Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Il Baricentro - 1978 - Trusciant

Il Baricentro 

01. Karwan (3:23)
02. Trusciant (5:39)
03. Falò (3:16)
04. Akua (4:03)
05. Flox (3:38)
06. Font'amara (7:26)
07. Vivo (4:18)

Francesco Boccuzzi / electric & acoustic keyboards, electric & acoustic guitar
Vanni Boccuzzi / electric & acoustic keyboards
Tonio Napoletano / bass
Piero Mangini / drums
Luis Agudo / berimbau, cuica, agogo, African percussion
Max Rocci / congas

 This Italian funky progressive/fusion album is absolutely charming and funny. The influences are so numerous that it is impossible to mention all of them. The miscellaneous keyboards and percussions are very nervous and complex; the keyboards can be also very floating and relaxing. There are rhythmic piano, moog solos a la Triumvirat, rhythmic organ, and the album has an obvious jazzy/funky influence a la Weather Report of the 70's. The VERY elaborated, precise and fast drums have a structured Phil Collins' or Bill bruford's style of the mid 70's. There are TONS of miscellaneous Latin & African percussions. The bass is quite loud and elaborated. The album is fully instrumental.
The first track "Karwan" is very rhythmic and nervous; it contains rhythmic organ & piano, vibraphone-like melodies and TONS of carnivalesque drums & percussions. The second track "Trusciant" begins with an excellent Baroque piano part a la John Tout (Renaissance), then the music becomes quite structured and rhythmic, with a military drumming and fast electric piano notes a la PFM's "Chocolate Kings"; some fast keyboards reminds me some Eddie Jobson's solos with UK. The piano solo is very jazzy and elaborated. There is even a short weird bit which recalls me the Goblin's "Suspiria" album! "Falo'" is a very rhythmic and pleasant track to listen; the elaborated & joyful rhythmic piano, the drums, the bass, the electric guitars and the percussions are perfectly synchronized. The "Akua" track is very mellow and relaxing: it contains ethereal & echoed moog notes, delicate piano, drums and percussions: it slightly reminds me a more simple mellow part of the Happy The Man of the 70's. The next track "Flox" has a Brand X and Weather Report sound and style, with wah-wah electric piano, Collins-esque drums in an overall funky Carnival atmosphere. The first mellow and floating part on the "Font'amara" track has a bit the sound of a relaxing Pat Metheny's track with Lyle Mays on piano and on floating keyboards. The VERY fully interlocking second part contains excellent harpsichord, rhythmic piano, organ and moog: it is an absolute demonstration of perfect synchronization: it ends with a delightful & rhythmic combination of clavinet, acoustic & electric piano. The last track "Vivo" has a piano intro comparable to Keith Emerson's work; the track then continues with an impressive fast & jazzy piano & drums performance, well supported by a loud and punchy bass. The album is unfortunately short: around 32 minutes.

Il Baricentro - 1976 - Sconcerto

Il Baricentro 

01. Sconcerto (4:58)
02. Lido Bianco (10:04)
03. Meridioni E Paralleli (6:15)
04. Afka (6:11)
05. Pietre Di Luna (4:29)
06. Della Venis (4:16)
07. Comunque... (Todo Modo) (5:27)

Francesco Boccuzzi / keyboards, guitars, percussion
Vanni Boccuzzi / keyboards, percussion
Tonio Napolitano / bass, percussion
Piero Mangini / drums, percussion

IL BARICENTRO is an instrumental Italian jazz-rock/fusion band of the 70's. Actually, most of their members come from the previous progressive band FESTA MOBILE. IL BARICENTRO only made 2 studio records between 1976 and 1978. The line-up is made of: Francesco Boccuzzi on keyboards, guitars & percussion; Vanni Boccuzzi on keyboards & percussion; Tonio Napolitano on bass & percussion; Piero Mangini on drums & percussion. On the "Trusciant" album, the band added 2 specialized percussionists. Thier music influences are VERY numerous: they are very percussion-oriented, and they include African & Latin funny ambiences with funky textures a la WEATHER REPORT. 

Unfortunately, IL BARICENTRO disbanded after their second studio album. They do not sound like the other conventional Italian progressive bands of the 70's. They can easily be mistaken for a South American progressive band. Their music is a sure value, and the listener shall not be disappointed at all.

