety of keyboard/organ sounds permeate the first half of the song--none lasting more than a few measures (it seems) until things slow down and get soft for a 40 second vibraphone solo. The music amps up into near-hard rock territory again (similar to KC's 21st Century Schizoid Man"--which always leaves me asking, "Was that hard rock or soft rock?") before solo horn and wind instruments again their two-cents to the maintenance of the lead melody. Guitars go acoustic in the beginning of the sixth minute as horn section and flute give me a kind of Canterbury/PICCIO DAL POZZO-NATIONAL HEALTH feel. Me like! (9/10)  

3. "Al Mancato Compleanno Di Una Farfalla" (5:52) opens with a classical guitar soloing for the first 45 seconds before flutes and, a little later, piano join in. Then at 1:20 everybody drops out to make room for a softly picked electric guitar and nice choral-presented vocal. It appears that the chorus is alternatively sang by lead vocalist with harmonizing background vocalists while the verses are sung collectively as a chorus. Interesting! Then, at 3:40, organ, electric bass and drums announce a harder, electrified section--over which Alberto's lead vocal gets quite aggressive. Great power here! I am so intrigued by the multiplicity and fluidity of keyboard choices through out this band's song play. At 5:35 things quite down for an soft little electric guitar outro. (10/10)

4. "Elzeviro" (6:47) opens with church organ and Alberto singing solo. It feels aggressive but unravels fairly evenly despite the increasingly menacing chord progressions used by the organ. At 1:35 the rest of the band begins their entrance--which breaks out in quite a nice, somewhat jazz-rock form. This could be BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS, ELP and GENESIS! Great section! At 3:30 lone piano hits signal the commencement of a piano-based instrumental section over which another searing guitar solo is blasted. Then at 4:05 things soften quite a bit with a beautiful choral vocal section. At 4:50 organ, horns and Alberto take center stage again. At 5:38 the rock band smootly re-enters but this time the RENAISSANCE-like jam beautifully incorporates the contributions of all kinds of orchestral instruments to the end. Awesome song! (9/10)

5. "Mercanti Di Pazzie" (5:21) opens with a harp solo! When Alberto's voice enters at the 0:40 mark it is soft and high pitched. He is joined by his amazing companions of voices off and on over the next minute until a kind of classical section with vibraphone and electric bass take over. Eventually, by the 2:11 mark, they establish a new foundation over which a more rock-sounding choral sings. But then, just before the three minute mark the music returns to the section we opened with. I adore these gorgeous melodies and harmonies! A very delicate picked electric guitar section ends the fifth minute before shifting into a hypnotic, aqueous section of instrumental beauty (like the end section of PETER GABRIEL's "Humdrum")--which then plays out to the end. My favorite song on the album. (10/10)

6. "Antiche Conclusioni Negre" (8:54) opens in full band-with-orchestra form (not unlike the album's opener) with a very jovial, uptempo melody before shifting into a more Broadway-like horn-led section. It has the feel of an overture--a review of themes. When it calms down around the 1:45 mark it feels like a PFM moment. Piano-based, alternating chorus and solo lead vocals, the song is pretty. The mid-section is back to more of the uptempo sections with sax and guitar soli. 
     At 6:40 everything stops and a solo church organ rises to the fore before a low-register vocal choir sings what could be an anthemic or intentionally significant section to the song's close. Great song; kind of three in one. (9/10)

As always, I think these songs would mean much more to me if I knew Italian--especially in terms of how the music was created to match/support the lyrical messages. But, in terms of sound, composition, ability and performance, this deserves a place among the classics. 

93.33 on the Fishscales = five stars; A; a masterpiece of progressive rock music--Italian or otherwise.




6. CERVELLO Melos (1973) eclectic, exotic, unusual, and interesting. Introducing to the world 17-year old guitar phenom, Corrado Rustici. This album is one of the best recorded and mixed albums from this classical Rock Progressivo Italiano scene--especially in the drums department. Also, all chord presentations coming from the guitars are so harmonically unusual when thrown into the rest of the melodic key structure. Truly an innovative and experimental adventure in music making.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Antonio Spagnolo / 6 & 12 string acoustic guitar, bass, pedal, recorder, vocals
- Giulio D'Ambrosio / electric sax (contralto & tenor), flute, vocals
- Corrado Rustici / guitar, recorder, flute, vibraphone, vocals
- Gianluigi Di Franco / lead vocals, flute, small percussion
- Remigio Esposito / drums, vibraphone

1. "Canto del Capro" (6:29) opens with three minutes of weird, creepy psychedelia before establishing a fairly fast-paced psych rock song. The musicians are performing very tightly, at a very high level of competency. The dissonant flutes, guitar plucks, and reverse electric guitar over long, steady Mellotron chord progression are so fresh and creative. An odd but brilliantly inventive song. Brave youths! (9.5/10)

2. "Trittico" (7:19) opens with strong vocal sung over electric guitar arpeggi, trading the lead with flutes and vibes. Again, such an unusual and inventive foundational sound and construct! Guitar harmonics takes the lead in the third minute before vocal effects project the singers' voices to be in several places in the sound. Then, suddenly, at 3:06 the band kicks into high gear with rapid fire lead guitar licks, drum flourishes, sax, bass, and vocal stepping into the oddly-timed pace. Everything drops back into pastoral pace at 4:20--though lead guitar is playing his arpeggi at a much faster (William Tell Overture) speed. These guitarists are so talented--moving in and out of time signatures, in and out of acoustic and electric sections, in and out of strumming and picking. The song has a very odd fade-in and fade out closing of "la-la-la" drunk men's vocal chorus. Amazing song! (9.5/10)

3. "Euterpe" (4:32) opens with acoustic guitars and recorders before vocalist. I love the vocals of Gianluigi di Franco because they feel so common and relaxed, not forced or operatic or melodramatic. This song is John McLaughlin-inspired Corrado Rustici's breakout song--the one that lets us know just how fiery his lead style is. And yet, the fact that he has held back (or been held back) over the first 14-minutes of this very adventurous, very experimental album, just let's me know how band-oriented and non-ego driven this young man was. (9.5/10)

4. "Scinsione (T.R.M.)" (5:43) Probably the weakest song on the album, but still exploratory and innovative, not straightforward at all, it just doesn't have the beauty, surprise- or wow-factors of the previous songs. The sustained, almost-droning synth occupying the background throughout (and then climbing to the fore in the final minute) is absolutely brilliant--as is the multi-tracks of Corrado dueling with himself at the end. (9/10)

5. "Melos" (4:58) Vibes, slow acoustic guitar picking, gentle voice is soon joined by Pete Giles-like drumming, flutes to make for a gorgeous if slightly King Crimson-like song. The interplay of multiple vocalists in the second minute is cool. The two-guitar interplay that follows with singing over the top is a little awkward, but the cacophonous buildup that follows with Corrado's blistering, bluesy guitar soloing over thick mix of saxes and Mellotrons is awesome. (9.5/10)

6. "Galassia" (5:48) opens with cymbal play soon joined by distant flutes, guitar picking and voices. By the time the one minute mark arrives the soundscape had moved more forward--except for the vocals that soon ensue--which remain in the far background. Drums, guitars, flutes, even Mellotron are all forward of the voice. Vibes and electric guitar take turns soloing over the acoustic guitar pretty picking--until voice and Mellotron jump in to declare their messages. At 3:25 everything drops out for a brief vocal section before a heavy, frenetically paced instrumental section comes crashing in. This insistent, crazed weave seems to creep steadily forward even till the end. (9/10)

7. "Affresco (1:11) is an adventure into space and effects with vocal, flutes, and picked guitars weaving together over the top--the most forward presentation of sound on the album! Surprise and flawless. (9/10)

 92.86 on the Fishscales = five stars; A; a true masterpiece of progressive rock music and one of my favorite albums from the classic period of RPI.




7. IL ROVESCIO DELLA MEDAGLIA Contaminazione (1973) A brilliant and skillful merging of classical and rock traditions is here used to present a story of the life of Johann Sebastian Bach. The full title of this album is "CONTAMINAZIONE di alcune idee di certi preludi e fughe de 'Il Clavicembalo ben temprato' di J. S. Bach." Hearing the album makes it obvious how much Il Rovescio della Medaglia was inspired by J.S. Bach life and music.

