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Il Giro Strano - La Divina Commedia CD (album) cover


Il Giro Strano

Rock Progressivo Italiano

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3 stars "La Divina Commedia" is another one of those Mellow Italian prog gems from the early 70's. With a nice mixture of hammond organ, flute and electric guitar, IL GIRO STRANA explore the heavy depths of 70's progressive rock getting into some pretty heavy moments. "La Divina Commedia" is slightly acid, slighty jazz oriented progressive rock with a real nostalgic underground feeling. Songs are nice and long (10 -15 Mins) and offer extended jams and long instrumental passages. Although the sound is not as robust as it could be, you enjoyment will not be impacted as the level of musicianship is exceptional. These guys were at the time a sort of supergroup having young members from many other prog bands at that time.
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Posted Monday, March 15, 2004 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This only effort by Il Giro Strano was never actually released in vinyl format, so the CD 'La Divina Commedia' may be as well considered as a work of archaeological research. And thank God it happened, since the material compiled here is some of the most stunning and energetic hard prog to come out of Italy. The sound quality is undisputedly sub-par (except for some decent remix in the first two tracks), since the recorded tracks are demos that were harshly completed right before an official recording schedule, . a situation that eventually was never to be. This six-piece combo sounds really loud (no matter how unclear he sound quality is), with the featured presence of: keyboardist Feltri who's completely absorbed by the influence of Emerson, Lord and some Wright-esque psychedelic layers; and saxophonist/flautist Maio, who incarnates the Italian answer to VdGG's David Jackson. It is no surprise that the rhythm section has to lay an extremely tight foundation to sustain such heavy sounding display. On the other had it's a pity that the lead guitarist isn't given more space to come to the fore (I wonder what would have happened, otherwise); but then again, Mirko Ostinet's powerful tenor range - very similar to that of Biglietto's lead vocalist - allows him to perform his sung parts in order to convey an effective complementation with his fellows in charge of keyboards and wind instruments. 'Il 13ş Transistor' and 'Il Corridoio Nero' are my favourite numbers, the latter including an amazing drum solo right in the middle of the final rondo-like section. I find tracks 3 and 5 less impressive in comparison, but nevertheless they are still quite enjoyable: 'Il Vecchio Old Sea' tries some melancholy trends, while the closing number takes back some of the peculiar energy of the first two tracks. The title track is in fact an ambitious suite (an older demo from 1972, the poorest sounding one of the repertoire may I add). It doesn't really work as a compositional cohesive whole, but it could have been a classic of Continental prog under more favourable conditions; way back then, the 1973 bassist Mario Pignata filled the role of lead guitarist while someone else played the bass. My overall rating is based upon my positive reaction to the attractive compositions, the proficient performances, and intensive jamming: my rating for sound quality would be 1 ˝ star (or 2, maybe), but in my case, I never let this kind of factors distract me from the most important matter, the artistic quality.
Report this review (#18998)
Posted Wednesday, May 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
3 stars This CD release from the 1973 album by Italian band Il Giro Strano is dedicated to their singer Mirko Ostinet who sadly died in 1983. He was one of the most promising and acclaimed Italian voices: powerful, melodic and emotional. His contribution on this album sounds as the most original from all members because the organ reminds me of The Nice and ELP, the (sometimes) a bit screamy saxophone evokes King Crimson and the flute play is in the vein of Jethro Tull and Focus. The structure of the five (mainly) long compositions sounds simple: lots of organ waves and many soli on saxophone, guitar and flute. The tracks "Il 13 transistor" ("Pictures at an exhibition"-like climate), "Il corridoio" (echoes from The Nice) and "La divina commedia" (sounds like a Keith Emerson tribute) feature an omnipresence of the Hammond organ. The song "Il vecchio Oldsea" starts with guitarwork in the vein of Jimmy Page, then an accellaration with Jethro Tull-like flute and in the end a jazzrock inspired guitar solo. The vocals are very strong. The composition "Il pianeta della verita" delivers swinging duets between the organ and saxophone. A good album from the Mellow Records label.
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Posted Thursday, October 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Heavy, adventurous lost RPI gem

Il Giro Strano is one of those lost RPI classics that even many Italian prog fans may not yet have discovered. They were formed in 1971 from two Savonna bands and featured Alessio Feltri, who would go on to more notoriety in the band Corte dei Miracoli. The band was an adventurous jamming powerhouse favoring experimentations of Hammond organ, saxophone, and flute, atop a sizzling rhythm section and passionate vocals. Hard rock/heavy prog improvisations were colored with influences of psych-rock, English symphonic, and jazz. While writers will note influences of bands like VDGG, Yes, Tull, and Floyd, these comparisons are mostly descriptions of certain sections-Giro Strano is clearly an RPI stalwart that should be more rightly compared to bands like Rocky's Filj, Officina Meccanica, and perhaps even Metamorfosi. They even remind me of the Danish jams from the superb Midnight Sun though they might be grittier than that. During their initial two-year run they recorded the material for the Mellow Records "La Divina Commedia" album although the band never achieved a release at the time. They played some of the large Italian prog festivals of the day (the Pop Festival at Villa Pamphili and the first Pop Meeting In Genova) before disbanding in 1973. There would be reunions in the late '70s but these were said to be much more commercial affairs.

