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
Chapter 6: Compilations and Special Projects
(THE) 7 SAMURAI – The Ultimate Epic – Various Artists (2007)
Here’s a special project by Colossus and Musea, this time featuring three bands including two Italian bands, each with an ‘epic’ composition between 20 and 30 minutes.
Tapobran - The Bandits (22:33): Many of prog heads are eagerly waiting on their debut album, but here they are with a very alternating contribution to this CD. First we hear an impressive intro with majestic Mellotron-violins and sweeping drumbeats followed by a swinging rhythm with flashy soli on Hammond-organ and Moog-synthesizer. This really is keyboard heaven with obvious echoes from Keith Emerson! Then the band continues with a mid-tempo with warm Italian vocals evoking Nuova Era, another wonderful ELP -inspired Italian band. Suddenly the atmosphere turns into folky with flute, mandolin and violin reminding me of the Andean folk music. Tapobran keeps surprising us with a number of fine musical ideas: sweeping drums with powerful Mellotron-violins, a piece with clarinet and piano and finally a bombastic atmosphere with propulsive Hammond-waves and captivating interplay between saxophone and Mellotron-choirs, supported by dynamic drumming. This is unique prog!
This album is highly recommended to all symphomaniacs on this earth and beyond..!
CANOSSA - Rock Opera (2006)
After the first interlude with a Vangelis -like keyboard intro and the first spoken words, well-known Mangala Vallis starts with an alternating, classic seventies prog rooted sound: from dreamy with twanging guitar, to mid-tempo with fiery guitar and bombastic with lush Hammond-organ and flashy synthesizer flights. The other six bands sound pleasant and varied. Trama Sonora has female vocals and
I’m sure this pleasant and varied sounding project will please many prog fans, especially those who love the classic seventies symphonic prog with lots of vintage keyboards like Hammond, Moog and Mellotron. This album deserves a four-star rating, because it’s a wonderful project. I love this kind of music and it’s an excellent addition in the collection of symphonic prog aficionados: highly recommended!
COLOSSUS PROJECT – The Empire & The Rebellion – Various Artists (2008)
The music sounds varied, along pure prog rock, we can also enjoy a pleasant blend of several styles of music with lush vintage keyboards, especially the Mellotron, Hammond-organ and MiniMoog-synthesizer. The music is sometimes bluesy with tasteful work on organ, guitar, saxophone along MiniMoog-runs and a swinging Hammond-solo in The Millennium Falcon. The mellow song My Tears For Alderaan sounds folky with soaring female vocals, flute and Celtic harp, while the beautiful instrumental May The Force Be With You sounds jazzy. The short and funny The Millennium Quartet delivers a powerful saxophone and the propulsive Meeting The Force is melodic with a strong break with a swirling Hammond-solo by Fred Schendel (Glass Hammer). Two Suns sounds dreamy with steel-guitar and Fender Rhodes electric piano, flute, acoustic rhythm-guitar and warm vocals. When I Was A Jedi is a kind of symphonic rock ballad featuring the distinctive harpsichord sound, Hammond, Moog and dramatic vocals.
My prog rock highlights are the instrumental composition Astral Prelude with wonderful vintage keyboards and a groovy bass solo, including the ‘slap’ technique. Second, the alternating The Dark Lord Of The Sith featuring an intro with fado guitar and a final part with acoustic guitar, bombastic keyboards and Fripperian guitar work. However, most of all I like the 20-minute epic The Rebellion Suite consisting of three parts. This strong epic delivers beautiful flute, Mellotron-violins and howling guitar like Steve Hackett with his glissando and ‘hammering down’ technique, but also a swinging bass solo and a compelling grand finale with excellent interplay between grand piano, Mellotron and emotional vocals. Goosebumps!
Don’t expect a CD loaded with seventies ELP, Yes or Genesis, but if you’re into tasteful and varied music layered with Moogs, Hammonds and Mellotrons, containing a wide range of instruments and with an important role for the vocals, you will be pleased with Colossus Project.
See also our CD-review.
