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ROCK PROGRESSIVO ITALIANO

A Progressive Rock Sub-genre


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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 à 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 | 1663 ratings
PER UN AMICO
Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM)
4.37 | 1139 ratings
DARWIN!
Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso
4.37 | 1047 ratings
IO SONO NATO LIBERO
Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso
4.33 | 1323 ratings
STORIA DI UN MINUTO
Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM)
4.31 | 864 ratings
ZARATHUSTRA
Museo Rosenbach
4.28 | 868 ratings
BANCO DEL MUTUO SOCCORSO
Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso
4.24 | 932 ratings
FELONA E SORONA
Orme, Le
4.26 | 642 ratings
ARBEIT MACHT FREI
Area
4.27 | 467 ratings
MAXOPHONE
Maxophone
4.23 | 846 ratings
L'ISOLA DI NIENTE
Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM)
4.23 | 569 ratings
YS
Balletto Di Bronzo, Il
4.22 | 673 ratings
UOMO DI PEZZA
Orme, Le
4.25 | 360 ratings
CRAC !
Area
4.24 | 396 ratings
PALEPOLI
Osanna
4.23 | 320 ratings
DISCESA AGL'INFERI D'UN GIOVANE AMANTE
Bacio Della Medusa, Il
4.18 | 327 ratings
L' ENIGMA DELLA VITA
Logos
4.19 | 297 ratings
CELESTE [AKA: PRINCIPE DI UN GIORNO]
Celeste
4.17 | 314 ratings
CONTAMINAZIONE
Rovescio Della Medaglia, Il
4.14 | 366 ratings
LA CRUDELTÀ DI APRILE
Unreal City
4.14 | 336 ratings
QUELLA VECCHIA LOCANDA
Quella Vecchia Locanda

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

ADOLESCENZA
Panseri, Mario
UNA VITA UNA BALENA BIANCA E ALTRE COSE
Testa, Stefano
TERRA IN BOCCA
Giganti, I
LA DIVINA COMMEDIA
Giro Strano, Il

Latest Rock Progressivo Italiano Music Reviews


 Echoes From The Undertow by B-RAIN album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.95 | 21 ratings

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Echoes From The Undertow
B-Rain Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by alainPP

4 stars B-RAIN is the solo project of the percussionist, handyman Davide GUIDONI who has worked in number of more or less known groups like THE FAR SIDE, GALLANT FARM, personally I will quote TAPROBAN, DORACOR and currently DAAL which blends planantly metal, stoner, violin and melancholic spaces, quite confusing! Here, we are in a very soft space where the atmospheres give priority to percussions of all kinds, low, almost sub-low, punctuating the different pieces of this album. There are also noises of the heart, noises of a windshield wiper, loud voices and noises from beyond the grave. To this come inlaid disparate limpid, crystalline notes from synths, violins (like, DAAL is not far!), Flutes and trumpets, making me say that the new Canterbury school is making its way currently (I just quote ARGOS working remarkably in this area). So we're in experimental New-age, in environmental pieces and compositions that wouldn't denote in certain films.

In short, GUIDONI surrounded himself with beautiful sizes for that, taking with him R. VITELLI from Ellesmere, L. PIETROPAOLI from FONDERIA and A. COSTA from DAAL. These pieces, 7 in number, follow one another quite naturally to make us plunge into sound atmospheres at the SERRA ("Far from the Madding Crowd" and "Homeward Bound" with its symphonic organ and its small violin-cello of the evening. ), in the footsteps of TANGERINE DREAM on "Lakeshore" and "Overwhelming" (yes "force majeure" remains one of my favorites and I heard it a little above). On the next title, the title of the album, it is towards the Canterbury school that we start directly with a progressive trumpet and a Genesis guitar. "The Cold Time of Solitude" prolongs the symphonic and almost meditative prog atmosphere by bringing violin and cello as on D. DARLING albums and this time the purely Hackettian guitar: listen again, you will see! As for "Descending Mist", the river's album title with its 20 minutes on the clock, we literally plunge into an end-of-the-world atmosphere with the sounds of the woods (and not forest fruits which would be too colorful!) And binary rhythm in sixteenth note (no, I laugh, I know nothing about it, but I wanted to slip a musical term once in my notes so as not to fall asleep and see if you follow!), in short, a cavernous alphorn will come to you ask around 14 minutes if you are not asleep; I note in this title some reminiscences of "Supper's Ready" by GENESIS, voices and "Sorcerer" synths by TANGERINE DREAM and a rise that even K.SCHULZE in person could not contradict, my favorite piece of the album!

