Italian progressive rock

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The Italian progressive rock scene was born in the early 1970s, mostly inspired by the progressive movement in Britain, but with certain features of its own that makes some sources mention it as a separate musical genre.

In the early-to-mid-1970s, Italy was one of the European countries most interested in this genre; many English bands such as Genesis, Van der Graaf Generator and Gentle Giant were discovered by the Italian public before they had consolidated a fan base in their home country. Consequently, progressive Italian groups were prolific. Some received worldwide attention, such as Goblin, Le Orme, Premiata Forneria Marconi, Area, and Banco del Mutuo Soccorso. The group of Celeste, used mellotron for the string sections, flutes, classical guitar and percussion as rhythmic motion to replace the drums. Most of the bands, however, were mainly known inside Italy.

As CD reissues started appearing and the Internet made information flow easier during the 1990s, the Italian bands were discovered and rediscovered by a number of progressive rock fans internationally. Reissues proved so successful that several recordings which were never released at the time received their first pressings on CD in the 1990s and 2000s (decade). The "discovery" of Italian progressive rock by foreign fans also led to bands such as Celeste being re-evaluated as core bands, despite the fact that they were virtually unknown in Italy at the time.

The 1990s also saw a resurgence in bands performing progressive rock. The first of the well known bands to do so was Ezra Winston, but other groups such as Nuova Era, Finisterre, Deus Ex Machina, Delirio Sonoro and Moongarden soon established themselves as well respected progressive rock acts. More recently La Torre dell'Alchimista, Höstsonaten and La Maschera di Cera have carried on the Italian progressive rock tradition, sporting a very 1970's style.

The Anglo-Saxon models[edit]

Progressive rock is conventionally given birth in England, after a long gestation period that goes back to the Beatles album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), with the publication in 1969 of the album In the Court of the Crimson King by King Crimson. Italy was affected by the so-called British invasion, and progressive bands borrowed nearly all the styles of British symphonic rock: long tracks and structured (suites), themed album (concept albums), sophisticated and demanding texts with frequent references to mythology, philosophy and fantasy, contamination with classical music and great emphasis on keyboards (ranging from Hammond organ to harpsichord and from Mellotron to Moog synthesizers) solutions complex rhythms, baroque arrangements, covers the artistic value.

Among the main English groups can be inspirational quote primarily Genesis, authors of a very successful tour across the peninsula in April and August 1972, which drew on the majority of the groups melodic, King Crimson, Emerson Lake & Palmer, the Nice, cited by groups focusing on keyboards, Gentle Giant for mixtures of sounds and reeds, Yes, Van der Graaf Generator, their dark shades, and Jethro Tull with their folk atmospheres and scores based on the flute. Deep Purple were important references for the groups sounding harsher. The first post-beat groups were also affected by less well-known groups such as Quatermass and the Colosseum. You can find references also to Vanilla Fudge, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. Finally, this is the widespread influence of the bands of the scene of Canterbury, especially the Soft Machine, Gong and Caravan.


From beat to pop[edit]

The first work genuinely progressive to enjoy credit abroad came in 1971 with the release of Collage,[1] the second LP by Le Orme. A year earlier, keyboardist Tony Pagliuca, with the help of Armando Gallo, historical photographer and music journalist, was introduced in the musical London scene to attend the emerging progressive groups and learn the new course. He returned to Italy to be contained with his two colleagues in a cabin in San Boldo,[2] a mountain village near Caorle, and after a month of testing - with the enlightened master Reverberi's arrangements - was the founder Collage birth. The LP, beyond the indisputable technical merit, had a great reception because the environment was now ripe Italian music. In our country, in fact, was in full beat (1966-1970) works proto-progressive British bands like the Moody Blues or Procol Harum, had been a success. At the dawn of the 1970s, ours was the first country to recognize the talents of some British progressive bands such as Genesis, Gentle Giant, and Van der Graaf Generator, whose first album had been ignored at home, becoming their market reference. In these circumstances we add that arose during the era beat many Italian groups in possession of technical skills and compositional talent up to implement the new stimuli from the musical avant-garde British.

This was the case of the above Le Orme and Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM),[3] both authors at the beginning of parts and hard beats. Le Orme had made his debut in 1969 with Ad gloriam,[4] one of the best albums of the psychedelic period, while the nucleus of the future PFM as "Quelli" he had only a few cover tunes, including "La bambolina che fa no no no" and "La ragazza ta ta ta". Even the New Trolls began creating works beat well made, that already contained in embryo the style of what would be the future production (the 45 rpm "Visioni"/"Io ti fermerò e Sensazioni"/"Prima c'era luce" and the album Senza orario Senza bandiera (1968)[5] are works that anticipate the progressive genre). Many other groups were born during the era beat, but apart from the few mentioned above, left no recordings documenting their origins. We refer in particular to the Banco del Mutuo Soccorso,[6] was born from the merger of two small groups arose at twilight era beat. A unique story of Trip, the group arrived from England, one of the few in Italy to offer an array of psychedelic sound before moving to progressive rock.