DANTE’S INFERNO – The Divine Comedy – Part 1 (2008)
CD-1 (71 minutes) starts with Nuova Era. In my opinion, the instrumental contribution from this acclaimed Italian formation is the best they ever made. This piece has a melodic and dynamic sound between ELP and Ars Nova featuring wonderful Hammond, church-organ and Mellotron play and in the final part a powerful saxophone. I’m also delighted about Russian band Little Tragedies with their ultra-bombastic prog rock with flashy guitar and keyboards and an energetic rhythm-section. Dutch trio Lady Lake delivers a varied sound somewhere between Focus and Camel with beautiful Mellotron and Hammond waves and exciting electric violin play. The contribution of French quartet Nemo has some bombastic eruptions, topped by strong theatrical vocals and tasteful work on
CD-2 (65 minutes) delivers a blend of known and unknown bands with a strong appearance of Count: a bombastic neo-symphonic sound with good dual guitar play including a long moving solo. The contribution of British Willowglass comprises wonderful Hammond, flute and twelve-string guitar, but also bombastic Hammond and fine Mellotron work. Wicked Minds is a sensational Uriah Heep-inspired Italian band with many breaks and floods of Hammond, biting wah-wah electric guitar and a MiniMoog-Hammond duet. Japanese Ars Nova has creative musical ideas, exciting keyboards and heavy guitars played by three guitarists. Dutch keyboardist Matthijs Herder (Oceana Company) delivers a beautiful Mellotron sound and sensitive electric guitar that reminds me of fellow Dutchman Jan Akkerman.
CD-3 (55 minutes) is very alternating with many different atmospheres. You can enjoy heavy and bombastic guitar work, spectacular synthesizer flights and emotional Spanish vocals by the Chilean progressive metal band Entrance. American band Advent from New Jersey sounds rather experimental with a flamenco guitar intro and a wide range of instruments. We hear sparkling solos on the grand piano by the Italian Contrappunto Project and their compatriots from Consorzio Acqua Potabile (CAP) deliver a contribution with mellow flute and mandolin play. Finnish Ozone Player produces lush Moog, Mellotron choirs and ELP-inspired music.
One of my favourite tracks comes from Sinkadus, another Finnish band, with a dark and typical Scandinavian atmosphere: bombastic Hammond and Mellotron, a wonderful part with volume pedal guitar and Mellotron flutes and a finale with howling guitar and lush Hammond and Mellotron. Italian band Nota Bene breathes a jazzy atmosphere caused by the Fender Rhodes electric piano and the guitar sound and an exciting break delivering swinging piano and moving guitar. Last but not least: Finnish Viima with wonderful keyboard duets and sensitive electric guitar.
After more than three hours listening to this huge box set, I wondered if the final disc would succeed in keeping my attention as well. Well, it did! The first two bands on CD-4 (55 minutes) are unknown, but very promising Italian formations. Armalite alternates between seventies- Genesis and early- Marillion with warm native vocals, lush keyboard sounds and fiery electric guitar. Corte Aulica delivers a dynamic, alternating and melodic sound with sensitive electric guitar and exciting MiniMoog solos. I love the blend of classical music with violin, cello, guitar and orchestral symphonic rock with Mellotron, church-organ, MiniMoog and powerful electric guitar embellished with pleasant Spanish vocals of multi-instrumentalist Raimundo Rudolfo from Venezuela. Tempano, also from Venezuela, play a kind of avant-garde sound collage, very atmospheric with propulsive drumbeats. Next an interesting duo: former Rustichelli/Bordini keyboard player De Rossi using an array of vintage keyboards and PFM- drummer Carlo Bordini plays inventive keyboard-driven prog with swinging clavinet and a great final part with the choir-section of a Memotron and a fat MiniMoog sound. Goose bumps! Nathan Mahl presents a very strong and alternating contribution: from dreamy with tender piano and a slow rhythm with Camel -inspired guitar and Mellotron to a bombastic part with Hammond organ and fiery guitar. Finally, the highly acclaimed Swedish band Simon Says. For me, their composition turns out to be one of the highlights on this CD-box: lots of shifting moods from tender piano to intense bombastic eruptions with Mellotron and bass pedals. They also have captivating musical ideas with a vocoder and a sitar, exciting breaks and flashy synthesizer solos with pitch bend and a mind-blowing final part with a strongly build-up guitar solo and sparkling piano. Again goose bumps! My final conclusion: not to be missed by any serious symphomaniac or prog head!
See also our CD-review.
FAFNIR – Various Artists (1993)
GIALLO! – One Suite For The Murderer – Various Artists (2008)
Alfio Costa - Frammento Rosso (Intro) : the album starts with a warm grand piano, pleasantly blended with the MiniMoog.
Dark Session - Visions of Helga: the musical project Dark Session is an offshoot of the ELP -inspired band Tilion and features multi-instrumentalist Flavio Costa who has invited guest musician Alfio Costa on vintage keyboards and Hamadi Trabels for the dark speaking voices. The name of the band refers to the often dark atmospheres with a frequent use of the unsurpassed Mellotron, blended with the distinctive harpsichord sound and sensitive electric guitar runs in a rather spacey and ominous atmosphere. Dark Session creates a great tension between the mellow parts and the more powerful and bombastic interludes with fiery and protrusive guitar riffs and a powerful and dynamic rhythm section. The music often resembles King Crimson’s dark album Red, but supplemented with the fat sound of the MiniMoog. The music also reminds me of the Japanese King Crimson-clone Bi Kyo Ran because of the biting Fripperian guitar sound and the powerful rhythm section. Anyway, despite these obvious references, I was carried away during this Mellotron- drenched composition!
