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Le Orme - Collage CD (album) cover

COLLAGE

Le Orme

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.86 | 333 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars LE ORME was fairly unique for being one of Italy's few psychedelic rock bands still rooted in the beat music of the early 60s that looked towards the English scene for inspiration. The band was formed in 1966 and was successful in the fact that the band won music competitions and crafted some of the earliest proto-prog sounds to emerge from the Italian music scene. Although the 1969 debut album "Ad Glorium" focused on catchy psychedelic pop tunes that captured the melodic sensibilities of The Beatles infused with elements from the early 60s beat music, the album nevertheless began to show slight signs of prog gestating between the cracks. The inclusion of flute, cello and harpsichord sounds may have been merely supplemental to the psychedelic drenched pop hooks but in fact would point the way to the next phase of the band's career when LE ORME would become one of Italy's first and most famous progressive rock bands.

After the release of "Ad Glorium," the music scene changed overnight. When English bands like King Crimson and East of Eden released their landmark prog albums in 1969, it was an invitation for musicians far and wide to craft more intricate and complex albums that focused on an album experience rather than short punchy singles. LE ORME heralded the call and took on the challenge. After the debut bassist Claudio Galieti left the band to serve in the military and was soon followed by guitarist Nino Smeraldi departing as well. Instead of replacing the two fallen soldiers, the core trio of Aldo Tagliapietra (vocals, bass, acoustic guitar), Antonio Pagliuca (Hammond, electric piano, audio generator) and Michi Dei Rossi (drums, percussions) who together would experience the band's international success throughout the 70s. It took two full years to craft the band's first true progressive rock album COLLAGE which was released in May of 1971, just in time for the prog party!

In many ways LE ORME continued the spirit of "Ad Glorium" only by dropping the beat aspects and adopting more classically infused keyboard parts. The trio set itself up to be the Italian version of The Nice with stealthy keyboard workouts backed up only by bass and drums with only sparse uses of acoustic guitar. The opening title track is an instrumental that is right out of The Nice's playbook. Bombastic keyboard heft with a focus on symphonic Baroque workouts in full pomp and awe and with Tagliapietra having switched from guitar to bass, the emphasis is squarely placed on the Hammond organs, electric piano and audio generator sounds. Tracks like "Era Inverno" and "Cemento Armato" display some of the most adventurous workouts and while comparison to The Nice and ELP are justified, LE ORME crafted a unique sound of their own mostly due to the fact that lyrics were sung in Italian. Quatermass and early Deep Purple are also legit references to the band's early prog sounds, however LE ORME delivered a distinct Mediterranean flavor to its style.

COLLAGE was the band's first success at least in Italy by way of the promotion of the album through RAI (Radiotelevisione Italiana) on the radio program "Per Voi Giovani" which sent the album skyrocketing into the top 10 on the Italian album charts. While many prog bands were going for the avant-garde jugular, LE ORME set the tone for many Italian bands to come by keeping the music accessible through classical melodies and in tandem with narrative lyrics. Most tracks kept the playing time to under five minutes for accessibility with only the eight minute "Cemento Armato" exceeding eight minutes and drifting into prog wankery. The album while not the peak of LE ORME's creativity and far from the ambitious efforts of other Italian greats like PFM or Banco, nevertheless was one of the earliest Italian prog albums to capture a significant audience which opened the floodgates in many ways. All the great masterpiece of Italian prog would emerge the following year in 1972.

While tracks like "Sguardo Verso II Cielo" find the perfect ground between the classical symphonic and heavier rock aspects, the album is fairly light and given the lack of guitar heft always sounds more subdued than many prog contemporaries even compared to other guitarless bands like ELP since none of the members mastered the virtuosic roar of the its English counterpoints but since the band masters the subtle effects, the slower passages work quite well. Of all the tracks, "Evasione Totale" is the most experimental and my vote for best track on the album. It generates many dark moods that delve into psychedelia and interesting instrumental passages that display the create use of keyboard interplay and point the way to the band's more experimental albums that follow. Unfortunately the last two tracks seems to fizzle out into generic pop territory which makes the album a bit uneven but was quite the bold statement for the time and place COLLAGE emerged. Not my vote for best Italian prog album by any means but a thoroughly enjoyable one even if its limitations sound quite dated.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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