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Gruppo D'alternativa - Ipotesi CD (album) cover


Gruppo D'alternativa


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Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This band is an interesting one, releasing just one album during their fairly short-lived career with very little success. Gruppo D'alternativa's sound could easily associate them with the IPR (Italian Progressive Rock) movement in the early 70's due to their similar styles with band such as Il Balleto Di Bronzo or Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso, but they also had a very experimental and odd style to them which can also compare them to the RIO movement active during the end of the 70's. Bands such as Stormy Six and "Desperate Straights" era Slapp Happy comes to mind while listening to this album, but whenever it was influential to those bands remains unknown to me. You could call most RIO dissonant and inaccessible, but Gruppo D'alternativa was a different story. This album, while still heavily reminiscent of typical RIO stylistics, is also quite melodic and structured at the same time, therefore they are a bit difficult to categorise properly. I would still consider it as a "Proto-RIO" album of sorts, but also a part of the IPR movement at the same time.

The song writing is quite dynamic and varied, with a neat somewhat Canterbury reminiscent touch to spice the music up a bit in places. The songs on each side of the LP seems to flow together to form two suites and the arrangements works well even though the material is very varied and even quite different from each other sometimes. The album is nicely put together to say it with other words. The musicianship is solid, although no particular instrument really stands out, and while the songs are a bit odd put together the technical competence from this band is very promising throughout. For such an obscure cult release as this, the production is quite good and all instruments are very clearly heard throughout. This album was reissued on CD a few years ago, although Im not sure about it's availability, but it should definitely be picked up if you are interested in bands such as Etron Fou Leloublan, Stromy Six, Mamma Non Piangere or Desperate Straights-era Slapp Happy, although these guys are far more accessible I would say. Recommended to any RIO/IPR enthusiast 3.5/5

Report this review (#162346)
Posted Thursday, February 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars I really like this album, the only release from Gruppo D'Alternativa. They're clearly influenced by a lot of my favorite prog bands, especially Gentle Giant, Genesis, ELP, King Crimson and probably some of the Canterbury bands. The compositions are very interesting, complex and ambitious, with lots of changes and sections....and the musicianship is outstanding. Really top-notch. The keyboardist is especially impressive and seems like he could hold his own against Keith Emerson or Rick Wakeman. There's also a lot of very nice flute-playing, and also, believe it or not, bassoon.

I love the musical range of this band. Some song sections are classical-sounding, others straight prog, and then there's the parts where they just get wild and jazzy and free. It's perfect music for people like me with attention-deficit disorder and insatiable musical appetites.

The only weak point is the vocals. The singer does not have the most beautiful voice. In fact, it's a bit irritating in a kind of whiny way, but I've actually grown to like it. I can see how the vocals would keep some from loving this album, but not me.

4.5 stars

Report this review (#174422)
Posted Thursday, June 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Proto-RIO indeed

BJ-1 makes a great observation that this band may well have been a pioneer to the RIO sound although they have other sides to their musical personality. GdA is another odd band on the early side of the classic Italian period. Hailing from Milan the band evolved from two 60s Italian groups called I Tipi and Gli Asceti. Once the line-up was ready the band prepared material for their one-shot on Harvest Records. The plan was to openly reject the popular Symphonic prog of the day and instead experiment with rock, jazz, classical, and the avant-garde. Semi-conceptual in form, the album features two long suites with good lyrics about the difficult life of a close friend of the band, his search for Utopian possibilities, and his tragic demise. The result is an album that is in the esoteric, experimental music camp and could be compared in spirit to bands like Saint Just, Stormy Six, Pholas Dactylus, Paese dei Balocchi, and Area though of course they don't sound exactly like anyone else.