The Italian progressive in the early 1970s[edit]

The output of Collage in September 1971 was the start of a new phase for the Italian rock. Less than a month later, PFM released the single "Impressioni di settembre", with text by Mogol, which contained the famous phrase of Minimoog remained one of the cornerstones of progressive most famous of all time. The instrument, at the time very innovative and expensive, it was borrowed.[7] Many years later the drummer, one of the leaders of the group, says:

"At the time the new instrument that launched the progressive music was the standard piano keyboard that has become something more. The mellotron has raised the possibility of creating a group sound of an orchestra. With tapes created an enveloping effect and live had an effect indescribable. The moog is a tool that has given a new sound, a sound that evokes feelings sound non-ancestral, which produces a vibration that shakes you up inside. As they altered the instruments we were always up to date.[8] " (Franz Di Ciocco)

At the beginning of 1972 came out - a short distance from each other - the debut album of the PFM (Storia di un minuto) and the Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, both greeted with acclaim by critics and by the public. Both albums were succeeded in the upper areas of the sales charts, and the same thing happened shortly after the single "Gioco di bimba" by Le Orme, who came in first place. Since then, the "troika" PFM-Banco-Orme became the cornerstone on which it would right the short reign of Italian progressive. In the summer of 1971 there had already been a success for the Concerto grosso per i New Trolls,[9] the first and unsurpassed work of Italian orchestral rock, with lots of digressions and Hendrix citations.

Actually works and to some extent progressive groups were already facing much earlier, but did not collect such consent. Besides the already mentioned Senza orario senza bandiera, which was released in 1968 and considered the first Italian concept album, a record that deserves to be counted among the true forerunners of the genre is Sirio 2222 - published in 1970 by Balletto di Bronzo. In the period between 1971 and 1972 were published in the debut LP of many groups of value, among which, in addition to the trip, the Osanna, Rovescio della Medaglia, Quella Vecchia Locanda, the Garybaldi, Delirium, Panna Fredda, the Jumbo, and Alluminogeni. Of 1972 are also the first two albums Franco Battiato, certainly immature and at the same time innovative, inspired by the concrete music and minimalism with lots of sound effects at the edge of noise music, obtained thanks to their pioneering use of the VCS3 synthesizer.

The success abroad[edit]

Work brightest remain those related to the production of the most celebrated, which attracted the attention of the country where he was born on progressive. The group Le Orme, shortly after the release of Collage (1971) was contacted by Charisma, the legendary label of Genesis and VDGG. Soon after, Pagliuca and members were able to establish relations with the supergroup Emerson, Lake & Palmer, who in 1972 invited the band to participate in a date of their tour. From this arose the proposal stage for a tour of our English trio - who was off in December - and the subsequent publication of the UK market and Felona e Sorona. The English text of the long suite was composed by Peter Hammill, VDGG leader, who was also invited to open the concerts of the band overseas, as a "guest star". The Banco and PFM were approached by ELP, looking for talent for the new label Manticore. For the adaptation of the lyrics PFM could involve Pete Sinfield, guru and lyricist of early King Crimson. Banco recorded two albums in English (Banco and As in a Last Supper), the PFM came to engrave three (Photos of Ghosts, The World Became the World and Cook, a live album). Banco despite a promotional tour in 1976, did not record significant sales abroad.

The PFM instead managed to succeed in the difficult U.S. market, and all three of his albums entered the "Top Pop Catalog Albums" (in 1992 became Billboard 200), with the live album Cook (1974, also known as Live in USA) that managed to reach the 150th position. But it was in concert that the group consolidated its reputation as rock's most famous team of Italy.[10] History in this regard were the four American tours, propitiated through the efforts of the promoter Franco Mamone[11] who was also the manager of Le Orme. The first LP in the Italian language to be published in England and West Germany in 1972 was the second album of the Balletto di Bronzo, titled Ys.[12] But it was a complex and difficult to listen to, who did not have the expected success even at home.


Italian progressive rock encompassed a number of different styles. The Italian progressive scene produced a large number of bands releasing one record before disappearing into obscurity (although some such bands would reunite decades later and produce more material). This was the case with highly regarded bands such as Cervello, Museo Rosenbach, Alusa Fallax, Apoteosi, Murple, Alphataurus, Gruppo 2001, Locanda Delle Fate, Maxophone and Semiramis. Some bands, such as Buon Vecchio Charlie, produced a single album and were unable to even get it released at the time, only to be rediscovered decades later thanks to the efforts of specialist progressive rock labels and the online community of progressive rock fans.

