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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso: Io Sono Nato Libero


1) Canto Nomade Per Un Prigioniero Politico; 2) Non Mi Rompete; 3) La Città Sottile; 4) Dopo... Niente E Più Lo Stesso; 5) Traccia II.

This record is less known than Darwin! — for a technical reason, I believe, since «second-row» progressive rock (or any rock, for that matter) bands tend to be illustrated in textbooks by just one album, and Darwin! is an obvious choice due to its thematic cohesion. «Italian prog-rockers break through with an album centered on evolution», etc. This follow-up, in comparison, tends to be overlooked: it is not as thematically coherent, has fewer songs, and a long Italian title that, even if it is really hardly in any need of translation, is still a long Italian title.

However, it is every bit as good as Darwin!, and, perhaps, in some ways even better. It does suf­fer from the usual standard issue: ʽNon Mi Rompeteʼ is yet another in the ongoing series of Banco's ro­mantic Mediterranean ballads that will either make you swoon — or cringe, depending on your genetic constitution and social upbringing. Personally, I would gladly do with just the lovely folk patterns from Marcello Todaro's guitar, watching them gradually turn psychedelic through added phasing effect and form the backdrop for Vittorio's «whistle-synth» solo. Alas, I also have to live with DiGiacomo's «proverbially beautiful» singing — but if you are a fan of that style, it is probably done perfectly.

But other than the ballad (which would, of course, go on to become a crowd favorite), the album is dang near impeccable. ʽCanto Nomadeʼ (ʽA Nomad Chant For A Political Prisonerʼ) follows up on the album title — a 15-minute suite devoted to issues of personal and political freedom that mixes classic symph-prog, folk motives, noise, jazz-fusion improvisation, and a weird tribalistic percussion-dominated section without any seeming effort, as if to prove us the point about being born free. The individual themes are not exceedingly striking on their own, but, as in all of Ban­co's best works, they have this seductive lightness and fluency to them — the track hops along butterflyishly, from flower to flower, right down to the finale, where, fed up with nectar, it finally makes the landing with a swift and satisfied bombastic thud.

Side B is dominated by two shorter epics: ʽLa Città Sottileʼ is a dark mid-tempo piano-based epic, and ʽDopo... Niente E Più Lo Stessoʼ, opening with the album's catchiest theme — a strange «pas­toralesque jig» that almost sounds childish in comparison to everything else — soon turns out to be the album's resident rock piece, with heavy electric riffs, aggressive drum patterns, and a steady build-up to a state of barely-controlled instrumental chaos... before switching back to the little-boys-and-girls whistling dance once again at the very last moment.

Does it all «make sense»? Not in any objective manner — more than anything else, Io Sono Nato Libero simply seems carried away by its flow: other than the carefully pre-composed ʽNon Mi Rompeteʼ (and the brief final crescendo theme of ʽTraccia IIʼ, ending the album with an appropri­ate slice of stately majesty), the boys are working according to the «try anything» principle, as long as the «any­thing» in question does not carry them too far away from the shores of melody, harmony, and purity (such things as «feedback» or «atonality» do not seem to be favored in Ban­co's lexicon). But that is one hell of an exciting flow anyway — as usual, not bent on lengthy «noodles-style» soloing, but on carrying on a lively dialog between various instruments, one that never sticks too long around a single topic. Hence, it never becomes boring, and hence, there is always a good pretext to return to the album again. Thumbs up.

Check "Io Sono Nato Libero" (CD) on Amazon


  1. I am not particularly a fan of singing Italian style, but I don't particularly dislike it either. What I dislike are the excesses, especially getting overemotive by using a far too wide vibrato. So there is a middle way.

    Relisten to the minute 7-10 of Canto Nomade, GS. That's atonal music. Atonality doesn't equal ugliness by definition, though Schönberg and Weber have done their best in this respect. You compatriot Nikolay Roslavets is a fine counterexample - his atonal compositions best can be described as elegant.
    Canto Nomade is frigging brilliant. The melancholical melody is very moving. In the instrumental sections the band may try everything, it's not just trying - the band makes very sure it works and everything is well thought through. With this song alone Banco makes sure to be a first row prog band as far as I'm concerned. They push the musical borders much further than Yes did on Topographic Oceans and the result is far more coherent. Oh, now and then the band kicks plenty of ass as well.

    Non me Rompete is fine with me as well, though it's a bit unimaginitive after the high class of Canto Nomade. The next two composition cannot help pale a bit either. Moreover it doesn't exactly thrill me that DiGiacomo sometimes prefers talking to singing. The album ends on a very high note again with the seemingly, but very cleverly constructed Traccia II. It shows that the Italian guys knew about a few classical composing techniques as well.

    1. Yes, you are absolutely right, there is definitely some atonal piano work in CN. But when did I associate atonality with ugliness per se?

    2. When reviewing Gentle Giant's Interview on your old side (and its successor). But I could have understood you wrong, of course.

  2. Ah, forgot to mention the excellent rhythm section.

  3. The credits put Marcello todaro as the main guitarist but instead all the guitar parts are played by Rodolfo Maltese, (credited just as a guest musician), who will be in the band untill 2011. and he's pretty recognizable, being more fluent and more talented than Todaro.

    1. After hearing the live album from 1975 I have to agree with you.