As you can imagine, this album has two functions: on the one hand, a contemplative, relaxing disc, which can be used as background music; on the other, a prog-hovering disc with a lot of different tones and catchy tunes allowing you to listen to the album to ask yourself, like a party night. A disc finally two speeds with which I did not bother a single moment.

 Il 13 by BANCO DEL MUTUO SOCCORSO album cover Studio Album, 1994
2.42 | 43 ratings

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Il 13
Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by sgtpepper

3 stars Il 13 is certainly not the unlucky number in the band's discography. As another reviewer noted, the band has return to its more authentic, lively sound with rockier sound as evidenced on the second song. Hints of higher complexity and vague progressive rock can also be heard in the instrumental intro and outro. The vocal is OK but does not always fit the rock/pop music; thankfully it sticks to Italian. Guitar and keyboard playing is better aligned.

When listening more carefully and going beyond melody, you can actually hear impressive short soloing by keyboards, bass or guitar. "Sirene" sounds fresh as the band hasn't sounded for a while.

However, as the record progresses, it reveals lack of substance although technically, some playing hooks are pleasure to hear.

Instrumental pieces remain highlights - listen to the complex "Emiliano" with a pleasant synth/piano runs and rhythm shifts. Even ELP could be happy to have such piece on their album in 1994.

 No Palco by BANCO DEL MUTUO SOCCORSO album cover Live, 2003
3.73 | 28 ratings

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No Palco
Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by sgtpepper

3 stars This is a quality and passionate but somewhat quieter live concert by Banco. The focus is on "hits" but also more modern pieces. The voice is still incredible, instruments sound very natural and even can bring some jazzy/fusion elements. The sound and choice of numbers is not always 70's compatible. The audio quality is excellent, all can be heard clear in the mix. Anyways, I still like other live concerts by BdMS better, for example Nudo has something special about its sound and choice of songs and also "Seguendo le tracce" offers pure 70's feeling, albeit with a worse sound. By all means, this is a good and competent live recording.
 Nudo by BANCO DEL MUTUO SOCCORSO album cover Live, 1997
3.80 | 46 ratings

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Nudo
Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by sgtpepper

4 stars One of the better live albums by the progressive rock legend. The only subject of acquired taste is the subdued first half with 1 new studio recording (the title track) and acoustic live tracks. I recommend listening this album during more reflective moments when its musicianship and focus on atmosphere rather than flamboyance impresses more listeners. Tracks played are chosen greatly with old classics but also forays into 80-90's. All instrumentalists are highly competent but I would highlight the keyboard prowess and power of multiple styles. However, unexpectedly good acoustic guitar is also tempting. The missing dynamism of the first CD is compensated by the second CD with richer sound and intensity contrasts - short light tracks and almost full-blown epics. It's also positive that the singer leaves enough room for unspoken music.

Recommended for all Banco fans of later sound.

 Inferno by METAMORFOSI album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.04 | 252 ratings

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Inferno
Metamorfosi Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by toilet_doctor

5 stars One of the best Italian prog albums. What I have to point out that Italian vocal not always fits into Rock (for me), but this is not the case. Quite the contrary? I cannot imagine anything else for this particular long prog suite inspired by immortal Dante's "Divine Comedy". Perhaps this is because it is nothing but powerful vocals of opera quality, and, in our minds, Italians are still unsurpassed masters in this genre. The suite is divided into 12 parts, and thanks to producers, there are no breaks between the parts. Whatever the source of inspiration for this album, it works at a high level. Simply put, this album is sheer joy. It has everything that fans of the symphonic prog want. Does it have an ELP in it? Yes, in some kind of stylizing way? and this makes it even more enjoyable.

