|Sjef Oellers||10-March-2001||Felona e Sorona|
Highly original symphonic/romantic progressive in the "classic" trio format (keyboards, bass, drums). Just like with ELP, bass player Aldo Tagliapietra adds some guitar here and there. Although the keyboard playing of Toni Pagliuca has links to ELP and Genesis, Le Orme have a less flashy, more elegant approach which sets them apart from either group. The flawless compostions are, to a great deal, carried by the fantastic, diverse keyboard playing of Pagliuca with lots of great pasages for Moog and Hammond organ. Tracks like "Sospesi Nell'Incredibile", "Attessa Inerte' and "Ritorno al Nulla" have a haunting, Gothic feeling to them, somewhat similar to the French band Ange. Essential listening.
|Tom Hayes||11-March-2001||Various titles|
In the late 1960's, Le Orme were one of the few Italian bands to attempt American styled psychedelic music, and the results varied from high quality original compositions to trite mimicry. By 1971, Le Orme had changed directions to the new music movement sweeping Italy, progressive rock. Collage, Le Orme's first progressive album and third overall, is a stripped-down affair with only organ, piano, bass and drums. The exception is the opening title track which could be considered the bridge between their psych and prog compositions styles. "Collage" has a "kitchen sink" mentality and features an orchestra, pseudo-baroque motifs and some shallow trendy moves. However, the next track, "Era Inverno", is the beginning of the classic Le Orme sound. Aldo Tagliapietra's instantly recognizable alto voice opens the song and then is followed by Tony Pagliuca's fabulous organ and the energetic drumming of Michi dei Rossi. Of all the songs found on Collage, this one would be the model. The amazing "Cemento Armato" follows. Le Orme has never been known for being a jam band, but this eight-minute organ trio number is one of the greatest of its kind. Blistering organ work and the rhythm section of Aldo and Michi are as hot here as anywhere to be found in their catalog. Another highlight can be found on "Evasione Totale", an experimental organ jazz rock piece with heavy echoed keyboards and groovy rhythms. Overall, Collage is Le Orme's most energetic, raw and experimental album. As such, this album tends to be overlooked by those awed by their more polished follow-up efforts. Fans of heavy organ rock, as commonly found in Germany, will adore Collage.
Uomo di Pezza, Le Orme's fourth album, opens appropriately enough with an organ prelude joined by a complex and heavy rhythm section. Silence begets a piano melody and then Aldo's beautiful voice enters. The model found on Collage has been rediscovered and exploited. So with that, Uomo di Pezza is ostensibly going to be a more sophisticated affair. As well, concerning instrumentation, Le Orme becomes more diverse. Here they add more acoustic guitar to the mix and the organ isn't as prominent as the newly acquired Mini-Moog. Gone are the jams and the reckless abandon found on Collage, to be replaced by more angular and thought out creative music. "La Porta Chiusa" is the perfect example of the new and improved Le Orme. A thundering bass and drum layer is offset by a Moog dial turn (as in turning the radio from soft to loud). Aldo then begins to sing softly, but somewhat eerily, only to find counterpoint with a thunderous organ, Moog, bass and drum maelstrom. For pure songwriting, "Figure di Cartone" and "Aspettando L'Alba" are brilliant examples of melancholic beauty, especially the latter (which would've been the perfect soundtrack to an arty Italian film). Aldo's emotional voice is perfect for this kind of style and unfortunately they were unable to capture this magic on their later, more commercial, efforts. What separates Uomo di Pezza from the others is the perfect balance between the raw heaviness found on the predecessor with the more uppity aspirations of pretension to be heard on their next opus. A true classic and Le Orme's finest work. For vinyl collectors, consider obtaining the original LP which portrays the beautiful fantasy art in a delightful textured gatefold sleeve.
