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8 Aug 2016

Banco del Mutuo Soccorso “Darwin!” 1972 Rock Italiano progressivo

















Banco del Mutuo Soccorso “Darwin!” 1972 Rock Italiano progressivo

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A great epic journey by this well respected legendary Italian progressive rock. “Darwin” was BANCO’s 2nd release and is certainly one of their most complete works of art. “Darwin” is a very expressive album and offers a wide range of tones and moods with a superb blend of classical and progressive chamber rock. “Darwin” is a heavy theatrical production which comes across as a great concept-like piece of art. Loads of great keyboard work here as you would expect and songs are exceptionally well pieced together. I love the inter-exchange of the rock ideals with the classical style BANCO mix here. Oboes, clarinet and harpicords get interwoven with synths, piano and electric guitar. The CD re-mastered version is exceptional and offers grand sound reproduction. This is a real treasure for those lovers of Italian prog rock and is also a great place to start for the young at heart. ……

A jewel, probably their best album, even though by regarding the difficult connection between a song and another, some critics have been criticizing such concept album for many years… but apart from this controversial opinion, to me the impact was enormous and the work of the keyboards fantastic as usual!! …..

Definately an improvement over their debut, which was released earlier the same year as “Darwin!” “Darwin!” is supposed to be a concept album, presumably inspired by Charles Darwin himself. The debut album, to me, was like the first two YES albums or GENESISs’ “Trespass”, or in the world of Italian prog, Le ORME’s “Collage”, all albums showing potential which following albums fulfilled that promise, although I have to say BANCO’s album was definately much more progressive than those two early 1969-70 YES albums. “Darwin!” to me fulfilled the promised that showed on their debut. No doubt the opening, “L'Evoluzione” shows BANCO at their finest. The synthesizers are more present, unlike the unremarkable Moog leads you might find on “R.I.P.”, the synthesizers on “Darwin!” are far more interesting and present. This album showed the band really did their homework, and so little time between the debut and this album that the year still wasn’t over (1972). “La Conquista Della Posizione Eretta” is another totally fantastic number, largely instrumental, dominated by the keyboards of the Nocenzi brothers (Gianni and Vittorio), with some truly amazing use of synths. The cut ends with Francesco di Giacomo’s usual dramatic singing. The rest of the album consists of shorter pieces, but still unmistakably progressive. “Danza Dei Grandi Rettili” is a more jazzy piece, all-instrumental, dominated by Gianni Nocenzi’s piano, although his brother Vittori gives us some nice use of synth. “750.000 Anni Fa… L'Amore?” is a nice piano-dominated ballad, definately my favorite ballad from BANCO, I like the use of synths in the middle. The closing piece, “Ed Oro Io Domando Tempo al Tempo Ed Egli Mi Risponde… Non ne Ho!” is a more waltz-like piece, with harpsichord and reed organ.

If you want to get in to BANCO, make sure you start either with this one, or their following, “Io Sono Nato Libero”, as both are totally essential Italian prog albums……

Everything that is wonderful about Italian Symphonic Prog is encapsalated in the first track, “L'Evoluzione” on Banco’s best album; almost 14 minutes of majestic keyboards, sonically charged guitars, Francesco’s incredible voice and just enough Italian weirdness. Fantastic! And that’s only the first song! One thing I love about Banco is that they’re very original. Except for a Emerson-like keyboard flourish here or there, I can’t compare them to anyone else, especially outside of Italy. So, to make this short and oh so sweet, if you want to check out this band start with this one. It’s up there in the top 5 Italian Symph albums of all time. Take my word! ……

It’s really a classic prog album which I have the remastered edition (2001). Looking this album in the context when it was released, it’s definitely an excellent classic album! There is a blend of bluesy style as indicated by how the guitar is played like David Gilmour of Pink Floyd. I’m not in a position to comment which band came first with this kind of bluesy style but it seems like Pink Floyd first. It’s not the whole style and nuance of “Darwin!” is similar with Pink Floyd - it’s only the guitar style at the opening of the first track “L'Evoluzione” (13:57). The total music concept, approach and style of Banco is completely different with Pink Floyd. Based on my observation this album is more a symphonic prog than a psychedelic one.

The opening track “L'Evoluzione” (13:57) is truly a killer with great variety of styles from start to end. There are parts with memorable melodies and well balanced segments with complex arrangements - even it’s combined with short drums solo. The vocal in Italian language is powerful and unique. I think Italian is one of the best prog languages - it sounds nice to my ears. All musicians play their parts wonderfully: classic organ, bass guitar, drums and guitars. I keep repeating this track one because I like it. The music sometimes reminds me to PFM.

All other tracks are also excellent in terms of composition, varied tempo as well as time signatures. Am not gonna review on track by track by track basis but by going through some tracks, you will get a full picture of the music of “Darwin!”. The second track “La Conquista Della Posizione Eretta” (8:41) brings the music even much more wonderful with pulsating organ / piano work which reminds me to Keith Emerson even though in different style. The first verse of the song is truly rewarding and I doubt that you do not think that this is a great composition. Any prog ear would say that this is a great composition. More of half duration of this track is a great instrumental, and the vocal part enters at the ending part. Instead of symphonic, the band also inserts jazz style like it’s demonstrated on some segments of track 3 “Danza Dei Grandi Rettili” (3:39).

