The Italian progressive rock band Acqua Fragile was active from 1971 until 1975 and was established in the city of Parma. Bernardo Lanzetti, leader and vocalist of the band, is best-known for his work with Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM) and has played in many other progressive rock acts, including the neo-progressive rock band Mangala Vallis. The first line-up of the band named Gli Immortali (The Immortals), comprised Bernardo Lanzetti (vocals, guitars), Gino Campanini (guitars), Piero Canavera (drums), Maurizio Mori (keyboards) and Franz Dondi (bass guitar). Of these musicians, Dondi was the most experienced since he had formerly played in another band, I Moschettieri (The Musketeers). This band had released a single and was once the opening act for The Rolling Stones.
At the beginning of the seventies Gli Immortali were noticed by the members of PFM, one of the most successful Italian rock bands ever, and PFM's manager Franco Mamone adopted Lanzetti's group as well, which by then had changed its name to Acqua Fragile. With Mamone's help, Acqua Fragile were hired to open for prominent progressive rock acts as Soft Machine, Uriah Heep and Gentle Giant. In 1973 the band released their first eponymous album for the independent record label Numero Uno. This debut was clearly inspired by British progressive rock bands as Genesis and Gentle Giant. Even Lanzetti's voice sounded quite similar to that of Peter Gabriel. The lyrics were sung in English, which at the time was quite unusual for Italian bands, even more so since the album wasn't released outside of Italy.
The second album Mass-Media Stars (1974) was released in both Italy and in the US because of PFM's recent success overseas. At about the same time the new keyboardist Joe Vescovi, who formerly played with The Trip, joined the band. Shortly after, Lanzetti left to join PFM for their next album Chocolate Kings. He was replaced by Roby Facini, former member of Dik Dik, but these personnel changes couldn't revive the success of Acqua Fragile. The band eventually broke up in 1975. After the split, the band members pursued independent projects. Lanzetti has had a relatively successful solo career and later on he joined the neo-progressive group Mangala Vallis. Dondi and Canavera played in several other groups. Dondi recently founded a new project called Acqua Fragile Project, as a revival act in honor of Acqua Fragile.
Now 36 years after the band broke up both albums are re- released as it should be, both fully remastered and with the original album sleeves and liner notes. All of the lyrics and several photographs have been included as well. At the time the original albums were published I had the chance to listen to Mass-Media Stars, but until now their eponymous debut album remained a hidden secret all those years. What surprised me most of this album is the very professional sound, even more so if you realize that it was released in 1973. The music on this album is mellower compared to Mass-Media Stars. The influences of the early seventies albums of Genesis are clearly noticeable, especially Trespass (1970) and Nursery Cryme (1971). Due to these similarities are the voice of Lanzetti and the sound of the acoustic guitars. Also the mellow and rather dreamy compositions move towards the style of music Genesis performed on these albums. The keyboards are well-played, but they don't have such an impact on the music as on the band's second release.
Music wise it's evident that Acqua Fragile have grown on Mass-Media Stars. The quality of the compositions is of an even higher level than on their debut. The songs are more up-tempo and, as I already stated, the keyboards have a more prominent role especially the MiniMoog. The album can easily compete with most of the progressive rock releases in those days. The vocal harmonies are very impressive as well, just as on the albums recorded by Yes then, and the craftsmanship of the musicians is similar to that of PFM. Lanzetti sings even stronger than on their debut and that's probably the reason why PFM asked him to join them. Unfortunately, he only remained in PFM from 1975 until 1980. Who knows how many more great albums the band could have recorded if only he hadn't left, but I'll never know...
What I do know is that both releases are a must have for people who enjoy the music of Genesis, Yes and PFM in the seventies. It was a wise decision from Esoteric Recordings to re-release these albums of Acqua Fragile and this time with a better sound quality, due tot the remastering of the original tapes. Moreover, both albums form part of the history of Italian progressive rock.
*** & **** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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