BANCO DEL MUTUO SOCCORSO: SEGUENDO LE TRACCE (1976/2005)
1) R.I.P. (English version); 2) L'Albero Del Pane; 3) La Danza Dei Grandi Rettili; 4) Passaggio; 5) Non Mi Rompete; 6) Dopo... Niente E Più Lo Stesso; 7) Traccia II; 8) Metamorfosi.
Well, this totally makes sense: after almost three decades of waiting, finally release a live album from Banco's golden days. This particular show, played out at Teatro Verdi in Salerno on April 23, 1975, could easily have been a big hit in the old days, when double and triple live prog albums were steadily released on a monthly, if not daily, basis — and the excellent sound quality of the tapes would have made it a standout back in the day, too, so it is fairly odd that we only get official access to this as an afterthought. But a twenty-first century release, with progressive rock having largely regained its used-to-be-tattered reputation, is not that bad either.
As time goes by and chronology flattens out, this record is bound to become Banco's equivalent of Yessongs — capturing the band at their absolute creative peak, just before personal burnout and changing fashion issues cause them to start faltering, and burning down the stage with absolute pride at their achievements. The setlist is predictably titanic, the playing is predictably tight and inspired, and the self-interpretations allow for variability, improvisation, and general freedom without demolishing the original constructions.
The only piece of bad news is that ʽR.I.P.ʼ is presented in its English version: with the band either working on or having just released their first English album (Banco) at the time, they were eager to try out at least one of the re-recordings, for which DiGiacomo offers the audience a blurry Italian apology post-factum. Not only that, but they also keep the loosened up, funkier rhythmic reinvention, missing a good chance to open the show with a tight, aggressive punch. A mistake, I think, echoing the even larger mistake of recording in English in the first place.
However, from then on, there are virtually no complaints. Apart from the obligatory ballad interlude of ʽNon Mi Rompeteʼ, one lengthy epic is played from each of their three major albums: actually, ʽLa Danza Dei Grandi Rettiliʼ from Darwin! is transformed into an epic, stretched almost four times beyond its original length by means of free-flowing jazz breaks (with Maltese switching to trumpet and doing his best Miles Davis impersonation) and Latin-colored percussion solos. Likewise, ʽMetamorfosiʼ gets an extra fifteen minutes to its already impressive original running time, with the Nocenzi brothers taking turns to prove us that they really need these extra fifteen minutes... not really sure about that, but they get into it with enough verve not to have me worrying all the time about pressing the fast forward button.
In other words, this here is live-and-breathing progressive rock the way we remember it — bold, ambitious, pretentious, self-indulgent, constantly plunging into «musical masturbation» with no respect for modesty and conciseness... and vindicated by superbly tight internal coordination and sheer technical mastery of everyone involved. Needless to say, the record is an absolute must-have for every progressive rock studioso — and an absolute must-avoid for everyone who still believes that a twenty-minute live phantasmagoria from, say, Ornette Coleman is «an inspiring feast of artistic liberty and inventiveness», whereas a twenty-minute live version of ʽMetamorfosiʼ would be «a pathetically boring display of meaningless self-indulgence». Fortunately, Seguendo Le Tracce arrives at a good time for the genre, when the silliness of such oppositions becomes more and more apparent, and this brings on hope that my thumbs up for this record will not go completely unnoticed, either.