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Il Rovescio Della Medaglia - Contamination CD (album) cover

CONTAMINATION

Il Rovescio Della Medaglia

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.94 | 30 ratings

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coasterzombie
4 stars By 1975, the golden era of Rock Progressivo Italiano had all but ended, leaving bands like Rovescio Della Medaglia at a crossroads; many folded up entirely, some formed new groups and went on to play jazz fusion (Etna, Il Volo, Baricentro, etc.), and a few sought the international market (PFM, Le Orme, Banco). RDM, willing or not, were lumped into that last category when RCA decided to milk every last drop of their classic 1973 album Contaminazione for all it was worth - by releasing an English-sung version for Europe and the US. RDM had essentially ceased to be a band by this point, having nearly all their equipment stolen resulting in an indefinite hiatus for most of 1974. A changing of the guard was occurring, as new groups like Maxophone, Arti e Mestieri and Agora were finding success with a hybrid of progressive rock and jazz like never before. Why the label had RDM overdub English lyrics on an already perfect album is anyone's guess; to me Contamination is like painting a smile on the Mona Lisa, but there are also unnecessary sonic choices that prevent the album from equaling its 5-star counterpart.

Reviewing a variation of an already classic album is challenging in that the music itself is not really subject to critique. The physical product in and of itself is the object being reviewed. And in this case, Contamination has some subtle, almost undetectable flaws that may not be apparent unless a side by-side comparison is done. Take for instance the initial surge of "Johann's Rock" aka "Il Suono del Silenzio" - the original sounds blisteringly heavy and crisp while the English version is a midrange mess, flat and compressed, atop with a pale imitation of those cavernously resonant vocals. By the time Luiz Bacalov's orchestration comes in, the harpsichord sounds listless and ordinary, and the strings lifeless. If you had never heard Contaminazione, it would be a non-issue and the impressive quality of the composition would shine right through...but the obsessive RPI clinician will notice right away, and always prefer the genuine article.

This is not to say the lyrics themselves are laughable and embarrassing - on the contrary - Contamination succeeds where earlier attempts by Osanna and Acqua Fragile failed. Here the affect is limited, and only a remnant of Italian accent is heard. The original lyrical concept is intact and even benefits from translation. Fortunate we are to have corresponding language copies of Maxophone, Felona and Sorona and Photos of Ghosts; in the case of mistakes like Ibis' Sun Supreme we will never be so lucky. But the fact that Contamination cannot stand on its own and is a supplemental purchase by nature prevents it from being essential in my book, the high level of music on display notwithstanding. Having said that, completists and those struggling with foreign-language prog will eat this up, and hopefully develop a more sophisticated palate because of it.

coasterzombie | 4/5 |

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