After the release of the legendary YS, the band Balletto di Bronzo disbanded and their leader Gianni Leone had a short solo career under the name of Leo Nero. The result was a very good album, Vero, released by the legendary Harvest label in 1977 and recorded a year before in New York. The album is totally played and sung by Leo himself, and despite some commercial pop songs, it has some good moments reminding of his old band’s sound, like in La discesa nel cervello, Il castello and the intense closing track Una gabbia per me. Obviously the sound is mainly keyboard based, but Leone played drums, minimoog bass lines and even guitar on some tracks. An album track, Sono stanco anch'io appeared on the B-side of a single from 1978, Fremo.
A very rare and collectible album, Vero only had a limited vinyl reissue in Japan, and now, for the very first time, is released on a great sounding 180g high quality vinyl!…..by…maximalist ………
“Vero” is the first and best work of Gianni Leone, keyboardist for Il Balletto di Bronzo. “Vero” was composed in 1974, about a year after the breakup of Balletto. Leone plays all the instruments on the album, recording it for the most part in 1975 in New York City. The album was finally released in 1977. Never reaching the dizzying, swirling heights of Il Balletto di Bronzo’s masterpiece “Ys,” yet “Vero” offers some wonderful songs and moments.
“Vero” is a concept album, related to Leone’s state of mind following the breakup of Il Balletto di Bronzo in 1973. After “Ys” was released in 1972 to much professional satisfaction and critical acclaim, the band decided to indulge in the fruits of their success. They moved into a communal house in Rimini, where they lived a reckless, Bohemian lifestyle. In (roughly–my Italian isn’t great) Leone’s words, “There were no rules… . There were all manner of people coming and going, doing anything and everything… . But it must be said that in doing so we were committing suicide… . The excesses began to sow seeds of discord between us in every respect… . We had no interest in anything that was remotely bureaucratic or organized. We were in great peril. It was a true debacle. ‘Ys’ was an escape, and we continued playing it always–and playing only these songs. We slowly lost our inspiration. We lost desire to try anything new together… . We had to give up. I remember looking back at that house in Rimini was like watching an ancient civilization unravel.”
After living in a place where he was literally never alone, Leone suddenly found himself quite alone, abandoned, surveying the remains of his shattered dreams. This trial proved to be an impetus for that lost inspiration, as the major themes of “Vero” revolve around isolation, loneliness, and dealing with these feelings. The entire album is suffused with a deep melancholy, far more quiet and melodic than anything Il Balletto ever did.
The first side of the album consists of a more singer-songwriter style, with emotive ballads and beautiful melodies typically based on vocals and piano, with other instruments gradually joining. The pieces can certainly be considered as multiple parts of a single work, not only lyrically, but also several musical themes are repeated between the songs. It is here that Leone bares his sensitive soul for us. For example, from “Tu te ricorderai de mi” (You’ll remember me): “I don’t dream any more but I’m still here / My strength at last is gone / I don’t laugh anymore.” But the best song on the first side is “La bambola rotta” (the broken doll), which is a tragic instrumental with layers upon layers of mood and sound.
The second side is less reflective and more energetic, sounding the echoes of “Ys.” These songs are much more progressive in the traditional sense, with keyboard pyrotechnics and complex time signatures. There are several classics here that are played in the Balletto live shows even now: “Tastieri isteriche,” “Il castello,” “La discesa nel cervello,” and “Una gabbia per me.” The most “Ys-like” is “La discesa nel cervello” (descent into the mind)–this even contains an excerpt of “Secondo incontro” from “Ys,” although the tape is played backwards. Wonderful songs and moments abound.
“Vero” seems to serve as a type of catharsis for Gianni Leone, exorcising the demons of his frustrated hopes and dreams that died with the dissolution of Il Balletto di Bronzo. Somehow through the haze and disappointment, he finds the will and even desire to continue on and make more wonderful music. This is a wonderful discovery, especially for RPI fans. And an absolute must for fans of Il Balletto di Bronzo. Four stars…..by Todd ………
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…..by Finnforest ……..
“Leo Nero” was in fact Gianni Leone, the keyboard player on Il Balletto di Bronzo’s landmark 1972 album, YS (reviewed elsewhere here). His contributions to that album are in fact much greater than I’d previously credited him. In my review of YS I said, “Both the words and music of this extraordinary album are credited solely to ‘N. Mazzocchi.’ Paolo [Barotto, in his book, THE RETURN OF ITALIAN POP] does not mention who this was, and I have never seen the name elsewhere.” And, in reviewing YS ENGLISH VERSIONS, I said, “The tracks are credited to ‘Leone - Mazzocchi,’ implying that Leone (who later released a solo album as Leo Nero, and moved to Los Angeles) supplied the English lyrics.” I was in error. I should have read Barotto more closely. In his separate entry for Leone (as a solo artist), he says, “Leo Nero was surely one of the most important Italian keyboards player and composers (he wrote the music for YS).”