The album contains only five tracks but they are long suites ranging from 7-15 minutes in length each. Each track has plenty of time to explore improvisation making this a true progressive fan's treat. Right out of the gate they dive into a driving, tense rhythm that builds and releases while offering the occasional lovely melodic bridge. Those are rare however. "La Divina" is for the "difficult prog" fan with its erratic, experimental saxophone and organ interplays making up the meat of the feast. To this the band adds jarring, sometimes jerky bass and guitar playing which combined with the often tense pace can be off-putting at first listen. I have to admit it took me many plays to develop an appreciation for what they are doing here. The secret weapons they have to win you over are plentiful. The late Mirko Ostinet (who died in 1983) was a powerful vocalist, another notable in a genre filled with great singers. His passion often propels the band to greater heights. Sax man Mariano Maio laid down his flute parts with the same heat turning "Il corridoio nero" into a track that will thrill Tull lovers. Feltri is noted for his Hammond play on this album but there are also some wonderfully strange Farfisa performances adding yet another color. These occasional interludes almost sound like a "Saucerful of Secrets" era space freak-out. The drum playing is jazz-nimble and playful but tight-even a couple solos. "Il Vecchio Oldsea" has some nice "I'm Your Captain" dreamy sequences. The 15-minute and 4-part title track it a true centerpiece with plenty of bombastic keyboards and guitar/sax warring. It is the truly exciting band interplay at work that make Giro Strano worth hunting down, and their rough-around-the-edges sound means they are most suitable for prog fans who enjoy an aggressive show of playing. They are probably less suitable for fans of the formal, high-end Italian bands who crave lots of extravagance, pretty acoustic interludes or peaceful synth/mellotron rides. Giro Strano like to break a sweat and their musical spirit was unbridled.

There is only one caveat which must be addressed and it will be a deal breaker for some. Only half of this album was really finished at the time, the other half are recordings culled from band rehearsals. Thus there is a significant amount of material here with sound quality far below today's standards, even below properly mastered recordings from the 1970s. People who simply cannot deal with sub-par sound will have difficulty approaching this recording. But I cannot stress this enough: if you have even some tolerance for less-than-ideal sound quality, the material here is well worth the effort. As the CD notes express well "the quality of the music captured on these tapes far outweigh their technical flaws." I agree wholeheartedly and as a fan of the more "difficult" branch of Italian prog, I now consider Il Giro Strano to be an indispensable title. The better half now sounds fine to me while the unfinished half just sounds like a hot '70s band that were recorded live in some smoky club. You can imagine the sound I refer to-sure it can be a bit rough but my advice is to snap up this rarity while you have the chance. Mellow took great time and effort to salvage some fine music that might well have been lost to history, such efforts deserve our appreciation and support.

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Posted Monday, March 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars According to "Wayside Music" IL GIRO STRANO never released an album. "The band decided to split up when a record deal would have forced them to move to Rome". So what we have here are various songs they did between 1972 and 1973. On the back of the cd cover they comment about the "sonic flaws" of this recording, well that's a huge understatement.The first two tracks are fine and just a pleasure to listen to.They play a jazzy flavoured brand of music where they like to jam with organ and drums usually leading the way. Lots of sax as well. The vocalist is a real talent. Unfortunately the last three songs (32 minutes of music) are unlistenable for me even though i've heard them 3 times. I would say they're below "bootleg" quality. If I was rating the first two tracks alone it would easily be 4 stars, and i'm thankful we have these two tracks (over 24 minutes of music) that give us a glimpse at how amazing this band was.
Report this review (#218738)
Posted Thursday, May 28, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars The italian Pawn Hearts, maybe it's an exagerate definition, but surely La Divina Commedia from Il Giro Strano is one of the most underrated italian album. It's not even exactly an album but just collection of songs never released and 3 of them suffer also of a very bad sound quality, but it's more than enough to understand the great level of this band. The singer is one the best italian prog voice and music is just a splendid combination of dark jazzy psichedelic prog. After listening this album you will feel regret that this band never had an official release, with a good recording surely would be a masterpiece!
Report this review (#301580)
Posted Saturday, October 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Like Buon Vecchio Charlie, this monster rarity from 1973 never saw release until 1992, and has never been issued on vinyl. In fact, the Mellow CD has never been reprinted and this obscure nugget risks drifting into forgotten territory. So, I thought I'd take the opportunity to refresh the memory of those that have heard it, and perhaps pique the interest of those that haven't. Il Giro Strano were a precursor to Corte dei Miracoli, as keyboardist Alessio Feltri was the driving force behind both bands. Don't expect any crazy synths on this one though, as La Divinia Commedia is a mostly organ-driven production, supplemented amply by sax and flute, with the typical heavy prog sound of the day. But Il Giro Strano were an above average group, and the last three tracks on the disc indicate the band had some very interesting ideas. Unfortunately, those songs were never properly recorded, and we are left with a historical document in the form of a hastily made demo.

Fortunately, the band was properly documented on the first two tracks, totaling 24 minutes. "Il 13° Transistor" begins eerily, evoking the sound of E.A. Poe or J.E.T. and briskly picks up the tempo as the song chugs along. A majestic half-time section offers some respite from the break-neck repeating figure. An extended sax solo adds yet more variation, then a swirling organ break gives way to a reprise of the intro theme. While nice, "Il 13° Transistor" is far from groundbreaking or sophisticated. "Il Corridoio Nero" allows a bit more progress, converting from jazz-rock, to prog folk, to a psych jam - all in the first five minutes. The latter half of the song is a technical workout, gradually increasing in tempo, and features both sax and drum solos.

I refrain from a review of the remaining tracks, as the sound quality is so bad it does not warrant one. However, you will want to listen to them at least once, as they do provide a glimpse of what the band may have accomplished. Viewing them in the proper context (as bonus tracks) does not prevent Il Giro Strano from earning a three-star recommendation, as the preceding studio work is undoubtedly good, but regrettably non-essential. Perhaps one day La Divinia Commedia will be reissued or at least sold digitally...until that day, it is not worth the $40-60 it is currently fetching.

Report this review (#869281)
Posted Friday, November 30, 2012 | Review Permalink

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