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ROCK PROGRESSIVO ITALIANO

A Progressive Rock Sub-genre


From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Rock Progressivo Italiano definition

aka "RPI"


"So it's an established fact that in Italy during the period between 1971-1974, a music movement existed where bands would challenge each other to see who could be the most imaginative, who could create the album for the ages. They were all painters and sculptors just as in Renaissance Italy." -Tom Hayes/Gnosis


1. The background
As the 60s drew to an end, Italy experienced a wave of new ideas and ideals which coincided with the new musical era being born. It would not be exaggeration to state that the 70s were a watershed period in the history of the country. Even though the 60s are generally remembered as the years of the 'economic boom', it was only in the following decade that Italy made the long, difficult change from a relatively poor, traditional country into a fully developed Western society. A look at any timeline for 70s Italy will show an incredible concentration of events that changed the fabric of Italian society irrevocably: laws and acts were passed which affected worker's rights, family and divorce law, and women's rights and reproductive health. In a country where the physical presence of the Catholic Church has always been impossible to overlook, not least because of its open intervention in the country's political affairs, the introduction of such radical changes was no small feat.

Most of those changes were made possible by the presence of a strong left-wing component in Italian political life, even if regarded with extreme suspicion by both the Church and Italy's main ally, the United States. Though the existence of a party that openly called itself Communist was not exclusive to Italy, at the time the PCI (Partito Comunista Italiano) was considered more of a danger than, for instance, its French equivalent - mainly due to Italy's strategic position in the Mediterranean area, as well as the party's obvious connection with the Soviet Union. Such a peculiar, potentially explosive situation sadly became a breeding ground for a number of extremist groups, who were responsible for the season of violence and unrest commonly known as the 'Anni di piombo' ('years of lead'), which lasted well into the first half of the Eighties. The number of casualties due to terror acts and rioting was quite high, involving people from all walks of life. However, the defining episode of the decade was the kidnapping and subsequent murder of well-known politician Aldo Moro (a left-leaning Christian Democrat) by the notorious Brigate Rosse ('Red Brigades') in the spring of 1978.


2. The birth of a movement
The turbulent times affected countless musicians looking for something new-some way to parallel the political climate through artistic media. Ranging from highly educated conservatory students to local singer-songwriters, this spirit managed to captivate an entire country within a few short years. Young people were restless, bursting with a burning desire to change the staid, suffocating atmosphere of Italian society starting with one of its symbols, its venerable musical tradition. Most musicians had more or less strong left-wing leanings (the prime example being Area), while the few examples of openly right-wing bands never managed to break out of obscurity, or gain more than a strictly cult following.

Without a strong rock tradition in the 60s Italy had mainly produced beat bands of varying quality, as well as singers well-versed in the long-standing canzone tradition of the country. As the tidal wave of counter-culture swept in, it brought revolution not only in the form of progressive rock, but also differing forms of heavier, continental rock which was establishing itself around the same time. Psychedelic influences and the incorporation of classical music may have been the same stepping stones used by most other progressive scenes around the globe during the same period, but even at this embryonic stage there was a whiff of something else in the air. In the late 60s when the beat scene was already heading towards a decline, a number of bands formed, some of them releasing singles (or even albums) that bridged the gap between beat, conventional Italian easy listening music (musica leggera), and the new ideas coming from Great Britain - among them, New Trolls, Le Orme, Panna Fredda, I Quelli (later to become Premiata Forneria Marconi), Il Mucchio, and Fabio Celi e gli Infermieri.

"We wanted to put some improvisations between the singing parts and we had to make up our minds about the style to follow... After having been to the Isle of Wight festival, it was clear to all of us that we couldn't keep on playing the usual songs with verses and refrains." -Toni Pagliuca, Le Orme


3. The golden years
The beginning of the new decade saw the rise of a countless number of bands and artists, some of whom would go on to become successful acts. PFM, Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, Osanna, Il Balletto di Bronzo, Quella Vecchia Locanda belong to this group, with all but the latter being still active at the time of writing. Some others only managed to release one album (or even just a handful of singles) before they disbanded. The prog-rock bug became so widespread in Italy that some experts say every artist and band in Italy produced at least one progressive album during this time. A number of well-known mainstream artists started their career with a prog album, like singer-songwriters Riccardo Cocciante (with Mu) and Ivano Fossati (with the first Delirium album, Dolce acqua). Or, like Lucio Battisti or Fabrizio De André, they released strongly prog-influenced albums when the movement was at its height.

During the peak years of the RPI movement in the early 70s, countless bands showcased their talent in the many pop festivals organized throughout Italy. The festivals were often free of charge and boasted a level artistic freedom and competition seldom seen in popular music. Fans witnessed bands rise from obscurity to compete on the same stage as the heavy hitters. This musical competition created something of an upward spiral; everyone tried to outdo each other, producing unique sounds and incorporating disparate influences into their music. The variety of the music went through the roof, with every band sharing the same aspirations, though seldom the same sound. It must also be made clear that despite the beliefs of those who write off Italian prog as simply a British counterfeit, many of these bands were creating music that was phenomenally original, experimental, free-spirited, and creatively successful. While bands from abroad helped influence and inspire Italian bands, Italy's young bands quickly took the ball and ran with it. It is ludicrous to suggest the scene a mere imitation. The upward spiral also meant an over saturated market, in which many bands only managed to put out one or two releases with minimal budget and intense recording. Some of the best, most genuine and treasured albums of Rock Progressivo Italiano can be found in this group: Semiramis' "Dedicato a Frazz", Pholas Dactylus' "Concerto delle menti", Raccomandata Ricevuta di Ritorno's "Per un mondo di cristallo", Museo Rosenbach's "Zarathustra", and Balletto di Bronzo's "Ys" to name just a few.

