In the late Seventies I bought my first Italian prog albums, from Premiata Forneria Marconi and Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso, nowadays both Classic Italian Prog bands are still alive. Last year PFM released the varied I Dreamed Of Electric Sheep (see review) from heavy and jazzrock to AOR, pop and funk. Recently Banco came up with this new album entitled Le Forme Dell Amore. The only member from the original line-up in the Seventies is Vittorio Nocenzi (piano, keyboards and vocals). The legendary singer Francesco Di Giacomo died in 2014. On the previous album Transiberiana (2019, see review), with styles which can described as 'modern progressive', from catchy and accessible to experimental and genuine progressive, he was replaced by Tony D'Alessio who performed in bands like Lost Innocence, Scenario, Guernica and Pozzo Di San Patrizio. Tony has always been a huge fan of the Classic Italian Prog, especially Il Balletto Di Bronzo, Osanna, PFM, Area, and Banco. He even met Francesco Di Giacomo in the time with his band Scenario. Francesco was impressed and said to the Banco members: “Before I die, mark him as a hypothetical substitute for the band”. Unfortunately this was sooner than planned when Francesco died in a car collision in 2014. From the moment Banco wanted to release a new album they organized auditions for a new singer, and asked Tony to join because they remembered Francesco his words. Among many good candidates Tony won!
From the very first moment on this new Banco album (close to 80 minutes) I am impressed, and carried away: the band delivers 15 elaborate, harmonic, melodic and eclectic compositions (most between 2 and 7 minutes), performed by excellent musicians, loaded with awesome interplay, and topped with the great voice of Tony (in Italian, “grazie”), he really shines and adds an extra element to the music. My (many) highlights.
The first song Proemio delivers a dreamy atmosphere featuring wonderful, emotionally driven Italian vocals, blended with tender keyboards, warm classical guitar and subtle electric guitar, this is top notch Italian prog, what an excellent start!
La Pianura Rossa contains a catchy mid-tempo with powerful bass and jazzy piano, dynamic drums and exciting interplay, for me this is the distinctive Banco sound from the early Seventies. Halfway a fiery electric guitar and inspired vocals, embellished with excellent interplay between the keyboards and guitar.
In Non Mi Spaventa Più L'amore a tight tango-like beat with fiery guitar leads, strong vocals, halfway the sound becomes more lush with Hammond organ and vocal harmonies, culminating in typical Banco virtuosity and interplay, including swirling piano work (between classical and avant-garde).
The mellow Le Anime Deserte Del Mondo features tender vocals and piano, volume pedal driven electric guitar, simply wonderful. In the end a spectacular Minimoog soli, wow!
L'isola Felice starts as a mellow piece, with slightly distorted vocals, then a catchy beat, topped with a majestic keyboard sound, including a Hammond solo.
The dynamic composition La Maldicenza delivers a swinging rhythm-section, then a bombastic accellaration with the mighty Hammond sound, propulsive guitar riffs, and flashy Minimoog work. The interplay is amazing, what an exciting retro prog sound! Finally a dreamy atmosphere with tender piano and spacey synthesizer flights.
Cadere O Volare begins with a catchy beat and powerful vocals, then mellow with sensitive guitar and vocals, and in the end a swinging break with brassy keyboards and Hammond.
Il Paladino is in the vein of early Seventies Banco, with excellent interplay, lots of dynamics, embellished with swirling Hammond, and propulsive heavy guitar work, Banco Goes Heavy Prog! Then the sound shifts to more mellow with Hammond and a tight beat, culminating in again Heavy Prog with blistering guitar, wow!
The intense ballad L'Amore Accade contains celestial vocals and piano, simply wonderful!
The climate in Non Credere Alla Luna is bluesy oriented with tender piano and vocals, and powerful saxophone play.
The epic Moon Suite is a genuine symphonic rock suite featuring lots of changing moods, from a swinging rhythm (with piano and Hammond, fiery electric guitar), mellow, a mid-tempo and bombastic (excellent interplay between Grand piano and rock guitar) to dreamy (with emotional vocals) and finally bombastic with churchy Hammond and rock guitar, another wow moment.
The final song Cosa Vuol Dire Per Sempre contains a dreamy atmosphere with passionate vocals and fine work on guitar and keyboards, this is the romantic side of the band. Finally a flashy Minimoog and fiery electric guitar interplay, Banco never stops to amaze and surprise!
The Italian prog legend Banco continues to impress, this new album sounds fresh, dynamic, varied and inspired, wow!
****- Erik Neuteboom
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