Legendary Italian progressive rock band Banco del Mutuo Soccorso released its first LP in 1971 on the label Dischi Ricordi. The lineup included Vittorio Nocenzi (keyboards), Gianni Nocenzi (piano), Francesco Di Giacomo (vocals), Renato d'Angelo (bass), the newly arrived Pierluigi Calderoni (drums), and guitarist Marcello Todara, who would soon be replaced by Rodolfo Maltese. Although plagued by poor sound quality (something frequent with Italian albums from the early '70s), this eponymous release revealed a band with stellar musicianship, an inclination toward the kind of classical-meets-rock blend the Nice had been doing in England, affinities with the burgeoning European prog rock scene, and yet retention of strong connections with a hard-to-define Italian sound, thanks mostly to singer Di Giacomo. Banco del Mutuo Soccorso contained the fast-paced "R.I.P.," a good rock number with a surprisingly lyrical bridge, and "Metamorphosi." The latter became a fan favorite, even though its construction was uneven. The band would record a stronger version of it for its first album in English (Banco), but when Di Giacomo entered the last part with English lyrics, it kind of killed the mood. The other highlight on this first opus is "Il Giardino del Mago," a piece in four parts. Less emotional but stronger in terms of cohesion and momentum than "Canto Nomade per un Prigioniero Politico," it featured beautiful keyboard work, although the star of this album is drummer Calderoni (he must have had two more arms than Carl Palmer). The album ends with "Traccia," a short instrumental piece that has nothing to do with the more commonly known "Traccia II" (on Io Sono Nato Libero, the band's third LP). Not quite as strong as its follow-up Darwin!, this first album still remains a classic element of Italian progressive rock.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture