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

DARWIN!

Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

4.37 | 725 ratings

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stefro
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Often hailed, alongside the likes of PFM's 'Per Un Amico', Maxophones self-titled debut and Le Orme's 'Felona E Sonora', as the cream of the Italian progressive rock crop, Banco's second album finds the triple-decked keyboard, mellotron and piano-purveyors ambitiously tackling the concept album with this ode to 'Origins Of The Species' creator Charles Darwin. Like much of the mid-seventies Italian output, there is an obvious debt - or should I say homage - to Van Der Graaf Generators classic works, such as 'Pawn Hearts'(which stayed in the Italian charts for a mighty 12 weeks), 'H To He Who Am The Only One' and 'Still Life', and the more symphonic works of ELP and Genesis. However, those expecting lush, melodic sounds will be in for a shock. Banco's sound hovers fluidly between the discordant and the thunderous, the complex instrumentation at times mind-bogglingly intricate in it's execution. Those who know the groups eponymously-titled debut from 1971, and the 'Darwin!' follow-up 'Io Sono Nato Libero' of a year later will know what to expect, only this time, the group seemed to have taken the handbrake off and gone full pelt into a thickly explorative, and, at times, almost crazily manic sound that almost defies description. At times the music is utterly beautiful, as on the various, and dazzling, interconnecting sections of opener 'L'evoluzione, then, on other tracks, such as genre-defying 'Danza Dei Grandi Rettili', the group take an unexpected turn into proto-psychedelic classical rock, eschewing the grand progressive sounds of their British colleagues in favour of an all out sonic attack on the very hub of rhythm and melody, twisting complicated bass-lines over sumptuous keyboards with reckless invention. One of the real strengths of Banco's music has always been the classically-trained opera voice of lead singer Frances Di Giacomo, and it is on 'Darwin!' that his uniquely grainy vocals seem most effective. The triple keyboard attack - with mellotron, standard keyboard and grand piano played in almost perfect, multi-layered harmony, also adds a darkly-ambitious dimension which seems a million miles from the frankly rather ordinary sounds of Yes, Greenslade and Soft Machine, brilliant British groups whose pioneering music seems utterly dwarfed by the spectacular classic prog on offer on this most original of albums. On 'Darwin!' most of all, but also on the other two 'classic' albums, Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso virtually reach the pinnacle of this wonderful genre, eclipsing their fellow countrymen with their complete disregard for playing it safe. This is incredibly versatile, free music, played by seriously talented musicians with the shackles of commercial reality well and truly off. It may take several listens to truly grasp, and at first 'Darwin!' may just almost unpleasant in it's relentless keyboard attacks and strange, discordant sonic pallete of sounds and styles. However, with each repeated listen, true fans of the very essence of progressive rock will surely discover the beauty that lies at the heart of Banco's imperoious blend of rock, classical and jazz, and the fact that their first three albums make the likes of King Crimson, Genesis and Van Def Graaf Generator seem so ordinary is a true testament to the brilliant potential of European, and most importantly, Italian progressive rock. Masterpiece is a very strong word, but for 'Darwin!' it's an apt description. Simply brilliant. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2011
stefro | 5/5 |

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