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Rocky's Filj

Rock Progressivo Italiano

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Attention fans of Area & Kayo Dot:

Side 1 of this album is simply amazing. The opening track's 13 minutes feel as jumpy as a field mouse on crack. More on the connections to the above band later.

Rocky's Filj (or Roky's Fily according to some) formed in the early '70s and were from the Lombardia and Emilia areas. They played at the legendary Villa Pamphili pop festival and toured with Banco around that time. They got their chance to record and work with Banco's producer Sandro Colombini on their album for the Ricordi label. As shocking as it may be to read...brace yourself...this Italian band broke up soon after their album was released. Apparently one of the band members was incarcerated though I couldn't find out for what. The band would reunite briefly for a single release but never recorded a second album. Leader Rossi was killed in an auto accident in the 80s. "Storie Di Uomini E Non" was released in the monster year of 1973 and was clearly overshadowed by the many classics which emerged at that time. That is a shame because this album should be of much interest to any prog fan who would appreciate a truly eclectic take on fusion and RPI. Gnosis' Mike McLatchey describes the music as "elaborate and lengthy with plenty of fusion influences. Instrumentally, the primary leads are sax and guitar, and there are a lot of moments where the themes are doubled by both in a manner similar to that of Osanna's early period. The music even has room to jam, where the bassist will set up a riff and give the chance for some solos over the top, including both sax and flute."

This album is what I would describe as extremely red-blooded and dynamic, for the wild and thrill-seeking Italian fan. In its most frenzied moments it approaches an Area level of craziness but it also has a flip side that I won't call mellow, but slower, murkier, and strange. The album is paced well too with the three wilder tracks being 1/3/5 while the two breather tracks split them in the 2/4 position, giving the listener a true roller-coaster experience. Let's look at some of the positive attributes here: 1) These guys had chops! All of the musicians are very good and adventurous as well. 2) The sound is uncommonly good. You would expect a rarity from '73 to be pretty mediocre in sound but that is not the case here. Crisp highs and strong, upfront bass will give you the ability to crank this up loud without wincing. There are a few sound problems on side 2 but they are fleeting: I was literally rattling the pictures on the wall tonight with very good results. 3) Primarily instrumental and pretty wild tracks. I enjoy the bold and dramatic vocals of Rossi but for those who don't this album is far more instrumental than vocal. The music of Rocky's Filj is a unique blend of heated fusion jamming with rather strange divergent avenues. The album plays out as do some of the more adventurous Italians albums in that you're never sure what to expect, think about bands like Pholas Dactylus, Osanna, wed with jazzier fare like Area and Duello Madre. Bits and pieces of these groups will give you an idea what you're in for here: heavy-hitting (mostly) jamming with persistent fiery guitar and lots of horns, the album is most likely to please fusion fans who like a little something different on the presentation.

I really have to describe side one for you. "L'Ultima Spiasggia" is 13 minutes of pure madness that starts from the gate at light speed. Driving, booming bass and frenetic guitar lines spar incessantly with aggressive horns very similar to the Officina Meccanica sound I wrote about last week, but frankly Rockys sound is tighter and crisper. There is a break for some eerie flute before the powerful and intense vocals begin. Some don't like the vocals here-I think they are fantastic. Then another strange section with strings leads back to the manic-paced finish. The second track "Il Soldato" finishes the side and this track could have inspired Kayo or Maudlin. This cool sounding double bass just floats along building tension over these strange, serene guitar chords and lost sounding horns. The two tracks combined may not be the finest or most representative side of Italian prog but they sure do floor me. Side 2 is good but not quite as magical. I want to close by quoting a great sentiment about this album (and listening in general) by reviewer Rushomancy at RYM: "It's generally true that most obscure music is obscure for a reason. Once you delve deep into a genre, you find yourself listening to a lot of stuff that comes off as second-rate imitations of the better-known bands. So why does anybody bother?...Sometimes you find something that's way better than it has any right to be. Sometimes you find out you value different things in music than most people, and you like something most people would hate. Whatever the reason, Rocky's Filj, while not sounding overwhelmingly typical for an Italian prog record nevertheless contains everything I love about the genre."

