This is the first studio album with almost entirely brand-new songs (live bonus tracks enhance the new offering) from Italian progressive rock legends Banco del Mutuo Soccorso (‘Bank of Mutual Relief’) since 1994! What the…..?!
Saying that, I have never heard any of their early stuff, so who am I to be surprised? That just goes to show how insular we can become in our music tastes…….!
With their clearly stated influences of the likes of Yes, Gentle Giant, Genesis, ELP and Jethro Tull, this is a band that integrated jazz, folk and classical elements into their own sound and created some revered classics like “Darwin!” (1972), “Lo Sono Nato Libero” (1973)and “Banco” (1983). Having listened to this new album, I had better go check their back catalogue out! (and there is enough of it – see below).
The last Banco del Mutuo Soccorso album, “13”, was released back in 1994 and after twenty-five years and the loss of two historical former members, the band is back to confirm its place in the international progressive music scene. Led by founding member Vittorio Nocenzi (piano, keyboards and voice), he and Filippo Marcheggiani (guitar), Nicola Di Già (rhythm guitar), Marco Capozi (bass), Fabio Moresco (drums) and Tony D’Alessio (lead vocal), have produced an excellent album.
Superbly produced, impressively performed and artistically interesting, this album is a salutary reminder that great prog is not just from our self-important little island. I would not necessarily list the afore-mentioned bands as comparators for this album though. For me, I hear some Saga (vocally), the Watch and recent PFM (fellow Italians – no surprise), some nice angular stuff (Zappa-esque verging on the avant garde on well judged occasion) with soul, funk and jazz touches to suit, a whole raft of nicely crafted lush prog (clever time signatures, subtle song structures, interesting textures, good melodies – insert your own classic and neo-prog references), hints of operatic drama and some unique Banco nuances (you wouldn’t hear UK prog greats incorporating mandolin into rock songs usually, would you?!). And no, I am not put off by the language difference – for me it brings something different to the table, their linguistic nuances meaning that they don’t fall into anglicised cliches. Of course I don’t know what they are necessarily singing about, but I enjoy what I hear and understand musically!
Creative mastermind Vittorio Nocenzi promised an ‘autobiographical journey’ lyrically, musically and in terms of concept. Whilst I may not understand all I have heard, I think I can categorically state that he and they have delivered. “Transiberiana” picks up on Banco’s history and gives it an exciting and impressive modernity. I am not surprised that the esteemed record label Inside Out signed them up – they know a good thing when they hear it.
1. Stelle sulla terra (6:06)
2. L’imprevisto (3:29)
3. La discesa dal treno (6:16)
4. L’assalto dei lupi (5:35)
5. Campi di Fragole (3:36)
6. Lo sciamano (4:01)
7. Eterna Transiberiana (6:20)
8. I ruderi del gulag (6:06)
9. Lasciando alle spalle (1:47)
10. Il grande bianco (6:33)
11. Oceano: Strade di sale (3:39)
12. Metamorfosi (Live at Festival Prog di Veruno 2018) (9:43)
13. Il ragno (Live at Festival Prog di Veruno 2018) (5:43)
Discography (studio albums only):
1972 – Banco del Mutuo Soccorso
1972 – Darwin!
1973 – Io sono nato libero
1976 – Come in un’ultima cena
1978 – …di terra
1979 – Canto di primavera
1980 – Urgentissimo
1981 – Buone notizie
1983 – Banco
1985 – …e via
1989 – Non mettere le dita nel naso (als Il Banco presenta Francesco Di Giacomo)
1994 – Il 13
2019 – Transiberiana
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