Smogmagica is Le Orme's seventh studio album. It was recorded in Los Angeles, California, in 1975 with a line up featuring, along with the historical members Aldo Tagliapietra (bass, vocals, acoustic guitar), Tony Pagliuca (keyboards) and Michi Dei Rossi (drums), a young, skilled musician with a solid rock-blues background, Tolo Marton (electric guitar, harmonica, vocals). With this album Le Orme tried to change slightly their sound following a more straightforward musical direction. The result might not be completely satisfying for old prog fans but, even if it represents a step back when compared to the band's previous masterpieces, this is still a good album with some magnificent tracks. Anyway, the wonderful album cover painted by Paul Whitehead and inspired by the music is a special asset and makes of this work a very special item in any progressive rock collection.
The opener “Los Angeles” begins by a frenzied guitar solo flying on a cloudy rhythmical carpet that melts in a quiet piano section with a short vocal part. The lyrics describe the feelings of a passenger on a plane landing in L.A., the “magical polluted” city of the title (it's very difficult to translate the word “Smogmagica” indeed!)... “I felt a void in me and a sensation of fear / While the darkness of the clouds was still around me / Then, suddenly, below me an ocean of lights / I had never seen before so many lights at the same time...”. Then the rhythm sets off again in a instrumental “crescendo” with some changes in rhythm and mood and a good interaction between the guitar and the other instruments. A great track!
“Amico di ieri” (Yesterday’s friend) is one of the most famous songs by Le Orme. It’s a melancholic acoustic ballad where a delicate melody sets a dreamy atmosphere. The lyrics tell about the autumn wind that blows to Los Angeles from his cradle in the desert, bringing with him the memories of the ancient pioneers who were driven to the sea and to a new reality by their dreams of freedom... “Autumn wind / Yesterday’s friend / Today nobody cares of you / Your rising voice / Takes away the sleep from resting people / It just soils the city...”. Well, in this case the lyrics represent also a way to tell about the contrast between past and present, dream and reality in a poetical way... This song has always been one of my favourites.
Unfortunately, the following “Ora o mai più” (Now or nevermore) is not as good as the previous tracks. It is a kind of prog’n’roll featuring lyrics about a man who drives like hell “collecting red lights” just to get in time to a meeting with his girlfriend. The song ends with the noise of a car crash! Good idea, but the result is not completely convincing...
Then comes “Laserium Floyd”, a good instrumental with a slow pace and a nocturnal atmosphere that could recall Pink Floyd’s echoes. It leads to “Primi passi” (First steps), a nice pop rock song about the need to look for new experiences that makes you jump on the first train running to seek your fortune far away, without waiting for useless promises... “Hello, new day that moves on by uncertain steps...”.
The following delicate, acoustic ballad “Immensa distesa” (Immense plain) is definitely better with Aldo Tagliapietra's soaring vocals that conjure up a dreamy mood... “You would like to follow me and move far away / But eventually you prefer the shelter of dreams...”. Remarkable the particular coda with a fine drum work running under the melody played by the acoustic guitar.
|Le Orme in L.A., 1975|
“Amanti di città” (City lovers), despite the good guitar work, in my opinion is the worst track of the lot, especially on account of the strange, unpleasant vocals. The lyrics are absolutely nothing special, just an ironic dialogue between two lovers in the city.
“L’uomo del pianino” (The street organ man) is an interesting experimental track, a kind of “country-prog” song with a beautiful short ragtime section... “Distant fogs of my home town / Make safer the old way... How many strange things I keep inside me...”. A good effort to cross the styles.
The instrumental “Laurel Canyon” is another good effort to blend the rock-blues influences of the guitarist with the prog vein of the other members of the band. This track was named after Laurel Canyon Boulevard in L.A., California, the place where the band set their headquarters during the recording sessions, and concludes an album with some ups and downs but that is really worth listening to.
You can listen in streaming to the complete album HERE