Saturday, March 4, 2017

Banco del Mutuo Succorso - Come in un'Ultima Cena. 1976 Italy

Banco del Mutuo Succorso - Come in un'Ultima Cena. 1976 Manticore

LP reissue: 1980 Ricordi

CD reissues: 1988 Virgin; 1988 Crime (Japan); 2000 Virgin; 2005 Strange Days (Japan mini-LP); 2007 Victor (Japan mini-LP)

Banco del Mutuo Succorso started their career with what many consider the greatest 3 album run in all of Italy, and one could argue for progressive rock in general, competing mightily against the likes of Genesis and Yes. Then silence. 1974 blew by, and 1975 saw only the requisite-might-break-in-the-States-probably-not English language album, that featured unique arrangements, but a bit watered down from the massive beasts they opened with. By 1976, Banco confusingly released an all instrumental soundtrack album, that has little to do with their namesake. And finally we get to Come in un'Ultima Cena, their true followup to Io Sono Nato Libero. Since still signed with Manticore, the band were obligated to do a co-release in English (As in a Last Supper). Nevertheless, that version didn't see an English language country release (until 2010!), having been dumped into Germany as an afterthought. And so this was the last hurrah for the classic Banco del Mutuo Succorso as we knew them. They had one more fantastic instrumental album left in them (Di Terra) and off the pop cliff they went, only to return during the prog revival years. But they were broken.

This premise leads to the album itself. It's important to understand the background from which Banco entered into this recording. And let's not forget the 1976 landscape in general, where progressive rock in Italy were in their last throes of survival. And that provides the story here. This is Banco neutered and ready for a domiciled life. No more hunting in the wilds for their food. Once that premise has been accepted, then the album can now enter your stereo for a proper listen. It's the name Banco del Mutuo Succorso that usually holds this album back. But a careful listen on its own, demonstrates the same intense progressive rock composition style. Di Giacomo is also in fine form here, perhaps a bit more strained than prior. But the edge of the instrumentation is gone, along with the youthful exuberance. It's progressive rock by professionals. Which means, it's an excellent album throughout. And yet, you know they can do better. My rating reflects more an objective viewpoint in this case, rather than my usual subjectivity. Perhaps 3.5 is more accurate, but I won't give up on it. I owe them that.

I've owned this album in one form or the other since the 1980s. Currently I own the Italian original which comes with a fine 16 page booklet, as well as the Japanese mini-LP on Strange Days (2005) that replicates the packaging to the finest detail. I currently do not own the English language version, and I'm not including and discography info for it,since I consider it a separate album.

2 comments:

  1. I'd like to put in a word for Canto di Primavera. No, it's not as good as the classic three Banco albums, and yes, it is poppier, but it's still pretty high up the cliff I think.

    It's the perennial problem with good albums: if there are one or more great albums in a band's discography, it's easy to dismiss the good ones, whereas for another band they might've been considered their crowning achievement.

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    1. Can't argue with that, Bas. So true.

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