"We had to tackle this tradition, we had to fight against the conventions and refuse to be integrated. The New Sounds hadn't arrived yet, there was no music for the young people, there was nothing, you had to invent and build up your space. Perhaps this was the mainspring that unchained such a creative strength." -Gianni Leone

With time some of the biggest bands achieved international success, with PFM as the best-known example. Lyricist Peter Sinfield, known from his work with giants like King Crimson and ELP, even wrote for the band, while Peter Hammill provided English lyrics for Le Orme's "Felona e Sorona". Ironically this success often meant a detour from the roots of the RPI sounds, making these albums more aligned to the British scene than the bulk of the artists and albums in the archives. Look beneath the surface in order to discover hidden (or not so hidden) gems. While the oft-mentioned big 3 of Italian prog (PFM, Banco, and Le Orme) are conveniently considered the peak by those casually mentioning this scene, RPI enthusiasts know the river runs so much deeper, and many of our personal favourites are found outside of these popular groups. Those who search beyond the surface will discover that the most daring and provocative works were often made by more obscure groups who released one fantastic album and then vanished into thin air. This common syndrome of Italian "one-shot" bands became the bane of many RPI fans.

Since so many different musicians experimented with the progressive format, you will also find a broad musical scope within RPI, something which has kept the subgenre fresh and vital over time. Examples include Franco Battiato (still a very successful artist in Italy), Picchio dal Pozzo, Opus Avantra, Stormy Six and Area, who each in their own individual way, show a more cosmopolitan flavour and range of influences than most other acts.

After its explosive development in the early 70s, the movement followed the same path as other progressive musical movements around the world as the 80s approached. Some influential artists continued to release new albums though never with the same success as in the halcyon days. Others changed with the times and became highly successful mainstream artists both in Italy and internationally. As elsewhere in the prog universe the quantity and quality of RPI began to dry up a bit in the late 70s and early 80s, although there were some quality releases from that period. These titles tended to be more melodic and less brashly avant-garde than the classic period but were respectable nonetheless. To name but a few there were Locanda Delle Fate, Stefano Testa, Pierpaolo Bibbo, and L'Estate de San Martino. Area, Stormy Six, and PFM had a good title or two left in them as well.


4. Musical features of RPI
Italian symphonic prog is notable for the prominence of classical influences, often providing the driving force behind the music. The new listener will discover that this particular branch of RPI feels more like classical music in a rock setting as opposed to occasional classical influences on top of the rock format. Furthermore, the rich, diverse musical traditions of Italy permeate the albums, creating a strong national and even regional character. The "textbook" RPI groups can usually be identified by a pervasive sense of romantic melancholy and earthy flair, sometimes enhanced by baroque elements, sometimes by more ethnic ones. Other distinctive features include overt opera and operetta influences, wild and uncontrolled storytelling, and as a general rule, bold and highly emotional vocals. There is extroverted, operatic gallantry and panache or mellow balladry; exciting use of all sorts of keyboards, with sounds heard nowhere else but in this particular scene; exotic instruments such as aggeggi, ottavino, mandoloncello, clavicembalo- names that tickle the imagination and leave their distinct mark on the music. There is a uniquely magical marriage of the traditional to the modern, of the warm to the wild. The combination of flute, piano and violin is often encountered, and the interplay between the first two instruments in particular supplies the subgenre with a fair share of its identity and flavour.

Though the symphonic element is indeed the most common in RPI, the genre would be better characterized as eclectic. Jazz-fusion, folk, hard rock riffing ā la Jethro Tull, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin, intense drama a la Van der Graaf Generator (whose albums were revered in Italy), singer-songwriter, proto-metal, blues, avant tendencies, pop, psych, dark/occult, electronic-the list goes on. Even more amazing, these differences in style can often be found to varying degrees on one album, and still feel natural in the distinct stylistic framework mentioned above.

No overview of RPI would be complete without mentioning the use of the Italian language, by many considered one of the most musical languages in the world. It could be safely stated that the use of Italian is inherent to the soul of RPI, a critical component to the full appreciation of the subgenre. In fact, even if some key RPI albums were translated into English in an attempt to gain international recognition, most of them fail to impress. They feel as if one of the basic ingredients of what makes RPI such a successful concoction is missing. While most serious RPI fans consider Italian vocals essential to their listening experience, it is fair to say that some believe English lyrics are not so detrimental-even if in most cases the odd phrasing, incorrect emphasis, and heavy Italian accent of the singers detract significantly from an authentic overall effect. While some prog fans can find the gregarious Italian vocal style challenging at first, newbies are encouraged to simply stick with it for a while. With only a modest effort any RPI newbie will soon find they cannot imagine this music without traditional Italian vocals-they truly are the icing on the cake.

One common misconception that must be addressed is the belief that any prog band from Italy is an RPI band. There are bands from Italy more appropriate for other genres. As an example, a pure and obvious post-rock band who just happen to be from Rome are going to be in the post-rock sub, not RPI. A pure jazz-fusion band with no RPI characteristics to their sound could be easily placed in the Jazz/Fusion subgenre. The RPI team will work hard to evaluate bands that fit the characteristics and the feel of the subgenre, and those whose primary sound is more suited for another sub are recommended to them.

