La Statale 17 / Emphasis - Rock Scene. 1978 Italy

1978 was a lost year for the Italian progressive movement. Polarizing politics pretty much ended the genre and there were a couple of (big) last puffs in 1977 before completely dying out. Naturally enough, the music itself continued on with small studios or in live settings despite the relative unpopularity. Most of these were released in the last 20 years as archival material. But this split LP, with two unrelated and distinct sounding bands, actually managed to get out real time. The album was recorded in Bozen, better known as Bolzano in the far north of the country, in a mountainous region bordering Austria. Then released privately in Germany - to (not surprisingly) almost no audience. Thus its insane rarity today.

La Statale 17 is a fine melodic instrumental progressive rock act. Nothing overly dramatic or dynamic, as would be found in the 1973 Italian progressive heyday. Just a pleasant romp with guitars and string synths brought to the fore. Similar to other northern European progressive groups from this time frame such as Lady Lake (Netherlands), Ocarinah (France), and Flame Dream (Switzerland). I'm sure had the band possessed more of a support base, they could have been a top tier group. As it stands, they are a nice historical curiosity.

For Side 2,  Emphasis looks towards Genesis as an influence. They took the unusual step, for an Italian band that is, to sing in English. And they also employ some flute and acoustic+fuzz guitar strengthening the comparison. But like La Statale 17, there's a distinct Northern European slant to their sound, most notably Hoelderlin at the time of Clowns and Clouds comes to mind. But references to Saga (Netherlands) and Neuschwanstein (Germany) would not be out of place. There are some really fine instrumental passages throughout, and Emphasis represents the better of the two acts to my ears.

Personal collection
CD: 1994 Mellow

A very rare album, released only in Germany originally to an audience of absolutely no one I presume.

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