Floating State - Suite Dall 'Inconscia Dell' Assassino: this six-piece formation makes without doubt the most adventurous and varied prog rock on Giallo! It is less traditional and more experimental with avant-garde and jazz elements. This composition has a swinging rhythm with lush instrumentation: classical guitar, flute, saxophones, vibraphone, a wide range of vintage keyboards and even the distinctive theremin. At times, the music has interesting changing atmospheres and is sometimes rather experimental. The interplay is strong and I was pleased with some parts featuring Mellotron choirs, vibraphone and warm vocals.
Alfio Costa - Mirrors (outro): the final track begins with ominous sounding grand piano that gradually turns into a dreamy piece. Simply wonderful! Musea and Colossus did it again!
See also our CD-review.
ODYSSEY – The Greatest Tale – Various Artists (2005)
This lavish international prog rock project includes three CD’s featuring nine, more or less, known prog rock bands with an epic composition. A 56-page booklet contains drawings, lyrics and stories about this project and the Greek saga The Odyssey about Odysseus and his travels on which he met Cyclopes and the Sirens). Let’s focus on the only Italian contribution on the second CD. Consorzio Acqua Potabile (CAP) is an experienced Italian band. In the long, fluent and bombastic composition Sulle Ali Del Sogno Odissea: Libri XIV, XV, XVI (28.16) we can enjoy powerful Italian vocals, lots of organ and piano and some fat, very spectacular sounding Moog soli. Symphomaniacs alert!
PROGRESSIVAMENTE 1973 – 2003 – Various Artists (2004)
Gianni Leoni: Frammenti Di Ys (4:48): Leoni is the keyboard player from the legendary, highly acclaimed band Il Balletto Di Bronzo with fragments from their excellent album Ys, re-recorded in 1996. He delivers dazzling keyboard work in the vein of the bombastic and virtuosic Keith Emerson. Halfway a mellow piece with soaring keyboards and warm vocals and finally some complex prog which is their trademark!
Metamorfosi: Porta Dell’Inferno/Caronte/Spacciatore Di Droga (live 1996, 3:33): Metamorfosi is another acclaimed band from the seventies. They start with a majestic church-organ sound, then very distinctive, expressive, opera-like vocals. The music turns into swinging with sparkling organ runs and a powerful rhythm-section. Great!
Sinfonia: La Follia Che Diventa’ Realta (2003, 6:44): This track starts dreamy with soft synthesizer flights and twanging, pleasant vocals. Then it’s Pandora’s Box featuring fluent flute and a spectacular synthesizer solo. The music becomes more and more complex and bombastic including soli on violin, saxophone and piano. This is a real gem in the wonderful Italian prog rock tradition!
Osanna: Non Sei Vissuto Mai, new version from 2001 (4:53): This song contains a mid-tempo delivering fiery electric guitar runs and powerful vocals, halfway a short dreamy part with saxophone. Quite swinging for the usual prog rock standards!
Ezra Winston: The Painter And The King, alternative version from 1990 (7:53): This known band from the eighties delivers a fine blend of folk, classical and symphonic rock. The music is very alternating with many delicate musical ideas and a lush instrumentation, ranging from piccolo flute and trumpet to saxophone and wonderful keyboards.
Hydro: Worry from 2001 (5:08): This song is a bit of a maverick: it sounds atmospheric and has electronic undertones with lots of weird sounds.
Alberto Motore: Capodanno '74 from 1974 (6:55): We can enjoy the distinctive Fender Rhodes electric piano sound and then strong interplay with the often fiery guitar and some flute. To me the music has elements from Frank Zappa and King Crimson
Metamorfosi: Mururoa from 1996 (6:35): The second track on this album by the legendary Metamorfosi. This one is very alternating: from dreamy and swinging to bombastic, embellished with great dramatic vocals. Great Italian prog!
Vittorio De Scalzi: La Storia Dei New Trolls: La Prima Goccia Bagna lI Viso, parts I & II, new version from 2002 (9:04): From the beginning you can enjoy the powerful, very typical Hammond-organ sound in a bluesy atmosphere featuring a bit screamy vocals, a piece with classical piano, vocal harmonies and finally a strong build-up guitar solo.
Virtual Dream: Frengo from 1996 (7:31): This composition delivers jazz-rock inspired prog with strong interplay and biting, wah-wah drenched guitar and a bass guitar solo with propulsive rhythm-guitar.
Leonero: Il Castello, English version from 1975 (4:56): This song has a catchy rhythm with a varied keyboard sound, a kind of fuzzed clavinet, piano and organ, and strong duo vocals. Very compelling.