Line-up / Musicians
- Pino Ballarini /vocals, percussion
- Enzo Vita / guitars
- Franco Di Sabbatino / keyboards, Hammond B, harmonium, synths (Eminent, VCS, ARP, Moog)
- Stefano Urso / bass
- Gino Campoli / drums 

With:
- Luis Enriquez Bacalov / orchestral arrangements, director & producer

1. "Absent For This Consumed World" (1:05) awesome atmospheric opener of synths and strings and cymbals (10/10)


2. "Ora Non Ricordo Piu" (1:47) opens with  and fast lead synth arppegi over GENESIS/New Age-like synth wash. Beautiful male voice announces something in a plaintive voice. (10/10)


3. "Il Suono Del Silenzio" (5:16) exposes the full rock sound of the band for the first time even though there are some very classically organized and constructed sections within this multi-movement song. Very tight, competent instrumental cohesion. The choral choice for vocal exposition is good though it makes the song feel kind of rock-opera-ish. (9/10)


4. "Mi Sono Svegliato E... Ho Chiuso Gli Occhi" (4:19) opens with organ and strings as if from a famous Vivaldi, Bach or even Mozart composition. Vocals enter and the song builds all the while maintaining its largo foundation in sparsely arranged classical music. (10/10)


5. "Lei Sei Tu: Lei" (2:04) using harpsichord and orchestra with the rock band rhythm section lends this song a very time-representative sound. Little vocals, presented in the choral form again. (9/10) 


6. "La Mia Musica" (4:10) opens with electric piano played classical-style (as if practicing before one's piano teacher) before the music falls away leaving a very sparsely instrument-and-space-supported foundation for a very delicate, soft solo vocal. At the two-minute mark an full church organ takes over as the foundational instrument where it is eventually joined by voice(s), rock band, and orchestral strings. The first (and only) orchestral arrangement on the album that is a bit 'cheesy.' (8/10)


7. "Johann" (1:23) uses solo electric guitar to create a finger-picked in a kind of country-classical way chordal foundation for a vocal as if from a haunted individual. (9/10)

8. "Scotland Machine" (3:06) returns to full rock format--though with all electronic instrumentalists performing as if in a classical composition.By the second half of the second minute the song climbs into drive with rolicking, melodic ride forward. Probably my favorite rock-oriented song on the album. (9.5/10)


9. "Cella 503" (3:18) an astonishingly perfect blend of rock'n'roll and orchestration--here used in an amazing call and response arrangement! Opening with awesome classical guitars (three tracks!), moving into harpsichord, horns, strings with drum-and-bass-supported synthesizer as its alternate. The organ and harpsichord work beneath the electric instruments is awesome and the pipe organ solo at the end of the song is great! Amazing song! (10/10)


10. "Contaminazione 1760" (1:04) is an astonishing display of woodwind (and synth?) skills and possibilities (10/10)

11. "Alzo Un Muro Elettrico" (2:55) is a straight-forward hard rock song in the RARE EARTH vein of dynamics and sound. If there is a weakness in the music present on this album it may be in the vocals. Not so much the lead but the choral voices are recorded rather poorly throughout the album.       Two interjections of classical instrumentation occur here, one a brief quartet-like interlude in the middle and the other being the joinder of organ for the final minute. (8/10)


12. "Sweet Suite" (2:17) is a slowed down, sparsely filled instrumental similar to a couple of the earlier songs on the album, using organ as the primary foundation and lead electric jazz guitar for the melody-maker. (9/10)

13. La Grande Fuga (3:42) pits organ and harpsichord against synthesizers while both orchestra and rock band play in support beneath. The best rock riff on the album lays the foundation for the song while familiar classical (Bach?) themes play over the top from a wide variety of soloists. (10/10)

Though RSV employed the same Argentinian composer/conductor that NEW TROLLS had used for their 1971 Concerto Grosso, I have to agree with many of my predecessors that the arrangements, integration, and recorded sounds of the orchestral inputs here are far, far superior to those on Concerto Grosso. These fit within and do not feel cheezy, diluted or soundtrack-like as do the ones in New Trolls' Concerto Grosso.

92.69 on the Fishscales = five stars; A; a rare and gleaming achievement of rock and classical orchestration--as well as a great story foundation. In my opinion, this is one of the peak achievements of the classic RPI scene.




8. AREA Crac! (1975)

Line-up / Musicians:
- Demetrio Stratos / vocals, organ, harpsichord, percussion, steel drums
- Giampaolo Tofani / electric guitar, EMS synth, flute
- Patrizio Fariselli / electric & acoustic pianos, ARP synth, bass clarinet, percussion
- Ares Tavolazzi / electric & acoustic basses, trombone
- Giulio Capiozzo / drums, percussion

1. "L'elefante Bianco" (4:33) Demetrio's powerful voice opens the album right in your face as he and piano declare their intentions. By the end of the first minute we've apparently heard enough from Demetrio for the song catapults into a kind of jazzy version of fast-paced folk theme. At 2:30 we return to piano and voice, but this time the band gradually joins in and builds up into a modern rock variation of that amphetamine-laced folk (or is it classical?) theme. Excellent musicianship and a great opener. (9/10)

2. "La Mela Di Odessa" (6:27) opens with a kind of SUN RA-spacey free-form jazz sound and style, that moves quickly into a drum and percussion display before harpsichord, Arp synth and electric bass join in and move the song into structure and drive. Nice TONY WILLIAMS/MAHAVISHNU feel to this one until, after 3:10, things shift to funk land. The clavinet, synths and horns are prominent along with Demetrio's commanding vocal performance--all in spoken form. So tight! Drummer Giulio Capiozzo is extraordinary (as is Demetrio). (9/10)


3. "Megalopoli" (7:53) opens with some play on the Arp synthesizer before Demetrio joins in with multiple tracks of his voice free-styling. Electric piano and bass clarinet join in the atmospheric play before a drum roll takes us out and into a new funky jazz excursion with a great melodic base. Demetrio's wordless vocal scatting over the top is, at first, like a substitute for a lead guitar or sax, but then gives way to an extraordinary jam between drums, bass, electric piano, organ, and synth. The Mahavishnu Orchestra was never this tight or well recorded! Incredible drumming! Why is this guy never included in the talk of the greatest of the greats? (10/10)


4. "Nervi Scoperti (6:35) Every time I hear this song I think I am listening to one of the all-time greatest prog fusion songs ever created and that, thus, it has to be a product of Corea/RTF, Miles, Mahavishnu, Cobham, Williams, or even a straight jazz genius. But it's not. It's AREA! Astounding, stupendous, incredible, jaw-dropping performances from everybody in the band. What a band! This one deserves extra-credit for being exactly what I said: one of the very best jazz fusion songs of all-time. (11/10)


5. "Gioia E Rivoluzione (4:40) opens like a JOHN COLTRANE, TEMPTATIONS or MAGMA song before switching radically to an acoustic guitar-based, countrified jam. The lyric of Demetrio's vocal throughout is obviously meant to be the center of attention. Otherwise, it is an okay pop song for delivery to the common folk. (7.5/10)


6. "Implosion (5:00) a little more Zawinal/Weather Report-ish than the previous jazz fusion masterpiece. More melodic and showcasing of individuals (especially the extraordinary bass player, Ares Tavolazzi). (10/10)


7. "Area 5 (2:09) an ejaculatory expression of free-form improvisational jazz. (8/10)


92.14 on the Fishscales = five stars; A-; a masterpiece of progressive rock music--mostly cutting edge jazz fusion. The amazing thing is that this album stands up perfectly even today. Amazing!




9. FRANCO BATTIATO Sulle corde di Aries (1973) very cool spacey, folk (or religious) psychedelia--the music a man would make if he were celebrating and supporting a kind of New Age spiritual transformation that he was going through.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Franco Battiato / lead vocals, VCS 3, guitar, piano, calimba
- Gianni Mocchetti / guitars, mandola, vocals
- Gianfranco D'Adda / percussion
     With:
- Gianni Bedori / tenor sax (2)
- Jane Robertson / violoncello (3)
- Daniele Cavallanti / clarinet, soprano sax (3)
- Gaetano Galli / oboe (4)
- Rossella Conz / soprano (1)
- Jutta Nienhaus / recitative vocals (3), soprano (1, 4) 

1. "Sequenze e frequenze" (16:23) Side One's side-long suite opens with chaotic cacophony of female voices, reed instruments, and sustained volume-pedal-controlled electric guitar chords and notes. In the second half of the second minute this evolves into a synthesizers over a droning note. AT 2:24 a male voice enters singing in a style familiar to me from Roman Catholic High Masses. Beneath the singer the synthesizers begin to shift and evolve their weave. At the four-minute mark percussion, mandola, and synthesizers continue the weave at a fairly quick pace. Though the music feels ethereal and serpentine, it also exudes a kind of ecstatic joy. At the end of the seventh minute the drone has become chopped up like a helicopter's rotors in motion while c(k)alimba and what sounds like an organ and sax play at a loose weave. Quite mesmerizing. And beautiful. The pace seems to quicken--almost like the dance of the Sufi whirling dervishes--as we reach the two-thirds mark before it starts to fade out--all but the chopper drone. A harmonium-like sound adds itself and is then joined by tuned bells (miniature piano? small xylophone?) and calimba to form a new weave--which also builds to a crescendo of volume and frenzy over the final four minutes before finally fading away in the last minute, leaving only the tuned hand percussives playing. Amazing song of invocation and worship. (10/10)

2. "Aries" (5:27) opens with the slow emergence of a single sustained, pulsating, flute-like synthesizer note. Eventually a kind of sequenced set of synth arpeggi support this before every fallls away at the 1:30 mark to allow the entrance of African hand drums, guitar arpeggi and strums and volume pedal-controlled electric guitar notes before echo-chamber-treated "la-la-la-la" vocals enter. After these cease, a wailing saxophone leads the band into an orgiastic climax. Nice celebratory song for members of the Age of Aquarius. (9/10)

3. "Aria di rivoluzione" (5:03) opens with heavily effected guitar and rapid-echo-treated solo voice. The vocal sounds almost sacred, ritualistic, perhaps from some Arabic tradition (though it is sung in Italian). The recorded talking voice of a woman speaking in German (Jutta Nienhaus) is interjected in the place of the choruses while being accompanied by violoncello. Nice little contemplative soli occur in the "C" instrumental part over hand percussives, first from volume-pedal-controlled electric guitar and synth horn, then from several high pitched reed horns, to the song's end. It would probably mean more to me if I knew what the German recitation meant. (8.5/10)

4. "Da Oriente a Occidente" (6:38) opens like an sing-a-long in an Indian ashram with folk instruments supporting multiple loosely-aligned male vocalists, but then it turns into a kind of "everybody grab an instrument" jam session (only the instrumentalists are all well-trained musicians). Awesomely hypnotic! (9/10)

91.25 on the Fishscales = five stars; A-; a masterpiece of progressive rock music (though I'm not sure this fits in with the more typical RPI sounds).