10 years ago, the Japanese independent prog label Belle Antique released 'Inferno' in its Italian Rock Mini LP SHM-CD series. The liner notes say: "Digitally Remastered in Japan by Shuichi Takano, Cands Music". Now I have listened to it again in my hi-end system, and I can say: the sound quality fits firmly into the category "Best". Thank you, Mr. Takana for the remarkable job. Now the best part: January 25, 2020, long out of print release, will again see the light of day as the Limited Encore Press reissue (along with 'Alphataurus'). That's why I write all this? because 'Inferno' deserves much more attention from us. Do not miss the opportunity to get such a nice album in the best sound and physical presentation that only the Japanese are willing to do. 5 stars from inferno.

 Echoes From The Undertow by B-RAIN album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.95 | 21 ratings

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Echoes From The Undertow
B-Rain Rock Progressivo Italiano

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

4 stars Despite involvement in numerous Italian prog-rock projects over the last couple of decades, multi-instrumentalist Davide Guidoni is primarily known for his part in experimental duo DAAL. B-Rain, a play-on-words of `Brain', and meant to reflect a `mental rain' that the artist feels was his general frame of mind throughout this debut 2018 recording, acts as his first solo release, and is the very definition of eclectic! `Echoes from the Undertow' might retain traces of his Daal `day job', but primarily it moves in electronic, soundtrack and ambient directions, as well as incorporating touches of goth, jazz and symphonic. Mood and unhurried ambiance is key here, and the whole disc maintains a sumptuously cultivated atmosphere the whole way.

`Far From the Madding Crowd' is a spectral opener of gently weeping synths, icy Mellotron slivers and sombre electric piano musings, with just a few fleeting Jean-Michel Jarre-like wisps creeping in. The exotic `Lakeshore' unveils trickling synth programming that repeats into infinity around searing electric violin and meditative bamboo flute, ending up not far removed from the works of Robert Rich and even Kitaro, although the piece takes some unexpectedly ominous and urgent turns in the second half. `Overwhelming' is a gothic sound-collage of falling rain, creaking effects and intangibly whispering voices eventually permeated by grandiose orchestration, and the title track `Echoes from the Undertow' unfurls twitching programming, distorted weary trumpet weariness, moody synth caresses and Yves Potin/Jazzcomputer-like electric guitar jangles.

A complete change of direction, `The Cold Time of Solitude' could have appeared on most of ex-Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett's solo discs, a symphonic theme of stirring cello, violin and regal electric guitar reaches rising up around scratchy Mellotron coatings. Mysterious and aloof, the twenty minute `Descending Mist' is primarily an ambient drone in the manner of Steve Roach , but there's a faint Seventies horror movie eeriness to its lurking electronic pulses, Mellotron drapery and chiming guitars (think Italian soundtrack legends Goblin). With sighing voices and the overall brooding unease, the whole quietly dramatic piece is captivating and completely mesmerizing. Thankfully, closer `Homeward Bound' is then a gently stirring acoustic finale that proves joyful, comforting and victorious.

Davide has delivered a tasteful and luxurious work of enticing subtlety and great variety here on his first B-Rain disc, and if any of the artists mentioned above interest you, chances are you find similar qualities to connect with their music here. While `Echoes from the Undertow' may not be something you'll listen to every day, each time you do, this elegant work of refinement and poise will cast a truly bewitching spell.

Four stars.

 Il Segno Del Comando by SEGNO DEL COMANDO, IL album cover Studio Album, 1997
3.42 | 17 ratings

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Il Segno Del Comando
Il Segno Del Comando Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

3 stars The debut album of Genova's IL SEGNO DEL COMANDO, 'The Sign of Command', was recently reissued by Black Widow. The album's conceptual inspiration -- as well as the band name -- derives from Giuseppe D'Agata's novel, and the Italian TV series (1971), that deals with occult matters, reincarnation and supernatural. The author himself called the album a perfect soundtrack to his novel. Before coming to my own reception of the music, I wish to cite the informative band page that describes the music so well. The band aimed at "music that evokes sadness, anxiety and fear", and is full of "classical gothic atmosphere, spooky overwhelming arrangements, cinematic drama and eerie nightmare soundscapes. The music is very organ driven, with plenty of Mellotron and analogue synths for an authentic vintage sound. (...) Folky acoustic guitar passages are reflective and thoughtful."