Semiramis: Luna Park, demo version from 1973 (4:43): This final track by one of my favourite Italian prog rock bands is one of the highlights of this CD. It features wonderful keyboard work on my beloved string-ensemble, a dynamic atmosphere, a piece with mandolin and finally a sensitive electric guitar solo. This is a great final song containing the typical seventies prog sound.
ROCK PROGRESSIVO ITALIANO – Various Artists (2006)
In fact this is a book with an additional CD-compilation containing fifteen tracks by fifteen different bands from the legendary, almost magical seventies Italian prog. You can enjoy the huge variety that marks the Italian prog from that era: a raw sound by Osanna with fiery electric guitar and Jethro Tull-inspired flute playing. Delirium has a swinging rhythm and a piano solo with nice vocal harmonies. The contribution of New Trolls is alternating with warm
According to the Italian label Btf, the book includes complete discographies for all artists and groups, updating the previous Paolo Barotto book. Many new entries and weird, obscure Italian prog bands’ rare discographies are mentioned in this new book, packaged in an oversized cardboard outer cover. The book also features reproductions in full colour of hundreds of original LP and singles covers, plus rarity ratings: from ‘common’ and ‘difficult to find’ to ‘very rare’ and ‘impossible to find’, plus rare magazine covers of Ciao 2001 from the seventies, in a deluxe hardcover volume without any comments or text descriptions. The size is similar to an ancient vinyl single. It’s very easy to handle. Both the book and the CD are great entries to the captivating and varied world of the Italian prog. Highly recommended!
THE SPAGHETTI EPIC 2: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly – Various Artists (2007)
Randone: The Good (25.04): This acclaimed new Italian five-piece delivers an alternating, very melodic composition in the 24-carat symphonic prog tradition with wonderful vintage keyboards, especially the omnipresent Mellotron-choir, strong interplay between keyboards and guitar, pleasant Italian vocals, powerful work on saxophone and lots of changing atmospheres and breaks. It doesn’t sound original, but very tasteful and I’m sure many symphomaniacs will enjoy this music.
Tilion: The Ugly (26.57): This new Italian band turns out to be the new Il Balletto Di Bronzo, because of the expressive vocals, the fiery parts, the raw guitar sound, the avant-garde and experimental undertones and many surprising breaks and shifting moods: swinging jazzy Fender Rhodes piano, fat Moog-flights with dramatic vocals and bombastic keyboards featuring Moog and Hammond, followed by experimental work on piano and theatrical vocals. To me, the music by Tilion sounds as very intricate and compelling, but not everybody’s cup of tea, just like the sound of Il Balletto Di Bronzo on their legendary album Ys!
The Musea/Colossus-collaboration presents three prog rock bands, each with a composition including the Italian band N.O.T. with the epic Epilogo (23:28). Their music sounds very alternating and dynamic with many bombastic atmospheres featuring powerful Hammond, flashy synthesizer runs, howling electric guitar and pleasant Mellotron-waves. The music reminds me of early King Crimson and Outer Limits, especially in the final part with sumptuous Mellotron-violin waves, propulsive electric guitar play and powerful drums. Not to be missed by any serious prog head, the vintage keyboard aficionados will be delighted!
ZARATHUSTRA’S REVENGE – Various Artists (1997)
CD-1: Sea Reach & Friends deliver a tasteful rendition with pleasant organ, acoustic guitar work and warm vocals of Celeste’s song Principe Di Un Giorno. Hostsonaten sound beautiful with sensitive electric guitar and fluent organ play in Vorrei Incontrari by Alan Sorrenti. Fonya plays inspired in a PFM-medley: cheerful MiniMoog flights and raw, propulsive guitar riffs. Avarta has an Eastern sound with violin and tablas in Mauro Pagani’s song Europa Minor and Finisterre does a fine job with the PFM-track Alta Loma Five Till Nine with a bluesy guitar and a moving organ solo.
CD-2: Lots of variety here, the trademark of the seventies Italian prog! My highlights are Trama with Profuma Di Colla Bianca by Locanda Delle Fate with strong female vocals and wonderful Steve Hackett -inspired guitar play. Iconae covers the Jacula-track U.F.D.E.M. with a majestic church organ sound, theatrical female vocals and intense violin play.
CD-4: To me, this disc sounds the least captivating, to start with the punk version of Il Balletto Di Bronzo’s song Neve Calda by Blondie Fox, horrible! The only two bands that manage to exite me are H2O with C'E Un Paese Al Mondo by Maxophone with sumptuous keyboards and sensitive guitar and Moongarden with There Will Be Time by Osanna: beautiful keyboards and strong guitar work.
Despite some weaker moments, this 4-CD set has in general a lot to offer and I’m pleased with the often creative ways the new bands offer their renditions of the seventies Italian prog bands.
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