10. ALPHATAURUS Alphataurus (1973) URIAH HEEP made Italian! In a good way!

Line-up / Musicians:
- Michele Bavaro / vocals
- Guido Wasserman / guitar
- Pietro Pellegrini / piano, organ, Moog, vibraphone, Spinet
- Alfonso Oliva / bass
- Giorgio Santandrea / drums, timpani, congas

1. "Peccato d'orgoglio" (12:26) a wonderful song with lots of power and emotion and beautiful melodies, without a bad section in its long construction. (10/10)

2. "Dopo l'uragano" (5:06) I'm not quite sure where the band was going with this one. Led Zeppelin? (8/10)

3. "Croma" (3:17) is an instrumental that opens with harpsichord sounding keys, chunky bass and surprisingly quiet drums. In the second minute a second theme is introduced for a brief time before going back to the opening theme. Buy the end of the second minute we are fully committed to a full blown version of the opening theme. Nicely done in a kind of traditional classical music construction. (9/10)

4. "La mente vola" (9:21) I really like the tight rhythm section and foundational construct to this one. Almost Tangerine Dream-ish but truly rock'n'roll. The song builds in the third minute, with synths soloing over the opening foundation. At 3:25 everything shifts into more of a four-chord blues-rock ballad format--just before the vocals enter--doubled up by the same singer. The melody is okay, the song foundation is not as catchy or mesmerizing as the opening section. Synth and vibes soli are interspersed between the vocal verses and chorus. The descending chord progression used for the verse section reminds me of the awesome and climactic music from Andrew Lloyd Weber's "Gesthemene" from Jesus Christ Superstar. I love the first section, am not blown away by the second. (8.5/10)

5. "Ombra muta" (9:44) feels like a powerful Uriah Heep song. Great song composition and instrumental and vocal performances throughout--especially the multiple keyboards. Also, incredible rendering of all of the instruments in the engineering mix: so clear and defined and yet cohesive. Even the wild and psychedelic final three minutes. I like that the tension is not fully resolved in the end. It seems fitting.
     The best song on the album. (10/10)

91.0 on the Fishscales = five stars; A-; a masterpiece of classic and true progressive rock music.




11. CELESTE Principe di un giorno (1976) pastoral, bucolic, delicate, beautiful. And almost no drums! Delicate, ephemeral weaves of acoustic guitars, bass, piano, woodwinds (especially flutes--multiple tracks!), violins, and tuned percussion, all set against or accompanied by copious amounts of Mellotron and then coupled with the gentle male vocals of composer Ciro Perrino set within the music and sung in the band's native tongue, Italian, make for some absolutely gorgeous music.
      Celeste came onto the scene with this, a concept album of gentle, pastoral music in which there is a minimum input of percussion instruments. As noted by other reviewers, the similarities to Québeçoise band HARMONIUM's album of the same year, Si on avait besoin d'une cinquième saison, are strong, but just as strong are the influences of countrymates PREMIATA FORNERIA MARCONI's early albums--especially in the intricate multi-instrument weaves--as well as the softer side of GENESIS's Trespass, and even King Crimson's first two albums (in the style of the use of the Mellotron). The key words here are "delicacy" and "pastoral." There is very little heaviness or barely any "rock" here. The band uses beautiful, intricately constructed instrumental weaves to try to re-construct a beautiful day in the countryside.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Mariano Schiavolini / guitar, violin, vocals (3) & backing vocals
- Leonardo Lagorio / acoustic & electric piano, flute, alto & tenor sax, spinet, Mellotron, Eminent & ARP Odyssey/2600 synths, backing vocals
- Giorgio Battaglia / bass, bass pedals, electric (7) & steel (1) guitars, xylophone, backing vocals
- Ciro Perrino / percussion, flute, recorder, Mellotron, xylophone, vocals & backing vocals

With:
- Aldo De Scalzi / vocals (3), "plop" cheek-percussion" effect (7)

1. "Principe Di Giorno" (6:12) (9/10)
2. "Favole Antiche" (8:18) (10/10)
3. "Eftus" (4:17) (8.5/10)
4. "Giochi Nella Notte" (8:11) (9/10)
5. "La Grande Isola" (5:04) (9/10)
6. "La Danza Del Fato" (3:56) (9.5/10)
7. "L'imbroglio" (1:06) (8.5/10)

     I love this album. I count it as one of the masterpiece gems of the late classical period of prog. Every song is its own gem among the king's riches, but the whole, listened to start-to-finish, is a wonderful excuse for nostalgic daydreaming. IMHO, one can never do enough daydreaming.


90.71 on the Fishscales = five stars; A-; a masterpiece of pastoral progressive rock music.






12. BANCO DEL MUTUO SOCCORSO Io sono nato libero (1973) (From my 8/8/2011 PA review:) I've been listening to this for a while, trying to really get to know this 'classic'--as well as a core insight into the whole RPI sub-genre. The study has been immensely rewarding. First of all, I want to point out that "Io son nato libero" is incredibly well engineered, recorded, and mixed for 1973. Except for the vocals and drums. Everyone raves about Banco's keyboards, drums, or Francesco di Giacomo's voice but for me it is the acoustic guitars and hand percussion work that draws me back again and again. I actually find the drum kit and voice the weakest elements of this album--though 'weak' here is still stronger than 95 per cent of the other groups out there--and the 'weakness' I feel may be as much in the recording as in the performances. Francesco's vocals sometimes seem a bit forced--especially the high notes. The laid-back scatting in 2. "Non mi rompete" (9/10) is beauty perfection. (Does anyone else detect the pleasant JOHN DENVER similarity to Francesco's voice and singing style?) The drumming just feels, at times, as if he's struggling to stay with the rest of the group--sometimes ever-so slightly ahead, sometimes slightly behind. The keys--both acoustic and electronic--are as incredible as everyone says. (How cool that it's two brothers who play with and off of each other!)

Line-up / Musicians:
- Francesco Di Giacomo / lead vocals
- Marcello Todaro / electric & acoustic guitars
- Gianni Nocenzi / electric & acoustic pianos
- Vittorio Nocenzi / organ, spinet, synths
- Renato D'Angelo / bass, acoustic guitar
- Pier Luigi Calderoni / drums, percussion

With:
- Rodolfo Maltese / acoustic & electric guitars
- Silvana Aliotta / percussion
- Bruno Perosa / percussion


The opener, 1. "Canto nomade per un prigionierio politico" (15:50) is my favorite song here--though I can see why some have commented that the successive sections of the song seem somehow disjointed or that they lack comprehensible flow. I love the 'Indian' percussion and acoustic guitar parts. My only dislike is the kit drumming. I am told that this is a very, very important song to Italians and their recent history. (10/10)

3. "La città Sottile" (7:18) is exquisite: such emotional construction, pacing and soloing; such a tight rhythm section playing the music of this shifting, jazzy, quirky, surreal song, such amazing clarity and definition in its recording. (10/10)

4. "Dopo ... niente e più lo stesso" (9:55), though anthemic, feels like a twelve cylinder Rolls Royce engine running on eleven; the flaws are almost imperceptible yet somehow, collectively they add up to disappointment--inexplicably lacking some of the magic and awe of the previous three songs. (8/10)

5. "Traccia II" (2:39) is a pretty little Wakeman-like keyboard-led instrumental which serves as the album's outro. What fun it would have been to have developed this a little more. (8/10) 

90.0 on the Fish scales = 5 stars; without a doubt a masterpiece of recorded music--performance, composition and production. Every bit deserving of its high ranking on ProgArchives.





13. PREMIATA FORNERIA MARCONI L'isola di niente (1974) power, passion and grace--if surprisingly poor in sound quality.

(PA review from 9/21/2010:) An amazing album which demonstrates the virtuosity of all of the band's intstrumentalists. It also shows the band being influence by the Jazz Fusion and YES world quite a bit.

