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Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso - Darwin! CD (album) cover


Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso


Rock Progressivo Italiano

4.37 | 1138 ratings

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Prog Metal Team
5 stars Even though I have been raiding music stores, libraries and the internet in search for Prog for almost 30 years, I had no idea there was a prog scene in Italy. Actually, I never thought beyond the usual cliché that Italian people did anything besides enjoying their beautiful country and eating the most delicious food in the world. I didn't know they played music as well. That delusion came to a halt when I became an active member of PA and discovered Area and Banco.

RPI is a very rich, imaginative and melodic type of symphonic prog, and as can be deducted from the ratings, fans of the classic UK sympho hegemony that know the Italian scene devour it like sweet cake. But it hasn't been easy for me, not at all. When I started listening to that other acclaimed band PFM, my first reaction was very strong and decidedly negative: way too mellow, sweet and tame for someone adhering to the dark side of the force for the biggest part of the last 10 years. But I'm stubborn in these matters and continued to give them a spin. PFM gradually grew on me but it wasn't till I heard Banco's Darwin that this music really struck a chord with me. Maybe it is because they are more dramatic, slightly moody and more powerful then PFM.

Anyway, after hearing Banco I finally understand why VDGG were so popular in Italy. Banco's music relates to VDGG in many ways, it's very theatrical, emotional, playful, virtuosic, dramatic, original and absolutely free, meaning almost anything can happen in the course of a song. Still it remains coherent and tasteful. Other main influences would be ELP, a bit of Yes, pre-modernistic classical music and something ... something Italian I guess: light, clear colours and an after taste of delicious red fruits. Wait. I'm confusing with the glass of wine I'm having now.

Whatever I try do to describe the actual songs will not do them justice. There are so many things going on here that my English vocabulary feels largely insufficient to describe them. The opening track L'Evoluzione starts with a sinister minor chord melody, quickly evolving into a delightful madrigal, featuring DiGiacomo's superb emotive vocals. The middle section is cascade of different themes that go in all possible directions. Lots of keyboards are applied through this 14 minute adventure, something that is usually not my cup of tea in the early 70's era of mosquito-buzzing synth tones, but the Nocenzi brothers play with a flair and tastefulness that easily surpasses my misgivings with supposed keyboard masters like Wakeman and Emerson.

The remaining half hour of the album is distributed over 6 tracks that are for the most part as compelling as the opener. La Conquista has an even higher VDGG-wit meets ELP-wizardry, but it is ELP with a purpose, no soulless parade but rich melodious keys with a great balance between virtuosity and a feel to play just the right notes, something that Emerson only achieved on occasion. La Danza Dei Grandi Rettili goes high on Bach, resulting in a bass guitar theme that brings Jethro Tull's Bourrée to mind.

Cento Mani starts with a 15 seconds fanfare that reveals the sonic limitations of those early keyboards, but the agitated section that follows is amazing. I never would have thought getting so lyrical about a 1972 album with 2 keyboard players. My usual opinion is that even one of them is already one too much. But it leads to plenty of fun here. As a song, this one feels less coherent though then the previous ones.

750.000 Anni puts DiGiacomo in the spotlight again, his emotive wail and sense for melody is gorgeous. Even though his voice doesn't remind me of Peter Hammill, his affecting tone and tune are on a par with Hammill's qualities in that area. Beautiful piano work rounds it off. Miserere Alla Storia and Ed Ora explore theatrical tendencies that provide for many interesting and charming moments, but these tracks haven't entirely convinced me yet.

Weighing this album up against its main influences, I'd say this is leagues ahead of ELP, on a similar level as Yes but still a bit below VDGG for me. Given that VDGG are my most loved Prog band that's a high assessment. There's really no excuse not to spend your time and hard-earned cash on discovering this creative - and as I've come to understand very productive - scene. 4.5 stars, with the evolutionary potential to make that last half one into a devastating supernova.

Edit, oh yes 5 stars obviously!

Bonnek | 5/5 |


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