 "Sconcerto" is, first of all, a very beautiful and tasteful album, that reveals Il Baricentro as what it is in its purest form, a proficient jazz-rock ensemble with a very strong melodic sense and with a capability to do energetic interplaying in a most colorful manner. The two keyboardists, brothers Boccuzzi, stay well away from the mutual dueling scheme; on the contrary, they use their combined keyboard inputs (mostly pianos and synthesizers, with a noticeable deal of clavinet and harpsichord, and occasionally, some room for organ, too) as portrayers of the candid melodic ideas and elegant textures that keep coming around with the sonic flow. They seem to intend to act as subtle leaders of the band, making the effective rhythm duo come to the fore with their excellent foundations, while they pull the musical strings (well, ivories to be more precise) without showing off. The way that the rhythm section provides swing and groove to all the individual pieces helps the cadence to become a most important element of enhancement for the melodies. The opening namesake track serves as the perfect Baricentro sample for the neophyte. Let me add that I find the presence of the harpsichord in this fusion-esque amalgam quite intriguing: its crystalline vibrato helps the track to preserve an aura of distinction among the groove. This was actually my first Baricentro experience, the track that made me fall in love with this band's proposal. Further ahead, 'Afka' is more focused on the funky trend, while 'Meridioni e Paralleli' and 'Comunque' make a sort of compromise between jazz-fusion and funky - as usual, all well accomplished, very close to what Weather Report was doing at the time in the USA. On the softer side of things, 'Lido Bianco' shows the most academic side of Il Baricentro's ideology: this track is the closest to standard symphonic prog that this band can get. In fact, this track somewhat reminds me of "Ultima Cena"-era Banco del Mutuo Soccorso. 'Pietre di Luna' is plainly beautiful, an evocative serenade instilled with melancholy that needs no lyrics to create emotions in the listener's soul. 'Della Venis' is yet another serene track, ethereal and melodically pristine. These softer tracks are cohesively harmonized with the album's repertoire as a whole. So, all in all, "Sconcerto" is a potential excellent addition for the collections of those who love a strong dose of jazz in their prog, or, mutatis mutandis, those jazz-fusion freaks with a progressive sensibility.

Baffo Banfi - 1981 - Hearth

Baffo Banfi 

01. Indian (6:35)
02. The Incredible Doogy (5:45)
03. Dancing On The Ship (4:55)
04. This You Was (8:50)
05. Heart Circuit Machine (8:40)

Baffo Banfi / All electronics & effects

Banfi broadens his electronic music horizons beyond Berlin School to include Moebius & Plank.  In terms of quirkiness, Banfi almost reaches his model, but the session musicians he hires bring the whole thing down a notch.  The guitar, bass, and drums are rarely more than perfunctory, and sometimes embarrassingly bland.  Still, I'd say the good-to-bad ratio here is about 2-to-1, so if you're willing to overlook a consistent amount of schlock, Hearth (Heart + Earth, how clever) might be for you.

Baffo Banfi - 1979 - Ma Dolce Vita

Baffo Banfi
Ma Dolce Vita

01. Oye Cosmo Va (6:41)
02. Quelle Dolce Estate Sul Pianeta Venere (6:05)
03. Vino, Donne E Una Tastiera (7:14)
04. Astralunato (3:51)
05. Fantasia Di Un Pianeta Sconosciuto (17:57)

