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Il Balletto di Bronzo - Live In Rome CD (album) cover

LIVE IN ROME

Il Balletto di Bronzo

Rock Progressivo Italiano


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erik neuteboom
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars

Ask fans of the Seventies Italian Progrock about their favorite albums from that era, I am sure that most of them will name Ys (1972) by Il Balletto Di Bronzo, among legends PFM, Banco and Le Orme. Personally I have opposite feelings about the music on that highly acclaimed record: on one hand I am delighted about the sumptuous, often compelling vintage keyboard drenched symphonic rock moments, on the other hand I can't get into the nerveracking avant-garde inspired interludes. For me it remains a bit too complex and too varied progrock album but I really appreciate Il Balletto Di Bronzo their adventurous musical ideas on Ys, in my opinion a 'classic' in progrock history that can compete with Yes, Genesis, ELP and King Crimson their best work! In 2007 Il Balletto Di Bronzo performed as a trio old and new material during a concert in the wonderful historical Italian capital Rome (they also did in 1996, in 1999 followed by the Trys album). First Live In Rome 2007 was released as a CD (2007), now there is the DVD version (2008), you can experience a bit of the magic of that legendary Ys album, 35 years after its release.

The first part of the concert contains five compositions (two from Trys) featuring theatrical vocals, lots of sumptuous keyboardwork (often fat and spectacular synthesizer flights) and a very propulsive and 'groovy' rhythm-section with compelling and hypnotizing atmospheres and obvious ELP hints. It sounds a bit weird and experimental but also captivating and adventurous, perhaps you can describe it as 'an avant-garde version of ELP'. And then ... an abridged version (25 minutes) of the Ys album, now we can enjoy one of the highlights of Seventies Italian Progrock on DVD! Well, this trio comes mighty close in capturing the unique spirit of the album Ys: a choir in the intro and then breathtaking keyboardwork (from swirling portable Hammond organ to flashy Minimoog-like flights) in Introduzione, lots of sensational sumptuous keyboards, theatrical vocals and a wonderful final part with harpsichord in the more complex sounding Primo Incontro, splendid drumming, a (majestic silver plated Fender) bass solo with freaky synthesizer support and a jazzy piano with a propulsive rhythm-section in Secondo Incontro, lots of piano, theatrical vocals and a distorted bass sound in the experimental Terzo Incontro and finally a bombastic climat with drums and organ in the final song entitled Epilogo, what an awesome and compelling sound, I was carried away during this small half an hour tribute to the album Ys, a big hand for this Il Balletto Di Bronzo trio! Then 3 songs I have never heard of but to me the swinging L'Emofago and Il Castello sound very pleasant with spectacular keyboardwork and an adventurous rhythm-section, often reminding me of ELP. An extra on this DVD is a solo performance by singer/keyboardplayer Gianni Leone, I have to admit that I am a bit disappointed about his blend of electronic music and synthi-pop, only Hommage To Balleto is interesting with sequencers and virtuosic play on keyboards. But in general I miss the bombastic and compelling atmosphere without the rhythm-section on the original Ys album and to be honest, a drum-machine sounds so poor.

My conclusion: the first part will not be everybody's cup of tea but I appreciate the adventurous mind of Gianni Leone, the Ys rendition is jaw-dropping, the final part is good but the Gianni Leone solo inclusion fails to keep my attention so I quickly zapp back to ... the Ys rendition .... in my opinion these 25 minutes are worth to buy this DVD!

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Send comments to erik neuteboom (BETA) | Report this review (#177256)
Posted Friday, July 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "this testimony represents what BdB is today, as a trio, captured without any nostalgic intent."

That excerpt from the DVD booklet sums up pretty well what you can expect from this improbable release. It is not often Italian Prog fans get the chance to purchase a DVD of a live performance of early '70s material even if the above statement gives you two clues about potential pitfalls. The first part of the sentence is telling you that there is but one original member from the "Ys" era, and while he may be the most important guy there is still something less than authentic when classic period bands show up under the old name with one original member and a gang of newer guys (even if hugely competent they are.) The second part of the sentence proclaiming "no nostalgic intent" is also correct and this works both for and against the project. I'm all for playing down nostalgia in the sappy sense but here Leone takes it too far, cutting the classic piece "Ys" down for the purpose of including some solo material that may be of little interest to most prog fans. That's a mistake. There was plenty of room to include the full "Ys" piece (a short album) and still present other material and given the historical reverence for that album I am mystified by the decision. Imagine Yes agreeing to perform Relayer for a special DVD and then cutting Gates in half to include a few extra Anderson solo pop tracks. Or Rush cutting a special Hemispheres presentation short for excerpts from "My Favorite Headache." You get the point: most prog fans want their most revered material treated with respect and that means you don't chop it up. So, while I felt the need to make a purist rant we move on to what IS here.

And it is a blast! Enough is done right with this DVD that I can almost forgive the shortened "Ys" suite. The show starts with a very simple but hugely dramatic drum assault by Adolfo Ramundo that was perfect, snapping everyone to immediate attention. The eight tracks preceding and following the "Ys" suite consist of newer material as well as a few songs from BdB's first album. The newer material was pretty decent in the live setting, presented with balls and bombast, and flamboyance. Leone certainly has a flair for the flamboyant theatrical presence. The suite itself is sandwiched in the middle of the set and was really very satisfying on most levels. Besides the missing minutes my other criticism of this material would be that I missed the presence of the guitar. As good as Ramundo and bassist Marco Capozi are I really longed for the heavy guitar of Lino Ajello. But besides that issue the new BdB kicks some serious arse. Ramundo and Capozi are fabulous, anchoring the whole show in heavy grooves and dynamic precision showing how tuned in they were. Capozi did a splendid job of covering for the lack of guitar with a more lead-oriented bass approach. Check out the ominous bass notes behind the harpsichord in "Terzo." And Leone himself rose to this occasion splendidly. He amazed me really. There was no sign here of the middle age slide where guys of Leone's age group can slow up, voice reduced to a lower croak, often backed up by session guys in the shadows to mask the fact they can't get it up anymore. Not the case here, that's for damn sure. Leone assaults his keys like a man half his age banging every single sound he wants out of the box. Vocally he is even more powerful reaching the peaks with what seemed to be ease. He appears just as well preserved looking much younger than his actual age.

With regard to the production they nail it again. Wonderful. The sound and picture are fabulous, clear, free of nonsense effects and artsy clutter. The camera crew deserves special accolades for the perfect use of a hand-held camera giving steady and stunning close-ups of each musician which were skillfully edited into the final product. The ability to really "see" the show is as good here as any live DVD you'll ever see and they don't wreck it with lightning-fast edits and other lame trickery. Extras include roughly 20 minutes of his solo act which opened the show and is of mild interest to those here for the bombastic progressive BdB. There is also a photo and newclippings slideshow. Rounding up to 4 stars for this rare opportunity, recommend highly to fans of saucy Italian Prog and fans of heavy keyboard bombast heaven. I will say that noobs should not start their BdB investigation here. Get the original "Ys" album first and if you love that then check out this show. 7/10

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Send comments to Finnforest (BETA) | Report this review (#180143)
Posted Tuesday, August 19, 2008 | Review Permalink

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