Saturday, 8 December 2012

PRESENT AND YET REMOTE

Present and yet remote, a living vision of that which has already been left far behind by the flowing streams of Time...”. Well, Tolkien wrote these words to describe Lady Galadriel in “The Lord Of The Rings”, but I think that the same words could be used to describe the debut album of Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, released in 1972 with a line up featuring Francesco Di Giacomo (vocals), Vittorio Nocenzi (keyboards), Gianni Nocenzi (keyboards), Marcello Todaro (guitar), Renato D'Angelo (bass) and Pierluigi Calderoni (drums). This work is a melting pot of classical influences and progressive sounds where the musicians try to find a personal way to express their ideas through music and suggestive lyrics hanging above past and present, fantasy and reality...

Banco del Mutuo Soccorso 1972

“Loosen your hippogriff’s bridles, Astolfo / And fly wildly where man’s work is more brisk / But don’t deceive me with false images / And let me see the truth / So that I can touch what’s fair...”. The short opener “In volo” (Flying) features sounds effects, choirs and flute giving it a kind of “Middle-age flavour” while the melody and the recitative vocals seem to come out from the “streams of time”. Well, actually the lyrics are vaguely inspired by the work of the Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto and not by Tolkien, but in my opinion it doesn’t matter very much whether they come from the “Middle-age” or from the “Middle-earth”. “From here, sir, we overlook the valley / What you can see is real / But if the picture is thin to your eyes / Let’s go down to look at it from below / And we’ll glide down in a winged gallop / Into the crater where time gurgles...”. An amazing prelude for the following track!


With “R.I.P. (Requiescant In Pace)” the rhythm rises bringing echoes of war, while the lyrics and the particular vocals of Francesco Di Giacomo draw the gloomy landscape of a battle field... “Horses, bodies and broken spears are turning red / Laments of dying people without a Christ nearby / Huge pupils turned up to the sun / Dust and thirst / In every moment you can feel Death’s breath on you / But you’ll never know why... Rest in peace!”. The music is powerful with keyboards and piano in the forefront... “On heaps of dead corpses you built up your glory / But the blood you spilt has fallen back on you / Your war has come to an end, old soldier...”. Then the storm calms down giving way to a delicate piano part that leads to a struggling, melodic elegy... “Now the wind sits down / Your glance is still hanging from the sky / Your eyes lie in the sun / In your chest there’s still a dagger / And you won’t shoot ever more your spear trying to wound the horizon / To push yourself further / To discover what only God knows / Nothing will be left of you but the pain and the cry that you gave / To push yourself further / To discover what God only knows...”. “A living vision”, a bitter reflection about the inhumanity and uselessness of war and glory, “present and yet remote”... 


The sound of steps, a man approaching an old harpsichord, the sound of the instrument and the voice of the man drawing a melody... This is “Passaggio”, just a short bridge that leads to “Metamorfosi”, a long track, almost completely instrumental, with many changes in rhythm and mood melting in the short conclusive singing part where “opera like” vocals seem to claim the need for a never ending change... “Man, I don’t know if I resemble to you / I don’t know, nevertheless I feel that I wouldn’t like / To mark my days with yours...”.


“Il giardino del mago” (The wizard’s garden) is a long, complex suite, dark and dreamy... “When I was a child I used to ride a horse, its head bent down / I used to gallop without a noise / The wooden hoofs that flew over the flowers didn’t spoil the colours...”. The lyrics are about the contrast between dreams and reality and the music seems to underline this contrast... Who is the wizard? Well, maybe the wizard is Atlante, another Ariosto character but that doesn’t really matter; here the wizard’s garden is just a place in your mind where reality has no room and where you can find a shelter... “With my hair blowing in the wind / I rule the time, my time / There, in the spaces where death has no power / Where love crosses the borders / And the servant dances with the king / Crown without vanity / The road that goes is never-ending...”.

The final short instrumental track “Traccia” is clearly classically inspired... Hints of Bach and Beethoven blended with progressive rock leading to an astounding result...

“Present and yet remote, a living vision of that which has already been left far behind by the flowing streams of Time...”. One of the milestones of Italian-prog!

From the book Rock Progressivo Italiano: An introduction to Italian Progressive Rock