Thursday, May 14, 2015

Leo Nero - 1977 - Vero

Leo Nero

01. Scarpette Di Raso Blue (2:54)
02. Sono Stanco Anch'Io (3:54)
03. La Luce (3:36)
04. Tu Ti Ricorderai Di Me (4:21)
05. La Bambola Rotta (7:01)
06. Tastieri Isteriche (5:12)
07. Il Castello (5:16)
08. La Discesa Nel Cervello (4:07)
09. Rock'n'Roll Cat (0:53)
10. Una Gabbia Per Me (6:39)

- Leo Nero (Gianni Leone) / all instruments and voices

After the breakup of IL BALLETTO DI BRONZO in 1973, keyboardist Gianni Leone pursued a solo career under the name of LEO NERO. This resulted in two albums: the progressive "Vero" in 1977, and synth-pop-oriented "Monitor" in 1980.

Young keyboardist extraordinaire and mastermind behind Il Balletto di Bronzo's seminal 1972 work "Ys," Gianni Leone tried to pick up the pieces after the band imploded following the success of "Ys" and the resulting excesses. Intact for a short time as a duo, Leone and Balletto drummer Gianchi Stringa played live a few times in 1973, with Leone performing all the instrumental parts on his keyboards. This experience laid the groundwork for his solo career, for which he changed his moniker to Leo Nero.

Leone composed the songs for "Vero" in 1974, and most of the tracks were recorded in New York in 1975. The album wasn't released until 1977. As expected, the album is keyboard oriented, and Leone plays all the instruments. Although the album is nowhere near the magical frenetic contortions of "Ys," nevertheless this is a very good album, one that should please fans of the genre. "Vero" is a concept album, centered on the feelings of loneliness and fear that Leone felt after the dissolution of Il Balletto di Bronzo. The entire album is filled with a melodic melancholy that never quite lifts. The compositions on the first half are in a more singer-songwriter style and could almost be considered as multiple parts of a longer work; in fact, several themes are repeated throughout the album. The second half is the more progressive part, with songs such as "Tastieri Isteriche," "Il Castello," "Una Gabbia Per Me," and "La Discesa Nel Cervello" that hearken back at least in spirit to "Ys," although certainly not reaching the same level.

After the release of "Vero," Leone veered in a commercial synth-pop direction. His second album, 1980's "Monitor," is frankly of little interest to progressive fans. (His backing band for part of that album was called Optical Band, which gives the title to one of the pieces he continues to perform, "Optical Surf Beat.") He continued in this vein throughout the 1980s (as evidenced by some demos which were recently released).

However, in the 1990s Leone reentered the progressive scene, first by contributing to the wonderful album by DIVAE (1995) and then by reforming Il Balletto di Bronzo (himself being the only returning 1970s member, using the rhythm section from Divae). The 1996 live album from the reformed Balletto entitled "Trys" features not only the entire "Ys" album, but also several of the best Leo Nero pieces as well, this time performed with the band. In fact, the band continues today to play liberally from the Leone repertoire, whether from Leo Nero or Il Balletto di Bronzo. Thus the past and future of Leo Nero and Il Balletto di Bronzo are intertwined, both with the genius of Gianni Leone at the center.

"Vero" is the first and best work of Gianni Leone, keyboardist for Il Balletto di Bronzo. "Vero" was composed in 1974, about a year after the breakup of Balletto. Leone plays all the instruments on the album, recording it for the most part in 1975 in New York City. The album was finally released in 1977. Never reaching the dizzying, swirling heights of Il Balletto di Bronzo's masterpiece "Ys," yet "Vero" offers some wonderful songs and moments.

"Vero" is a concept album, related to Leone's state of mind following the breakup of Il Balletto di Bronzo in 1973. After "Ys" was released in 1972 to much professional satisfaction and critical acclaim, the band decided to indulge in the fruits of their success. They moved into a communal house in Rimini, where they lived a reckless, Bohemian lifestyle. In (roughly--my Italian isn't great) Leone's words, "There were no rules. . . . There were all manner of people coming and going, doing anything and everything. . . . But it must be said that in doing so we were committing suicide. . . . The excesses began to sow seeds of discord between us in every respect. . . . We had no interest in anything that was remotely bureaucratic or organized. We were in great peril. It was a true debacle. 'Ys' was an escape, and we continued playing it always--and playing only these songs. We slowly lost our inspiration. We lost desire to try anything new together. . . . We had to give up. I remember looking back at that house in Rimini was like watching an ancient civilization unravel."

After living in a place where he was literally never alone, Leone suddenly found himself quite alone, abandoned, surveying the remains of his shattered dreams. This trial proved to be an impetus for that lost inspiration, as the major themes of "Vero" revolve around isolation, loneliness, and dealing with these feelings. The entire album is suffused with a deep melancholy, far more quiet and melodic than anything Il Balletto ever did.

The first side of the album consists of a more singer-songwriter style, with emotive ballads and beautiful melodies typically based on vocals and piano, with other instruments gradually joining. The pieces can certainly be considered as multiple parts of a single work, not only lyrically, but also several musical themes are repeated between the songs. It is here that Leone bares his sensitive soul for us. For example, from "Tu te ricorderai de mi" (You'll remember me): "I don't dream any more but I'm still here / My strength at last is gone / I don't laugh anymore." But the best song on the first side is "La bambola rotta" (the broken doll), which is a tragic instrumental with layers upon layers of mood and sound.

The second side is less reflective and more energetic, sounding the echoes of "Ys." These songs are much more progressive in the traditional sense, with keyboard pyrotechnics and complex time signatures. There are several classics here that are played in the Balletto live shows even now: "Tastieri isteriche," "Il castello," "La discesa nel cervello," and "Una gabbia per me." The most "Ys-like" is "La discesa nel cervello" (descent into the mind)--this even contains an excerpt of "Secondo incontro" from "Ys," although the tape is played backwards. Wonderful songs and moments abound.

"Vero" seems to serve as a type of catharsis for Gianni Leone, exorcising the demons of his frustrated hopes and dreams that died with the dissolution of Il Balletto di Bronzo. Somehow through the haze and disappointment, he finds the will and even desire to continue on and make more wonderful music. This is a wonderful discovery, especially for RPI fans. And an absolute must for fans of Il Balletto di Bronzo



  2. Thank you so much Sir!