A couple of remarks concerning the lay-out of the re-release. A brief plot summary of the story is placed under the transparent disc holder, so that words under the glued corners are actually unreadable. Also, I wish there was a track list WITH track numbers and lengths. One bonus track is included: 'Magia Postuma' which didn't appear in the original release.

The brief, haunting opener without lyrics effectively sets the dark atmosphere, and is followed by a 10-minute title track. The vocals of Mercy are very shouty in it, but what really strikes me is the low sonic quality. The album was recorded on a shoestring budget in two weeks, and it really sounds so. The frantic electric guitar solo is painfully ear-attacking. The short third track is a majestic church organ solo. Indeed, the music couldn't much get more Gothic and darker!

'Ritratto di Donna Velata (Lord Byron's Night Promenade)' featuring eerie female chorals is a highlight. It is relatively melodic but still full of haunting mood. 'Missa Negra' is another piece that in my opinion notably suffers from the low recording quality, concerning mostly the messy vocals, the electric guitar and the rhythm section. Instrumental 'Ghost Lovers in Villa Piuma' is originally a traditional tune, the arrangement starring an accordeon-reminding keys and piano. Now, the mentioned bonus track: it's an organ-centred jazz instrumental with a 60's-like sound and a nice groove.

This very vintage-sounding album is worth checking out for those who enjoy the dark and Gothic end of RPI, bands such as ABIOGENESI, JACULA, ANTONIUS REX and BIGLIETTO PER L'INFERNO, and who are not put off by a low sonic quality -- which in a way finishes the gloomy atmosphere if you like. However, I prefer the band's later albums with a better production.

 Il Fuoco Sotto La Cenere by CERCHIO D'ORO, IL album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.10 | 44 ratings

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Il Fuoco Sotto La Cenere
Il Cerchio D'Oro Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by andrea
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Il fuoco sotto la cenere is the third album by the Savonese band Il Cerchio d'Oro and was released in 2017 on the independent label Black Widow Records with a renewed line up featuring Franco Piccolini (keyboards), Giuseppe Terribile (bass, guitar, vocals), Gino Terribile (drums, percussion, vocals), Piuccio Pradal (acoustic guitar, vocals), Massimo Spica (guitar) and Simone Piccolini (keyboards, backing vocals). During the recording sessions some prestigious guests such as Pino Ballarini (vocals, from Il Rovescio della Medaglia), Paolo Siani (drums, from Nuova Idea) and Giorgio Usai (organ and vocals, from Nuova Idea and New Trolls) gave their contribute to enrich the overall sound, firmly rooted in the past without losing touch with the present, and the final result confirms all the good qualities of the band's previous works. The art cover by Stefano Scagni is clearly inspired by the music and lyrics and contains many, more or less hidden, hints to the tracks of this complex, intriguing work where all the pieces deal, one way or another, with the same subject: fire!

The long opener, "Il fuoco sotto la cenere" (The fire under the ashes), begins softly, with the sound of a burning fire in the background and a piano pattern that could recall Goblin... This piece describes in music and words the hidden sense of rage that slowly grows in everyone and sooner or later can burst out eluding the control of human reason. The music follow this thread, going through calm passages and sudden surges of rhythm leading to a beautiful finale in crescendo with an excellent interaction between electric guitar and keyboards.

The second track, "Thomas" is another long, epic piece. The title refers to Thomas Farriner, a baker in 17th century London whose shop in Pudding Lane was the source point for the Great Fire of London on 2 September 1666. The music and lyrics evoke the smell of bread and the daily work at the bakery, then the raging fire, the flames spreading out, the clouds of dust in the air, the crumbling buildings and the smoking ruins under a dark sky? But Thomas Farriner managed to escape the fire and, in the end, under the ashes there's still room for hope, there's the will to start again and rebuild what was burnt off?

The following "Per sempre qui" (Forever here) deals with the hidden fire of nostalgia that burns in the heart of a successful immigrant. The music alternates lively passages that could recall PFM to calm, reflective sections. That's to mark the contrast between the hectic life of the protagonist in his new homeland and the happy memories of the far village of his childhood...