1. "L'Isola di Niente" (10:42) is one of the most unique songs in progressive rock. A true masterpiece. (10/10)

2. "Is My Face On Straight" (6:38) is the band's first attempt at singing in English. Very nice to the 1:30 mark where a very NEKTAR-sounding section begins. At 3:35 it becomes more like URIAH HEEP. Instrumental section of soli is then followed by an awesome FOCUS-like accordian piece to end. (9/10)

3. "La Luna Nuova" (6:21) begins with a very GRYPHON/JETHRO TULL flavor. At the 2:27 mark the second theme is presented until it is supplanted by a soft piano and mellotron-backed vocal. The 3:40 mark sees the start of a very YES "THE Yes Album" "Yours Is No Disgrace" sound which is then taken over by a more WAKEMAN-ish theme before the 5:05 return to "theme 2", which is then speeded up till the finale of a low horn. (9/10)


4. "Dolcissima Maria" (4:01) is a folksy CROSBY, STILL, AND NASH-plus-violin-sounding piece which takes on much more of a pop feel when the drums join in at the 3:05 mark. (8/10)

5. "Via Lumiere" (7:21) begins with a one minute bass solo a la JACO PASTORIUS before the slow RTF/CHICK COREA sounds take over. The 4:00 minute mark sees a shift to a more FOCUS/JOE WALSH sound. From 4:55 on it shifts to more FOCUS/GENESIS. (9/10)

My only criticism of this album is that it's recording/engineering quality definitely shows its age. My second favorite PFM album--and one which shows the band's growth both as instrumental masters and daring, adventurous composers. 

90.0 on the Fish scales = five stars. Despite it's 1970s typical short length, and one weak, 'poppy' song, this is a true masterpiece of progressive rock music. 





LOCANDA DELLE FATE Forse le lucciole non si amano più (1977) A very polished piano-based progressive rock album with a combined RENAISSANCE-GENESIS Foxtrot/SEbtP-era sound and feel to it.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Leonardo Sasso / lead vocals
- Alberto Gaviglio / electric guitar, 12-string guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals
- Ezio Vevy / electric guitar, 12-string guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals, flute
- Michele Conta / piano, electric Piano, synthesizer (Polymoog), harpsichord, clarinet
- Oscar Mazzoglio / Hammond organ, Fender electric piano, synthesizers (Moog, Polymoog)
- Luciano Boero / bass, Hammond organ
- Giorgio Gardino / drums, vibraphone

1. "A volte un istante di quiete" (6:31) opens as an up tempo, piano-based rock song sounding quite a bit like a peak-era Jon TOUT-led RENAISSANCE song. The band plays quite nicely togetherNicely tight band. The synth lines in the fourth minute are almost straight out of the finale of GENESIS' "Supper's Ready" and the guitar sound that joins in later is also quite Steve Hackett-esque. The fast-paced jazzier section that takes over at the 4:40 mark returns the band more to a RENAISSANCE/ "MacArthur's Park" sound. (9.5/10)

2. "Forse le lucciole non si amano più" (9:48) opens with a piano and vibes duet, establishing melody that the vocalist soon uses. By the end of the first minute the full band has joined in, establishing a fairly slow, methodical pace and sound. The instruments amp up into a little harsher ground at the 1:40 mark before falling back into support for the husky-voice male singer (Leonardo Sasso). Chunky bass (think John Camp) with well-integrated drums lead into an instrumental section with electric guitar 'power' chords and harpsichord in the lead. The more aggressive, jazzier section in the sixth minute feels a little discombobulated from the multiple vocal lines--very theatric--but it's working in a dramatic way. (8.5/10)

3. "Profumo di colla Bianca" (8:25) opens with a collection of sounds and riffs that make it sound like it comes straight off a YES album--Relayer or later. When things calm down for the vocal to enter at the one minute mark it feels all Italia(--all Banco). The next sections--instrumental and vocal--magically blend themes and sounds from the early years of both GENESIS (Gabriel era) and KING CRIMSON (ItCotCK). A more piano-based section returns to the beautiful realm of Italian melodrama--which is then carried forward and enhanced by an interesting section that feels like a blend of THE ALLMAN BROTHERS and STARCASTLE. Very interesting and deftly crafted song. (9.5/10)   


4. "Cercando un nuovo confine" (6:41) opens delicately, beautifully, like the "play me a song" part of Genesis' "The Musical Box." In the second minute, piano, mellotron and background singers are added to the foundational acoustic guitar and electric guitar arpeggi. Then the song bursts into full rock dynamics in an almost ELTON JOHN way but then quickly settle back into more Genesis-Renaissance domains. An new theme is introduced at the three-minute mark that is piano-led, enriching the dimensionality of the song in a Tony Banks kind of way. The vocalist becomes more forceful but it sounds strained and makes the song suffer (in my opinion). And then the song quiets down, moving more toward the opening in its delicacy--though the piano continues tinkling away for a bit. The vocal harmonies in the final minute are nice. (8.5/10)


5. "Sogno di Estunno" (4:41) opens with flute and piano playing melody line in unison while bass and drums build in support. When Leonardo's vocals are introduced, the mood becomes more assertive, even aggressive. But then a delicate Genesis-like section ensues before it, too, is absorbed in the aggression of the next vocal-lead section (verse 2). The instrumental section that follows is peppered with soli from Arp synth and piano before Leonardo returns. It is my opinion that his voice is just to gruff for these beautiful instrumental weaves. I also believe that the piano is too dominant. One can see how these songs were created (and could be performed solo) by the piano, but it should have been mixed down a bit in the final mixes--to allow the weave of instruments to seem more even keeled. (8.5/10)


6. "Non chiudere a chiave le stelle" (3:34) opens with a pretty multiple guitar- and all-arpeggi-based weave which is soon joined by the gentle voice of a different male singer than the previous songs. Nice, gentle background harmony vocals used as well. Thought the song never really 'goes' anywhere, it is nice--and probably would mean much more to me if I knew what he was singing about. (8.5/10)

7. "Vendesi saggezza (9:37) is another piano and chunky Jon Camp-led song with Leonardo's gruff, aged-sounding voice in the lead vocal spot. The instrumental section in the third minute is quite nice--even powerful--and helps the next singing section by bringing in quite a sophisticated weave with it--or could it be that Leonardo's voice is mixed a bit further back in the soundscape? Whatever, this is the first time on the album that the instrumental dynamics has felt perfectly mixed!
     The GENTLE GIANT-like section that opens at the 6:20 mark is a nice twist--and then the next section at 7:10 is pure GENESIS perfection. (9.5/10)

89.29 on the Fishscales = 4.5 stars; B+; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music.





BANCO DEL MUTUO SOCCORSO Darwin! (1972) The much-acclaimed and revered epitome of 1970s 'classic' RPI here finds criticism and disconnect.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Francesco Di Giacomo / lead vocals
- Marcello Todaro / electric & acoustic guitars
- Vittorio Nocenzi / Hammond organ, Moog synthesizers, harpsichord, vocals
- Gianni Nocenzi / piano, E-flat clarinet
- Renato D'Angelo / bass, double bass
- Pier Luigi Calderoni / drums, timpani


1. "L'Evoluzione" (13:59) This song offers a perfect opportunity for me to express a few of my dislikes in Banco music. Banco songs can sometimes be too busy. Like the comment in Amadeus about Mozart using just too many notes, the average, untrained human brain can only take in so much. Then there are the tendencies that Banco uses to compose support music for individual soli that is too rigid and monotonous--that goes on for far longer than one would like to hear. And then there are the flaws in the mixes of the instruments. Still, there is the fact of the amazing complexity and sophistication that is always a part of Banco compositions. Admirable and laudable, but they do not always translate into enjoyable listening experiences. Sometimes there can be just . . . too much going on at once. And I am often found having trouble finding, much less attaching to, lead or woven melodies. Where are they? And I will finally admit that after all these listens to Banco materials:  I am just not that big of a fan of Francesco Di Giacomo's voice. He may be the equivalent of the Peter Hammill of Italy--you either love him or you hate him. (Like with Hammill), I fall into this latter category. (Well, I don't really hate him. I don't always enjoy his voice or vocal performances.) (8.5/10)

2. "La Conquista Della Posizione Eretta" (8:42) until the final two minutes, this is an instrumental song of typical Banco complexity and breakneck speed but possessing some nice, interesting, engaging melodies on the top (mostly from the synthesizer). Still, this song feels a bit too much like a song that would run over the introductory or end credits of a 1970s spy film. One of the more tolerable, even enjoyable, Francesco Di Giacomo vocals. (9.5/10) 


3. "Danza Dei Grandi Rettili" (3:42) opens with a kind of sophisticated coffee-house jazz feel. For 45 seconds. Then the full-house orchestral hall sound bursts forth. For a bit. Reverting back to café dynamics, the jazzy sound returns for some piano and jazz guitar interplay. The louder 'chorus' section returns with some cool organ and synth interplay before a bridge back to the original sound and theme occurs. Piano, jazz bass, brushed drums, and jazz lead guitar play out to the end--and, it is assumed, the sparse applause of the smokey café. (9/10)