"Progressive is basically a blending of three elements: the song, the improvisation inspired by jazz and the composition in classical style. This cocktail is interpreted in different ways in every country: in England, for instance, Celtic, rock and blues influences prevail. In Italy we have to cope with our classical tradition: the melodramma, Respighi, Puccini, Mascagni but also all the contemporary classical composers. It's in this legacy, in my opinion, that the specificity of the Italian Progressive Rock is concealed." -Franco Mussida, PFM


5. RPI in the new century
As recently as the 90s and early 2000s RPI again proved its longevity to the prog community. Scores of the classic albums were re-pressed in Japan, then specialized independent labels such as BTF, Mellow and Black Widow (the latter responsible for rescuing the likes of Jacula and Antonius Rex from oblivion) started to re-issue many of the classic albums. As a consequence RPI has not only reached a new generation of fans, but the increased interest and appreciation have led to new material being released. Artists whose recordings have never been in circulation, bands that are as new to our ears as they are to many of those who were there when it happened, now have a new-found audience creating an ironic worm-hole effect: brand new music straight from prog's golden years.

With the revival clearly under way the 90s produced some stellar Italian albums and the beginning of CD reissue fever. In the 2000s the trend has continued to a much more successful degree. RPI is back and fan interest has exploded for both the classic period and the new bands of today like Il Bacio Della Medusa, Pandora, Lagartija, Conqueror, Il Ruscello, Senza Nome, Coral Caves, J'Accuse, Ubi Maior, and the projects of Fabio Zuffanti to name just a few. Italian progressive rock today covers a wide range of styles and influences, but many of the bands ground a portion of their sound in the RPI tradition. Moreover, this first decade of the 21st century has seen a new round of publications (both in print and in electronic format) covering various aspects of Italian prog, as well as the creation of a number of excellent websites dedicated to the subgenre, which are extremely influential as regards the promotion of new bands and artists.

The commercial success of RPI has always been modest compared to the big bands from other countries. However, the quality of the music past and present, from its unique compositions to fiercely independent spirit, has earned the RPI subgenre some of prog's most loyal followers.

By:
Raffaella Berry
Michael Berry
Ryan Olsen
Jim Russell
Linus Wikström
Todd Dudley

For the Mick.
29 July 2009



Current RPI Team
Todd
Aussie-Byrd-Brother (Michael)
rdtprog (Louis)




Additional information:
Italian Prog - A dedicated RPI site
http://www.italianprog.com

Italian Prog Map - A superb blog by RPI writer Andrea Parentin
http://italianprogmap.blogspot.com/

Andrea Parentin's history of RPI (essential reading)
http://www.progarchives.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=33377&PID=2345095#2345095

Andrea Parentin's contemporary Italian prog (newer bands)
http://www.progarchives.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=62150&FID=58

Movimenti Prog
http://www.movimentiprog.net

Centro Studi per il Progressive Italiano
http://www.centrostudiprogitaliano.it

John's Classic RPI blog - Another good blog on the "classic" era
http://classikrock.blogspot.com/

Arlequins - A prog rock webzine with much RPI content
http://www.arlequins.it/gb/index.asp


Where to buy Italian prog
Syn-phonic (USA) - http://www.synphonicmusic.com
Doug Larson (USA) - http://www.douglarsonimports.com
Kinesis (USA) - http://www.kinesiscd.com/index.html
Wayside (USA) - http://www.waysidemusic.com/
Mellow Records (Italy) - http://www.mellowrecords.com
BTF (Italy) - http://www.btf.it
Black Widow Records (Italy) - http://www.blackwidow.it
Camelot Music Store (Italy) - http://www.semanticweb.it/camelotstore/
Discogs - www.discogs.com

Rock Progressivo Italiano Top Albums


Showing only studios | Based on members ratings & PA algorithm* | Show Top 100 Rock Progressivo Italiano | More Top Prog lists and filters

4.40 | 1456 ratings
PER UN AMICO
Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM)
4.36 | 1161 ratings
STORIA DI UN MINUTO
Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM)
4.36 | 987 ratings
DARWIN!
Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso
4.36 | 915 ratings
IO SONO NATO LIBERO
Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso
4.29 | 739 ratings
ZARATHUSTRA
Museo Rosenbach
4.28 | 763 ratings
BANCO DEL MUTUO SOCCORSO
Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso
4.26 | 565 ratings
ARBEIT MACHT FREI
Area
4.23 | 813 ratings
FELONA E SORONA
Orme, Le
4.23 | 739 ratings
L'ISOLA DI NIENTE
Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM)
4.22 | 604 ratings
UOMO DI PEZZA
Orme, Le
4.23 | 500 ratings
YS
Balletto di Bronzo, Il
4.25 | 390 ratings
MAXOPHONE
Maxophone
4.24 | 350 ratings
PALEPOLI
Osanna
4.22 | 309 ratings
CRAC !
Area
4.22 | 277 ratings
DISCESA AGL'INFERI D'UN GIOVANE AMANTE
Bacio Della Medusa, Il
4.20 | 286 ratings
L' ENIGMA DELLA VITA
Logos
4.18 | 275 ratings
CONTAMINAZIONE
Rovescio Della Medaglia, Il
4.19 | 243 ratings
CELESTE [AKA: PRINCIPE DI UN GIORNO]
Celeste
4.15 | 325 ratings
LA CRUDELTĀ DI APRILE
Unreal City
4.23 | 156 ratings
RISVEGLIO
Egonon

Rock Progressivo Italiano overlooked and obscure gems albums new


Random 4 (reload page for new list) | As selected by the Rock Progressivo Italiano experts team

UNA VITA UNA BALENA BIANCA E ALTRE COSE
Testa, Stefano
TARDO PEDE IN MAGIAM VERSUS
Jacula
IL NOME DEL VENTO
Delirium
LA FOLLIA DEL MIMO DI FUOCO
Officina Meccanica

Latest Rock Progressivo Italiano Music Reviews


 Morte Di Un Amore by RANDONE album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.61 | 36 ratings

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Morte Di Un Amore
Randone Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

2 stars I tried to like this album, but I obviously failed in the attempt!