"Ipotesi" has something of an "all over the map" structure, loose, free-in-spirit approach. On the one hand you have the stock rock elements of bass/drums/electric guitar. A second part of the sound is a free-jazz which some claim is Canterbury influenced. There is an acoustic element of guitar, piano, bassoon, and flute that cross pollinate the rock and jazz mix. There is organ and Italian vocals which give the album just a little bit of the traditional ISP feel but not much. The various styles and sections change often enough to interest the adventurous listeners while remaining accessible enough for those turned off by the very difficult or dissonant. The sound is not unfriendly at all even sporting the occasional groove or moment of pastoral beauty. The sound quality is a bit dank to be sure and the musicians themselves suffer a bit from the production, my hunch is that they are not bad players but that they probably had less studio time available than the Floyd clocked for bathroom breaks in a given session. notes that "musically the band is competent and the album reveals some jazz-rock influences in the Canterbury vein (listen to some jazzy guitar parts or the use of bassoon). Acoustic parts are prevalent but there are sudden rhythm changes and complex arrangements and the album can be a nice surprise." I love how rather than following the typical linear song structures and seeing them through to the end of the track, the band will simply try something.stop.starting another idea right in the middle of something else. "Infanzia" is a good example moving from an organ/flute opening to frantic piano runs and finally to a melodic pastoral section of acoustic guitar, flute, and vocal. There is a streak of creative anarchy and irreverence running throughout Ipotesi that should be your clearest indication as to whether you should buy this. If you enjoy the odd and the irreverent you should own this one eventually. If you prefer your prog more polished and concerned about appealing to the many then you can probably skip this.

While the band got some good reviews and were offered a chance at a second album (with more label oversight) and even a supporting gig for Deep Purple, they chose instead to split. My feeling is that this band was probably not interested in artistic compromise at all. One member, Leonardo Dosso, would later record two albums with RIO legends Stormy Six. While "Ipotesi" is admittedly not an album that will have wide mainstream prog appeal it is one that should interest RIO fans, Italian Prog fans, and experimental band fans. The album is one of those growers than I appreciate far more after many listens than I did after my first few plays. The Italian mini re-issue is the usual delicious gatefold with rare photos and nice Bio in both Italian and English. They know how to treat their customers. There's no way I'd trade these delightful re-issues for some lame download-record companies take note-there are still a few of us left when you offer products like these. 7/10

Report this review (#178675)
Posted Saturday, August 2, 2008 | Review Permalink
Rock Progressivo Italiano!
4 stars Wow!!

I'm shocked. I wasn't expecting the album to be this good! Like most of us here, before taking the plunge into the deep waters of "Ipotesi" I read as many reviews as I could, including the excellent (as usual . . . ) reviews above by BJ-1 and Finnforest. I admit I didn't put the album too high on my priority list, being perhaps put off a bit by some of the descriptions about the band's experimental side. But to my ears this album falls squarely in with the better experimental RPI bands, like Area, Pholas Dactylus, Planetarium and Stormy Six. In fact, when I think of the year this was done (1972), I'm amazed at how adventurous these guys were, and at the same time how absolutely enjoyable their adventure is! For example, they go from a fabulous RPI groove in "La Tua Lotta" to great jazz rock in "Messaggio Libero." There are some moments of experimentation that don't work quite as well for me--are there any RIO/Avant type bands that hit it every time?--but when they do get it, it is absolutely amazing.

As Jim mentions above, the BTF mini lp is gorgeous. You really should pick this up while you can! Four stars for this shockingly good, overlooked piece of RPI/Proto-RIO/avant/jazz rock from 1972. Wow!!

Report this review (#238713)
Posted Friday, September 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars Some consider this album to be the first Rio recording. Released in 1972 "Ipotesi" was a concept album (Rock Opera) about the singers friend who died in a car crash. This album represented just a part of the Rock Opera that was presented on stage. The band was very influenced by Miles Davis and loved to improvise which was an important part of their live show. The bassoon player would go on to play for STORMY SIX. I've noticed a few people aren't into the vocals but I love them. Powerful and unique yet you know they're Italian.