4. "Cento Mani E Cento Occhi" (5:22) opens with a driving, dynamic burst of straightforward organ-based rock. Francesco's poorly recorded voice is oddly mixed. There then follows a kind of Keith Emerson section before the vocals return. In the second half of the song, a kind of all-male barrel-house vocal ensemble becomes the form of vocal delivery--in both the louder and even the softer sections. A well constructed and performed song that is somehow poorly recorded and troublesome to connect with. Better to sit back and enjoy as spectator. (8.5/10)
5. "750,000 Anni Fa ... L'Amore?" (5:38) opens as a gentle, contemplative piano-based song over which a very strong, passionate, almost operatic vocal is sung by Francesco Di Giacomo. The man can definitely sing! There's even a section where Francesco's voice alone exudes the force that an entire full rock band might try to display--just his voice! Perhaps he was a failed or frustrated opera singer. 
     The odd synth interlude in the middle is unfortunate. But, it is short-lived. We return to the piano and solo voce format where Francesco and Gianni Nocenzi perform their magic--until the rest of the rock band finally joins in for the final 35 seconds. (9/10)
6. "Miserere Alla Storia" (5:58) opens with a fade in of an already in full-form and fast-pace jazz-rock weave, but, then, just as it reaches front and center, it stops! Instead we are left with some spacious organ, bass, synthesizer play beneath a distant soloing clarinet. At two minute mark a very aggressive, demonic (non-Francesco) vocal sets up the onset of a new instrumental section of driving film soundtrack music. Piano soloing over staccato rhythm section ensues at the end of the fourth minute before returning first to the soundtrack "chase scene" theme and then to a pensive soft section for bass and fading clarinet to take us out. Odd song. (8.5/10)
7. "Ed Ora Io Domando Tempo Al Tempo Ed Egli Mi Risponde ... Non Ne Ho!" (3:29) opens with themes and sounds that could come from several ethnic musical traditions--and which sounds a lot like some of Woody Allen's clarinet-led Italian music as used in his films. The song is partly beautiful, partly grotesquely sad, partly funny--and definitely interesting. (9/10) 

88.57 on the Fishscales = 4.5 stars; B+; a near-masterpiece of Rock Progressivo Italiano. A clear example of how brilliant ideas in the hands of virtuoso artists do not always result in glowing masterpieces of artistic product.  





NEW TROLLS Concerto Grosso per i New Trolls (1971) Side one contains a nice blend of classical instrumentation into a kind of blues-rock operetta JETHRO TULL-style. It is not as well recorded or refined as some other rock-classical blends however I have to laud it for it's daring in being one of the first fairly successful rock conversions of famous themes from classical music (Vivaldi)--and for the gutsy daring of the musicians involved.
     One side note:  As accent-less as Nico Di Palo's English is, I do find it strange that the band chose to sing the lyrics in English.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Maurizio Salvi / piano, organ
- Vittorio De Scalzi / guitar, flute
- Nico Di Palo / guitar, lead vocals
- Gianni Belleno / drums, vocals
- Giorgio D'Adamo / bass, vocals

1. "Tempo: Allegro" (2:15) an awesome JETHRO TULL-sounding rock version of classical themes. (9/10)

2. "Tempo: Adagio" (4:50) 
 What gorgeous singing voices Nico and his background singers are! No wonder they were so successful as generators of pop hits after their prog phase. It's too bad the orchestral arrangements are so syrupy (and strings-dominant) here. (8/10)
 
3. "Tempo: Cadenza - Andante Con Moto" (4:10) plays for the first minute and a half as for all intents and purposes, a violin solo. But then those syrupy strings get involved. Too bad. (Barely a rock song--were it not for the drumming.) Nice use of harpsichord and wordless and worded vocals over the strings and violin in the second half. Disappointing end with orchestral strings leading us out. (8.5/10)

4. "Tempo: Shadows" (5:30) a bluesy rock song in the PROCUL HAREM vein with a show of HENDRIX in the lead electric guitar department. The flute-led instrumental section in third and fourth minutes employs a very Hendrix-like guitar improvisational background (and, later, foreground)--and it works marvellously! Most excellent! it gets a little carried away with the guitar feedback solo in the fifth and sixth minutes, but it is ballsy! and well done. (9.5/10)

5. Nella Sala Vuota, Improvvisazioni Dei New Trolls Registrate In Diretta (20:32) opens as a bluesy Hammond solo for the first two minutes. As the full band join in, the breathy flute-led song begins to sound like the theme song from the original Mission: Impossible television series--as it might be played by The Netherlands' FOCUS around 1972. JETHRO TULL influences also come raging through in the second quarter of the song. 
     After the mid-song break, the music returns in what sounds like a RAY CHARLES instrumental. Nice Hammond work is followed by a loud and dated-sounding electric guitar solo which is then followed by a surprisingly impressive (and surprisingly long) drum solo by Gianni Belleno. (I love the fast panning effect used near its end!) 
     Gianni finally builds back the song base to allow the rest of the band to join in for the last 45 seconds.
     The highs of the musician's skills on display here outweigh the distractions of poor sonic effects and engineering limitations of the day. (9/10)

Despite it's flaws sonically, and the disappointing cheesiness of the strings inputs, I really like the ballsy confidence shown by these players. Electric guitar, keyboards, bass, and drums are all solid in both their ability to contribute to the whole while all are equally able to show their confident chops in the solo department as well.  

87.5 on the Fishscales = 4.5 stars; B+; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music. 





CHERRY FIVE Cherry Five (1975) The story of frustration and parallel timetables that resulted in the making of this album by the band that formerly called themselves Oliver and who would become Goblin is legendary. I liked this album upon first listen but now see that it is more, in fact, of a practice/rehearsal/growing experience for its members. The musicianship is so polished, but the performances are like the jamming that a band of newbies makes to get to know each other, to explore themes, weaves, and compositional options. Nothing here is extraordinarily new or innovative as the YES-influences are worn fairly on their sleeves. Even the choice to sing in English is curious for a band from Italy which (finally, ultimately) recorded the album in Italia.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Claudio Simonetti / keyboards
- Massimo Morante / guitars
- Fabio Pignatelli / bass
- Tony Tartarini / lead voice
- Carlo Bordini / drums, percussion

1. "Country Grave-Yard" (8:21) excellent musicianship abounds here but the blues-jazzy jam here is rather standard and lacking of melodies--especially in the rather weak vocal sections. The instrumental jam in the middle almost makes up for those weak sections. (8.5/10)

2. "The Picture of Dorian Gray" (8:00) another amazingly busy, intricately constructed song that could only be performed with virtuoso musicians--as these gentlemen no doubt were. It's just too bad that the vocalist isn't more exceptional (and that the lyrical melodies aren't up to the high standards of the instrumental structures playing beneath). (8.5/10)

3. "The Swan Is a Murderer (Part 1) (3:54) (8.5/10)

4. "The Swan Is a Murderer (Part 2)" (5:21) sounds like a YES-wannabe tune as performed by a band that Eddie Offield dissed (which he did). (9/10)

5. "Oliver" (9:33) a truly challenging and well-constructed, if fairly predictable, composition. These guys were certainly ambitious! Again, the YES-influences are fairly out in the open. The slow section that begins with the gong-crash at the 3:50 mark is pretty but kind of meandering and listless. The final uptempo section is the tightest yet (though still Yes-like). Still, this song would stand up well on a modern day WOBBLER album. (9/10)

6. "Little Cloud Land" (7:46) is a solid, melody-driven rocker with Chris Squire-like bass, Uriah Heep-like voice and organ and an awesome buildup and climax. Probably the best song on the album. (9/10)

87.5 on the Fishscales = 4.5 stars; B+; a near-masterpiece of well-performed, well-recorded progressive rock music.





BIGLIETTO PER L'INFERNO Biglietto per l'Inferno (1974) some of the best song and melody developments I've heard in Italian prog--and containing a rare thing in Italian music: space! room between the notes.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Fausto Branchini / bass
- Mauro Gnecchi / drums
- Giuseppe Banfi / keyboards
- Marco Mainetti / guitars
- Claudio Canali / vocal, flute
- Giuseppe Cossa / keyboards

1. "Ansia" (4:16) a kind of standard, nothing special rock'n'roll song. Even the melodies here are nothing memorable. (7.5/10)

2. "Confessione" (6:32) opens like a DOORS song but then in the second section becomes more like a hard rockin' ZZ TOP "La Grange." The vocal section in the second and third minutes is kind of URIAH HEEP and THE BEATLES. The fifth minute with its flutes and electric guitar lead bring the song into the heavy side of JETHRO TULL. Great effects used on the guitar in the final two minutes. Awesome! (9/10)

3. "Una strana regina" (6:12) opens with an unusual sound:  slow, distant low end organ chords--over which is added a speedier mid-range arpeggiated chord progression and distant drums and electric bass. The vocal that enters in the second minute sounds a lot like the voice and stylings of Uriah Heep's David Byron. At the three minute mark the song suddenly jumps into fast-pace J TULL territory. For 35 seconds! Then, just as suddenly, it reverts back into ultra soft and plaintive URIAH HEEP territory before lifting itself up into a nice moderate pace for a brief stretch before bang! another shocking shift--into a kind of FELA/Afro-pop guitar solo leading to . . . the next song!  (8.5/10)

4. "Il nevare" (4:37) bleeds over from the previous song as the band continues its string of totally unexpected and unpredictable dynamic shifts: moderate to loud and fast to soft and delicate and back and forth within seconds of one another, over and over. How odd! A little disconcerting upon the first few listens but once used to it, one can appreciate the nice sounds and performance challenges pulled off here. (8.5/10)

5. "L'amico suicida" (13:20) opens with another bluesy, PROCUL HARUM-like chord and sound progression, performed slowly with great dramatic effect--especially coming from the keyboards and drums. Nice first two minutes. Then a frenetic and confusing section begins around 2:05 but then is just as suddenly cut off as we move into a vocal section supported by funereal piano chords and sustained squeals from a synthesizer. Definitely conveying sadness, anger, overwhelm, frustration in this powerfully emotional rendering. Quite a mature and devastatingly powerful composition in the expression of this topic. Even the oddly pretty Latin-infused acoustic guitar strummed section that begins at 6:31 seems fitting. Easily the best song on the album--worthy of hundreds of listens as there are so many sections and nuances to take in. Kudos to these musicians for the amazing performances realized here. (10/10)

87.0 on the Fishscales = 4.5 stars; B; a near-masterpiece of classic progressive rock music.