Baffo Banfi / All electronics & effects

I recently found myself in line at Starbucks, earbuds pumping the second and standout track on Giuseppe “Baffo” Banfi’s excellent 1979 album, Ma, Dolce Vita. The scene was transformed. I watched as headset-clad baristas twirled in a choreographed dance of whipped cream and chocolate sauce, gleeful panache emerging in their faces. Glowing QR codes passed under holstered laserbeam scanners. Boxes of soy milk changed hands in time with symphonic Moog crescendos, and petulant children spun on Samsonite between rounds of stereophonic cabasas. Such is the power of great music: to transform the ordinary into the sublime. I’m no expert in prog, Berlin School, Italian Library, or anything that qualifies me to write about this record. I just like it.
Banfi was a member of the hallowed Biglietto per l’Inferno (“Ticket to Hell”). As the story goes, Klaus Schulze took an interest, but when Trident folded in 1975, leaving their second album in limbo, the group disbanded. Banfi went on to release several solo albums on Schulze’s Innovative Communication label. Ma, Dolce Vita, the entirety of which is reprised on the compilation Sound of Southern Sunsets, is his second, and I’ve been able to find out very little about it. The cover suggests an Archizoom kiosk, half a Joe Colombo or perhaps something made by the German artist Rebecca Horn. (Apparently it’s a photo by Ezio Geneletti.) It is an album that very quickly outstrips its hazy psychedelic trappings.
Dolce Vita opens slowly with “Oye Cosmos Va,” which, like much electronic music of its era, would not feel out of place in a Carl Sagan special. Its plodding, trippy synthesizer loops quickly give way to the more expansive and exuberant sound of “Sweet Summer on Planet Venus.” A driving beat propels this airy, probing melody through multiple sonic landscapes. It’s a jubilant effusion of interleaved percussive elements that resolves quickly as the gas runs out on each layer. It will always leave me wanting more. “Vino, Donne E Una Tastiera” picks up with a syrupy, rattlesnake swagger, suggesting the dim saloon of a spaghetti western. “Astralunato” employs a contrapuntal bassoon-like sound that I’ve only heard used to such great effect by the British armchair duo Woo. It gives the song a sort of self-satisfied, delirious schmaltz that ambles along at its own pace. The album’s final track, loosely, “Fantasy of an Unknown Planet,” is a dark, arpeggiated voyage, accompanied by tentative high-hat and ersatz flute. 18 minutes in length, it builds steadily to a climactic bass line dropout and melodic redoubling.
If last year’s Blade Runner sequel is a testament to the enduring sound of the synthesizer, then Ma, Dolce Vita, like the original film, reminds us that the 1970s still sound like the future.

Baffo Banfi - 1978 - Galaxy My Dear

Baffo Banfi
Galaxy My Dear

01. Galaxy My Dear (11:47)
02. Audio Emotion (4:25)
03. Paradox-Streams (4:42)
04. Gang (6:27)
05. Goodbye My Little Star (17:59)
06. O.R. Tens (3:00)

Baffo Banfi / All electronics and effects

"....I must say you are phantastic-I consider you the best electronic/musician composer of my time (including myself)...." Klaus Schulze

Giuseppe "J.B." "Baffo" Banfi was the keyboardist and founder of the Italian prog group Biglietto per L'Inferno. They managed a self-entitled album in 1974 on the Trident label, but a second album was shelved until the 1990s, likely due to the demise of the Trident label around 1975. Biglietto per L'Inferno's music was traditional Italian prog rock, not unlike Il Balletto di Bronzo, Museo Rosenbach, or Osanna. But after the demise of Biglietto, Banfi recorded some electronic music, but he then served military duty, and these collections became Galaxy My Dear, which got released in 1978 on Red Records, without his knowledge. He quickly associated himself with Klaus Schulze (who he met back in 1975 during the final days of Biglietto) and released some more albums on Schulze's I.C. (Innovative Communications) label.

It's so hard to believe how different Biglietto per L'Inferno is to Banfi's solo career! Forget any references to those Italian groups I mentioned, this is straight-up Berlin-school style electronic music, using tons of analog synthesizers and sequencers that undoubtedly brings to mind the likes of Schulze or Tangerine Dream. Nice spacy synthesizers and sound effects go with it. Fans of this kind of electronic music will have no problem adapting to this album. I always like it when non-German acts, like Sweden's Anna Sjalv Tredje, or (some two decades later) Britain's Radio Massacre International does their stab at the Berlin School of electronic music and succeeds with flying colors. Of course Baffo Banfi had the benefit of collaborating with Schulze, which obviously helped. I highly recommend Galaxy My Dear!

Admittedly the album was made with acknowledgment to Klaus Schulze who he considered his one major influence on the creation of this recording. Fair enough...

Anyway, this is a damn sight better than the other Schulze copycat 'Adelbert von Deyen' from the same era who's artwork was excellent but who's music was utter pants.

A Berlin School onslaught that takes few breathers. The Tangerine Dream/Klaus Schulze influence is obvious, but here there's an even more concerted attention to effects. Some parts of the album are similar in vein to France's Didier Bocquet, but with less restraint and originality. Side two sadly overstays it's welcome with a experimental, rhythm driven piece offering little in the way of progression.. A bit directionless, certainly nothing ground-breaking, but overall not bad. Recommended to you hardcore Berlin electronics folk out there.

