BANCO DEL MUTUO SOCCORSO – Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso

This Italian band were many people’s first introduction to progressive music outside the UK, due to its worldwide distribution by the Manticore label. It was a great introduction as well, as the band were all expert musicians and wrote in a style that was instantly appreciated by lovers of classic UK and US prog. They were unusual in having a dual keyboard line-up, which meant that they could use both piano and synths in a live setting, while the guitar could alternate between heavy riffs and psychedelic solos. ‘R.I.P.’ is an excellent progressive piece, where the fact that the lyrics are in Italian seems to lessen the enjoyment not one jot. ‘Passaggio’ is a short curio – footsteps echo in a room as someone makes their way to a keyboard, plays a few seconds on the harpsicord, and then walks off again. But it is with ‘Metamorfosi’ that the band produce the first classic of the album. Built around the keyboards, it contains some fine playing reminiscent of early ELP (who, of course, owned the Manticore label), but with the added bonus of some first rate guitar weaving in and out of the music. Mostly instrumental (it takes nine minutes for the vocal to appear) it is progressive rock of the highest order. The piece segues into the album’s centerpiece – the five part, eighteen minute ‘Il Giardino Del Mago’, which, in true progressive style, is a wild mixture of moods, tempos and emotions. The album closes with the keyboard led ‘Traccia’ – another track highlighting the band’s musical dexterity. Fans of early 70’s prog, and especially ELP, are advised to check out the CD reissue as soon as possible.