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Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso - Banco CD (album) cover

BANCO

Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

4.14 | 190 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Crossover Team
4 stars Banco's debut stemmed directly from ELP's Manticore label germinating with releases such as PFM, Peter Sinfield and this stylish English album. So this has been in my vinyl collection since 1975 and I have waited to get a CD copy without the whopping Japanese price-tag! It was exhilarating to get a version that resembles the original LP (paper, gatefold) in smaller form. Very cool indeed. Aaaah! Revisiting memories ever so fond of back to an exhilarating time when music, rock music particularly, was pure discovery! I remember getting this along with a slew of other gems from the times.

We begin with the majesticity of "Chorale", with its ultra-symphonic swirl and grandiose pomp and circumstance. Banco was the PFM running mate back then with Le Orme and Il Volo not far behind, in espousing what was to become the legendary Italian School of Prog (RPI) as we know it today. A sassy mixture of essential classical structure, passionate local folk leanings (canzone) and resolutely rock foundations, a tornado of swishy synths, elegant piano, bruising bass and drum work, all spiced with numerous soloing of the loftiest variety. The essential masterpiece from this unique band with the funny fat man singing is the mesmerizing "Metamorphosis", a classic prog rock epic if ever there has been, perhaps getting my vote as number 1 RPI track in history, I mean just marvel at the piano section that is to perish for, even Liszt or Mozart would applaud rapturously, full of elegant fury, brooding mania and thunderous élan. You can only imagine what Keith thought about it (since he was a Manticore owner!), the sheer dexterity and vision, pffffff! These are damn fine musicians that deserve their eternal legend. They were pioneers indeed, forging a huge scene in Italy that is still growing strong (if not stronger) today, a style fully dependant on talent and inspiration, technically superior and artistically "progressive". When things get rocky/sweaty, introducing the Hammond-led beat to the dirty guitar tone, this is when the genius comes shining through, forging a contemporary parallel to the romantic precedent with effortless "doigté" (ahhh, look it up) and imperial zeal. When the clarinet enters the fray, the appearance of the operatic vocals come as no surprise, only sheer astonishment.

Mixing it up a great deal was the norm, so "Outside" has both a jazz-rock and an electronic feel to it, essentially blurring the line between genres, certainly more experimental that expected. Even the tone of the vocals are oblique, almost Gentle Giant-ish, constantly on edge. After a serene piano -led passage, the fragile vocals increase in urgency, evolving into this massive lament, Francesco Di Giacomo belting it out with utter "buon" gusto.

Then we go pastoral and bucolic, because it's all about diversity and progression, the lyrics sung in English with a suavely thick Italian accent (think Pavarotti), all hypnotizingly delicious to the ears. Acoustic guitars abound, breezy synth washes wash and airy vocals, what a great combo. You want more playful? Okay! The second epic "Nothing's the Same" is tortuous, catty, mischievous and sardonic. Very sundry with both Nocenzi brothers weaving magic on their organs, pianos and synths. Drummer Pier Luigi Calderoni demonstrates considerable skill, keeping time like a Swiss watch while swerving according to the dizzying rhythms. again remindful of some Gentle Giant passages. Di Giacomo's charming accent does not detract at all from the sheer virtuosity of his trembling voice. Things get mightily symphonic when Renato D'Angelo's bass kicks in, slaloming deftly between the rough guitar and the whistling at times flamboyant synths. Patriotic defenders of RPI, the bold musicians are unafraid of creative thought and complex musical delivery.

"Traccia II" settles this one nicely, a sweet piano melody that, in the end, says it all, an Italian Rock band that had the wherewithal to interlock various styles into a cohesive bouquet. Tremendous listening .

4.5 tossed shoes

tszirmay | 4/5 |

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