So let me state here that “N. Mazzocchi” wrote the “text” (lyrics) for YS, while Leone wrote the stunning music.
One wonders why, after composing YS, Leone never again wrote music of this nature. Perhaps the reception at the time – YS was seen as “difficult” and was not successful when it was released – discouraged him. Be that as it may, Leone left Italy in the mid-seventies for America. In 1977 he recorded VERO in New York City, and then moved to Los Angeles for several years. In 1981 he recorded a second solo album, MONITOR, also for EMI. According to Barotto, circa 1996, “Leone is now back in Italy, preparing his third album.” It may or may not have had anything to do with TRYS. I’ve never heard MONITOR, but VERO – on which Leone plays all the instruments – is in its own way a delightful album. It is tuneful and melodic, by turns serious and playful (“R N’Roll Cat” is a great send-up), and warm where YS is sometimes chilling. If it lacks the ambition of YS it is wholly successful in its own terms.
In September of 1996, at the Progressivamente Rock Festival, Leone more or less recreated Il Bronzo di Balletto for a new live performance which was recorded and released in 1999 by Mellow as TRYS. In fact, only Leone himself goes back to the Balletto which originally created YS. The new Balletto is a trio, and Leone is joined by Ugo Vantini on drums, and Romolo Amici on bass. There is no guitarist, unfortunately. The album made from this performance is a long one, officially clocking in at over 71 minutes. But more than seven minutes of the final track is silence – leading up to a “hidden track” of rehearsal and setup/soundcheck snippets which lasts another minute or two. The program is divided between solo “Leo Nero” material (tracks 1 and 2 are from VERO; track 5 from MONITOR), material originally recorded by Il Balletto di Bronzo (track 4, “Donna Vittoria,” was a 1973 single, included on the Mellow CD release of YS; tracks 6 through 9 are from YS), and improvisations at the concert (tracks 3 and 10). I’m not sure what track 11, “Love In The Kitchen,” is. The credits (in Italian) say of it, “pubblicato in una diversa edizione sul cd promozionale di RomaEstate al Foro Italico net 1997,” from which I infer it first or originally appeared on a promotional CD. It ends abruptly, without applause – and is followed by the aforementioned more than seven minutes of silence before the “hidden track” appears.
It is exciting to think that Leone reformed Balletto for this performance, but a bit frustrating that as such Balletto played little new material. But the program is well thought out, with the “Leo Nero” material building nicely up to the music from YS. As for the performance of that music, Leone is in fine form and all over his keyboards. He sings as well as he did in 1972, but in live performance much of the studio production subtleties are lost, the massed choir of voices is missing, and there is no guitar to trade off with the keyboards. Despite that, the music from YS retains most of its impact – and reveals all over again what a monumental achievement the 1972 album was. As for Leone, he can cut Keith Emerson rather easily.
So what does this album mean? Is it part of the overall reflowering of progressive rock in Italy? Does it mark the permanent reformation of Il Balletto di Bronzo? Or was it a one-off, just for that festival? The fact that three years have passed without anything more from either Leone or Balletto suggests the latter, unfortunately. But I recommend both albums nonetheless……………
Leo Nero was the pseudonym used by Il Balletto di Bronzo’s leader Gianni Leoni, after his band fell apart before the mid-70’s.He traveled to New York in 1975 and recorded his solo debut album “Vero” (1977, Harvest), playing all instruments and singing, but this effort was only released two years later.With a very Rock'n'Roll front cover, showing Leone dressed in a leather jacket, the album’s opening side is closer to a Pop Rock album and very far from his progressive past, containing mainly soft ballads and poetic Rock songs, led by piano, organ and in general Leone’s keyboard work with strong orchestral influences and irritating vocals.The closing “La Bambola Rotta” is definitely proggier with evident Classical influences and a typical Italian taste on the dramatic instrumental work.Flipside is much more interesting, flirting with Il Balletto di Bronzo’s “Ys”, lacking any Pop sensibilities and being heavy on keyboards: Hammond organ, Moog synthesizer, Horner clavinet and acoustic piano, passing from mellow symphonic themes to Avant-Garde keyboard fests and then to organ-driven dark Prog.Even better this side is mainly instrumental and showcases that Leone never forgot to write complex and sinister music.A second album, titled “Monitor” and recorded in California, followed in 1980 and after an 82’ single Leone paused his activities for about a decade, before re-launching a new chapter in Il Balletto di Bronzo’s history in the 90’s…by..apps79 …
Line-up / Musicians - Leo Nero (Gianni Leone) / all instruments and voices
Tracklist A1 Scarpette Di Raso Blu A2 Sono Stanco Anche Io A3 La Luce A4 Tu Ti Ricordi Di Me A5 La Bambola Rotta B1 Tastiere Isteriche B2 Il Castello B3 La Discesa Nel Cervello B4 Rr Cat B5 Una Gabbia Per Me