Guest This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Italian Prog September 3, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
Many thanks to Rock Roots of… well… Rock Roots for the very welcome following This Weekend:
It was no coincidence that when Genesis (or, at least, three of them) reformed in 2007 they chose their Rome concert to film for a DVD release. Italian audiences had been very good to the band over the years. In fact, the band found greater initial success there than at home in the UK. Likewise, Italian music fans of the early ‘70s lapped up anything by Gentle Giant, Van Der Graaf Generator and many other progressive rock imports from Britain. So it’s no surprise to find that domestic prog bands began to appear, with their own twist on the genre. What makes Italian prog different is that there was no comparative culling of bands by the punk wave, meaning that these bands have, in many cases, continued to record and evolve uninterrupted. To my ears, there’s also a refreshing lack of ego in Italian prog; much more intricate band interplay rather than showey 10-minute bass or drum solos, trimming away one of the more tedious aspects of British prog. I’m no expert on the genre by any means, but here’s a few favourites to serve as an introduction for the curious.
Milan-based Area were fronted by Greek-Egyptian singer Demetrio Stratos, whose experimental vocal techniques probably would have led to more international fame had he not died in 1979. Borrowing a title from Germany’s darkest hour, Arbeit Macht Frei begins as standard 70s jazz-rock fusion before a pounding riff emerges from the fog half way through, heralding Stratos’ theatrical vocals.
Area – Arbeit Macht Frei
Premiata Forneria Marconi (or PFM, if your Italian is shakey) translates as something like ‘Award-winning Marconi Bakery’. Another Milan band, PFM had some success in the UK and USA thanks to their similarities to the Canterbury prog sound and to their releasing English-language versions of many of their albums. Is My Face On Straight is from 1974 and, as with many of their songs, features English lyrics provided by King Crimson’s Peter Sinfield.
Premiata Forneria Marconi – Is My Face On Straight
Le Orme (‘The Footprints’), from Venice, also made some headway internationally with tracks like this, which is haunting and fragile but veers into more familiar Anglo-centric prog in places.
Le Orme – Aspettando l’Alba
Goblin are among the better-known Italian prog bands (they performed in Dublin just last year). They are famous for their instrumental soundtrack work, such as this spooky theme for the 1977 Italian horror film directed by Dario Argento.
Goblin – Suspiria
Locanda Delle Fate (‘The Fairy Inn’) conjure up gentle orchestral prog rock not unlike Genesis or Marillion.
Locanda Delle Fate – Vendesi Saggezza
PFM, from their 1972 debut Storia di Un Minuto, also channel early Genesis with gentle mellotron passages, before building up to an insistent synthesizer riff.
Premiata Forneria Marconi – Introduzione / Impressioni di Settembre
PFM again, with a jaunty and very prog rock riff on guitar and Wakeman-like synth, accompanied by flute.
Premiata Forneria Marconi – E’ Festa
Turin band Errata Corrige’s 1976 album Siegfried, Il Drago e Altre Storie included these extended passages. The first builds to a gentle synth part and haunting vocals with acoustic instruments, while the second concludes with a beautiful guitar and piano motif.
Errata Corrige – Del Cavaliere Citadel e del Drago della Foresta di Lucanor / Dal Libro di Bordo dell ‘Adventure
Goblin, playing a more conventional British style of prog rock instrumental along the lines of Yes or Pink Floyd, with lots of keyboard and prominent bass guitar.
Goblin – Roller
Two tracks from Le Orme’s 1972 album Uomo di Pezza. The first is manic and ominous, similar perhaps to ELP’s keyboard wizardry. The second features a gentle vocal alternating with rocky synth passages.
Le Orme – Alienazione / La Porta Chiusa
Featuring a song about the Irish Sea, Picchio Dal Pozzo’s Camere Zimmer Rooms album was apparently recorded live in their new studio for their own amusement in 1977 and only released a quarter-century later. The Genoa band’s evocation of a town soundscape shifts from appropriate sound effects to accomplished jazz-rock, to an abrupt Mothers of Invention-style rhythmic cacophony.
Picchio Dal Pozzo – La città