Report this review (#192515)
Posted Tuesday, December 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
Rock Progressivo Italiano!
5 stars The epitome of an obscure gem! I love this album. Over the last year I've purchased over 200 RPI CDs, as I've been absolutely enchanted by this stunning genre. Nearly all of them are good, many of them are great, and a few, like this one, just hit me like a ton of bricks. It's not as symphonic as many of the classic bands and yet doesn't venture as far as Area does into Jazz (there is no free form soloing--it's crazy, no doubt, but all within a well-defined and very enjoyable structure).

I love the description on the band bio (and also included in Finnforest's review) regarding the sax and guitar doubling themes. I would add that there is great interplay between sax, guitar, bass, and sometimes flute. Often the doubling changes into harmonizing, sometimes as thirds or just complementary sounds. Many times the themes are taken up by the other instruments, helping the different sections flow nicely, even though there is at times great variation in tempo and feel. Note that there are no keyboards. But the use of the sax is so imaginative that I had to double back and listen to a section of Martino again (about 2.5 minutes in) because I swear there was mellotron. But no--it's saxophone! I actually love the use of the sax and flute here--they provide great coloring and depth. The moods can sometimes vary within songs, especially Io Robot. The mood also varies between songs (the energetic L'Ultima Spiaggia, then the more atmospheric Il Soldato, then the fiery E). The sparse vocals are good and certainly don't detract from the fabulous music.

I refer you to Finnforest's excellent review for historical notes about the band and his always enjoyable comments. My own take is that this album is one of the best of the RPI subgenre, and the RPI subgenre is essential to a prog library. Hence the 5 star rating. You can't go wrong with this one!

Report this review (#199558)
Posted Saturday, January 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars I can't believe how many amazing albums came out of Italy in the seventies. Is there an end to these obscure gems that keep coming out of the woodwork ? I hope not ! Thankyou Finnforest for bringing this band and OFFICINA MECCANICA to my attention, and to Todd who told me about these same two bands not long after Finnforest did. I ordered these two recordings at the same time and for me they will always be associated with one another.Two incredible bands and albums.

"L'Ultima Spiaggia" is the longest and perhaps most adventerous track on here. It hits the ground running with horns blasting. Nice bass as the guitar comes in ripping it up. A calm before 1 1/2 minutes as the melody stops and flute eventually comes in. We get vocals for the first time 3 minutes in and they are fantastic ! I really like his voice. It sounds like cello 4 1/2 minutes in as bass and horns follow. Great sound 5 1/2 minutes in then it kicks back in to a fuller sound. Check out the guitar before 7 1/2 minutes ! Passionate vocals, guitar and horns after 8 1/2 minutes. Haha.They're playing and singing with feeling. It settles again after 10 minutes, great vocals here. Love the sax before 11 1/2 minutes.The guitar is back shredding to end it. Now I can breathe. "Il Soldato" opens in a pastoral way as reserved vocals come in. Melancholic horns before 3 minutes.The vocals return 5 minutes in to the end.

"E" reminds me of the first track the way the horns come out blasting. They even get a little dissonant after a minute then some raw sounding guitar arrives. Horns and drums join in. It settles before 2 1/2 minutes but kicks back in quickly. "Io Robot" is mellow and laid back to begin with. Vocals before 1 1/2 minutes. Drums and a full sound a minute later. Great sound ! Check out the flute 4 minutes in. Another excellent section after 6 minutes. I like the horns and the beat. This song reminds me of AREA quite a bit. "Martino" sounds like there might be some fuzz in that intro. It settles a minute in, vocals follow and they're amazing. Drums pound as horns and guitar do their thing when the vocals stop. They break into a nice rhythm after 3 minutes. Vocals are back. I like the ending.

This is a must for Italian fans out there along with OFFICINA MECCANICA's album.

Report this review (#199624)
Posted Saturday, January 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Yet another one shot Italian band, Rocky's Filj released their only album back in 1973. Certainly not one of the better known Italian prog bands, they nevertheless have an enthusiastic if small group of admirer's who regard Storie Di Uomini E Non very highly.