The style of this album is like some kind of strange mixture between romantic Italian pop with some elements of progressive, symphonic and electronic rock. The production of the album is very good, and every instrument sound just fine. That what's my problem with this record? Let's talk about the songs.

Visione introduces the mood of the album, where the voice of Randone is the protagonist. The song contains good arrangements of keyboards, giving some symphonic feeling to the composition. I personally do not like the voice of Nicola, I find it just too strident and even annoying sometimes. He sings with passion his good lyrics, but I just can't bear his singing in this album! Sorry. The ending of the song has a fine atmospheric work with synthesizers, in the vein of Tangerine Dream but with tons of sound effects (wind, wolfs, cats?)

Il Pentimento Di Dio Dolo La Fine del Mondo is a reggae/ska song with not much to comment about beyond the weird vocals and ecclesiastical choirs. Tuttle le Mie Stelle is a romantic acoustic song with beautiful neo-prog keyboards after the chorus. Not really special, but one of the best tracks of the album nevertheless. L'Infinito is a bit darker, but pretty forgettable as well despite the fine guitar solo.

Un Cieco starts with the dolphin's cry, and it contains a good acoustic melody and strong and uplifting chorus. It's one of the most progressive songs of an album that's not really progressive, and also one of the stronger in songwriting. La Giostra is another dramatic song, which talks about the horrors of Auschwitz and contains one of the best instrumental works of the album, especially in the beautiful accordion section.

Strananoia is pure folk-rock with some influences of celtic music. It remembers me to the great Spanish band Celtas Cortos, but very far from their quality. Nevertheless, it contains an interesting final electronic-influenced section. Amore Bianco is another Italian pop-rock song with some fine guitars with slide, but which is not really interesting, leave alone progressive.

Morte di Un Amore is stronger since the beginning, containing some symphonic arrangements and good vocal melodies (despite the singing is so annoying as always) This time even the reggae is good, because it leads to a great electric guitar work and more instrumental and symphonic passages. This album is obviously better when Randone is not singing! And that's maybe the reason Morte di Un Amore is my favorite song of the album. Is the longest one and with the fewer proportion of sections with vocals. The long final atmospheric section bring back the melodies and the Tangerine Dream influences of Visione.

Conclusion: if you like romantic Italian pop, and acts like Franco Battiato, maybe you'll find Morte di Un Amore interesting. But don't expect something like Premiata Forneria Marconi or similar groups, because this album is not so progressive and it's also very far from the quality of this classics.

It's interesting and times, and I consider that Randone had tons of potential despite it's improvable singing. For this reason, I'm eager to hear more albums of this man. But I can't really recommend Morte di un Amore apart from Italian prog completionists!

Best Tracks: Un Cieco, La Giostra, Morte di un Amore.

My Rating: **1/2, rounded down to two stars.

 Rings of Earthly Light  by ERIS PLUVIA album cover Studio Album, 1991
3.75 | 81 ratings

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Rings of Earthly Light
Eris Pluvia Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by maryes

3 stars My review about ERIS PLUVIA "Rings of Earthly Lights" is almost the same review of PROG REVIEWER b olariu ! I recognize the great importance which this album in the early 90's ( the progressive rock "resurrection" moment ) but, like he said ( in other words ) this is don't figures day by day menu ! In fact is only a regular / median album. Although, reserves some good instrumental parts like the first track "Rings Of Earthly Light" ( and I agree again with b olariu) the best song of this record and maybe of whole band discography. Another coincidence between our analysis is absence of more "abetters" instrumental moments , how is expected from a good prog music! One moment with some of this strong intrumental music is track 3 "The Broken Path" but, is so breath... In counterpoint some beautiful flute/acoustic guitar/keyboards themes as for instance track 2 "In The Rising Mist" and track 4 "Glares of Mind" (other good moment ) bring to the listener some "madrigal landscapes" My rate is 3 stars !!!
 Storia Di Un Minuto by PREMIATA FORNERIA MARCONI (PFM) album cover Studio Album, 1972
4.36 | 1161 ratings

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Storia Di Un Minuto
Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM) Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by Luqueasaur

5 stars My favorite debut in prog rock: 9/10

This album is meaningful to me because it was the first I bought without having prior listened to it (and I paid mere 13 dollars!). Until then, I had little contact with PFM other than their long and eccentric name - as the band members say, ''the more difficult to remember a band's name, the more difficult to forget it" - and the high rating of their first two albums. Assuming this is a debut, the acclaim is at the very least suspicious, "how can a new band start right off the bat so strongly?". Well, thing is that by the time PFM released their first album in Jan, 1972, the band members had experience on jamming various genres in their earlier band I Quelli ("Them [Weirdos]"), including prog rock. It is no surprise that their first release would be as strong as a veteran band's at their prime, mostly because they were so.

The first thing that called my attention on STORIA DI UN MINUTO is its eclectism, far broader than other contemporaneous Italian bands such as BANCO or MUSEO. They, as usual, syncretizes symphonic classical and traditional Italian music to the rock context of the 70s, except that they take a step further and also pour in healthy doses of blues and folk, the latter taking the limelight on most occasions. Also, their vocalist isn't the strongest point, differently from the aforementioned bands. That brings in a vacancy of prominence, solidly taken by the instruments, which range from heavy synthesizers (an innovation for Italian music) to pastoral flutes and further beyond. Long, varied instrumental parts are the norm.

