Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso - Darwin!

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Sony/BMG
Catalog Number: MPCD 205
Format: CD
Total Time: 46:50:00

Italian prog legends Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso (or Banco for short), have been making music for the better part of 30 years now. Darwin! marks their second release, and is considered by many to be among their best work, to be one of the best in Italian prog, and, in fact, one of the best in prog overall. For me personally, I had really even heard of Banco until their appearance at Progfest 2000 was announced, though I'm sure somewhere along the line I've read an article or review in either Progression Magazine, Exposé, or somewhere else. Nevertheless, I hadn't heard any Banco music until I purchased Canto Di Primavera in the months before Progfest 2000, their first-ever US appearance. At the festival I picked up Darwin!, based on others comments as where this placed in their oeuvre, but it hasn't been until now, even after their appearance at NEARfest 2001, their second-ever US performance, that I've had a chance to listen to Darwin!.

Released in 1972, in some ways Darwin! sounds very much like a 28 year old release, but on the other hand, there's stuff here that bands are still doing today, that sound "today." It is a concept album based on evolutionary theory. Of course, one should know the name Darwin, whether one agrees with him or not. If not from the small number of fish-shaped Darwin car decorations one can spot here and there (an answer to the other sort of fish-shaped car decorations) then, and hopefully more so, from his book Origin Of The Species, published in the late 1800's. I would say that Banco having survived for 30 years certainly serves as an example of survival of the fittest in the progressive species. And that they are still so respected 30 years on, when many aren't, is also a testament to something.

Three things stand out for me with this release - Francesco Di Giacomo's vocals, Vittorio Nocenzi's keyboards, and Renato D'Angelo's bass. There are other moments on each track stand out, of course -- the energetic latter half or so of "L'Evoluzione," for example. There is such drama in Di Giacomo's voice. While I'm not sure where this band stands in relation to Genesis -- in that I don't know if Banco were influenced at all by Genesis, a band whose career started around the same time -- but there is some keyboard sounds that are similar to early Genesis. However, more often than not, there are elements that are clearly not like Genesis.

"La Conquista..." is almost tango-like in parts, though it begins with all sorts of percussive sounds from the dark bass, drums, keys, etc. and a sound that is both like someone blowing raspberries and some funky flatulence. Personally, at certain points I kept thinking of the "Cantina Band" track on the Star Wars soundtrack, though I'm certainly not suggesting any influence here, unless composer John Williams was a Banco fan. Though it's Nocenzi's keys that are the lead here, it's D'Angelo's simple bass line that I really dig. Not that I don't like the keys, but there is something very sinewy and sultry about the bass. There are keyboard passages that are bright and steel like, rather cold. Not meant negatively, but in contrast to the bass, they are.

Lulled by the gentleness of "Danza Dei Grandi Rettilli" "Cento Mani E Cento Ochhi" leaps out of your speakers. Not as energetic as "L'Evolution," it is a mix of classical and Emersonion sounding keys. If one were to mention ELP at all, other than as I said above, what comes to mind for me mostly is "Jerusalem" -- it doesn't sound like "Jerusalem," but there is a tempo and pace that is similar. There are hints of "Stones Of Years" - again more as feel than as any influence. I would venture to say that influence is certainly not in the equation. "Cento Mani..." is fairly mid-tempo where the keys are occasionally angular -- a Hammond, it sounds like.

"750,000 Anni Fa...L'Amore?" is another gentle track. Di Giacomo's vocals are sublime, so emotional. Just voice and piano, giving way to deep, dark keys with higher tone keys playing in counterpoint. "Miserere Alla Storia" is mostly a loping, jaunty instrumental piece, but along the way transforms itself into various shapes. "Ed Ora Io Domando Tempo Al Tempo Ed Egli Mi Risponde ... None Ne Ho!" is at once playful - like a circus theme - light and airy with some deep bass tones ... fanfareish.

Conclusion: when all is said and done, I really dig this album. I have enjoyed listening to it and I know why Banco is so respected and why folks rate Italian prog the best. Highly recommended to all fans, but especially those into symphonic prog, Italian or not.

L'Evoluzione (13:59) / La Conquista Della Posizione Eretta (8:42) / Danza Dei Grandi Rettili (3:42) / Cento Mani E Cento Occhi (5:22) / 750,000 Anni Fa ... L'Amore? (5:38) / Miserere Alla Storia (5:58) / Ed Ora Io Domando Tempo Al Tempo Ed Egli Mi Risponde ... Non Ne Ho! (3:29)

Vittorio Nocenzi - organ, synths
Gianni Nocenzi - piano and piccolo
Marcello Todaro - electric and acoustic guitars
Renato D'Angelo - bass and contrabass
Pier Liugi Calderoni - drums and percussion
Francesco Di Giacomo - vocals

Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso (1972)
Darwin (1972)
Io Sono Nato Libero (1973)
Banco (1975)
Garofano Rosso (1976)
Come In Un' Ultima Cena (1976)
...Di Terra (1978)
Canto Di Primavera (1979)
Capolinea (1980)
Urgentissimo (1980)
Buone Notizie (1981)
Banco (1983)
...E Via (1985)
Donna Plautilla (1989)
Il 13 (1994)
Nudo (1997)

Genre: Symphonic Prog

Origin IT

Added: July 18th 2001
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1172
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]