Many of our readers are familiar with Le Orme, an Italian progressive rock band formed in 1966 in Venice by Aldo Tagliapietra (vocals, guitar), Marino Rebeschini (drums), Nino Smeraldi (lead guitar) and Claudio Galieti (bass guitar). The band were one of the major groups of the Italian prog rock scene in the seventies and one of the few Italian bands that were successful outside their own country. They played across North America and Europe and during their heydays they even released an album in English. The most familiar albums Le Orme recorded back then are Uomo Di Pezza (1972), Felona E Sorona (1973), Contrappunti (1974), In Concerto (1974) and Smogmagica (1975). After several line-up changes, the band gradually changed their musical style into a more radio-friendly direction. Eventually Le Orme split up in 1979.
However, the band reformed in 1986 with the intention to play only concerts. Encouraged by the success of these concerts and the strong sales of their 1970-1980 anthology, Le Orme returned to the recording studio in 1996 and recorded Il Fiume, an album with the same sound that made them famous more than twenty years earlier. A series of concerts followed culminating in appearances at progressive rock festivals in Los Angeles, Quebec City and Mexico City. Subsequently they recorded Elementi (2001) and L'Infinito (2004), thus completing Il Fiume (1996), a trilogy dealing with the concept of the genesis of human beings. At the end of 2009, the only original band member Aldo Tagliapietra left the band.
Many people thought that this would probably be the second split up of Le Orme. However, if you listen to the first album recorded without singer and bassist Tagliapietra you'll be surprised. The two remaining members from the seventies Michi Dei Rossi (drums, tubular bells, Glockenspiel, cymbals, bhayan) and Michele Bon (Hammond C3 organ, piano, synthesizers, keyboards, backing vocals) succeeded in recording an album that can easily compete with the last albums they made with Tagliapietra. They were supported by Fabio Trentini (bass, bass pedals, acoustic guitars, dulcimer, electric sitar, backing vocals), Jimmy Spitaleri (lead vocals of Metamorfosi fame), William Dotto (electric guitar) and Federico Gava (piano, synthesizers, keyboards).
The new album La Via Della Seta, which means the silk road, can be regarded as one long suite. All tracks are linked together and the music flows without any interruption making an imaginary journey along this road, where you encounter the ghosts of merchants, pilgrims, missionaries, soldiers, nomads and cruel barbarians exploring mysterious cities and civilizations. The music that comes along with this concept recalls the best moments of Le Orme. There's even more room for the guitars and the interaction between the piano and the keyboards is excellent while the powerful, brilliant rhythm section adds so much more to the compositions. These compositions are never dull or boring. Every piece has a high quality level and is very entertaining. The strong Italian vocals just complete the picture. Spitaleri has a beautiful and emotional voice that fits the music very well. His voice clearly differs from Tagliapietra's vocal abilities, but is equally powerful and convincing. The instrumental parts are brilliant as ever containing an agreeable use of the piano, the Moog-synthesizer and the Hammond-organ, plus some excellent electric guitar solos. Everything fits like a glove and nothing is overdone.
If you're into Italian progressive music, then you simply can't miss this CD. For people who enjoy the music of bands as ELP, The Nice, Genesis, PFM, Banco and Yes, Le Orme is truly special. La Via Della Seta is certainly a highlight in the band's long career.
****+ Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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