While most songs aren't inherently complex, at least on a technical level, the intricate melody and its metamorphic nature confer a continuous flow of varied influences and sections, all unique to their own, almost in an incoherent fashion. Such as on Č Festa, bringing the hardest rock La Premiata offers that, after dissolving into a jazzy interlude, changes yet again to a folksy recap of the intro. Things of this nature are common in STORIA and that makes me think the musicians forgot about the quality of bonding (musical) concepts together, opting instead to just jam whatever they felt like. Another point that diverges PFM from their contemporaneous counterparts. They're far more dynamic.

Perhaps the first distinguished RPI record, both home and abroad, something that probably has to do with their mildly solid fan base prior to its release. Nonetheless, PFM's success was a moral victory to all aspiring prog Italians, as they observed a fellow of theirs triumphantly roaring. I can only imagine what wonders must it have been to finally see prog penetrating in their peninsular homeland as they played PFM's record once and twice and thrice and so on to capture every nuance and absorb every song at its fullest. To this day, PFM remains as a legend, rightfully so, because this stuff is, plain and simple, legendary.

 Avenoth by BOCCA DELLA VERITĀ, LA album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.03 | 111 ratings

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Avenoth
La Bocca della Veritā Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by maryes

4 stars Although, my first impressiom about LA BOCCA DELLA VERITĀ "Avenoth", after hear the track 2 "Overture" and track 3 "Contro Luna e Luce" which in fact starts the album, was a strong influence of LOCCANDA DELLE FATE and his anthological album "Forse Le Lucciole Non Si Amano Pių" (1977), this impression don't remaining in the rest . Starting from this moment the band reveal some other influences, as for instance GENESIS, E L & PALMER and his compatriots BANCO , LE ORME.... but , besides they shows some heavy prog moments , like in track 4 "La Suite dei Tre Pianeti" ( starting about 8 min 54 sec until 13 min 50 sec) and follow soon another Banco inspired passage.Track 5 "Avenoth" is full of different styles: the main theme is very "festive" , the following part reminds PFM and the vocals recalls to me certain HAPPY THE MAN breaf passage. After a classical guitar theme GENESIS ( very simillar to "The Battle Of Epping Forest" passage) retake the scene. The more different moment in the whole album be in track 9 "La Rivolta - Il Massacro dei Terrestri" a very havy theme where the keyboards mix DEEP PURPLE, URIAH HEEP, E L & PALMER and at the final a solo guitar in Hackett "vein". In sume the album is quite pleasant . My rate is 4 stars !!!
 Fiori, Frutti, Farfalle by HUMANA PROG album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.00 | 5 ratings

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Fiori, Frutti, Farfalle
Humana Prog Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by Todd
Special Collaborator Rock Progressivo Italiano!

4 stars In the Golden Age of Prog, one of the glittering gems from Italy was Maxophone's brilliant 1975 album. The album is a blend of multiple musical styles, great songwriting, and wonderful musicianship, as well as an underlying lovely pastoral ambience that suffused the album with a peaceful, dreamlike quality. One of the contributors to that album was Paolo Farina, who wrote the lyrics to "Al mancato compleanno di una farfalla." Farina was one of the many youths in the early 1970s who got together with friends to play and sing. He wrote several songs in those days, and even roughly recorded a 16 minute song, "Fiori, frutti, farfalle". Decades later, Farina discovered that old cassette and decided to bring the music to light. Fleshing out that piece and adding other compositions from the early 1970s, Farina joined together with several other musicians, using almost exclusively acoustic instruments, trying to recreate the typical musical atmosphere of those old times, as if it were a group of friends gathered together in a park under the shade of a tree to create music. One of those musicians is Sergio Lattuada, key contributor to Maxophone both in the 1970s and the reunited lineup, who plays harpsichord on the song that started it all, "Fiori, frutti, farfalle." The resulting album, appropriately named after that track, was released in 2014 on the BTF label.

The atmosphere on the album definitely succeeds in providing the pastoral, intimate feeling that was intended by Farina. The title track is a sequential combination of several themes and melodies, pleasant and not too challenging, featuring the acoustic guitar but marvelously enriched by swirling violin and flute, along with harpsichord fluorishes. Bass and drums, and even electric guitar appear on this track, giving it a bite and drive not found on the other songs. The recurrent theme is a beautiful pastoral melody that is embellished differently each time it appears. Through it all, Farina's very pleasant baritone sings the story.

The other standout track for me is the last track, "La Ballata degli Amici Perduti" (The Ballad of Lost Friends). This features acoustic guitar and lush strings, playing a nostalgic tune that befits the song title. It is a track that is easy to get lost in.

The packaging is wonderfully done (as always by BTF), with a nice thick papersleeve gatefold mini lp style, with lyrics, photos, and artwork in the booklet. I'm not a huge fan of the cover itself, but I suppose it does match the overall purpose of the work. All in all, this is a really nice album, much in line with the better of the folk-style RPI titles from the 1970s. Three and a half stars, rounded to four. (Gnosis 11/15)

 La Fabbrica Delle Nuvole by MAXOPHONE album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.50 | 22 ratings

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La Fabbrica Delle Nuvole
Maxophone Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by maryes

4 stars 4,5 stars really ! MAXOPHONE "La Fabbrica Delle Nuvole" - A great surprise... I make an effort to remind similar case ; A new band release with very good quality after all these years... still more admirable is the fact that in this album only two original members : Alberto Ravasini and Sergio Lattuada . Although, at this time the same influences that I point in my review of their first album ((#282950) Friday, May 21, 2010 ) PFM , Campo di Marte and Gentle Giant... now the sound is much more close of GG. Is enough listen the title track "La Fabbrica Delle Nuvole" introduction and main theme, the "Interlude" (starting at 2:02 until 2: 52 min ) in same track ! The only "weak" moment as in track 3 "Il Passo delle Ore" ... but this moment aren't enough to make a great "damage" of audition. The album is full of interesting musical passages as for instance , the medieval atmosphere in track 5 "La Luna e la Lepre"... between others. My rate is 4 stars !!!
 Brinicle by KALISANTROPE album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.95 | 2 ratings