QUELLA VECCHIA LOCANDA Quella Vecchia Locanda (1972) This is a nice blues rock album with a lot of input from classically trained musicians and composers. The presence of flutes, violins, and clarinet make it a little more interesting. The drums and bass play make it sound rather dated.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Massimo Roselli / piano, organ, Mellotron, Moog, electric sitar, cembalo, vocals
- Giorgio Giorgi / lead vocals, flute, piccolo
- Patrik Traina / drums
- Romualdo Coletta / bass, frequency generator
- Raimondo Maria Cocco / electric & acoustic & 12 string guitars, vocals
- Donald Lax / electric & acoustic violin

1. "Prologo" (5:01) plays like a prog epic with its many, many small themes, sections, twists and turns, classical and rock. Fine musicianship and vocals, but just a little too busy and nonsensical to me.  (9/10)

2. "Un villagio, un'illusione" (3:53) after the radical twisting and turning of the opening song, the fairly straightforward and steady arrangement of this one is a bit of a surprise. (7.5/10)

3. "Realtà" (4:14) has very delicate, nylon-string guitar opening with matching vocal, before a heavier LED ZEPPELIN-like blues rock chord progression takes us into a chorus. Repeat one more time and then the song shifts into a still gentle, almost folk-classical instrumental section. Return to A-B format for the final minute or so. Beautiful song. (9.5/10)

4. "Immagini sfuocate" (2:57) opens with demonic sounding organ play, moving into a sustained crescendo within which flutes, electric bass, violin, and guitar add their spice. When we finally come out of the worm hole, we find ourselves in classic blues rock in the vein of SPIRIT or RARE EARTH. (8.5/10)

5. "Il cieco" (4:12) opens with a dated rock sound feel but then moves into a softer, flute-dominated section in the second minute. Piano and percussion bring us out into a kind of JETHRO TULL "Locomotive Breath" sound and style. The final 30 seconds are spent in more plaintive classical mode. (8/10)

6. "Dialogo" (3:43) another classically-infused blues rock tune that breaks for an interesting final minute of vocal 'dialogue'. (8.5/10)

7. "Sogno, risveglia e" (5:16) Easily the best song on the album, for its classical themes at the beginning--played on piano and strings--which then set up the entire beautiful song. Solo violin and flute take over the largo melody play in the third minute before the violin tracks fire it up a bit. At 3:30 vocalist sings over his piano, alternating with strings' input. The song returns to the gorgeous spacious piano theme for the final 45 seconds. (9.5/10)

An album that does a fairly competent job of melding classical music instruments and compositional styles and themes with rock instruments and formats. It would have been better if the rock compositionship was a little beyond fairly simple, straightforward blues rock formats.

86.43 on the Fishscales = 4.5 stars; B; a near-masterpiece of classically-infused blues ("progressive") rock.





LE ORME Uomo di Pezza (1972) (From my 6/17/10 review on PA:)  As with all old prog "classics" that I am only now having the privilege of discovering, I've been taking my time to get to know Uomo di pezza. I can assure you, it has been truly a labour of love. This is a beautiful album with some wonderful songs, sounds, and melodies.


Line-up / Musicians:
- Aldo Tagliapietra / vocals, bass, electric & 12-strings acoustic guitars
- Antonio Pagliuca / organ, synthesizer, piano, electric clavichord, Mellotron, celesta
- Michi Dei Rossi / drums, bells, percussions

With:
- Gian Piero Reverberi / piano (1), producer


1. "Una dolcezza nuova" (5:28) introduces some of Uomo de pezza's distinctive sounds: organ, fuzzy bass, pastoral piano, and, of course, the beautiful voice and singing of guitarist/bass guitarist Aldo Tagliapietra. (9/10)

2. "Gioco di bimba" (2:54) introduces what becomes one of the other distinctive sounds of Uomo: the 12-string guitar. Joined by clavinet and synthesized flute, the song has a rather Donovan-mixed-with-Scarlatti feel to it. Cheery, 1960s sunshine. (8/10)

3. "La porta chuisa" (7:28) begins with a Camel-like sound with synth, drum and bass, before shifting into a more theatric sound with organ, followed by solo organ notes sneaking over the drummer's rim shots. Higher pitched vocal singing follows the organ until a heavy, "Tarkus"-like organ section appears and disappears, becoming the alternating partner for the soft, rim-shot-accompanied, high pitch singing sections. Enter some Nektar/Camel-esque riffs at 3:15, followed at 3:40 by the bass drum pounding out quarter notes till 5:10's silence. This pounding, quiet, pounding, quiet pattern continues alternating until a church organ fills the soundscape at the 6:15 mark, followed by piano at 6:45, ending with an ELP sound and pace. (9/10)

4. "Breve immagine" (2:42) sounds like a return to "Una dolcezza nuova" with the higher-pitched singing done over a church organ until 0:50 sounds a crescendo of mellotron, rhythm section, and synthesizer. The quiet, bucolic A section and King Crimson-like crescendoing B section alternate two more cycles. Beautiful song. (9/10)

5. "Figure di cartone" (3:48) begins with a very engaging "My Sweet Lord" kind of feel: strumming 12-string guitars, KC/"Lucky Man"-like drums, roving Prophet 5 synth, and a very catchy vocal melody. A long solo from a buzzing synthesizer sound. (9/10)

6. "Aspettando l'alba" (4:43) uses very pensive, ominous sound and chord choices, which then yield to guitar strums at the 0:50 mark. The defining Uomo song structure seems to be the alternating quiet and dynamic sections--used to great effect. Here the quiet sections are peppered with a variety of instruments: flute, keyboard synths, drum travels, echoing space sounds, and quiet guitar strums until at 3:20 there is a complete change to percussives with flute-like keyboard chorus to fade. (8/10)

7. "Alienazione" (4:43)  is Le Orme's attempt at discord and complexity a la King Crimson. (The song actually has quite a similar feel to it is KC's "21st Century Schizoid Man," though I'm also reminded of The Doors and Traffic. Dark and ominous.) (8/10)

Overall very high consistency and quality. 85.71 on the Fish scales = 4.5 stars; B; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music. Le Orme exploring a lot of new sounds while relying on one basic structural pattern--to perfection--and having wonderful singer. I can't quite give it a five star rating--though I do think this is Le Orme's finest work. Still, an excellent addition to any prog-lover's music collection.




PANNA FREDDA Uno (1971) This is an album of good rock music but nothing very special or too innovative here--and I even find myself wondering if it is even prog--though it is bombastic and pretentious. But, then, so were The Doors. I do wonder, however, what might have happened had the band members stuck together and done some more albums together, though.
    The production engineering are surprisingly clear and the mixing done very well.

Line-up / Musicians
- Angelo Giardinelli / guitar, vocals
- Giorgio Brandi / keyboards, guitar
- Filippo Carnevale / guitar, drums
- Carlo Bruno / bass


1. "La Paura" (6:02) a kind of cool, melodic, though simple blues rock song in the DOORS or DEEP PURPLE vein. I guess it's the panned "wind" synth and organ play that make this one proggy. The weave of multiple soloists in the final two minutes, too. (9/10)

2. "Un Re Senza Reame" (5:06) such clear engineering is a delight to hear--even with the lead vocals. I don' t know why it's so difficult to record and mix choral or background vocals, though. Melodic and in your face, this one could prove memorable. (8.5/10)


3. "Un Uomo" (4:56) opens with some aggressive, fairly fast whole-band chord play before dropping back into a very simple foundation for the vocals to begin. The alternating quiet vocal-heavy instrumental sections used here seems fairly common in Italian prog. At 2:16 a sole bass bridges to a new kind of jazzy jam section. Bass and organ seem both on the verge of soloing though it is really the drummer who is doing the interesting stuff. Then we get a lead guitarist to step forward in a kind of GRAND FUNK RAILROAD solo section. The spirit of URIAH HEEP seems also strongly present. (8.5/10)


4. "Scacco Al Re Lot" (4:32) opens with some quick-to-engage melodic hooks from guitar and organ. It is interesting how essential to each melody structure the bass play is. It is highly unusual to here such prominence given to the bass throughout an album as it is here. 

