FORTY YEARS OF ITALIAN PROGROCK 1969 - 2009
(by Erik Neuteboom)
(edited by Peter Willemsen)
2) The Classic Era: 1969 - 1979
3) The Years Between 1980 and 2002
4) Interesting New Bands and New Releases Between 2003 and 2009
5) Reunions of Legendary and Popular Bands In The Last Decade
6) Compilations and Special Projects
8) My Personal 1969 – 2009 Italian Prog rock Album Top 20
BANCO – Nudo (1997)
(IL) BALLETTO DI BRONZO – Live In Rome (2008)
Ask fans of the seventies Italian prog rock about their favourite albums from that era and I’m sure that most of them will name Ys (1972) by Il Balletto Di Bronzo, among legends PFM, Banco and Le Orme. Personally, I have opposite feelings about the music on that highly acclaimed album. On the one hand, I’m delighted about the sumptuous, vintage keyboard drenched symphonic rock moments, but on the other hand, I can’t get into the nerve-racking avant-garde inspired interludes. For me the music remains a bit too complex and a too varied prog rock album, but I really appreciate Il Balletto Di Bronzo’s adventurous musical ideas on Ys. In my opinion, Ys is a ‘classic’ in the history of prog rock competing with the best work of Yes, Genesis, ELP and King Crimson! In
The first part of the concert contains five compositions featuring theatrical vocals, sumptuous keyboard work like fat and spectacular synthesizer flights and a very propulsive and ‘groovy’ rhythm-section with compelling and hypnotizing atmospheres and ELP-hints. It sounds a bit weird and experimental, but also captivating and adventurous, perhaps you can describe it best as ‘an avant-garde version of ELP’. An abridged version of 25 minutes of the Ys-album followed. Now we can enjoy one of the highlights of seventies Italian prog rock on DVD! Well, this trio comes pretty close in capturing the unique spirit of that album. You hear a choir in the intro and then breathtaking swirling Hammond-organ and flashy MiniMoog flights in Introduzione with lots of sensational keyboards, theatrical vocals and a wonderful final part with harpsichord. The more complex sounding Primo Incontro we hear splendid drumming, a bass solo with freaky synthesizer support and a jazzy piano with a propulsive rhythm-section. Secondo Incontro and Terzo Incontro deliver lots of piano, theatrical vocals and a distorted bass sound. The final song Epilogo has a bombastic atmosphere with drums and organ. What an awesome and compelling sound! I was just carried away during this half an hour tribute to the album Ys. A big hand for this Il Balletto Di Bronzo trio!
Then we get three songs I’ve never heard of, but to me the swinging L’Emofago and Il Castello sound very pleasant with spectacular keyboard work and an adventurous rhythm-section, often reminding me of ELP. An extra on this DVD is a solo performance by singer and keyboardist Gianni Leone. I have to admit that I’m a bit disappointed about his blend of electronic music and synthi-pop. Only Hommage To Balleto is interesting with sequencers and virtuosic keyboard play. In general, I miss the bombastic atmosphere without the rhythm-section on the original Ys-album. To be honest: a drum machine sounds poor, indeed.
My conclusion: the first part will not be everybody’s cup of tea, but I appreciate the adventurous mind of Gianni Leone. The Ys -rendition is jaw dropping, the final part is good but the solo of Gianni Leone fails to keep my attention, so I quickly zapped back to the Ys -rendition, which is worth to buy this DVD!
CAMPO DI MARTE - Concerto Zero (2003)
This is a double album by Campio Di Marte. The first CD contains live recordings of the concert in The Space Electronic in Florence (1972). The sound quality is at the level of an average bootleg and the running time about 31 minutes. The music is exciting and dynamic, somewhere between Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Focus
DELIRIUM – Delirium Live (2007)
Delirium is a legendary Italian prog rock band that produced several albums in the early seventies. Halfway the nineties Delirium made a comeback including some new studio albums and in 2006, they performed in the Italian city of Trento. That concert has been recorded for this live album. We can enjoy the crafty and inspired musicians who treat us with a tasteful blend of folk featuring swirling flute, warm acoustic guitars, strong vocals
LATTE E MIELE - Live Tasting (2009)
Incredible how many legendary classic Italian prog rock bands have reunited in the last decade. After bands like Il Balletto Di Bronzo, Le Orme, Banco, New Trolls and Osanna, here is Latte E Miele featuring three members of the original line up on their debut album Passio Secundum Mattheum (1972). This live album was recorded in Canada in 2008. The music sounds good and the band plays very inspired songs from their three seventies albums. The first part concerns a selection of their first album. We can enjoy a great blend of classical and symphonic rock with awesome vintage keyboard work on grand piano, Hammond-organ, mellotron, synthesizers and some splendid harpsichord runs as well. Furthermore, we hear wonderful moving guitar solos, warm Italian vocals and lots of variety with a
NEW TROLLS – Concerto Grosso, The Seven Seasons (2007)
I was pleasantly surprised when I read about this new album by a reformed line-up of the legendary New Trolls, one of the most popular Italian bands. In the sixties, they even were the support act of The Rolling Stones! Listening to this third part of the Concerto Grosso, I enjoy the quality and creativity with elements that hosted in so many classic Italian prog rock bands. What a wonderful and varied album this is! The Knowledge, Overture with flute play like Ian Anderson, Future Joy including fine work on clarinet and Barocco’n 'Roll - Allegro Brioso with fat guitar play, feature that typical classic Italian prog rock sound. That is: blends of classical, rock and symphonic rock with great tension
(LE) ORME – Il Fiume (1996)
I’m a huge fan of seventies band Le Orme, especially the albums Collage with great Hammond-work, Felona E Sorona, in my opinion their masterpiece, and Uomo Di Pezza with wonderful mellotron
How about the new Le Orme sound? Well, I’m pleasantly surprised. What a wonderful music! The compositions sound very elaborate and contain lots of emotion and subtle musical ideas. The colouring by the two keyboard players on piano and synthesizers is very tasteful and adds a lush symphonic sound to the music. The vocals by Aldo are very distinctive as well with a lot of power and emotion, in the same league as John Wetton and Peter Gabriel as far as I’m concerned! With this album, Le Orme showcases to be back after many years. I sincerely hope they once will visit The Netherlands!
