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Il Balletto di Bronzo - Ys CD (album) cover

YS

Il Balletto di Bronzo

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

4.21 | 394 ratings

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TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Review 60, Ys, Il Balletto Di Bronzo, 1972

StarStarStarStarStar

Something different. That's really the best way I can describe this unique 1972 RPI album. Apart from the exquisitely cryptic and interesting concept, a range and dominance of keys that feels a bit like Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman's love child, and superbly dissonant playing throughout, Ys is a full-bodied trip in Charon's boat, from a moment of perfect and clear understanding to a cold sleep on the far side of the black-watered Styx. The overwhelmingly well-handled musical representation of death is the main reason that I love this album so much, but also of note are the force and aggression of the Introduzione (especially) and the unrelenting grip of the album as a whole. Entirely essential, in case you love it half as much as I do. Progressive, powerful, and unique.

The Introduzione begins with female voices (I believe they represent la voce, the powerful and knowing voice that informs the 'last one' before abandoning him to his fate), a feature that repeats in different contexts and different styles throughout the album. The odd straining of the instrument (voice, in this case), and sumptuous layering will be another recurring feature. A stunning, bare organ solo, making good use of the instrument's range is used to lay the path for the organ-backed narration of the album's nebulous theme.

After this, the eclectic drumming, starkly juxtaposing sharper cymbally sounds with a distinctly rounded, annoyingly indescrible sort of drumming, comes in to take the album onto its formidable rock aspect. Apart from sharp organ twists and riffs, and almost-shouting female vocals, Gianni Leone's keys are exploding everywhere, with healthy doses of harpsichord, dissonant Hammill-like piano and spiralling moogs. Lino Ajello's guitar also takes on a life of its own, screeching with dissonant glee and weaving its ideas together with the organ. The sheer intensity of his soloing is formidable to behold, and the individual tone, aggressive, individual and sometimes slipping between left and right production (if I hear correctly).

A third vocal section follows his most intense work, with shimmering mellotron providing a base for the gorgeous female vocal backing to move off. A section guitar-dominated section, this time abrupt with individual bursts, with a tremendously thick bass and more curtailed drum-sounds, constitutes the opening of the First Encounter. Leone's vocals in this section gradually reel off the deathly theme, with a great amount of anticipation created by the slow speed of delivery without the typical softness to accompany that. Detailed keyboard and guitar solos again mark the piece with creativity and mind-cracking force, while the rest of the band moves on carefully. A classic pseudo-blues crescendo with superb drum work and my beloved high bass from Vito Manzari relaxes to a harpsichord solo. A rare moment of complete quiet stops us.

And suddenly, with incredible force and power, and great vocal effects, bass, shouting, echoing vocals. Demanding sight in the Second Encounter. An incredible rhythm section forcing involuntary air-drumming on my part hammers in periodically. Oscillating mellotron backs some sections with a softness to juxtapose the sheer force of others, and we get a jewel of flute-mellotron and some hellishly avant-garde stabs on the string 'tron. Off-beat piano also breaks through.

A wandering, confident bass solo and recalcitrant drums introduce the third encounter (or more of the second. It depends on whether you believe the lyrics sheet or CD), which features some more, this time very strained, guitar work, as well as a range of organ and harpsichord features. The bass is the most obvious feature to me, leading the part's wanderings. Of especial notice is a brief piano solo (standard definition, not completely solo) with a calculated edgy style.

Bursts of mellotron and a swelling motion from piano, bass and drums, begin the epilogue (or Third Encounter. Believe whichever of the sources you want), the album's most brilliant section. Aside from a feeling of gradual winding down handled flawlessly with a range of incredible keys, the growly twisting bass I love so much and a great drum solo from Gianchi Stringa, the vocals really take off, feeling much more full.

The definite move towards a conclusion is established by the dum-dudududu-du-dum bass riff, backed by gorgeous, edgy, high piano and a throbbing guitar, resigning the former flashiness of soloing for a careful, slow style. The end of our protagonist, his descent into darkness, is evoked both by the stark lyrics (here distinctly Homeric in style) and the gradual yet forceful and very sharp drumming and piano. Screeching vocal sounds, perhaps made by a mellotron, riddle the piece. Eventually, out of this realm of darkness, La Voce again meets us in bursts. Sobbing breaths punctuate the chaos. Careful, reverent hums on the bass and organ lead us down to a virtual standstill before the organ takes up a high-paced and forceful burst of energy. A vocal twist on the introductory Voce leads us out, dazed and almost crushed by these death throes.

However, after drinking from this masterful fount of progressive rock, there is one more delight in store (should you have the remaster): the group's superb radio single: Tua Casa Commoda. Hidden within Orb's outwardly odd musical interest is a great love for short, concise songs, and this is just one such song. Incredibly catchy riffs, superb playing from Leone and Manzari (this wonderfully fluid and whirling bass) in particular. Eclectic twists on guitar strumming, a range of percussion in the instrumental section, and constant movement mark the song as very much progressive, even if the length may seem anathema to some of our more progression-minded members. The piano-work on the piece's conclusion is wonderful, and no less impressive is the contribution of the other three members. Highly creative and incredibly good. On my 'most played' list, and among my all-time favourite songs.

So, given such a sycophantic review, I can only award the highest grade to this album. Essential progressive rock. A masterpiece. Five stars. Fans of psychedelia must hear the epilogo, fans of hard rock the introduzione. Really, there is no person or type of listener to whom I would not recommend this album. Only by trying it, it seems, can those who love the album less be discovered. Vital, and the ultimate disproof (you can, of course, say this about almost any Italian symphonic band apart from PFM) of all Italian prog sounding like PFM.

Rating: Five stars Favourite Track: Tua Casa Commoda. From the album proper, Epilogo.

TGM: Orb | 5/5 |

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