"I due poli" (The two poles) begins by a dreamy piano section, then the rhythm rises and the atmosphere becomes tense... This piece tells about a man who, looking in a mirror, can see the duplicity of his personality and feels his inner conflict emerge. Someone calls this character a clown but inside him it's like if fire and ice were constantly fighting each other to take control over his actions. So, he feels like a flame living under the ashes...

The melancholic "Il fuoco nel bicchiere" (The fire in the glass) deals with alcohol addiction. It begins by a delicate piano solo intro, then the heartfelt vocals interpret the feelings of a lonely, desperate man who every night goes back home staggering on his feet, drunk and lost. His life is nothing but a broken dream to drink up and he feels the fire inside while the irresistible call of alcohol draws him on his way to an infernal place from where there's no comeback...

The ironic "Il rock e l'inferno" (Rock and hell) describes in music and words a strange dream. A man falls asleep in his armchair in a house near a cane thicket in a rainy, windy night. From the sounds around him a music rises, starting from Brazilian rhythms and exotic flavours it changes into rock'n'roll. As the man suddenly wakes up the house is on fire and he realizes that rock'n'roll and hell are almost like Siamese brothers...

The last track is the cover of a 1979 song by Ivan Graziani from the album Agnese dolce Agnese, "Fuoco sulla collina" (Fire on the hill). It's a beautiful piece where music and words describe the dreams of a boy that clash against reality. In fact, in a summer night the boy dreams of joining a battle on the hill, he can even see the fires of the guns and hear the shots. But a man wakes him up from his reveries and points out that what he sees are nothing but the lights of the harvesting farm tractors...

On the whole, I think that this is really a great album where the band successfully blend vintage atmospheres and original ideas.

 Una Seconda Strana Sensazione by FALENA album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.18 | 9 ratings

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Una Seconda Strana Sensazione
Falena Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by TCat
Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

3 stars Falena was formed in 2003, and for the most part, has remained a band with 5 core members, even though a few of them have changed over the years. The three founding members were Andrea Trinca on bass, Emiliano Sellati on vocals and Alessandro Fusacchia on guitar. The band's name is the Italian word for Moth.

In December of 2019, the band released its third full length studio album "Una Seconda Strana Sensazione" (A Second Strange Sensation) with the original founding members joined by Marco Peschi on keyboards, programming and flute, and Rosaano Acciari on drums. This album consists of 14 tracks ranging from about one minute to just over nine minutes for a total run time of over 66 minutes. The album is a concept album which continues to follow the band's anti-hero that goes by the name of Mr. F, a normal man with a complex personality, and the inner conflicts that he deals with.

All of the vocals are in Italian, with the remaining 5 being instrumentals which sometimes contain sound effects or spoken vocals, which are usually short and act more as introductory, transitory and finale tracks. The songs with vocals are lyric heavy and the vocalist is pretty good, evoking the emotion and drama that lovers of RPI expect. The music itself is performed well enough, and there is a good balance of guitar and keyboards with the occasional flair of a flute. The music is a heavy rock sound with some progressive passages. The individual tracks contain some tempo shifts and meter changes, but the music is pretty much your average progressive and hard rock sound. Really, the main thing that sticks out in the overall album is the occasional sound of the flute. Even though it is nothing fancy, it does help bring the album a bit of uniqueness that helps it stand out as being just a notch above the average Hard Rock Progressive sound that tends to be the main style.

The album pretty much follows this pattern with lyric heavy tracks and short intermediary tracks, however, the title track does have longer instrumental sections which gives the musicians some time to do some improvising and free play. There is a bit of variety in the tone of the tracks, some being slow and pensive, but it is mostly upbeat and a bit on the heavy side, but through all of this, nothing really stands out and none of the tracks are really standout tracks either. Overall, it's a pleasant enough listen, but at the end nothing seems to be memorable, groundbreaking or unique, and the recording is not necessarily the best, but it is at least tolerable. The compositions keep you interested enough, and after more exposure, tend to show a bit more individuality, but even then, it's all great music that you have heard before. Because of some decent passages and the quality of the compositions, the album stands just a bit over an average rating of 3.5, but in this case, it rounds down to mostly average. It's good, but nothing really special.