OSANNA - Osanna Live – Uomini E Miti (CD + DVD) (2003)
Osanna was one of those many captivating Italian prog rock bands from the seventies. They made some fine albums, perhaps Palepoli is their most acclaimed one. In the autumn of 2001, Osanna gave a reunion concert and the band even decided to compose new songs. Two years later Osanna performed live in Napoli contributed by members of other Italian prog rock legends. This performance has been released on CD and DVD, beautifully packaged in a double fold out cover entitled Osanna Live, Uomini E Miti.
The DVD is definitely worth to check out, especially because of the contributions of members from Area, Il Balletto Di Bronzo and Banco. The concert has been recorded on December 2nd, 2003 in a theatre in Napoli in the poor southern part of Italy. Osanna plays powerful and inspired. Most of the songs have been previously released on the aforementioned CD’s. The tracks by the Italian prog rock legends are very interesting. We see Vittorio De Scalzi from New Trolls with Signore, Io Sono Irish with tender piano and expressive vocals and Ti Ricordi Joe? with strong acoustic rhythm guitar. Furthermore, we see Francesco Di Giacomo and Rodolfo Maltese from Banco with R.I.P. This is a very compelling ‘unplugged’ version with splendid work on a blue Ovation guitar and great moving vocals. Goosebumps! Patrizio Fariselli from Area with Luglio, Agusto, Settembre (Nero) with sparkling piano, guitar and a talkbox sounding a bit experimental. Gianni Leone from Il Balletto Di Bronzo with Love In The Kitchen with very distinctive and bombastic keyboards, classical orchestrations and theatrical vocals. The final song entitled Everybody’s Gonna See You Die has been recorded on a festival in 2003 and features Osanna again with Gianni Leone. This rocky track sounds swinging featuring clarinet, saxophone and heavy electric guitar riffs.
PFM – Stati Di Immaginazione CD (+ bonus DVD) (2006)
1. La Terra Dell’Acqua (8.13): this track starts with spacey keyboards, fragile guitar play and a warm bass sound. Gradually, the music turns into a lush sound delivering a compelling violin solo. After an acceleration with a swinging bass, we can enjoy a splendid guitar solo in captivating interplay with piano and propulsive drum work, eventually quite bombastic followed by a mellow part with tender grand piano and in the end a dynamic conclusion featuring a fiery and bluesy guitar solo with howling licks, accompanied by a powerful rhythm-section. Great!
2. Il Mondo In Testa (3.55): after a classical, warm sounding intro on piano and violin, a swinging rhythm follows with a pleasant blend of guitar, piano and violin while halfway a vibraphone joins. The music reminds me of Gentle Giant and Frank Zappa, because of the strong interplay between the instruments and inventive change of atmospheres.
3. La Conquista (6.26): this track provides another swinging rhythm and exciting interplay between rhythm guitar, bass and vibraphone. The moods shift from dreamy with soaring keyboards and fragile guitar to bluesy with wah-wah guitar. The vintage keyboard aficionados can freak out with a wonderful and long solo on the Moog-synthesizer evoking ‘the good old celebration days’.
4. Il Sogno Di Leonardo (6.43): first, you hear warm acoustic guitar and flute, then a beautiful build-up with wonderful interplay between piano and acoustic guitar. Very romantic. I also enjoyed the sensitive violin sound and the slow synthesizer solo.
5. Cyber Alpha (4.27): this piece is build upon an excellent guitar solo with howling and biting runs and spectacular use of the wah-wah pedal.
6. Agua Azul (3.53): the intro delivers subtle interplay between bass and strings, then lots of shifting moods and exciting work on the Moog and the violin. What a unique sound!
7. Nederland 1903 (3.20): thanks PFM for this tribute to my home country The Netherlands. The picture in the booklet shows the family of a fisher in traditional clothes. The atmosphere is mainly dreamy with beautiful work on the piano and guitar alongside mellow Hammond-play.
8. Visioni Di Archimede (8.57): in this track PFM are at their best. What a dynamic and varied sound, great colouring by fiery electric guitar, exciting rhythm guitar, powerful Hammond and spectacular Moog-play.
Finally, the track list of the bonus-DVD is similar to the CD, but unfortunately, it features only images from landscapes, cartoons and black and white scenes from the African native people. We see no studio or live footage from the band. Nonetheless, the images are wonderful! In my opinion, PFM made a masterpiece and - it may sound as ‘blasphemy to the Italian prog rock history - I would like to conclude that this is PFM’s best studio effort ever. What a dynamic, varied and captivating album!
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