"Quando Le Parole" opens with spoken words, soon another person is speaking at the same time. The music kicks in after a minute then settles quickly. It builds to the end. "Incidente" opens with vocals and a pastoral soundscape. Guitar and drums join in before a minute as the tempo picks up. The vocals are outstanding here. Organ only after 1 1/2 minutes. "Infanzia" is organ and flute lead early. The tempo picks up after a minute as piano and a fuller sound joins in. It settles 2 minutes in with strummed guitar and flute. The vocals after 3 minutes are reserved. "Voglia Di Essere" kicks in right away with drums and organ standing out. It settles with guitar and vocals. Flute 1 1/2 minutes in. Organ follows as vocals continue. The tempo picks up then we get this jazzy section before 2 1/2 minutes. It's brief though as it settles again with vocals before picking back up one more time.

"Solitudine" opens with faint sounds before the vocals arrive before a minute. The tempo picks up a minute later before settling again. It kicks back in at 3 1/2 minutes,electric guitar too. Organ takes over late. "Appare La Forma" is an instrumental that sounds pretty incredible with the guitar, piano, drums and bass standing out. Organ joins in as well. It ends as it began. "La Tua Lotta" opens with flute, light drums and piano as vocals join in. This is laid back. The tempo then picks up. Love his vocals (did I mention that ?). It settles as contrasts continue. Organ after 3 1/2 minutes followed by a calm. The tempo picks up 5 minutes in before settling again with some nasty organ before 6 minutes. And yes it picks up one more time. "Messaggio Libero" opens with acoustic guitar and reserved vocals. The instrumental work here gets twisted, maybe avant is the word. It builds with electric guitar. Great section. "Ipotesi" ends the album with acoustic guitar melodies.

I appreciate Todd's enthusiasm for this album and thank him for the recommendation.

Report this review (#261747)
Posted Wednesday, January 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars An unlikely Italian band on the Harvest EMI imprint, Gruppo d'Alternativa manage to fly under the radar for many RPI collectors. Often described as "proto-RIO," Ipotesi is the musical equivalent of performance art; in fact, the album was originally conceived as a theatrical production based on the death of singer Tino Guasconi's friend. The vocals may be repellent for some, as Guasconi has a nasal voice that cuts through most of the accompaniment. The quality of his voice does not bother me personally, but it is mixed a bit too loud and tends to drown out the other instruments. Along with the typical guitar, bass and drums, Gruppo d'Alternativa uses keyboards and woodwinds to fill out the highly complex and intricate arrangements. Ipotesi is unlike anything I've heard and is somewhat difficult to describe, and belongs in the Avant-Prog category for that reason. Initial listens will be confusing, but Ipotesi reveals its genius in due time and stands as one of the essential examples of the genre. It does not however match the best work of Picchio dal Pozzo or Stormy Six, and therefore can only earn four stars.

Ipotesi is a relatively short album (35 minutes), and is presented like a disjointed set of puzzle pieces that don't quite fit together the right way. This schizophrenic quality does not detract from your enjoyment of the album however...but dictates it. Listeners looking for an immediately contagious experience are not going to find it here. Gruppo d'Alternativa clearly admire the improv greats, and evoke the attitude but not necessarily the methods of Miles Davis or Soft Machine. What Gd'A were doing here did not have a name yet, and I am amazed that such an unmarketable group would find release on a major label like Harvest. The BTF/AMS CD issue is excellent as always, although maybe not given the same loving care and attention more mainstream titles have been given. There is noticeable static in the right channel; what is obviously an LP-sourced master was used which surprises me considering that the master tape should have been available. But the music itself is what matters most, and Ipotesi wastes no time in delivering a quality auditory experience.