 Latte E Miele 2.0: Paganini Experience by LATTE E MIELE album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.86 | 16 ratings

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Latte E Miele 2.0: Paganini Experience
Latte E Miele Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Italian prog band LATTE E MIELE ("Milk and Honey") was among the most classically influenced RPI bands in the early 70's alongside with e.g. Quella Vecchia Locanda. On Latte e Miele's third album Aquile e Scoiattoli (1976) only a drummer remained from the original line-up, and two of the newcomers were keyboardist Luciano Poltini and guitarist-bassist-vocalist Massimo Gori. Now they have formed Latte e Miele 2.0 featuring also violinist Elena Aiello and drummer Marco Biggi.

Despite the title Paganini Experience, only one of the compositions actually is by Niccolo Paganini (1782-1840), the violin virtuoso and the "rock star" of his time. Actually I'm reliefed: Paganini's solo violin pieces usually get to my nerves as a classic example of show-off virtuosity before deeper musical contents. There are brief liner notes for the tracks in Italian, and Paganini is mentioned in several of them, but I don't know Italian enough to be sure if Paganini's life was primarily a source of inspiration. Anyway, I was charmed by this album!

The music is shamelessly retro-styled -- one could be fooled to believe this album was from 1973 (with a better production than back then). I had an association to the classic albums of New Trolls (Concerto Grosso per i New Trolls, 1971) and Il Rovescio della Medaglia (Contaminazione, 1973) that were collaborations with composer-arranger Luis Bacalov and combined rock and Baroque-style chamber music. Especially the instrumental opener 'Inno' sounds pretty similar to them. Organ-oriented, ELP-influenced prog rock with romantically soaring, lovely violin melodies. The warm sound is gorgeous. 'Via del Colle' is a vocal song that seems to be dealing with Paganini's childhood. Massimo Gori is a good vocalist, and again the melodies are very romantic and passionate. 'L'Ora delle Tenebre' is another great song; I sensed some BANCO and PROCOL HARUM in the melodies. Vocals leave plenty of room for the instruments too.

'Cantabile 2019' features violin and soft, wordless vocal harmonies reminiscent of a cappella groups such as Rajaton from Finland! 'Charlotte reminds me of the Norwegian, Eurovision's 1995 contest winning duo SECRET GARDEN: soft and nocturnally romantic instrumental piece for synths and violin. 'Danza di Luce' is a 2-part instrumental, again reminding of the mentioned Bacalov-collaborations. An identifiable Paganini citation is included in this dynamic track that at times is almost pure classical music and at times ELP-ish prog rock.

'Angel' is a cover of the Jimi Hendrix song originating from his posthumous album The Cry of Love (1971). This version -- obviously starring violin and keyboards instead of guitar -- works very well. Paganini's 'Cantabile 1835' for violin and piano finishes the album in a peaceful, classical way. I don't want to count how many times I used the two words that I truly find the best to describe this classically inspired and retro prog -style album: romantic and charming. I hope you can estimate from my review if it would charm YOU.

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Rock Progressivo Italiano bands/artists list

