Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso - Banco

Year of Release: 2010
Label: Cherry Red Records/Esoteric Recordings
Catalog Number: mantcd1009
Format: CD
Total Time: 48:03:00

Winners and losers

Let us extend a cautious welcome to this 2010 reissue of the album that brought Banco del Mutuo Soccorso to a wider international audience. Previously available on CD only through the band's website (in theory, at least), this has been updated by Cherry Red Records to include some extra sleeve notes and photographs.

Following in the footsteps of PFM, Banco del Mutuo Soccorso were signed up by Manticore Records and invited to re-record some of their existing material with lyrics in English. As a result, they got to play a distinctly more upmarket piano and a range of synths, including a string synthesizer. Additionally, they had access to top-quality recording.

So far so good, but there are losers as well as winners as the process unfolds. A clear winner is the final piece, "Traccia II," where the synths build up and dance confidently in counterpoint. But elsewhere, it's not always so positive. "Outside" -- the English-language version of "R.I.P." -- gains an impressively arranged choppy accompaniment behind the main verse and a cool new electric-piano solo over a staccato bass synth. However, the song loses all its original angry attack; its English lyrics -- presumably not fully understood by singer di Giacomo -- render the original anti-war message meaningless. This applies particularly to the memorable ballad that forms the second part of the song. Overall, fans of the Italian version will not be impressed.

And the biggest loser on this disc is di Giacomo. His reedy high-pitched tenor is a unique asset -- piercing when the band is in full cry and heart-stopping over the deceptively simple plangent ballads that appear at unexpected points in the band's songs. But here this most passionate of singers is largely rendered passionless. The root of the problem is that Di Giacomo is sold short by the new English lyrics, which have neither intimacy nor meaning. Thus, the short conclusion to "Metamorphosis" -- a slow epic melody -- is fatally punctured.

The sole original track on the disc, and the only one in Italian, puts this in perspective. "L'Albero del Pane" gallops out of the speakers in style, and di Giacomo's voice is an assured and passionate performer, caressing the melody, belting out the chorus. It doesn't matter if your Italian is up to scratch or not, because this works musically. What does matter is that di Giacomo himself connects with the tune. He throws his voice into the song, suffusing it throughout with bittersweet joy.

The man who gains most from the improved recording is probably drummer Pierluigi Calderoni. His contribution throughout is superb, from the sizzle and chatter he adds during the long instrumental passage in "Metamorphosis" to the impressively tight chopping behind "Outside."

On "L'Albero del Pane" he opts to do something simpler, but executes it beautifully. Listen as he rounds the tom toms legato in six bars of four, like padded boulders falling down a tuned staircase. Obligingly, the engineer puts this right at the front of the mix in the third verse.

On the other hand, for much of this album (in the depths of "Metamorphosis," for example, or among the meandering operatics of "Nothing's the Same"), you might well ask what this has to do with rock. Well, that's the mark of the band, and rock is only part of the offering. And it pretty well sums up progressive rock as a whole. If you don't want to venture out beyond the walls of standard rock, then you just don't need to be here. But for those who do, it's a fertile valley.

It is worth giving some consideration to the overall package. The extra sleeve notes offer a pleasant appreciation of the band, but nothing more. The text is backed up with some photographs and press clippings from the seventies, not least the Melody Maker article that first engaged this reviewer's interest in 1975.

Also reproduced are the original interior and exterior of the gatefold sleeve. And these serve to illustrate further things that didn't work. On its original release, the album achieved only low sales -- a sign of rising discontent with things progressive at the time. Manticore's faux chocolate-box sophistication did not help -- the graphic design is way off target. And we have an embarrassingly meaningless piece of doggerel (which may or may not have carried more weight in its original Italian) scripted across the back.

Contrast this to the inventive covers of their Italian releases -- the debut album is now famous in prog circles -- and you will see that Manticore did not serve this band particularly well. The cult status that the band now deservedly enjoys has been completely founded on the trio of Italian albums that preceded this one. For those new to the band, one of these remains the place to begin.

Chorale (From Traccia’s Theme) (2:30) / L'Albero Del Pane (The Bread Tree) (4:45) / Metamorphosis (14:54) / Outside (7:42) / Leave Me Alone (5:20) / Nothing’s The Same (9:58) / Traccia II (2:42)

Vittorio Nocenzi - organ, synths
Gianni Nocenzi - piano, synths, clarinet
Rodolfo Maltese - electric guitar, acoustic guitar, trumpet
Renato D'Angelo - bass, acoustic guitar
Pier Liugi Calderoni - drums and percussion
Francesco Di Giacomo - vocals

em>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: Progressive Rock

Origin IT

Added: July 4th 2011
Reviewer: John Hendry
Artist website:
Hits: 1112
Language: english


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