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Officina Meccanica - La Follia Del Mimo Di Fuoco CD (album) cover

LA FOLLIA DEL MIMO DI FUOCO

Officina Meccanica

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.74 | 23 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Even though I have heard a substantial amount of Italian progressive rock this album was a revelation to me and such a pleasant surprise. I confess that I knew very little about Officina Meccanica prior to receiving their newly issued album but the album is now on my "favorites" list without question. Being firmly in the "challenging" camp of Italian bands they may take a while to fully appreciate. They can be abrasive and edgy but always in a good way and one that I found extremely satisfying as a progressive fan. They will appeal to those whose tastes veer more towards the strangely beautiful and the provocative. And I am always drawn more to bands where I sense the music conveying vigor for life, a zest that goes beyond the simple churning out of a collection of songs. OM is one such band where that passion could not be more apparent.

OM came together near Rome in the early 1970s and were a successful touring outfit in Italy over the next several years playing both solo and with other bands like PFM and Banco. They released several quality singles but because they chose to concentrate on the live touring aspect and their theatrical stage shows, they never got around to finishing a full length LP at the time. By the time they returned from a Tunisian tour in '74 the tide was turning and they lost their chance at the full length release. But that didn't stop the band and they continued to write and perform until 1978. Those early singles along with four outstanding compositions recorded live on their 1976 dates make up the new Italian prog Godsend that is "La Follia del Mimo di Fuoco" (The Madness of the Fire Mime.)

Describing the sound of OM will not be particularly easy. There is one component of VDGG where they employ horns and a sometimes "jerky" song structure into the rock band approach, in an effort I imagine to keep the listener "on guard" or maybe off-balance just a little. True progressive music never wants one to get too comfortable or complacent. Several styles are present on the album. Rock of course, but also there are sections that get pretty jazzy, funky, and in one or two spots I almost detect a hint of "surf" in the guitar sound. Makes me wonder if Barbati was ever into surf music ala Dick Dale. The second component is the classic Italian progressive factor and while OM does not embrace much of the Orme/PFM smooth classicism there is still some of it present, in the passionate vocals and distinct character of the music. In the softer and quieter moments you can hear the voice and acoustic guitar in gorgeous romantic tradition. The third important component of this band is the full embrace of the over-the-top theatrical atmosphere a la Ange. In their live shows the band would employ make-up, dress, mime, and a certain mystery to get the atmosphere across. But even listening to the album without the band in front of you, you can clearly understand the reference to Ange. Everything is done big and bigger, with a gregarious attitude and larger than life, boisterous vocals. Every so often Maiozzi lets out these wails, muted screams, or maniacal laughs. The band is the same way, never just falling into their rut and coasting but seemingly always looking for a way to push your buttons with what they choose to play. Since the album is part "live" this effect is even stronger. Another view of the OM sound from Outer Music Diary states "If you ever wondered what a classic Italian herky-jerky prog band (Osanna or Cervello for example) would've sounded like mixed with Chicago or Brainchild, well now's your chance. This has all those great elements of the 70's prog rock scene in Italy: Dramatic Italian vocals, superb instrumental chops, radical changes in meter and dynamics. Somehow this great archival find is flying far under the radar, and it deserves better than that. Maybe the best archival release since Kollektiv's SWF Sessions." [portion in italics by Outer Music Diary]

Let's take a look at the various tracks: "Suite bambini innocenti" is proclaimed by Matthias Scheller's liner notes to be easily ranked as one of the 10 best tracks from Italy's '70s progressive scene. It's easy to see why. Beginning from silence comes a mysterious harmonized wordless vocal growing slowly louder and louder, evoking the traditional feeling of beautiful Italian prog. But then your cocoon of musical opium is blown apart by a sudden and jarring blast of funky, punchy brass. It stops quickly, reverting back to the peaceful vocals momentarily before Barbati lets ring these fabulous mood changing chords. All of this in the first minute, probably one of the finest first minutes of prog! The song continues a fertile mixture of the brash horns and heavier vocals with soft nylon-stringed acoustic interludes that are heavenly. Some hand percussion and flute or recorder tinge these moments also. Another sections features what sounds like a '60s cop show soundtrack before it heads for a finale of full-on bass chugging under a big electric guitar solo. What a great opener, this is what I call a home run. In the second track "Primo turno" Maiozzi is singing about "his existence as a sad human puppet." Again there are some serene and melodic early moments before the pace picks up with the horns and guitars, the vocals getting increasingly aggressive before hitting a high operatic peak. "Via non esiste" is the first of three 10-minute plus live epic tracks, noted as a critical look at consumerism. Here is where the backbone of the band really begins to shine through. The late Bruno Dionisi was an amazing drummer with a sound all his own. A very punctuated, direct drum sound and here the intuition between him and the great bass/guitar playing of Canini/Barbati respectively becomes apparent through the loads and loads of shifting jamming. The horns are often present clinging for dear life to the wild ride of the bass, guitar, and drums. The short single "Insieme al sole" is a breather in the form of a lighter ballad with horns and guitar that have a time/speed warp sound to them, not sure if this was intentional or not but it works to good effect. Notice the great crisp sound Dionisi gets on the kit during the opening moments. "Nel grattacielo delle idée" is another long live jam showing the band's prowess with the story being about the destiny of a street performer and the vocal style not unlike Christian Decamps. "Amanti di ieri" is another single and the most obvious nod to the traditional romantic Italian sound: heartfelt vocals, acoustic guitar, hand percussion, and strong nostalgic melody in the Era di Acquario vein. While a bit sweet it acts as another nice breather from the heavier live stuff. They get a really nice distinct twang on the acoustic guitar notes at just the right moment, like a "snap" it really adds to the song. At over 13 minutes in length "Il viaggio di un uomo." seems to be the band's live potpourri of explorations: tribal drumming, freak-out blasts, horns ranging in emotion from the serene to the manic, Gentle Giant style starts/stops, trippy keys, and ambitious guitar parts holding the wild beast together. While the track has some vocals this one is all about instrumental overload. The album closes with the poignant "Angelo" which is a lullaby to a firstborn child. It brings everything back to earth and puts a period on this sometimes tension-filled album. The sweeter and more sentimental tracks may be hard to swallow for listeners who want just the heavier stuff but I enjoyed hearing both sides of the band.

They have done a nice job with the sound quality of the disc for the most part. Of course the younger generation used to crisp digital is going to note the 1970s sound difference but my feeling is that it should stop no one from hearing this. I believe this album is essential to any fan of Italian prog and to any fan of "adventurous" '70s prog such as Gentle Giant or VDGG. In any case, be sure to give this album plenty of time to absorb-don't dismiss it after 3 spins as "too weird". Sometime great music takes time to assimilate, having a long-view and an open mind being the best prog fan virtues. The packaging here is fantastic with a gatefold mini-lp sleeve and booklet with Bio and lots of pictures. For putting adventure and attitude above convention this is yet another example of why I listen to the Italian greats more often than the mainstream progressive rock. Within bands like OM there still lies the possibility of being surprised, of being a part of music before it was predictable. That is where real thrills lie.

Finnforest | 4/5 |

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