Bands/Artists Country
A PIEDI NUDI Italy
A.S.T.R.A Italy
ABISSI INFINITI Italy
ABSENTHIA Italy
ACQUA FRAGILE Italy
AD MAIORA Italy
ADHARMA Italy
AELEMENTI Italy
STEFANO AGNINI Italy
AINUR Italy
AKRON Italy
L' ALBERO DEL VELENO Italy
ALGEBRA Italy
ALIANTE Italy
ALESSANDRO ALISCIONI Italy
ALLEGRI LEPROTTI Italy
GLI ALLUMINOGENI Italy
ALPHATAURUS Italy
ALTARE THOTEMICO Italy
ALUSA FALLAX Italy
AMMINISTRAZIONE CAOS POPOLARE Italy
ANACONDIA Italy
ANCESTRY Italy
ANCIENT VEIL Italy
ANTONIUS REX Italy
GLI APOSTHOLI Italy
APOTEOSI Italy
APRYL Italy
ARCAMIRI Italy
ARCHITRAVE INDIPENDENTE Italy
AREA Italy
ARIES Italy
ARJUNA Italy
ARMONITE Italy
ARPIA Italy
ARS NOVA (ITA) Italy
ASSEMBLEA MUSICALE TEATRALE Italy
ASSENZIO Italy
ASTROLABIO / ELETTROSMOG Italy
ATON'S Italy
ATTO IV Italy
AUDIO Italy
AURORA LUNARE Italy
AVALON LEGEND Italy
B-RAIN 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
BARO PROG-JETS Italy
BAROQUE Italy
BARROCK Italy
LUCIANO BASSO Italy
LA BATTERIA Italy
FRANCO BATTIATO Italy
PIERPAOLO BIBBO Italy
BIGLIETTO PER L'INFERNO Italy
BLOCCO MENTALE Italy
LA BOCCA DELLA VERITÀ Italy
BONDAGE Italy
BORNIDOL Italy
LA BOTTEGA DELL'ARTE Italy
BRAEN'S MACHINE Italy
BRAINDEAD Italy
ANGELO BRANDUARDI Italy
BRIGHT HORIZON Italy
BUON VECCHIO CHARLIE Italy
CAGE Italy
I CALIFFI Italy
CALLIOPE Italy
CAMERA ASTRALIS Italy
JURI CAMISASCA Italy
CAMPO DI MARTE Italy
CANTINA SOCIALE Italy
CAPITOLO 6 Italy
CAPRICORN COLLEGE Italy
CAPSICUM RED Italy
ENZO CAPUANO Italy
CARPINETA Italy
IL CASTELLO DELLE UOVA Italy
IL CASTELLO DI ATLANTE Italy
CAVALLI COCCHI.LANZETTI.ROVERSI Italy
CELESTE Italy
IL CERCHIO D'ORO Italy
CERVELLO Italy
CHERRY FIVE Italy
CHIAVE DI VOLTA Italy
CHRISTADORO Italy
LUCIANO CILIO Italy
THE CINEMA SHOW Italy
CIRCLE OF FAIRIES Italy
CITTÀ FRONTALE Italy
CIVICO 23 Italy
CLEPSYDRA Italy
I COCAI Italy
ROBERTO COLOMBO Italy
CONDOR Italy
CONQUEROR Italy
CONSORZIO ACQUA POTABILE Italy
CONTRAPPUNTO Italy
CONTROTEMPO Italy
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CORAL CAVES Italy
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CORPORESANO Italy
EMANUELE CORREANI Italy
CORTE AULICA Italy
CORTE DEI MIRACOLI Italy
LA COSCIENZA DI ZENO Italy
MARIO COTTARELLI Italy
COURT Italy
CRYSTALS Italy
LA CURVA DI LESMO Italy
GINO D'ELISO Italy
GIANNI D'ERRICO Italy
DALLAGLIO Italy
DALTON Italy
DE DE LIND Italy
DELIRIUM Italy
MAURIZIO DI TOLLO Italy
I DIK DIK Italy
DISEQUAZIONE Italy
DISTILLERIE DI MALTO Italy
DIVAE Italy
LA DOTTRINA DEGLI OPPOSTI Italy
DUEMILA12 Italy
ECFONETICA Italy
ECLISSE Italy
EDERA Italy
EDGAR ALLAN POE Italy
EGO Italy
EGONON Italy
EMPIRE Italy
ENEIDE Italy
ENIMA Italy
ENTITY Italy
EQUIPE 84 Italy
ERA DI ACQUARIO Italy
ERIS PLUVIA Italy
ERRATA CORRIGE Italy
L' ESTATE DI SAN MARTINO Italy
EURASIA Italy
EUTHYMIA Italy
EXPLOIT Italy
LA FABBRICA DELL'ASSOLUTO Italy
FABIO CELI E GLI INFERMIERI Italy
FALENA Italy
IL FEDELISSIMO BRACCO BRANCO Italy
FEM PROG BAND / FORZA ELETTROMOTRICE Italy
FESTA MOBILE Italy
FILARMONICA MUNICIPALE LACRISI Italy
FILORITMIA Italy
FINISTERRE Italy
FLEA Italy
FLOATING STATE Italy
RICCARDO FOGLI Italy
FOGLIE DI VETRO Italy
FONETICA Italy
FORMULA 3 Italy
THE FORTY DAYS Italy
FABIO FRIZZI Italy
CLAUDIO FUCCI Italy
FUFLUNS Italy
GAN EDEN - IL GIARDINO DELLE DELIZIE Italy
GARYBALDI Italy
GENCO PURO & CO. Italy
THE GENERATION Italy
GENFUOCO Italy
GERMINALE Italy
FRANCO MARIA GIANNINI Italy
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I GIGANTI Italy
GIGI PASCAL E LA POP COMPAGNIA MECCANICA Italy
