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Il Balletto Di Bronzo - Ys CD (album) cover


Il Balletto Di Bronzo


Rock Progressivo Italiano

4.25 | 635 ratings

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5 stars Once you get past the big three in Italian prog (PFM, le Orme and Banco), there are some lesser known gems that are some of the most important albums in not only RPI, but all of prog -Museo Rosenbach, Osanna and Balletto di Bronzo being the best examples. This album is certainly one of the most important and rewarding releases in that category.

Balletto di Bronzo's only release with Gianni Leone is a masterwork that is essential for anyone exploring RPI, but also is an album that should reside in every serious prog rock collection. A quick warning, this isn't the usual pastoral flute and acoustic guitar driven typical romantic and symphonic journey that many Italian bands usually get labeled and lumped together with. This is a frantic and colossal work that is a masterpiece of the prog era. Influences dart in and out-Tarkus era ELP, Van der Graaf Generator of the Pawn Hearts era, some King Crimson-but this album is clearly greater than the sum of its influences.

The album is constructed as a suite, and after some Italian horror-esque female vocals set the mood, we are off. Slightly out of tune swirling moogs frantically push the initial theme of the 15 minute Introduzione. Fans of A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers will enjoy the moods created-more complex and even more unsettling than the VDGG comparison. Electric guitar and mellotron create slow counterpoints to subsequent flurries of piano and organ (Leone, the lead vocalist, is also a keyboardist that can give Keith Emerson a run for his money on piano, organ and synthesizer) along with some twisted guitar effects that bounce several times back and forth in a dance of madness reminiscent of some of the more potent moments on Osanna's masterpiece Palepoli. The pace continues recklessly with piano contrapuntal duels with drums and organ while the guitarist Lino Anjello tears things apart on top of it all. A harpsichord motif is the denouemont of an amazing side of actively unsettling prog. It is but a brief respite until we flip and....

Side two begins with some startling declamations from Leone shouting until the furious pace is instantly picked up. Chaos straight from the more disturbing sections of In the Court of the Crimson King set the tone immediately. A brisk walking jazz bassline brings the intensity back a hair, but the stabs of organ/drum combined with a crawling fuzz guitar keep things from getting too settled. Soon, we are back on the roller coaster-some strangled moog and vocals alternate with Tarkus-esque flurries of action that exceed anything ELP was able to ever pull off. Without blinking, we are thrust into the closing piece, Epilogo. More classically oriented than most of the rest of the album, Leone's vocals strain while odd rhythms lurch underneath. Finally the accelerated pace of the album abates for a bit of tinkling piano over slow bass and quiet electric guitar jazz improvs as Leone's audibly takes several breaths, accentuating the pace of what has come before us already. The guitar then starts a slow march with extremely unsettling over the top tremolo while piano scales randomly up and down and the female vocals inject some of the Goblin styled horror we began with. The tempo slows to a crawl and we head towards more silence than music remisniscent of the quiet interlude in the Court of the Crimson King before a near Philip Glass exposition of keyboard, vocal and bass arpeggios bring the whole suite to a delirious and joyous end, with unsettling voices leaving us with an ending that makes you want more, now. One of the few albums in the history of rock that I physically felt upset when it was over. (Perhaps Close to the Edge gave me a similar feeling when I first encountered that album over four decades ago.)

Overall, themes dart in and out, but it is hard to think of this work as consisting of songs so much as it is a whole and singular work, one that takes a person on a well thought out roller coaster ride from the drop of the needle on side one to the final vocal flourishes that leave the story seemingly unfinished for the listener. A mighty achievement and a blockbuster of Italian prog. Absolutely essential listening.

Perhaps some will be put off by Leone's anguished and passionate vocals in a tenor range...this album is not for everyone. Other than Leone's clear skills on keyboards, this isn't an album where 'virtuoso' gets bandied about, and one can point to impressive soloing--instead it is a quartet that plays as a unit where personal attention is subsumed by a group effort of staggering import.

I found the non gatefold Italian reissue from 1974 that is produced from the original stampers, and it is pristine in sound quality. Vinyl fans should seek this out as the first 1972 Italian pressing is hitting some astronomical prices.

Five stars

zeuhl1 | 5/5 |


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