June 1, 2012

Friday Review: Storia O Leggenda

I’ve got a bad habit of buying my first album by a particular band, getting home and reading some reviews, and discovering that I bought the wrong album to use as an introduction. Thankfully, I didn't make that mistake with Le Orme, one of the classic bands from the 1970s Italian prog scene. My first exposure to them was a hunk of their 2005 NEARFest performance on the Rising to the Surface DVD. So I grabbed Felona e Sonora and Uomo di Pezza and was hooked.

Well, there’s a flip side to digging into a band's catalog in the right place and falling hard - you keep exploring and, eventually, you find a dud. That's the case with Storia O Leggenda. It’s not right to say it’s “bad” - it really isn’t. But it's not a classic and it’s not what really moves me when I think of Italian prog bands.

Le Orme was always one of the more lush, symphonic of bands – much more Genesis than King Crimson, if you catch my drift. So long as they were working through lengthy instrumental sections with occasional vocals, that’s cool..Technically, Le Orme avoided “epics,” but tended to run a lot of shorter tunes together to achieve the same effect. But here, the songs stay short, but are more individualized. There’s a greater emphasis on lyrics and vocals, with the music becoming less involving.

Which leads to a problem of my own limited faculties. One of the cool things about prog is that it really flourished in outposts around the world. Although it’s generally thought of as particular English, it first made popular headway in Italy and eventually spread all over. I’ve got albums from every inhabited continent except Africa, for crying out loud! That means lots of lyrics I have no chance of understanding since they’re, you know, in foreign and such.

Generally, that’s not a problem. With very few exceptions, prog is not about the words, it’s about the music. Vocals in another language don’t pose a problem because the voice itself is more important than the message. Hell, after all these years I’m still not sure what Jon Anderson is on about most of the time, and that’s in English! But it sounds good, right?

Yeah, until the words do start to become more important. It’s one of the reasons I don’t really get a lot of neo-prog with lyrics in other languages. That’s a subgenre where words make more of an impact and if I can’t understand what they’re saying, what’s the point? Unfortunately, that’s the problem I’ve got with really digging into this album. The music is nice enough, but it doesn’t do much more than support the vocals, which might as well be gibberish for all I know. Judging by the cover art, it has something to drooling horses. As a result, I just can’t get that much out of it.

Which is only to say, in the long and storied history of Le Orme, they had an off day. Everybody’s entitled to that.

Storia O Leggenda, by Le Orme
Released 1977

1. Tenerci per mano (4:40)
2. Storia o leggenda (5:05)
3. Il musicista (4:40)
4. Come una giostra (4:25)
5. Se io lavoro (4:20)
6. Un angelo (4:50)
7. Il quadro (4:10)
8. Al mercato delle pulci (4:05)

Antonio Pagliuca (keyboards)
Aldo Tagliapietra (bass, voice, Indian harp)
Michi Dei Rossi (drums, percussion)
Germano Serafin (guitars)

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