Le Orme

Florian

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By 1979, the progressive rock movement was pretty much dead and the bands that were still hanging on had gone through severe and often ill-fated transformations, alienating their fan base without managing to reach wider audiences. Le Orme didn't go down that road. Instead, after releasing two albums in 1977, the band took a breather in 1978 and came back in 1979 with an all-acoustic record, Florian. Granted, it is a weaker effort, and most listeners will find it lacks ambition and grandeur. And yet, what a splendid endeavor for a band that was once known as an organ-led powerhouse trio. Picking up on the increased presence of acoustic guitars (and increased importance of the Italian songwriting tradition) on 1977's Storia o Leggenda, Florian offers a blend of neo-classical compositions and pastoral songs. All four members of the band go out of their way to expand their palette of acoustic instruments: singer/bassist Aldo Tagliapietra plays some cello; keyboardist Antonio Pagliuca adds harpsichord and harmonium to his grand piano; drummer Michi Dei Rossi spends a lot of time on mallet percussion; finally, guitarist Germano Serafin (who joined the band for Verità Nascoste in early 1977) whips out a violin, in addition to playing bouzouki and lots of mandolin. As a result, the opening of "Florian" sounds almost like a string quartet -- it is by far the most neo-classical-sounding piece on this short album. "Il Mago" and "Fine di un Viaggio" are two gorgeous songs that would have fitted in with the material on Storia o Leggenda, and Tagliapietra delivers sensible vocal performances. "El Gran Senser," the closing track, steps outside the box for a freer piece with improvisation and experimental sonorities from the harpsichord and violin. Low-key and understated, Florian makes a strong case toward proving that Le Orme were always willing to reinvent their approach. And Pagliuca and Tagliapietra had the composing chops to pull off such a bold project. The album is beautiful, both in terms of writing and execution. And though it is not what you would expect from Le Orme, it unmistakably sounds like late-‘70s Le Orme -- much more so than Smogmagica, for instance.

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