"Quando le Parole" briefly heralds the album by going in no less than three distinct directions, before settling abruptly into the awkward "Incidente." Before you have time to adjust, the song shifts gears to a more familiar 4/4 rock foundation. This only lasts a minute as a call-and-response between organ and flute introduce the "Infanzia" suite. Part "a)I Movimento" uses triplets repeatedly and with variation, primarily demonstrated with an extended piano monologue. This segues into the surprisingly beautiful "b)II Movimento" or Second Movement. Acoustic guitars shine in an unexpected Prog Folk diversion and Guasconi's singing suits the melody perfectly. "Voglia di Essere" introduces a descending riff before again morphing into an experimental aside, which itself abruptly ends and is replaced with a new musical idea. Moments of brilliance on Ipotesi are many, but are so brief they may be easy to miss. Take for instance the figure between 1:19 and 1:24 - most bands could write an entire song around this one pattern - Gruppo d'Alternativa only relies on it for five seconds.

"Solitudine" has a celestial quality that quickly fades pending arrival of a tritone figure between guitar and bass. Flute and bassoon join in for some Zappa goofiness before transitioning to a Canterbury jig...then the whole thing repeats, but in overdrive. This amazing composition may be the best distillation of Ipoteosi if you had to convey it in five minutes or less. "Appare la Forma" starts out with a playful bass line that anchors an extended jam. After two minutes though, Gd'A have moved on to other challenges, pairing a dissonant guitar chord with an opposing flute melody. The long "La Tua Lotta" is built around a repeating scheme of alternating time signatures and well-timed pauses. "Messaggio Libero" revisits folk inspiration briefly, but quickly collapses into a cacophony of seemingly improvised yet carefully orchestrated ensemble work. At times the individual members seem to have their own agendas but somehow this selfish nature is selfless at the same time. Finally, the song "Ipotesi" uses only guitar and voice to make its point, and ends with no sense of closure. To do so would be condescending to the listener. Ipotesi needs no ribbon around it; this imperfect present is wrapped up in its own unique package, ready to be opened.

Report this review (#914590)
Posted Saturday, February 16, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Gruppo d'Alternativa originated from Milano and competed for a short time with a seven-piece line-up, which consisted of Tino Guasconi on vocals, Gianfranco Fumagalli on flute, Leonardo Dosso on bassoon/acoustic guitar, Rodolfo Pace on electric guitar, Roberto Romano on keyboards, Paolo Rizzi on bass and Nino Flenda on drums/percussion.They wrote their only album in 1972, dedicated to a friend of singer Tino Guasconi, who died in a road accident.Their work was even performed for some time at Teatro Uomo with a good response by the public.The original vinyl, which features the band's name simply as GdA, came out in 1972 on Harvest.

Very much Classical-influenced, ''Ipotesi'' is an album, which recalls the folky side of BLOCCO MENTALE or CELESTE and the intense moments of BANCO DEL MUTUO SOCCORSO, having an amazing balance all the way with clever and interesting arrangements, while the pieces often flow as a long story.Narration was delivered by keyboardist Roberto Romano.Romantic acoustic textures with pastoral flute parts break often into complex Italian Sympho Rock with dramatic vocals, deep organ showering and scratching electric guitars.What sets this group a bit apart from the rest of Italian symphonic bands is the presence of bassoon along with the flutes in many moments, adding eventually a kind of R.I.O flavor to the album.The instrumental parts are full of power and intensity with chaotic interplays and frequent changes between acoustic and electric variations.The keyboard work is particularly great, either offered through atmospheric and mellow waves or delivered with passion and depth, revealing both Classical and psychedelic inspirations.Some jazzy interludes are also present in sporadic parts and the battles between flute, organ and guitars are the absolute highlight of the release.

After the demise of the group Leonardo Dosso spent some brief time with Stormy Six between 1976 and 1977, participated in Luciano Basso's second album ''Cogli il giorno'' and later he established The Arnold Woodwind Quintet, a Chamber Music ensemble, with which he spent over twenty years.Paolo Rizzi appeared as a guest on double-bass on the thrilling self-titled album of Italian Prog legends Maxophone.

Under-the-radar release, which has plenty to offer to the demanding proghead.A variety of melodramatic and romantic atmospheres, wrapped up in short but always fascinating structures.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

Report this review (#1080665)
Posted Saturday, November 23, 2013 | Review Permalink

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