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Brinicle
Kalisantrope Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator Rock Progressivo Italiano Team

4 stars With their set-up of bass, keyboards and drums, Italian instrumental one lady/two fellas trio Kalisantrope released a distinctive twenty-six minute EP `Anatomy of the World' back in 2014 only a year after their formation, and a humble little debut of great promise it turned out to be! Three years on, with a few more years of maturing experience and live performances under their belt, they return in 2017 with their first full-length disc `Brinicle', a work that progresses the band nicely and offers even further hints of the carefully revealing sophisticated potential they've already displayed. In addition to many passages retaining the classical-tinged symphonic RPI of their debut, `Brinicle' proves to often be a little jazzier, adding flourishes of everything from electronica, ambient, percussion-driven raga and chamber-prog flavours, as well as tantalizing little teases of other unexpected new sounds to come!

`Dawn on Hiroshima Skies' opens with an eerie Eastern intrigue powered by keyboardist Davide Freguglia's Hammond organ, whirring synths and sparkling electric piano contemplations, as Noemi Bolis' sweetly murmuring bass slithers between them and Alex Carsetti's clacking percussion rattles with purpose, the piece ultimately picking up gently in tempo to offer just a hint of danger and culminating in a grander symphonic finale. The heavily improvised `Placebo Effect' bristles with a darker jazzier flavour due to its extended scratchy Fender Rhodes soloing, Noemi's relentless buoyant bass and Alex's pattered cymbals, and the Mellotron and Hammond-flecked `Canis Majoris' starts to head into the Le Orme-styled symphonic direction of parts of the debut EP, growing lightly nightmarish and tense before picking up a strident harder step in the final moments.

Deserving of special attention, both `Notturno' and `Morgendämmerung' are unlike anything the band have done to date! The former is a hypnotic drift of droning ambient electronics and subdued spectral synths, while the latter is an exotic rumination of hand percussion and pensive flute, almost reminding of Popul Vuh's `In Den Gärten Pharaos' or something off a Third Ear Band LP. These fascinating and rich diversions offer only glimpses of styles and directions that the band may develop more fully and even more successfully on further albums, and it showcases their emerging diversity and growing confidence to great effect.

Admittedly the album has kept pretty low-key and careful up to this point, but it's finally with the final trio of pieces that start with `Cordyceps' where the band really comes to life! This relentless track holds swirling synths aplenty in the manner of modern RPI groups like F.E.M Prog Group and La Coscienza di Zeno with little trickles of a prog-electronic sound sneaking in, and the thick pumping bass backed by rambunctious drumming gives the album a big surge of power and bombast at just the right moment. `Seeking Harmony' returns to the cascading crystalline piano and pumping spurts of feisty keyboard pomp that gently reminds again, as the debut EP did, of everything from that more frantic classical approach of vintage RPI band Triade's minor classic from 1973 `1998: La Storia Di Sabazio', as well as early Le Orme, and especially fellow modern young Italian band Unreal City.

Album closer `Genistae' is the longest and most complex offering here, delivering plenty of drama and careful build across a range of moods, with the same shadowy jazz atmosphere that permeates many great vintage Italian prog discs creeping in, and Davide's reflective piano melancholy and pulsing electronics come to resemble eerie ambient drones with a cinematic soundtrack-like elegance. But throughout the second half, Noemi's snaking bass grows in wild snarling breathlessness, Alex's crashing cymbals and rumbling drumming really weigh down on the listener and Davide's whiplash keyboards spiral out of control with delirious zest, before finally culminating in a reflective Mellotron, tip-toeing electric piano and sobering bass outro - what an amazing close to a fine album all up!

If there's one issue to be had with the album, it's perhaps that it somewhat coasts along over the first five tracks in a mostly subdued, unhurried manner, when a few bursts of greater (noisier!) energy and urgency would have really kicked up the attention levels. It takes until the sixth track for the album to start raising the pulse and going on the attack, and indeed it's the last three tracks that really explode with the full promise inside this talented group, and it might have been better if these three tracks had been placed between the five earlier ones to break things up a little. There's also just a few moments where the playing is more exciting than the actual instrumental tunes or melodies being presented, but these are really quite minute issues and shouldn't be unexpected with younger bands, and they definitely don't deserve to be lambasted about these elements.

But make no mistake, Kalisantrope's star is on the rise in modern Italian prog circles, with the group recently touring over the last year with the likes of the above mentioned Unreal City and the Neo-styled Silver Key, and their second release `Brinicle' is a more sumptuous, varied and ambitious effort that really pays off on frequent replays, one that moves them even closer to delivering that total knockout effort they've got building inside them.

Three and a half stars, rounded up to four again, well done Kalisantrope!

 Pollution by BATTIATO, FRANCO album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.65 | 84 ratings

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Pollution
Franco Battiato Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

4 stars Before FRANCO BATTIATO ventured off into minimalism and eventually new wave pop to become one Italy's top performers, he released a couple experimental progressive rock albums for his first two releases. FRANCO BATTIATO's second release (as simply BATTIATO) pretty much follows in the footsteps of his unique style as heard on the debut "Fetus" except that this one lies more in the electronic world and a clue as to where he would take his music, that meaning that the compositional layout of catchy hooks is still present with abrupt changes in genre styles, tempos, timbres all within the confines of keeping a strong melody going, although there are a lot more synthesizers on this one along with the bass, guitar and drums. BATTIATO and three other band members also contribute to a barrage of sound effects on the VCS 3 Synthesizer which leaves a very rich sounding album filled with all the cutting edge technicalities of the day including Rick Wakeman inspired synthesizer workouts.