Storie Di Uomini E Non whilst having mellower moments is not an album for those preferring the more pastoral RPI releases. Far more suited to those who enjoy the wilder excesses of the genre such as Osanna, Area or Il Baletto Di Bronzo. The wild explosive nature of most of the tracks also bring to mind early King Crimson, though you won't find any mellotron here, with nods to Van Der Graaf Generator though the latter comparison is more down to the wild sax playing prevalent throughout supplied by sadly now deceased vocalist Rocky Rossi. There's also a fairly strong jazz feel, the warts and all dry production allowing each player to stand out showing all as decent players with pleasing interplay between the sax and guitar over the dynamic rhythm section.

Sadly like so many albums of the time it's all over too soon leaving the frustrated listener wanting more. Whilst Rocky's Filj are not advised as an early port of call in the exploration of RPI they nevertheless warrant attention from those of a more adventurous disposition who've already become acquainted with the higher profile bands of the genre, many of whom they can stand head and shoulders with such is the quality of this album.

Report this review (#826078)
Posted Saturday, September 22, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Aweosome band from the city of Parma discovered after following Banco on a tour through Italy. They just released this great pearl, prog-fusion stuffed with beautiful quality that reminds me of the golden years of Osanna. The band did not move forward because one of their members had been arrested, and six years after the release of this album, the rest of the members just did a TV commercial with the help of fellow Italian Acqua Fragile.

Absolute highlight for the first and longest track that opens this work with fast bass lines, guitar and drums mingled with tender flute solos passages with a strong sax.

In 1985, the leader and competent saxophonist Rocky Rossi dies in a car accident. A irrecoverable loss because the band used to give strong focus on an edgy sax and a beautiful vocal in Italian. The record quality is exceptional, one of the best fusions I ever know.

Report this review (#1076622)
Posted Thursday, November 14, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This four-piece band from Italy is really great musically even though they only produced one album in the seventies and reunited in 1979 for a commercial release. The opening track "L'Ultima Spiasggia" (13:15) is really wonderful with its jaz-rock orientated style maximizing the talented musicians to perform their own instruments from alto sax, baritone sax, clarino, electric guitar, flute, "Fender" bass, trombone, and drums. Not in typical any band where each musician focuses only on one intruments with its similar instrument - this band, like Gentle Giant, plays multi instruments. Look at how Rocky Rossi plays alto sax, baritone sax, clarino, and at the same time take a voice role. Roby Glabrovitz who plays electric guitar, has the capability to play flute, while Luigi Ventura plays "Fender" bass and trombone. It's quite unusual really. The opening track has many style and tempo changes across the span of 13 minute duration of wonderfully crafted composition. \the vocal is raw but unique and it fits with the overall tone of the song as well as the album. The bass guitar solo sometimes reminds me to the Jethro Tull's "Boree" even though they are not alike. The guitar solo is also stunning. All ini all this is a masterpiece track of this album!

"Il Soldato" (6:17) starts off with a bass guitar solo follwed with melodic vocal with guitar fills. I can hear the sound of violin but actually there is no violin used right here in this record. The song moves slowly in dark mood with good guitar fills. The brass section sounds like a big band. "E" (3:57) brings the music back into energy with very nice opening part that combines all instruments performed in relatively fast speed. the alto sax solo is really nice especially when it's combined with a rocking guitar work. The bass guitar work is really solid and it moves dynamically throughout the song. There are many style and tempo changes throughout the span of roughly 4 minute duration. It's an excellent track!

"Io Robot" (7:41) brings to music into melodic and mellow style with accentuated vocal line. It's melodically a good track. It moves into crescendo when the vocal at first part finish to sing and it brings the music into a dynamic composition leaning itself into solid basslines. I admire that the bass guitar players is really a very talented musician. It gives good rhythm for a solo sax in a style that reminds me to King Crimson's "Islands" album. The flute work is also great. "Martino" (5:41) concludes the album in the same dynamic as the opening track only with shorter duration. But the music is really great with some style changes and tempo changes througout the song. The guitar solo is also stunning especially during the accentuated vocal line. What a great composition really!