     The vocal section in the second half of the second minute is quite nice. This is then followed by a bridge into a "mediæval" section with guitar and harpsichord providing old background to the emotional vocal. Again, URIAH HEEP comes strongly to mind here. 
     The final minute shifts back into heavier rock mode before playing an electrical variation on the classical theme using in the mediæval section. (9/10) 

 5. "Il Vento, La Luna E Pulcini Blu" (9:58) opens with a kind of rock founded ancient theme (as in the previous song) with spinet and acoustic guitar. These remain to accompany the vocal section but is then followed by an instrumental section in which some experimenting with bass and electric guitar sounds in the third minute is accompanied by spinet arppegi and cymbal play from the drums. This section then repeats three times as it is alternated with variations on the theme from the opening. 
      The plaintive vocal only recurs twice in the entire song for perhaps a total of one minute's time, making this virtually and instrumental composition. 
      An entertaining and nice sounding song--though it could have been developed with more variation and an additional theme or two in the ten-minute mix. (7.5/10) 

6. "Waiting" (3:08) opens with recorded noise either from a factory or a train station which is then joined and commuted into distorted portamento space sounds before being replaced by fast-paced blues rock music of two main alternating themes, the first ejaculatory and bridge-like, the second more organ-based blues cruising. The alternating occurs four cycles before ending in a kind of crescendo of cacophonous sound coming from all of the instruments at one time. Interesting but... (7.5/10)

83.33 on the Fishscales = a solid four star album; B; a nice addition to any prog lover's music collection and especially recommended for RPI fans. 





PREMIATA FORNERIA MARCONI Storia di un minuto (1971) No matter how many times I listen to this album, no matter how many different sound delivery mechanisms I experiment with, I always, always come away with the strong sense that this is a vastly overrated album in which the "new" sounds, riffs, and even themes coming out of the prog bands from the British Isles are merely being absorbed and then regurgitated.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Franco Mussida / electric, acoustic & 12-string guitars, mandocello, lead vocals
- Flavio Premoli / organ, pianos (piano a puntine?), Mellotron, harpsichord, MiniMoog, lead vocals
- Mauro Pagani / flute, piccolo, violin, vocals
- Giorgio Piazza / bass, vocals
- Franz Di Cioccio / drums, percussion, Moog, vocals

1. "Introduzione (1:10) an interesting, bucolic entry into the world of PFM: vocalise, flutes, Mellotron, and, finally, full rock band. (8/10)
2. "Impressioni di Settembre" (5:44) back and forth, back and forth the song swings from the soft, spacious vocal section to the louder KING CRIMSON imitation part. The soft "C" part in the fifth minute sounds as if vocalist and instrumentalists (except for drummer, Michael Giles) are stuck in a time loop. (7.5/10)
3. "E' Festa" (4:52) a piano from an old West saloon and an ancient electric guitar from the early 60s open this frolicking song before turning into a BEATLES/ELP collage. This song might be great in a live concert experience but what a waste of vinyl! (6/10)
4. "Dove... Quando... (Parte I)" (4:08) This is obviously a song that was rejected from one of Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Westerns. Too bad:  This band shows promise! (8/10)
5. "Dove... Quando... (Parte II)" (6:00) opens with the engineer unable to decide what volume levels he wishes to use for the pipe organ, finally settling on the loudest--which causes some overload hiss in the audio playback. Oh, well. We can drown it out with piano, bass and drums, right? At 2:15 things slow down and shift into lullaby time--piano(s) and cello (or is that double bass and cello?) with Mellotron and tympani added in for good measure so that a portamento synth can be panned across the soundscape. For some mysterious reason, the studio recorder decides to turn on the monitors in Studio B where a jazz combo is playing. Now this is some nice sound engineering! Oops! I spoke too soon. The electronic synthesizer keyboards throw up on the scene as the musicans from Studio A are staging a battle for supremacy. Who will win this war? As the song VERY suddenly ends, we'll never get to know. (A very good decision, if you ask me.) (7/10)

6. "La Carrozza di Hans" (6:46) opens out of the ashes of the previous debacle and takes a minute (that's right, a full minute) to re-establish order. The ASSOCIATION-like choral vocal which ensues is strangely disrupted by all kinds of weird instrumental noises and then just disappears all together as we are diverted by a solo concert from some coffee shop guitarist. It's pretty. Luckily I've got my Black and Tan, a nice bowl of hot stew, and my best friends to sit and chat with; the music can occupy the background. But wait! He's trying some tricky classical stuff! Oh, (4:43) no! I was mistaken. It's just The Them doing one of their Irish reels. That is a pretty decent violin player, though. Mellotron!?? Where'd that come from? (And WHY?!!) (7/10)
7. "Grazie Davvero" (5:52) this one predates PINK FLOYD's "Brain Damage" by a year or more! How'd they do that? That's brilliant! And then some Jacques Brel! I am loving this (if confused. It's like I'm sitting watching an old-fashioned television while someone else controls the channel changing.) Then comes part three--or is it a variation of part 2? At least the sound engineering and mix is better. 
     Then loud dynamics with a kind of Jesus Christ Superstar "Awaken - Gentle - Mass - Touch" riff arrives and then just as quickly disappears in lieu of . . . Pink Floyd! (Please excuse my time-touched persepective:  after forty years of immersion, DSotM and GftO are part of my dna but this is . . . not.)       The parts are all cool, well done, it's just quite a mystery as to how and why they all got spliced together as they did! (7.5/10)

Maybe it was all a dream!? Or part of some kind of a musical review?! If I had known that that was what I was in for, I might have felt better prepared--and more receptive. (But why, then, after this, my nth listen to this highly acclaimed, praised album, am I as dumbfounded and mystified as ever?!?!?)

72.86 on the Fishscales = 3.5 stars; C-; a good to fair presentation of . . . spliced together excellent sections of many, many songs, some original, some borrowed or stolen. 


ALBUMS FOR WHICH I HAVE NOT YET COMPLETED THEIR REVIEWS:




QUELLA VECCHIA LOCANDA Il tempo della Gioia (1974)

Line-up / Musicians:
- Claudio Filice / violin
- Giorgio Giorgi / vocals, flute, piccolo
- Massima Giorgi / bass, contrabass, vocals
- Massimo Roselli / vocals, keyboards
- Raimondo Cocco / vocals, guitar, trumpet (clarino)
- Patrick Fraina / drums, vocals

1. Villa Doria Pamphili (5:27)
2. A Forma Di (4:07)
3. Il Tempo Della Gioia (6:15)
4. Un Giorno, un Amico (9:39)
5. È Accaduto una Notte (8:16)




GOBLIN Roller (1976)

Line-up / Musicians:
- Massimo Morante / guitars
- Fabio Pignatelli / basses
- Claudio Simonetti / organ, piano, Hohner clavinet, Moog, Logan & Elka string synthesizers
- Maurizio Guarini / Fender Rhodes piano, Hohner pianet, Moog, clarinet, piano
- Agostino Marangolo / drums, percussion 

1. Roller (4:38)
2. Aquaman (5:22)
3. Snip snap (3:37)
4. The snake awakens (3:27)
5. Goblin (11:10)
6. Dr. Frankenstein (6:00) 




*JUMBO Vietato ai minori di 18 anni (1973) Very interesting and diverse song offerings with remarkable compositional skill--and great guitar soli. And broaching sensitive, even controversial topics! A BIG step up from their previous albums.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Alvaro Fella / vocals, acoustic guitar, electric piano, organ, sax
- Sergio Conte / keyboards
- Dario Guidotti / acoustic and electric guitar, flutes, harmonica, sistrum, vocals
- Aldo Gargano / Mellotron, bells, sistrum
- Daniele "Pupo" Bianchini / acoustic guitar, bass
- Tullio Granatello / drums, tympani

Guest musicians:
- Franco Battiato / VCS3 synthesizer (5)
- Lino "Capra" Vaccina / tabla (5), percussion (5)
- Angelo Vaggi / Minimoog synthesizer (5)
- Fats Gallo / slide guitar (5)

1. Specchio (7:23)
2. Come Vorrei Essere Uguale A Te (5:43)
3. Il Ritorno Del Signor K (2:03)
4. Via Larga (6:59)
5. Gil (7:12)
6. Vangelo? (5:41)
7. 40 Gradi (6:41)
8. No! (2:21) 




*LE ORME Collage (1971)

Line-up / Musicians:
- Aldo Tagliapietra / vocals, bass, acoustic guitar
- Antonio Pagliuca / Hammond, electric piano, audio generator
- Michi Dei Rossi / drums, percussions

Side 1
1. Collage (4:42)
2. Era Inverno (5:00)
3. Cemento Armato (8:08)
Side 2
4. Sguardo Verso Il Cielo (4:12)
5. Evasione Totale (6:56)
6. Immagini (2:58)
7. Morte Di Un Fiore (3:00) 




*LE ORME Felona e Sorona (1973) (from my 6/13/2014 review on PA:)  I loved LE ORME's Uomo di pezza upon first listen and continue to do so to this day. But, try as I might, the magic that so many prog lovers feel for Felona e Sorona has completely eluded me. The recording of the electronic keyboards is unusually bad--almost painful to my ears. I have listened to this album for almost six years. I even went so far as to buy it about a year ago--in hopes that the physical presence might help win me over. But it just doesn't work. The drums and bass are so elementary. The vocals don't have any of the melodic hooks that I fell for in Uomo di pizza. Sure, there are awesome, memorable moments or passages, but overall, in my opinion, it does not maintain the highs of a prog classic. 
     