Le Orme's fifth release, Felona e Sorona, is generally considered their masterwork (including by those in Gnosis). The album is progressive rock by the numbers: 1) A heady concept with fantasy lyrics; 2)One long composition broken into nine subsections; 3)Keyboards galore featuring Mini-Moog, Mellotron and the familiar organ. The "formula" track as found on Collage has now been turned into an album length exercise. Going about it in this way, Le Orme came up with a fail-proof album that stills satisfies today. While it would be easy to pass off Felona e Sorona as a typical pretentious prog album typical of the day, few deliver the goods as well as Le Orme. As with any ambitious project such as this, there is plenty for the listener to sink their teeth into. Many dynamic changes between the singer-songwriter tendencies of Aldo Tagliapietra and the bombastic keyboards of Tony Pagliuca. However what possibly keeps Felona E Sorona from the upper echelons is there is nary a memorable moment on the album. Without allowing much experimentation into the mix, much of the album seems restricted by an unspoken protocol. Exceptions to this are the eerie "Attesa Inerte" and the ambitious closer "Ritorno al Nulla", both reminiscent of the Uomo di Pezza balance of soft composition, jazzy grooves and heavy rock. Overall, another classic Le Orme album and a must listen. Another essential purchase for LP collectors as well, with a fabulous fantasy painting in a gatefold sleeve. There is also an English language version of the album (with lyrics by Peter Hammill), though the album doesn't flow as well as the native Italian version.
Contrappunti, Le Orme's sixth and last classic album, is on the surface a return to the more straightforward approach found on Uomo di Pezza especially considering the heavy organ opening sequence. Perhaps the band felt they had moved too far from their garage-y roots with Felona e Sorona. The opening title track, overall, is somewhere between Uomo di Pezza and classic Emerson Lake and Palmer (especially the organ playing). By the second song, however, it is clear Le Orme are moving towards a more accessible sound. "Frutto Acerbo" is not as disturbing as the songs found on their earlier albums. In fact, without the mellotron, this composition could easily fit on a Lucio Battisti album. Even when the band rocks out, there is a sense of control and a more simplistic composition style. Maybe this was a conscious decision brought on by necessity while struggling to play this kind of complex music night after night for years on the road. Whatever the reason, the encompassing sound is classic Le Orme with a little less caffeine and more diet friendly. That is not to say the album is not without major highlights. "India" recalls the melancholic brilliance of Aldo Tagliapietra's haunting voice and the off-key synthesizers of Tony Pagliuca. The instrumental "Notturno" sounds like an outtake from the Felona e Sorona sessions with its creepy organ, piano and Moog work. The closer "Maggio" is a capsule of all that Le Orme accomplished over the last four albums. Sadly, it would be the last time the band created compositions of this complexity and imagination.
Coinciding with the release of Contrappunti, Le Orme released their first live album titled In Concerto. The selections contained on this release are curious only by the omission of current material. 95 percent of all the chosen songs are from their raw jam days of Collage despite being performed almost three years later with three other albums under their belt. This includes the unreleased two-part 22 minute primarily instrumental "Truck of Fire" replete with the requisite drum solo. Clearly the band, in a live setting, chose to be more like British luminaries Deep Purple minus the guitar. Also noteworthy is the lengthy inclusion of "Era Inverno", which I feel is the prototype for most of Le Orme's classic output. At this point in the bands career, it becomes apparent that they were more hard rockers at heart rather than the sophisticated progenitors of albums such as Uomo di Pezza and Felona e Sorona. The point is even more driven home given their latest release at the time, Contrappunti, which was a clear separation from the past two efforts.
After the disappointing commercial effort Smogmagica, Verita
Nascote is a nice return to form for Le Orme. Having acquired a full
time guitarist for the previous effort, Le Orme had a new sound to
experiment with. Not that Le Orme do much with it. On the contrary, the
guitar seems to only add color and little else. By now, Le Orme are
completely a song-based rock band, though more complex than their American
contemporaries. This quality is displayed clearly on Verita Nascote,
where Le Orme's unique style makes for an overall enjoyable listening
experience. "In Ottobre" is an excellent example of how Le Orme could
incorporate their progressive era sound into a tight commercial style rock
framework. And, throughout, Aldo Tagliapietra's voice is as wonderful as
ever. There's even some nice violins on the pensive title track. While not
near as essential as their classic progressive rock albums, Verita
Nascote is a very pleasant listen and a fine addition to the Le Orme
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