Overall, this is a wonderfully crafted album with its unique jazz-rock orientated style combined with great musicianship in every single instrument they use. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED especially for those of you who love jazz-rock kind of music. Keep on proggin' ...!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#1076752)
Posted Friday, November 15, 2013 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars The 70s Italian prog scene was notable for its operatic style that fused classical music with contemporary rock but mostly fit in nicely in what is now deemed symphonic prog. Bands like Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM), Banco del Mutuo del Mutuo Soccorso (Banco), Quelle Vecchia Locanda and Le Orme were some of the better known bands that helped put Italy on the map in the world of progressive rock but there were a few crazy Italian bands that sorta went off in their own direction. Area and Picchio dal Pozzo are two of the more famous bands that embarked on a more jazz fueled flirtation with avant-prog but there were other examples as well with some like Il Balletto Di Bronzo actually releasing some of the best prog albums of the era.

The Parma based ROCKY'S FILJ was another such band that while firmly fitting into the greater Rock Progressivo Italiano movement was still an anomaly for its distinct stylistic approach that took the established Italian rock sound and married it with jazz and experimental touches. This quintet of four highly competent musicians was named after lead singer / saxophonist / clarinetist Roberto 'ROCKY' Rossi whose distinct vocal style went perfectly with the band's bizarre moniker however i still can't figure out what the FILJ part of the name means although a 7" single called "Ingrio" was released under the name Roky's Fily. The band also included Roby Gravlovitz (guitar, flute), Luigi Ventura (bass, trombone) and Rubino Colasante (drums, upright bass.)

More than most bands with possibly Area being the exception, ROCKY'S FILJ was a dramatic band that really fulfilled the image of rock stars and although the band was both original and technically adept only survived for a brief moment in time before the band broke up. During its short tenure, ROCKY'S FILJ managed to release its one and only album STORIE DI UOMINI E NON (Stories Of Men And Not) in 1973 but what an interesting one shot delivery of highly complex and original prog that came out by these guys! It's fair to say that it's a true shame this band didn't continue on because despite a less than perfect album, STORIE DI UOMINI E NON is an excellent album that is full of passion and originality and despite the fact that the band even opened for Banco during its heyday still succumbed to the pressures of the music biz.

STORIE DI UOMINI E NON is a dramatic and exciting album filled with twists and turns. While all five tracks have vocal parts, there are many segments of instrumental prog ecstasy particularly with the opening 13 minute track "L'Ultima Spiaggia" which not only delivers some stellar jazz-rock workouts but also cranks up the decibelage to 11 with heavy rock guitar riffs and sizzling solos in tandem with knotty prog workouts that pull out all the angular time signature deviations. In addition there are many more pastoral moments as experienced on the second track "Il Soldato" that finds ROCKY'S FILJ fitting perfectly into the less frenetic Italian prog bands of the era which unlike Area showcases the band's ability to fit in the so-called mainstream as well as standing out amongst the lunatic fringe. Rocky Rossi's vocal style sounds completely standard on this track but he was more than ready to let his normalcy off the leash when permission was granted.

After the rather mellow interlude following the lengthy opening track, the succinctly titled "E" returns to the jazz-fusion splendor with knotty time signature workouts with blissful saxophone ambitions that sound like a typical jazz band of the 60s that just inhaled an airplane cargo load of cocaine and their spirits are oh sooo high! This is probably the track that displays Rossi's most virtuosic sax squawks erupting like a flock of seagulls gathering around an overturned sushi truck on the freeway. With avant-prog detours and hard rock guitar riffs ushering the jazz-fueled composition into hysteria, this one is just is too cool to be legal but somehow has slipped through the gatekeepers' awareness!

