On the 5th and 6th of November 2010, a special event took place in Rome, Italy. For the first time in the history of progressive rock music, some of the best Italian bands performed during the first edition of Prog Exhibition. A selection of international musicians was invited to guest together with these bands. PFM had flautist Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull) on stage and Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso had asked singer-bassist John Wetton (ex- U.K, ex- King Crimson). Aldo Tagliapietra, Tony Pagliuca and Tolo Marton, former members of Le Orme, were joined by violinist David Cross (ex- King Crimson). Keyboardist Gianni Leone (Balletto Di Bronzo) played keyboards and David Jackson (ex- Van Der Graaf Generator) saxophone and flute with Osanna. Nuova Raccomandata Ricevuta Di Ritorno played together with flautist Thijs van Leer (Focus). Other bands that performed were Sinestesia, Maschera Di Cera, Periferia Del Mondo, The Trip and Abash. Following this sold-out concert a special box was released a year later containing the images and the recordings of this historical event on seven CDs and four DVDs. These eleven discs contain nine hours of fine music. I had a very entertaining time listening and watching these discs. However, it's almost impossible to give a detailed review of what you can expect, but anyway, I'll try to give you at least an impression of this unique box.
CD1 starts with two tracks of Sinestesia. Their second album The Day After Flower (see review) is an excellent album and highly recommended to people who fancy bands as Dream Theater and Vanden Plas. From this album you can enjoy fine versions of The Birth, The Death, Trance By The River and Aquarium. The remainder of CD1 contains music made by The Trip, a band I was unfamiliar with. They already existed in the seventies and thus it isn't strange to hear strong influences from that decade in their great music, especially from bands as The Nice and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. This affinity is mainly due to the keyboard work of Joe Vescovi. However, when guest guitarist Fabri Kiareli joins in certain influences of Deep Purple can also be recognized. Jimi Hendrix is represented in the track Ode A J. Hendrix. I found this reunion concert very enjoyable; as a devotee of keyboards I like to hear the Hammond and synthesizers in the front.
CD2 opens with four tracks wonderfully performed by Maschera Di Cera. They start with Fino All'Aurora, the opening tune from their latest album Petali Di Fuoco. This piece sounds fantastic and shows many influences of Genesis and Steve Hackett. Unfortunately this record contains only four tracks; I think the band deserved much more time. CD2 ends with a selection of songs performed by Tagliapietra, Pagliuca and Marton. After 35 years, they performed their live debut with the participation of violinist David Cross, formerly in King Crimson. Obviously they perform songs from the extended back catalogue of Le Orme, especially the rendition of Felona sounds great. The addition of the electric violin certainly is a good combination. Again this is a very entertaining CD. The video material from the first two CDs is included on DVD1. All performances have been shot well with a lot of fine close-ups and a perfect sound.
On CD3 and CD4 you can enjoy a complete concert by the legendary prog rock band Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM). The images of this performance, with guest musician Ian Anderson, can be seen on DVD2. The band performed a lot of classic material like fine versions of Il Banchetto, Harlequin, Out Of The Roundabout, Impressioni Di Settembre, La Carrozza di Hans and É Festa. In particular keyboardist Gianluca Tagliavini and violinist Lucio Fabbri make sure that the old material still sounds perfect. Mr. Anderson contributes on flute on the well-known Jethro Tull pieces Bourée and My God. Once more a very entertaining performance!
CD5 opens with three fine songs performed by Periferia Del Mondo, my first acquaintance with this fantastic band. Again the quality level of the performed music is high and very enjoyable. The hints to the golden era of prog rock are quite noticeable in their music, but they also incorporate oriental influences as I experienced in the opening tune L'Infedele. Next are Nuova Raccomandata Ricevuta di Ritorno with Thijs van Leer, the well-known keyboardist and flautist of Dutch band Focus. Again I noticed trademarks of the golden age of prog in the music, but also in the way singer Luciano Regoli expresses his feelings by using different masks. Guest musician with this band is keyboardist Claudio Simonetti, who became familiar with the movie soundtracks he recorded with Goblin. Obviously he played some of his famous tunes as Suspiria and Profondo Rosso. The Dutch progressive rock music was briefly spotlighted by a nice version of House Of The King with Mr. van Leer playing the flute. However, the short drum solo that was included wasn't really my cup of tea, but that's the only critical remark I got concerning this performance.
On CD6 and DVD3 you might enjoy a much to short live contribution of Abash. Their album Madri Senza Terra (see review) impressed me a lot and therefore I was very curious to find out how they would perform their music in front of a live audience. Well, after listening and watching to a selection of their songs the only possible conclusion is that Abash are a perfect live outfit as well. The eye-catcher of the band is without doubt female singer Anna Rito Luceri who sings live just as strong as on the studio album. The band's mixture of prog, metal and African-Arabic influences sounds refreshing and should be heard by more people. The largest part of CD6 is filled with Osanna featuring Gianni Leone and David Jackson (VDGG). This rather old school Italian band performs medleys from their older material like Medley 'O Culore 'E Napule: Pazzariello / Fuje 'A Chistu Paese / Intro Animale / Mirror Train and Medley Formentera: Oro Caldo / My Mind Files / L'Amore Vincerà Di Nuovo. They're welcomed with a lot of cheers and applauding. Some of the songs are sung in English, but it's evident that singing in the Italian language sounds much better. The contributions of the guest musicians work very well, especially the saxophone and flute playing by David Jackson adds a lot to the music. On DVD3 you can see the images that come along with the audio from CD5 and CD6. The most interesting moment might be the extravagant behaviour of Gianni Leoni.
I consider the music on CD7 to be one of the highlights of this festival. I can hardly describe the way Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso perform their seventies music. It's played in such a professional way that it left me speechless. Especially singer Francesco Di Giacomo and keyboardist Vittorio Nocenzi are in great shape as you can hear on tracks as R.I.P. and Metamorfosi. In these songs the old days of the band relive. However, the performances of guest musician John Wetton have neither been included on CD7 nor on DVD4. It seems as if Wetton didn't allow them to use these recordings. Nevertheless, without Mr. Wetton's contribution Banco's concert was more than satisfying.
On the press info sheet it's said that forty years after the birth of progressive rock, this box set is meant to become a collector's item for all lovers of the genre. I agree with this statement since this release is a must have for all people who enjoy the Italian progressive rock bands as much as I do! Therefore highly recommended and my compliments to all the people that managed to let us relive these fantastic concerts. It's a big comfort for those who couldn't attend this amazing festival in 2010. Hopefully we can also enjoy the performed music of the 2011 edition on CD and DVD! That would just be awesome!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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