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Leo Nero - Vero CD (album) cover


Leo Nero


Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.81 | 21 ratings

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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.

Finnforest | 4/5 |


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