"Io Robot" takes on yet another persona that sounds more like English renaissance music than anything remotely Italian as a baritone sax creates a Gryphon type of movement but then becomes a weirdly abstract jazz-rock track that is obstinately out of sync with the rest of the album. Probably the weakest of the lot and like the title insinuates a little too robotic for its own good. No Alan Parsons Project on this one (Italian for "I Robot") but still not bad. "Martino" ends the album in jazz-fusion land where angular time signature rich escapades meander with a sax and guitar conversation that leads to an explosive vocal delivery and probably the most dramatic explosive fiery track on the album and the second best after the amazingly cool opener. This track in particular is very daring as it invites many moods and flavors to dance side by side. It's simultaneously technically dazzling while adding elements of funk, classic RPI symphonic prog sounds as well as heavy rock, avant-prog and well i guess that covers it!

ROCKY'S FILJ's only album is a wicked ride on the wild side (for the most part) of Italian style prog however it's not quite a masterpiece despite it all. What keeps this album down are the rather ordinarily but competent sounds of "Il Soldato" and "Io Robot." These tracks which would sound great on a more reserved RPI band's repertoire just seem to dilute this album's fiery passion and water it down way too much for my liking. Of all the bands that i wish would've continued on, this is one of them, however life is what happens when we make other plans. The band did continue on long enough to record a second album that was supposed to be titled "Brivido Rock" but it was never released and i can only hope that it's out there somewhere awaiting the status of archival release for some future date. Many members continued on in other projects but sadly Rocky Rossi himself died in a car accident in 1985 which is fitting for his personality of living fast and dying young. This is definitely one of the more unique examples of 70s Italian prog and for the more adventurous crowds out there, you should not miss this one!

Report this review (#2336953)
Posted Tuesday, February 18, 2020 | Review Permalink
RPI Team
4 stars Thoroughly enjoyable and diverse minor masterpiece. One of the few bands that could bear a passing comparison to Area, no easy feat. First album King Crimson guitar work collides with frenetic later era Soft Machine with a touch of Area in the magnificent opening track, the 13 minute L'Ultima Spiaggia is the highlight, which finishes in a flourish of amphetaminized Wake of Poseidon sax and guitar madness. Next song Il Soldato shows a contrasting mood, with quiet guitar, trombone, contrabass and clarinet.

Side two opens with E, more inventive variations of the first Crimson album, specifically sounding like variations on 21st Century Schizoid Man without ever explicitly referencing any of it. It has great lurching rhythm and sax work that VDGG fans will like. Io Roboto brings the acoustic quartet back in their first burst of genuine RPI pastoralism so far, evolving into a pleasant yet powerful vocal (Rocky's no slouch in a field of very powerful RPI vocalists. ). Frenetic jazz jams get lauched, and flashes of Weather Report show up and fade seemingly out of nowhere. The song finishes on a nice hypnotic but complex drum and bass pattern. Martino takes us home on yet another great frantic ride -Gentle Giant complexities meet Soft Machine and VDGG in a sound that is really better described as 'the Rocky's Filj sound'

Although dozens of the best Italian bands seemed to only put out a single album before breaking up, Its criminal that they didn't put out a second lp, they are that good. A wild ride, wholly original and highly recommended. Definitely not close in sound to many of the usual RPI bands, a delightful collision of jazz and full on high energy prog. One of my favorites in the scene.

Sony 2009 vinyl pressing is a little thin in sound, but is getting harder to find out there lately so grab one while you can.

First album King Crimson and later Soft Machine meet Perigeo and Area in a tag team bout.

4.5 stars.

Report this review (#2353208)
Posted Monday, April 20, 2020 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Great sound, remarkable sound engineering (for the time), and wonderful whole-band musicianship--even on multiple instruments--by each individual band member! A real surprise and gem of a find!