The opening number makes me feel as if I'm at cheesy county fair--though it does have a wonderful final two minutes. The second number is best for its recorder at the end. The third song is best in its sparseness--the piano accompanying Aldo. The upbeat fourth song is most remarkable for its keyboard beginning--which is similar to, and predates, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway by a year or more. The fifth song is sparse with guitar supplanting keyboards but really goes nowhere. "Attesa" is scarred (to my ears) by the odd sliding bass riff repeating itself over the disco drumming. "Rittrato" is simple and anthemic (and has the album's best drumming and best overall mix--until the L channel el gtr starts to get louder). "All'infuori" is the most daringly experimental on the album with its unusual drum opening, quick organ flourish and then guitar foundation all eventually coming together in a very medieaval sounding presentation--and then breaking down into a spacious gap of nothingness mid song. Again, simplicity and procession seem to reign here. The album's best song is its finale, "Ritorno" (from which, understandably, La Maschera de Cera found their inspiration to create their 2013 Felona e Sorona 'continuation,' La Porte del Domani), an instrumental which finally uses all of its band members' sounds in interesting and innovative fashion. Anyway, perhaps if I knew Italian the impact of the lyrics would boost this one for me. Otherwise, this is but a three and a half star production for me: better than good but not an album that I'm going to rave about on a "highly recommended" list.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Aldo Tagliapietra / vocals, bass, guitar
- Antonio Pagliuca / keyboards
- Michi Dei Rossi / drums, percussion

1. Sospesi Nell'Incredibile (8:43)
2. Felona (1:58)
3. La Solitudine Di Chi Protegge Il Mondo (1:57)
4. L'Equilbrio (3:47)
5. Sorona (2:28)
6. Attesa Inerte (3:25)
7. Ritratto Di Un Mattino (3:29)
8. All'infuori Del Tempo (4:08)
9.Ritorno Al Nulla (3:34) 






*GOBLIN Profondo Rosso O.S.T. (1975) Great soundtrack music.







BANCO DEL MUTUO SOCCORSO Banco del mutuo soccorso (1972) The great band of classically-trained musicians published their debut album in the early weeks of 1972. It is a wonderful and surprisingly strong album for a debut, with all of the fire of youth and classical training coming burning through.

Ever since re-entering the music scene in 2008 after an absence of nearly twenty years I was overwhelmed by many international music scenes of which I had previously been relatively unaware. Rock progressivo Italiano is one of these. And with my enthusiastic interest drawn to the amazing number of modern artists contributing to what has proved to be quite an exciting revival of my once-beloved progressive rock music, I have not always given older albums the time and attention necessary to truly familiarize myself with them much less appreciate them. Still, I have slowly acquired the much revered "classics." (This one has 663 ratings/reviews on PA alone!) Banco has impressed me from my initial listens. The maturity and sophistication of songmaking is astounding. And to put into the formula the fact that this album and Darwin! (both 1972 releases) predate many of the most cherished masterpieces of the Golden Age only increases my appreciation and awe. The dynamic range, confidence to be quiet and subtle and then be bold and loud, all the while using thoughtful not-whimsical constructs and virtuosic command of all instruments is a wonder to behold. While the sound of lead vocalist Francesco Di Giacomo's voice is one that has still not grown comfortable or favorable to me, I find nothing but musical excellence throughout Banco's first album. It's display of musical and instrumental mastery is undeniable. Where it may lack slightly is in memorability. After several years of owning this and occasionally spinning it through my brain I still find little or no connection with the music--it has not penetrated my soul in the way that many of the 'less sophisticated' masterpieces of the era have. Not the way Darwin! and especially Io sono nato libero have done.  Hence, a rating is very difficult for me to render as I do not rate this one on the same par as the two aforementioned classics, yet it is such an amazing collection of constructs it is difficult for me to give it anything less than the five stars it truly deserves. To me, it is an excellent addition to any prog rock music collection but in terms of its contribution to music history I cannot deny that it is probably essential and is definitely a masterpiece of progressive rock music . . . just not as great as either Darwin! or Io sono nato libero.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Francesco Di Giacomo / lead vocals
- Marcello Todaro / electric & acoustic guitars, vocals
- Vittorio Nocenzi / organ, harpsichord, clarino (?), recorder, vocals
- Gianni Nocenzi / piano, E-flat clarinet, vocals
- Renato D'Angelo / bass
- Pier Luigi Calderoni / drums, timpani

1. In Volo (2:13)
2. R.I.P. (Requiescant In Pace) (6:40)
3. Passaggio (1:19)
4. Metamorfosi (10:52)
5. Il Giardino Del Mago (18:26)
- a. ... Passo Dopo Passo ...
- b. ... Chi Ride E Chi Geme ...
- c. ... Coi Capelli Sciolti Al Vento ...
- d. Compenetrazione
6. Traccia (2:10)







OSANNA Palepoli (1973) This almost-universally acclaimed "classic" is far too brash, too hard-driving, and too rock-oriented for my personal tastes. Definitely no where near my cup of tea!

Line-up / Musicians:
- Lino Vairetti / lead vocals, 12-string guitar, ARP 2600 synth, Mellotron
- Danilo Rustici / acoustic, steel, 12-string & electric guitars, Vox organ, backing vocals
- Elio D'Anna / baritone & soprano saxes, tenor & contralto electric saxes, flute, piccolo, backing vocals
- Lello Brandi / bass, bass pedals, guitar
- Massimo Guarino / drums, vibraphone, bells, percussion, backing vocals

1. Oro Caldo (18:30) 
2. Stanza Città (1:45) 
3. Animale Senza Respiro (21:36) 






MUSEO ROSENBACH Zarathustra (1972) sounds to me like a rehashed and extended version of GENESIS' "The Knife." Not enough variety, diversity and virtuosity to exalt it among the pantheon of the Prog Olympians.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Stefano "Lupo" Galifi / vocals
- Enzo Merogno / guitar, vocals
- Pit Corradi / Mellotron, Hammond organ, vibraphone, Farfisa el. piano
- Alberto Moreno / bass, piano
- Giancarlo Golzi / drums, timpani, bells, vocals

1. "Zarathustra"
- a. "L'Ultimo Uomo (3:57)
- b. "Il Re Di Ieri (3:12)
- c. "Al Di La Del Bene E Del Male (4:09)
- d. "Superuomo (1:22)
- e. "Il Tempio Delle Clessidre (8:02)

2. "Degli Uomini" (4:01)
3. "Della Natura" (8:24)
4. "Dell'Eterno Ritorno" (6:15)





*JUMBO DNA (1972) not developed, mature or polished enough.




DEDALUS Dedalus (1973) a great, amazingly well produced Canterbury-oriented jazz album. (from my 9/22/13 review on PA:) Presdoug is right:  This is an album that deserves much more attention and recognition than it has (thus far) received. The other reviewers aptly cover the comparable bands though some of the uses of electronics reminds me of a less-avant DEODATO, too. Everyone seems to want to give Soft Machine or Weather Report credit for the style and sound of this band, but I think this group has far superior planning and less jamming, plus the instrumentation sounds are often quite different (the keys' sounds are much more diverse than Ratledge, more strings-oriented than Zawinal & Co.) Also, the guitarist sounds much more "straightforward" jazz, not at all like John McLaughlin (to me). I love the combination of the Coltrane, Freddy Hubbard/Chick Corea and Eumir Deodato feel of "C.T. 6" and the beautiful "Leda" and "Brilla." Side 2 definitely feels more jazz-oriented than Canterbury or Avant/RIO to me.

For now I'll give it four stars--especially as I'm not sure how "proggy" this is--despite the avant use of space, electrified strings, and diverse keyboard sounds. Maybe further familiarity will cause it to climb to masterpiece status. I will add that it has incredible engineering/production for its time!

It is quite remarkable how narrow the window of productivity was for the artists of this amazing nation and yet how bright these stars shine. Also of interest to me is how these artists most typically produced only one, maybe two, album forays into the "experimental" fad that was progressive rock--again, a testament to how small the window of "popularity" this musical movement had. As a matter of fact, only five of the bands recognized in this list of masterpieces from the "classic" RPI period of 1971-1975 had more than two albums under consideration (PFM, Le Orme, Banco, Area, and Oliver/Cherry Five/Goblin).   

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