Given the facts that many segments of this album have symphonic nature, it’s actually a representation of the era where most prog music was revolving around this style. It’s an excellent addition to any prog music collection with unique sound of Italian prog. Recommended. Keep on proggin’ ..!…..

The reason why Banco del Mutuo Soccorso so much deserves their status as an epitome of the best Italian prog of all times is the fact that its first three efforts are highly remarkable masterpieces in which complexity and beauty are taken to their maximum levels. All three together follow a coherent line of artistic ambition and consistent recreation of sonic potential. “Darwin!” was my first BMS experience, and what a pleasant entrance it was. ‘L'Evoluzione’ brings the listener a complete landscape of the musical world generated by the Nocenzi borthers and ordained by the full ensamble. There is Di Giacomo’s peculiar vocal style in which the grandiosity of opera and teh magic of Mediterranean folklore are mixed, there are the interplays sustained by both keyboardists while they apparently seem to go their own ways, there are the guitar flourihes, there is the complex labor delivered so solidly by the rhythm section, there are the additiona ornaments provided by other instruments such as vibraphone andclarinet. This is the first BMS to feature a Moong synthesizer, and you can tell that the Nocenzi brothers are loving it. Its employment adds color and energy to the other keyboards’ inputs, as well as robust duplication of guitr phrases and clarinet lines. This is an incredibly jaw-dropping opener that leaves the listener wanting more (or some time to ret before going on with the album). 'La Conquista della Posizione Eretta’ is heavily based on the multiple keyboards’ stuff, but this is not a mere exucse fr technical pyrotechnics: in fact, you can sense a dramatic feel in the long instrumental jamming that takes place, a feel to which Di Giacomo’s singing a proper defining conclusion while the piano delivers mysterious chod progressions. 'Danza dei Grandi Rettili’ is a most beautiful serenade, relaxed and constraint, focused on the playful side of conventional jazz. 'Cento Mani e Cento Occhi’ is a typical BMS number: it’s complex yet not unscrutable, energetic yet not overblown, full of appealing musical ideas which ae cleverly intertwined through thoroughly crafted mood shifts and tempo changes. And what can I say about track 5 that many haven’t said before me 750,000 times? It’s one of the most beautiful ballads ever in the world history of rock, just like that. Therefore, it’s one of the most beautiful ballads in prog history and Italian prog history: Di Giacomo makes his voice cry in sheer sadness, and so does Gianni Nocenzi regarding the ivories of his grand piano. Sadness leavs and grandeur returns for the almost instrumental 'Miserere all Storia’. Unlike 'La Conquista…’ and not unlike 'Cento Mani…’, this one is constructed in a very calculated manner by all instrumentalists, but there is a brief moment for drama during Di Giacomo’s pompous soliloquy: ceremonious, perhaps parodic. The closer is a prerry circus-meets-Venezian folk song on a ¾ tempo. The final sounds of old carrousel machinery closes down a terrific musical work, a masterpiece indeed. ……

Banco del Mutuo Soccorso are certainly the most original band from the classic symphonic triad from Italy (PFM, Le Orme and Banco). They managed to create a very distinctive sound due to the great interplay between the two Nocenzi brothers on keyboards (classic pianos, hammond organs, moogs and clavinet). For this reason they are still very influential (Consorzio Acqua Potabile, for instance).

Darwin is not the most favourite of mine from their famous output. I still prefer Io Sono Nato Libero for its more mature soundscapes tinged with acoustic guitars.

Notwithstanding, I have to admit that Darwin is their most bombastic one (L'Evoluzione and La Conquista della Polizione Eretta), their most operatic and theatrical one (just listen to the superb Cento Mani e Cento Occhi), italic in its essence for its dramatic haunting melodies (750.000 Anni Fa… l'Amore), unespected jazzy variations (Danza dei Grandi Rettili), medieval flash-backs (Ed Ora Io Domando Tempo al Tempo ed Egli Mi Risponde: Non ne Ho!), wonderful classic arrengements (Miserere alla Storia) and, above all, very inspired vocals courtesy of a certain Francesco Di Giacomo (who probably does his best here).

You probably won’t like it at first. But, listen to me: give it a pair of spins more and it’ll never leave your top ten! A concept album for the evolution of your prog taste.

Line-up / Musicians

- Francesco Di Giacomo / lead vocals
- Marcello Todaro / electric & acoustic guitars
- Vittorio Nocenzi / Hammond organ, Moog synthesizers, harpsichord, vocals
- Gianni Nocenzi / piano, E-flat clarinet
- Renato D'Angelo / bass, double bass
- Pier Luigi Calderoni / drums, timpani

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. L'Evoluzione (13:59)
2. La Conquista Della Posizione Eretta (8:42)
3. Danza Dei Grandi Rettili (3:42)
4. Cento Mani E Cento Occhi (5:22)
5. 750,000 Anni Fa … L'Amore? (5:38)
6. Miserere Alla Storia (5:58)
7. Ed Ora Io Domando Tempo Al Tempo Ed Egli Mi Risponde … Non Ne Ho! (3:29)

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..

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