1. "L'Ultima Spiaggia" (13:15) jumps out to a fast, though stop-and-go, start with electric guitar and saxophone playing lead over the very busy, driving rhythm section. At 1:15 things slow down--check that, the bottom drops out- -and we're left with a very spacious section of several individual inputs: mainly clarinet, double bass, flute, and trombone. Very cool; very classical sounding. The music then transitions into a nice, slow section of beautifully picked electric guitar and busy electric bass over which vocalist Rocky Rossi unleashes some very dynamic singing. At 4:40 we shift back into the more classical-yet-this time jazzier section, keeping the electric guitar and electric bass. Eventually the drums and sax and electric guitar join the bass in not one but two little sections of interesting Crimsonian RPI. The sax play in the second half of the seventh minute is almost that of a rhaita (Morrocan oboe). At 7:15 there is yet another shift, this time into a groovy jazz section in which bass and electric guitar get busy running all over their respective fretboards while drummer Rubino Colasante keeps a solid time. At 8:38 another shift into a rapid speed CHICAGO-like section with saxes and guitars trading aggressive ejaculations with singer Rossi. Long sax solo is finally coerced into a slowdown section with bass keeping the song going as Rocky sings his heart out over the top. Very theatric vocal performance--here with an aggressive whisper voice doubling him up. Sax joins in until 11:30 when distorted rhythm guitar strums bridge into a kind of circus tent of disorganized sound before a chord hit allows a brief drum solo which the whole band then joins for the rock ending. Pretty amazing and complex composition! (28/30)

2. "Il Soldato" (6:17) Starts out quite slow with gently picked and strummed electric guitar over which Rocky's distorted voice sings plaintively. Bowed double bass joins in making it a trio before the end of the first verse and is then joined by trombone in the second. Instrumental passage following the second verse features a complex, polyrhythmic weave of all three of these instruments with Rocky's alto sax. Quite lovely! The bowed bass and sax really have the lead as trombone fades out. Then we are left with only the double bass and beautifully picked electric guitar: Roby Grablovitz truly excels at this unusual skill! Rocky's treated voice returns with the guitar, bowed bass and trombone for another verse and then finally a chorus to end the song. Beautiful! And so unique and distinctive! (10/10)

3. "E" (3:57) opens with full band in full swing with electric guitar and sax presenting the rather complicated and fast-moving melody line over bass and drums. Sax gets a little more space and freedom to go off on his own over the first half of the song but then the guitar drops an octave and gets dirtier, louder, before switching to an awesome rhythm section in support of a sax solo. The rhythm section is so tight and the sax really good but this guitarist is mesmerizing! Great jazz-rock song with really tight band cohesion yet not as melodic as I'd like. (9/10)

4. "Io Robot" (7:41) clarinet and bowed double bass open this one and are rapidly joined by delicately picked and strummed jazz guitar and electric bass before singer Rocky Rossi enters with a powerful singing performance. Late in the second minute Rocky finishes and the band shifts into third gear with some really nice chord and melodic play before shifting again into a quick-time bass-led backed-off drums section in which sax solos wildly, testing the effects that can be made with breath. Roby drops his nicely strummed rhythm guitar in order to step in with some quite dynamic flute play before the band shifts into a bridge of crazed sound-making signalling a shift back to the quick-time bass and backed-off drum motif. This doesn't last long as electric guitar picking and cymbal play make room for Rocky to play some sax with a series of long held notes. Quite beautiful! Drums pick it up a bit as Rocky continues this remarkable display of breath capacity ... to the song's end. (14/15)

5. "Martino" (5:41) another song in which the band jumps in whole-hog into a fast-paced jazz-rock instrumental. A minute into the song everybody slows down into a kind of New Orleans funeral march--but this doesn't last long as the band recoups and burst down a side street so that Rocky can let loose with his powerful singing. What I find interesting is that by this point in the album I find myself getting a little bored or inured of the sound made by this band. There is a lot of repetition of form and sound and a lot of short shifts with sudden turns and not quite enough interesting melody for my tastes. Very skilled musicians with some nice creative ideas (that they can pull off!) but not always the most "pleasing" music to listen to. The chord and melodic structures of the second half of the song are more accessible and engaging than the first, which is nice. (9.25/10)

Total Time: 36:51

A/five stars; a masterpiece of dynamic and highly skilled jazz-rock fusion. Why people don't know more about this album I don't know, but they should!

Report this review (#2584674)
Posted Monday, August 9, 2021 | Review Permalink

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