Ballettirosadimacchia - 1974 - Ballettirosadimacchia


01. Ascolta! (1:28)
02. Sandiego (4:55)
03. Altre Guei Colli (5:30)
04. E Tutto un Sogno (6:22)
05. Interludio (2:29)
06. Oggi (5:28)
07. Dalla Mattina al Pomeriggio (1:18)
08. Suono (3:45)
09. Se ti Piace (7:18)

Tonino Leo Ucchi / vocals, bass, acoustic guitar, flute, keyboards
Antonio Sassada / guitar
Gianni Mazzi / keyboards
Marcello Taddeo Matteotti / drums, percussion, keyboards

BALLETTIROSADIMACCHIA is certainly an oddity in the RPI canon of the various progressive rock websites. The band is a mystery. No one knows for certain who the musicians were, where they were from, or even when their lone album was recorded. Stories vary from them being Italians living abroad in Germany to them being Japanese RPI fans making an "homage" album to the genre. The album's recording date is just as mysterious. Some sites denote the album as 1974, while others claim it may have been recorded in the late 1980s. The bottom line is that until the musicians come forward and spill the beans, this title will remain one of the biggest mysteries for RPI hounds. 

Whatever the circumstances, RPI bands are placed here if they fit the sound characteristics of the sub genre definition. RPI is not just a geographical designation despite what many folks will tell you, at ProgArchives it is based on the musical content. Despite the vocalist's annoying habit of occasionally sounding like Kermit the Frog, the music here is not too bad and will be of interest to RPI fans who like to look for those underground gems. The music is not super complex but features nice organ, mellotron, and guitar. Vocals are in Italian though somewhat poor Italian, which fuels the speculation about their origins. It is not an easy recording to find. If the musicians ever wish to come forward and tell the real story, they can contact the ProgArchives RPI Team and we will be all ears. 

One of the trully mysterious cases of a band presenting itself as an Italian one, but the endless mistakes in the cover notes and lyrics indicate that this was not actually an Italian album.Ballettirosadimacchia's (a compressed form of ''Balletti rosa di macchia''-pink-colored ballets) sole self-titled album remains a mystery until today.The quartet of the so-called Tonino Leo Ucchi, Antonio Sassada, Gianni Mazzi and Marcello Taddeo Matteotti had to be either Japanese musicians under fake names or even Germans of Italian parentage, none though of these cases has been confirmed.Moreover some sources insist on the recordings being placed sometimes in the 80's.The only truth is that the album was released in Canada by Rockit Enterprises under a German producer.
Japaneses, Germans or half-Italians, these guys came up with a decent attempt to immitiate the Classic Italian Prog sound of the 70's and if it weren't for the mistakes on the lyrics this could have been easily circulating as an Italian release until today.The sound of Ballettirosadimacchia was Mellotron/organ-drenched semi-Symphonic Rock with a nice dose of flutes and acoustic parts, pretty good in terms of compositions and having overall a nice romantic Italian-related atmosphere.Vocals are decent, sometimes reminding of early-70's Italian groups, especially on the multi-vocal parts, and good reference points would be definitely acts like I GIGANTI, BANCO DEL MUTUO SOCCORSO or ALUSA FALLAX.Musically the album contains plenty of slightly-psychedelic sweet guitar parts, huge organ-based symphonic themes and fantastic Mellotron-led orchestral themes to go along with driving flutes and synth-based breaks, while the arrangements are often interesting, alternating between smooth acoustic and electric passages.Even after several listenings the final feeling is that these musicians had something to do with Italy, if not their adaption on this sound was certainly succesful.

This is an album in need for a legit CD reissue, as the only one I am aware of is a Tachika mini-LP sleeved boot version.Italian or not, ''Ballettirosadimacchia'' has plenty of great moments to offer to any fan of Classic Italian Prog, though far from being a masterpiece, and comes warmly recommended.

Little is known about this mysterious progressive rock group, whose only and good album often changed hands for incredible prices before people started to realise it's not a real Italian 1970's rarity. Even the year of recording is uncertain. Some say it is from 1974-75, but it seems more likely that it came out in the second half of the 1980's or early 1990's. 

The LP cover was printed in Canada and recorded with a German producer. The music is good organ and Mellotron-led prog sung in Italian with a strong foreign accent and often incomprehensible lyrics. This is almost certainly a foreign group, probably Japanese, playing under fake Italian names, and even the incredibly high number of errors in the cover notes and lyrics confirms this impression.