Starting out what sounds like period piece classical musical from a previous century, it sounds as if we've visited a ball in the 17th century with Mozart as the headliner but after an explosion signals a change over it quickly becomes a jittery guitar riff followed by a haunting organ run that builds up to heavier rock. Once again an explosion changes over to a VCS 3 Synthesizer run that wouldn't sound too far off on an 80s new wave album although this one is kept within a classical music context. By the time the album gets to "Beta," it slows down with a groovy Floydian bass line along with a crafty piano run and freaky background vocals that create a seven minute plus space rock track but ends with a reprise to the classical ball music as the album begins.

POLLUTION is anything but dirty! It is a really pleasant experience to let unfold around you as one addictive track cedes to the next. There are lovely arpeggiated guitar sections such as on "Plancton" that add atmospheric keyboards and once the purely Italian vocals enter the scene sounds much more like the Italian kings of the scene such as PFM or Banco reminding from whence they emerged in the world. Again replete with daring keyboard solos kept within the context of the melody but creating synthesized polyrhythms that complement each other beautifully. The title track has a rather Krautock type intro with UFO type flying sound pulsating from synthesizers while waves crash against some unseen shores while echoey guitar strums gently stroll in as the synthesizer sounds short circuit out. What a way cool intro! It becomes a nice folky guitar piece as the vocalists all begin to sing to the heavens!

This is one of those albums that has all its ducks lined up in the right rows. It has just enough melody to reel you in and keep you hooked but so many surprises and unexpected twists and turns that it's impossible to lose your attention. While firmly placed in the Italian scene during the vocal parts, the beauty of POLLUTION is how pan-continental it sounds during the instrumental parts as BATTIATO takes all the magic of bands like Pink Floyd, Roxy Music, Yes and even Ash Ra Temple and Tangerine Dream and puts it all on the work table for a new sort of musical beast making. Just as good as the debut in a totally different way and somewhat points in the direction of the next album "Sulle Corde Di Aires" that really took the plunge and went completely in the progressive electronic arenas.

 Il-lūdĕre by TEMPIO DELLE CLESSIDRE, IL album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.73 | 41 ratings

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Il-lūdĕre
Il Tempio delle Clessidre Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Prog Team

4 stars I was quite a fan of this Italian progressive rock band's previous album, 'alieNatura', which was released in 2013: this was their second release, but the first with singer Francesco Ciapic. Again, there has been a change in membership between albums, as drummer Paolo Tixi has been replaced by Mattias Olsson (Änglagård, White Willow, Necromonkey), while Anna Holmgren (also of Änglagård) adds her delicate flute to one number. This is a progressive rock album that is dominated by the vocals, and to my ears it works incredibly well. Musically this has a lot in common with the early Seventies progressive rock and hard rock scene, and the use of a strong singer in the hard rock style certainly provides this music with some additional edge. Which is sadly often missing from the progressive scene.

Too many bands seem to forget the "rock" section of "progressive rock", and they can concentrate too much on keyboards and delicacy, but here ITDC are using plenty of dynamics, with light and shade emphasising both areas. But, these guys are still first and foremost a progressive band, it's just that they are refusing to be bound by what many feel is the sort of music that should be coming out of the RPI scene. I really enjoy Francesco's singing style, as his vocals carry emotion and although he can sing higher when he wishes to, he generally stays in the lower registers and this allows emotion to really shine through.

My one regret is that I don't understand Italian, so have no idea at all what he is singing about, but feel that if this had been in English then it would have diminished it somewhat. Yet again this is an incredibly strong release from Black Widow, and well worth investigating.

 Four Of A Kind by GOBLIN album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.87 | 38 ratings

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Four Of A Kind
Goblin Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Prog Team

4 stars

There is no doubt in my mind, and nor in many other's I would imagine, that Goblin are the finest progressive rock bands ever to come out of Italy. Their 1977 soundtrack to the cult horror 'Suspiria' is an amazing album, and I was lucky enough to see a version of the band play live in front of a showing of the film in Auckland a few years ago. But there's the problem, their history has been a little problematic, and in 2015 there were two different versions of the bands doing the rounds. I am a little unsure if this is a Goblin album, or a 4Goblin album, as it doesn't appear on the discography of their official website, and a '4' appears inside the capital 'G' on all places, and not long before this album came out in 2015 there was a band called New Goblin. In addition, Claudio Simonetti also has a version of Goblin, but he is the only member of the 'Suspiria' quartet missing from this line-up, his place taken by Maurizio Guarini who joined the band in 2003.

Originally released by Backtothefudda in 2015, Black Widow have pulled out the stops with this release as there is a booklet, slip sleeve, and even four playing card aces featuring cartoons of the musicians. But, it is easy to see why, as here is a band that may have left the scene for quite a few years in this career, but they are back with an absolute vengeance. The production is spot on, which allows each of the musicians to really shine on this instrumental album. It shouts class from the first note to the very last, and it is incredible to realise that this band was formed more than forty years ago yet is still producing music that is important and relevant today. Massimo Morante has the same delicate touch on guitar as always, and this brings the music together in a fashion that allows the others to create space and depth throughout. This is yet another Goblin classic to add to their canon, and I hope that I manage to catch these guys in concert again. Superb.