One very noticeable defining feature of Italian progressive rock in the 1970s is the extensive use of Dorian/Lydian and Phrygian/Mixolydian scales - see mode (music) - rather than just the more common Ionian and Aeolian modes (or, major and minor). Every PFM album contains at least one Mixolydian or Dorian song.

Symphonic rock bands[edit]

Italy's symphonic rock boomed in 1972, after the successes of Van der Graaf Generator's Pawn Hearts, which was number one in Italy's charts for 12 weeks early that year. The scene more or less ran dry by the end of 1975. [1] Owing to the difficulty of making a living as a rock band, many bands from Italy released only one or two albums before disappearing.

The most popular bands, such as Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, Premiata Forneria Marconi and Le Orme, played symphonic rock heavily influenced by classical music, against the backdrop of the Italian canzone tradition.

Bands like New Trolls, Osanna, Metamorfosi, Alphataurus, Semiramis and Biglietto per l'Inferno had a harder edge, but still with traits of the symphonic tradition.

More experimental bands[edit]

Franco Battiato's 1970s output showed influences from electronic music. While his first albums can be called symphonic or progressive rock, his work became increasingly inaccessible, incorporating musique concrète and serial music. The willingness to experiment culminated in L'Egitto prima delle sabbie in 1978, where one chord is repeated throughout each LP side. After this, he turned more commercial, eventually earning huge national success.

In the latter half of the decade, several bands more directed towards contemporary music or RIO emerged, such as Area, Saint Just, Picchio dal Pozzo and Stormy Six.

Opus Avantra add contamination of avantgarde music and experimental music.

Newer bands[edit]

Bands such as Finisterre, La Maschera di Cera, Deus Ex Machina, DFA, Germinale, Bread For Teethless, Mary Newsletter, Samsara and Il Bacio Della Medusa have made an impact since the progressive scene experienced a slight revival in the 1990s.


Before 1971[edit]

English progressive rock bands such as Genesis were popular in Italy. In 1970, releases by Italian bands, however, still favoured American-style psychedelic rock, such as Osanna, Le Orme and Il Balletto di Bronzo.

Banco del Mutuo Soccorso had already refined their progressive rock sound, as is evident from their recently released Live record recorded that year, but they did not release anything until 1972.


In this year, New Trolls released the seminal Concerto Grosso per i New Trolls, a collaboration with Luis Enriquez Bacalov. It was a mix of canzoni, rock and classical music, and helped put symphonic rock on the map in Italy. Other notable releases were I Giganti's concept album Terra in Bocca, Buon Vecchio Charlie's self-titled symphonic rock album, and Le Orme's organ-based album Collage.


Darwin!, one of the most important italian progressive rock albums

In 1972, directly after the tremendous Italian success of Van der Graaf Generator's Pawn Hearts, a creative explosion suddenly occurred, with Saint Just, PFM, Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, Il Balletto di Bronzo, Le Orme, Quella Vecchia Locanda, Metamorfosi, Museo Rosenbach. Ibis, Il Rovescio della Medaglia, Alusa Fallax, Alphataurus and more releasing their most acclaimed works.

RIO and minimalism, 1974-1980[edit]

In this period, the number of the typical symphonic albums released decreased dramatically, already by 1975–1976 the Italian style of symphonic rock was close to being annihilated. Perhaps as a replacement, there emerged a quite differing wave of avant-garde music, often with links to Rock in Opposition (RIO) and minimalist music. Examples are Stormy Six, Picchio dal Pozzo, Franco Battiato's Clic! and Pierrot Lunaire.

2000s reformations[edit]

In the 2000s (decade), a significant number of the classic 1970s bands re-formed, some after having been defunct for almost 40 years. Bands such as Alphataurus, Osanna, Raccomandata Ricevuta Ritorno toured Italy and even recorded new material. Bands which are still active which never disbanded include PFM, Le Orme and Banco del mutuo soccorso.

Concept albums[edit]

List of bands[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Le Orme - Collage (1971)
  2. ^ Le Orme: dall'Isola di Wight a Collage
  3. ^ PFM
  4. ^ Le Orme - Ad Gloriam (1969)
  5. ^ New Trolls - Senza orario senza bandiera (1968)
  6. ^ Banco del Mutuo Soccorso
  7. ^ La voce del moog
  8. ^ Franz Di Ciccio: Due volte nella vita
  9. ^ New Trolls - Concerto grosso per i New Trolls (1971)
  10. ^ PFM Cook
  11. ^ Franco Mamone, dal rock alla cocaina
  12. ^ Il Balletto di Bronzo - Ys (1972)