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Leo Nero - Vero CD (album) cover

VERO

Leo Nero

Rock Progressivo Italiano


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Todd
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Rock Progressivo Italiano!
4 stars The heir of "Ys"?

"Vero" is the first and best work of Gianni Leone, keyboardist for Il Balletto di Bronzo. "Vero" was composed in 1974, about a year after the breakup of Balletto. Leone plays all the instruments on the album, recording it for the most part in 1975 in New York City. The album was finally released in 1977. Never reaching the dizzying, swirling heights of Il Balletto di Bronzo's masterpiece "Ys," yet "Vero" offers some wonderful songs and moments.

"Vero" is a concept album, related to Leone's state of mind following the breakup of Il Balletto di Bronzo in 1973. After "Ys" was released in 1972 to much professional satisfaction and critical acclaim, the band decided to indulge in the fruits of their success. They moved into a communal house in Rimini, where they lived a reckless, Bohemian lifestyle. In (roughly--my Italian isn't great) Leone's words, "There were no rules. . . . There were all manner of people coming and going, doing anything and everything. . . . But it must be said that in doing so we were committing suicide. . . . The excesses began to sow seeds of discord between us in every respect. . . . We had no interest in anything that was remotely bureaucratic or organized. We were in great peril. It was a true debacle. 'Ys' was an escape, and we continued playing it always--and playing only these songs. We slowly lost our inspiration. We lost desire to try anything new together. . . . We had to give up. I remember looking back at that house in Rimini was like watching an ancient civilization unravel."

After living in a place where he was literally never alone, Leone suddenly found himself quite alone, abandoned, surveying the remains of his shattered dreams. This trial proved to be an impetus for that lost inspiration, as the major themes of "Vero" revolve around isolation, loneliness, and dealing with these feelings. The entire album is suffused with a deep melancholy, far more quiet and melodic than anything Il Balletto ever did.

The first side of the album consists of a more singer-songwriter style, with emotive ballads and beautiful melodies typically based on vocals and piano, with other instruments gradually joining. The pieces can certainly be considered as multiple parts of a single work, not only lyrically, but also several musical themes are repeated between the songs. It is here that Leone bares his sensitive soul for us. For example, from "Tu te ricorderai de mi" (You'll remember me): "I don't dream any more but I'm still here / My strength at last is gone / I don't laugh anymore." But the best song on the first side is "La bambola rotta" (the broken doll), which is a tragic instrumental with layers upon layers of mood and sound.

The second side is less reflective and more energetic, sounding the echoes of "Ys." These songs are much more progressive in the traditional sense, with keyboard pyrotechnics and complex time signatures. There are several classics here that are played in the Balletto live shows even now: "Tastieri isteriche," "Il castello," "La discesa nel cervello," and "Una gabbia per me." The most "Ys-like" is "La discesa nel cervello" (descent into the mind)--this even contains an excerpt of "Secondo incontro" from "Ys," although the tape is played backwards. Wonderful songs and moments abound.

"Vero" seems to serve as a type of catharsis for Gianni Leone, exorcising the demons of his frustrated hopes and dreams that died with the dissolution of Il Balletto di Bronzo. Somehow through the haze and disappointment, he finds the will and even desire to continue on and make more wonderful music. This is a wonderful discovery, especially for RPI fans. And an absolute must for fans of Il Balletto di Bronzo. Four stars.

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Send comments to Todd (BETA) | Report this review (#411225)
Posted Friday, March 04, 2011 | Review Permalink
Finnforest
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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Balletto's offspring is wonderful post classic-period RPI

Leo Nero is the assumed name of Gianne Leone, the keyboardist and mastermind behind the legendary RPI band Il Balletto Di Bronzo, whose 1972 album 'Ys' is considered one of the true classics of the serious RPI aficionado. That band split shortly afterward and Nero/Leone left for the United States in the mid 1970s. He recorded this album in 1976 in New York City before moving to Los Angeles for a few years, eventually heading back to Italy. He played all of the instruments on 'Vero' making it a true solo project. It is written he was hanging out with the New York Dolls around this period, perhaps sharing their love for bold self-expression. 'Vero' certainly lacks the heaviness and serious aura of 'Ys' but it stands on its own as a worthy successor, an incredible little album full of charming moments. I love this album and feel it should grace every serious RPI collection even if it begins to move in a more art-rock direction, not unlike the early Gabriel solo albums broke ranks with the Genesis sound. Nero moves from the classic heavy progressive rock into somewhat more accessible territory here, but the love for experimentation remains alive. He tries and succeeds at creating a very personal, intimate sound, one that retains drama but also doesn't take itself quite as seriously. For me 'Vero' functions as well as many of the solo albums I've heard by acclaimed Italian artists like Battiato, Battisti, or Rocchi. I truly enjoyed getting to know it.

Continuing the Gabriel analogy, one can sense that 'Vero' reflects a man moving away from the youthful camaraderie of 'the band's music' to music which more closely reflects his own personal feelings at the time. Without creative compromise, and playing all instruments, Nero is free to go wherever he wishes. In the first four tracks he is largely introspective and fairly traditional. Lovely and simple songs based on gorgeous piano playing and generally upbeat vocals, sentimental mood, and drumming that is intermittent and blue collar (not too fancy.) Things change with 'La Bombola Rotta' when the soft, melancholic opening hits a dramatic and loud boom! This ushers in a tortured, mega-saturated guitar solo which screams like Neil Young throttling his black Les Paul, eventually transitioning to some virtuoso piano playing to finish. I can't stress the quality of Leo's piano playing. While he does play some synth, organ, and mellotron, this album is a piano lover's treat.

From here the second half of the album gets more mischievous, with 'Tastiere Isteriche' taking some side roads into jazzy sections and light, tongue-in-cheek avant-garde. 'Il Castello' sounds a bit art-pop in a Tai Phong style, while 'La Discesa' employs strange voices and bizarre, somewhat dissonant keyboards. 'Rock and Roll Cat' is just a bit of silliness before the closer 'Una Gabbia Per Me' hauls out heavy, doomy, distortion-laden power chords. While I can't quite call it a masterpiece by PA definition, it is for me one of those perfect little albums from the 1970s that encapsulates what I personally love about music. Feelings over form, a gentle human touch over all of the flash and formula hawking too many of today's high profile releases. If you don't go into it expecting another Il Balletto Di Bronzo album, you might just be very pleasantly surprised.

Heartily recommended to RPI fans, especially those who love the 70s sound, with plenty of warm piano, a little mischief, and a bit of the 'singer-songwriter' vibe. Between 3 and 4 stars but I'm a big fan of this so I'm rounding up.

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Send comments to Finnforest (BETA) | Report this review (#412270)
Posted Sunday, March 06, 2011 | Review Permalink

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