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Rock Progressivo Italiano bands/artists list

Bands/Artists Country
A PIEDI NUDI Italy
ABISSI INFINITI Italy
ABSENTHIA Italy
ACQUA FRAGILE Italy
AD MAIORA Italy
ADHARMA Italy
AINUR Italy
AKRON Italy
L' ALBERO DEL VELENO Italy
ALGEBRA Italy
ALESSANDRO ALISCIONI Italy
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ARCHITRAVE INDIPENDENTE Italy
AREA Italy
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ARS NOVA (ITA) Italy
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ASTROLABIO / ELETTROSMOG Italy
ATON'S Italy
ATTO IV Italy
AUDIO Italy
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AVALON LEGEND Italy
IL BABAU & I MALEDETTI CRETINI Italy
SOPHYA BACCINI Italy
IL BACIO DELLA MEDUSA Italy
THE BADGE Italy
BALLETTIROSADIMACCHIA Italy
IL BALLETTO DI BRONZO Italy
IL BALLO DELLE CASTAGNE Italy
THE BALMUNG Italy
LA BAMBIBANDA E MELODIE Italy
BANCO DEL MUTUO SOCCORSO Italy
BARABBA Italy
MARIO BARBAJA Italy
BAROQUE Italy
BARROCK Italy
LUCIANO BASSO Italy
LA BATTERIA Italy
FRANCO BATTIATO Italy
PIERPAOLO BIBBO Italy
BIGLIETTO PER L'INFERNO Italy
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LA BOCCA DELLA VERITĀ Italy
BONDAGE Italy
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BRAEN'S MACHINE Italy
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ANGELO BRANDUARDI Italy
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BUON VECCHIO CHARLIE Italy
CAGE Italy
I CALIFFI Italy
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CAPITOLO 6 Italy
CAPRICORN COLLEGE Italy
CAPSICUM RED Italy
ENZO CAPUANO Italy
IL CASTELLO DELLE UOVA Italy
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CELESTE Italy
IL CERCHIO D'ORO Italy
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CHIAVE DI VOLTA Italy
CHRISTADORO Italy
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CIRCLE OF FAIRIES Italy
CITTĀ FRONTALE Italy
CIVICO 23 Italy
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I COCAI Italy
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COURT Italy
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I DIK DIK Italy
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ENEIDE Italy
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ENTITY Italy
EQUIPE 84 Italy
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L' ESTATE DI SAN MARTINO Italy
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EXPLOIT Italy
LA FABBRICA DELL'ASSOLUTO Italy
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FALENA Italy
FEM PROG BAND Italy
FESTA MOBILE Italy
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FLOATING STATE Italy
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GENCO PURO & CO. Italy
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GERMINALE Italy
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GIARDINI D'AUTUNNO Italy
I GIGANTI Italy
GIGI PASCAL E LA POP COMPAGNIA MECCANICA Italy
IL GIRO STRANO Italy
GLEEMEN Italy
GOBLIN Italy
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GREENWALL Italy
GRIMALKIN Italy
GRUPPO 2001 Italy
GUERCIA Italy
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JANUS Italy
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KUNDALINI SHAKTI DEVI Italy
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I LEONI Italy
LETHE Italy
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I NUMI Italy
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OSAGE TRIBE Italy
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PHAEDRA Italy
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POSTO BLOCCO 19 Italy
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PRESENCE Italy
PROCESSION Italy
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PSYCHO PRAXIS Italy
QIRSH Italy
QUARTO VUOTO Italy
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QUEL GIORNO DI UVE ROSSE Italy
QUELLA VECCHIA LOCANDA Italy
RACCOMANDATA RICEVUTA RITORNO Italy
I RAMINGHI Italy
RANDONE Italy
RANESTRANE Italy
REALE ACCADEMIA DI MUSICA Italy
RES GESTA Italy
RICORDI D'INFANZIA Italy
CLAUDIO ROCCHI Italy
ROCKY'S FILJ Italy
IL ROVESCIO DELLA MEDAGLIA Italy
IL RUMORE BIANCO Italy
IL RUSCELLO Italy
RUSTICHELLI & BORDINI Italy
SACKA Italy
SALIS Italy
SAMADHI Italy
SAMSARA Italy
TITO JR. SCHIPA Italy
LA SECONDA GENESI Italy
SECRET TALES Italy
IL SEGNO DEL COMANDO Italy
SELDON Italy
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LE SENSAZIONI Italy
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SEZIONE FRENANTE Italy
SHOWMEN 2 Italy
PAOLO SIANI & FRIENDS FEAT. NUOVA IDEA Italy
SIDE C Italy
IL SISTEMA Italy
SITHONIA Italy
SLOGANS Italy
LA SORGENTE Italy
ALAN SORRENTI Italy
ST.-TROPEZ Italy
LE STELLE DI MARIO SCHIFANO Italy
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SUBMARINE SILENCE Italy
SUNSCAPE Italy
SYNDÉRESI Italy
SYNDONE Italy
TACITA INTESA Italy
TAPROBAN Italy
IL TEMPIO DELLE CLESSIDRE Italy
TENEBRAE Italy
I TEOREMI Italy
STEFANO TESTA Italy
THEGENERATION Italy
THREE MONKS Italy
TILION Italy
TOTO TORQUATI Italy
LA TORRE DELL ALCHIMISTA Italy
TRIADE Italy
THE TRIP Italy
IL TRONO DEI RICORDI Italy
TUGS Italy
UBI MAIOR Italy
ULTIMA SPIAGGIA Italy
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UNO Italy
UNREAL CITY Italy
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VEDDA TRIBE Italy
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VITTORIO DE SCALZI - LA STORIA DEI NEW TROLLS Italy
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IL VOLO Italy
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ZAUM Italy

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