Keyboardists Vittorio Nocenzi and his brother Gianni Nocenzi founded Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso in the seventies in Rome. They were inspired by progressive rock acts from England, in particular Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. They recorded their eponymous debut album in 1972, soon followed by Darwin (1972) and Io Sono Nato Libero (1973). Right from the start the most striking features were the complex textures provided by the piano, Hammond-organ and synthesizers and the original vocals delivered by Francesco Di Giacomo. Their sound was a careful balance of electronic and acoustic instruments and the use of woodwinds played by some of the band members alongside their usual instruments. The blend of rock, jazz and classical music made the sound of Banco increasingly original and innovative without forsaking the Italian melodic tradition.
Becoming very popular in Italy and known abroad, the band signed with Manticore Records together with their fellow country men of Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM). In 1975 Banco was released, a collection of songs translated in English together with new material targeting the international market. Come In Un'Ultima Cena released in 1976 was translated as As In A Last Supper. Both releases got very good reissues lately. Not only do they sound better than in the seventies, but also the booklets contain many pictures, lyrics and a well- written history of the band. Back in the seventies the first release on Manticore- the label of ELP - was my favourite. I always felt that the compositions on As In A Last Supper were not as strong as on Banco, which for me is a true masterpiece.
On Banco everything just fell in place. Erik Neuteboom, the author of our Italy Special, was very positive about this release as well: not to be missed by any Italian prog rock aficionado. This is one of the best classic Italian prog rock albums ever made, he wrote. Below some fragments of how he described the music on some of the album tracks.
L'Albero Del Pane (The Bread Tree) has a fluent rhythm in which Banco incorporates elements of rock, classical music and folk, topped with the excellent Italian vocals by Francesco Di Giacomo. In Outside the guitarist is omnipresent and adds a 'rock element' that fits in perfectly with the classical sounding keyboards. The composition Metamorphosis is one of the highlights of classic Italian prog rock since classical music meets symphonic rock in a very exciting and captivating way. Leave Me Alone contains wonderful duo-classical guitar play and Nothing's The Same has powerful electric guitar. The Moog-synthesizer sound with echoes of Larry Fast is very important here. The final track Traccia II delivers outstanding duo-keyboard work, warm grand piano and fat Moog-synthesizer in a classical atmosphere gradually turning into a bombastic climax. A perfect ending!
Well, I guess I couldn't have said it any better! The performances on the keyboards and the guitars along with the awesome vocals make this album one of the best Italian prog rock albums.
It's difficult for me to find the right words for the album As In A Last Supper since Banco had delivered such an outstanding album prior to this one. To be honest, I was rather disappointed when I listened to the album for the first time. However, after listening to it again I realized that it wasn't that bad at all. Again fantastic Moog-parts can be heard. The great voice of the lead singer is still present here and the band deliver an outstanding performance. Also the blend of several musical styles, as you can hear on Banco, is very well integrated on this album. In my opinion the best compositions on are The Spider, John Has A Good Heart, But, Voila Midae! and Slogan. On these tracks you'll hear the great ELP-influences and the Italian folk elements in all its glory. The passionate Italian single is present on all tracks as well. However, it has to be said that the high level of compositions displayed on the Banco- album cannot be found throughout its successor. As In A Last Supper is a very good album, but I wouldn't call it a masterpiece, but it's still very enjoyable for people who fancy the Italian progressive rock music.
Both albums are highly recommended to those who like seventies progressive rock music especially for people who already own the music of bands as PFM and ELP in their album collection.
*****, **** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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