IL GIRO STRANO Italy
GLEEMEN Italy
GOBLIN Italy
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GRAN TURISMO VELOCE Italy
GREENWALL Italy
GRIMALKIN Italy
GRUPPO 2001 Italy
GUERCIA Italy
H2O Italy
HOMUNCULUS RES Italy
HOPO Italy
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HÖSTSONATEN Italy
HUMANA PROG Italy
HUNKA MUNKA Italy
IANVA Italy
IBIS Italy
INGRANAGGI DELLA VALLE Italy
ISPROJECT Italy
J.E.T. Italy
JACULA Italy
JANUS Italy
JESTER'S JOKE Italy
JET LAG Italy
JUMBO Italy
KALISANTROPE Italy
KUNDALINI SHAKTI DEVI Italy
IL LABIRINTO DI ALICE Italy
LABIRINTO DI SPECCHI Italy
LAGARTIJA Italy
LAPERA Italy
LASER Italy
LATTE E MIELE Italy
LUCIANO LAURINI Italy
LEO NERO Italy
I LEONI Italy
LETHE Italy
LIBRA Italy
LINEATEORICA Italy
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EMILIO LOCURCIO Italy
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LOGOS Italy
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MESSAGGIO 73 Italy
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NATHAN Italy
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I NUMI Italy
NUOVA ERA Italy
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OBSCURA Italy
THE ODEJA Italy
ODISSEA Italy
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ANDREA ORLANDO Italy
LE ORME Italy
ORNITHOS Italy
OSAGE TRIBE Italy
OSANNA Italy
OSCILLAZIONI ALCHEMICO KREATIVE (O.A.K.) Italy
OVERTURE Italy
IL PAESE DEI BALOCCHI Italy
MAURO PAGANI Italy
PANDA FIGHT CLUB Italy
PANDORA Italy
PANE Italy
PANGEA Italy
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MARIO PANSERI Italy
PANTHER & C. Italy
PARADISO A BASSO PREZZO Italy
IL PARADISO DEGLI ORCHI Italy
MAURO PELOSI Italy
I PENNELLI DI VERMEER Italy
LA PENTOLA DI PAPIN Italy
PERDIO Italy
PERIFERIA DEL MONDO Italy
PERIPLO Italy
PERSIMFANS Italy
PHAEDRA Italy
PHOLAS DACTYLUS Italy
GIAN PIERETTI Italy
PIERO E I COTTONFIELDS Italy
PIERO EZIO E TINO Italy
PLANETARIUM Italy
PLENILUNIO Italy
PLURIMA MUNDI Italy
LE PORTE NON APERTE Italy
POSTO BLOCCO 19 Italy
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PRESENCE Italy
PROCESSION Italy
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PROPHEXY 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
THE REBUS / IL FAUNO DI MARMO 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
SEMIRAMIS Italy
LE SENSAZIONI Italy
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IL SENTIERO DI TAUS Italy
SENZA NOME Italy
SEZIONE FRENANTE Italy
SFARATTHONS Italy
SHOWMEN 2 Italy
PAOLO SIANI FT. NUOVA IDEA Italy
SIDE C Italy
SINTESI DEL VIAGGIO DI ES Italy
IL SISTEMA Italy
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SLOGANS Italy
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ALAN SORRENTI Italy
ST.-TROPEZ Italy
UNA STAGIONE ALL' INFERNO Italy
LE STELLE DI MARIO SCHIFANO Italy
STRANAFONIA Italy
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SUNSCAPE Italy
SYNDÉRESI Italy
SYNDONE Italy
TACITA INTESA Italy
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IL TEMPIO DELLE CLESSIDRE Italy
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I TEOREMI Italy
STEFANO TESTA Italy
THREE MONKS Italy
TILION Italy
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TRIADE Italy
THE TRIP Italy
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UNO Italy
UNREAL CITY 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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RICCARDO ZAPPA Italy
ZAUM Italy

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