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Progressive Rock Italia Series, Universal Music Italia 

05-18-2021 | By Andy Goldenberg | Issue 115

IBIS, Self-Titled. Polydor Records 3581980. 1975

Locanda Delle Fate, Forse Le Lucciole Non Si Amano Piu. Polydor Records 3529073. 1977

Sensations' Fix, Finest Finger. Polydor Records 3559352. 1976

For the uninitiated, Italian Progressive Rock of the 1970s can be differentiated from its German and British peers by its heavier emphasis on the Hammond B-3 organ as opposed to the Mellotron, as well as its operatic, flamboyant vocal gymnastics. However, as these 3 new releases from Universal Music's ongoing Prog Rock Italia series delightfully demonstrate, that's certainly a not hard, fast rule.

The first band, IBIS, hailing from both Genova and Liguria, Italy, formed after the split of The New Trolls. Nico Di Palo (guitar, vocals) Maurizio Salvi (keyboard) Frank Laugelli (bass, vocals) and Gianni Belleno (drums, vocals) issued their first album in 1973. Two years later, the band, featuring new drummer Pasquale Venditto and new guitarist Renzo Tortora, released the self-titled album. It was recorded mainly in the J.S. Bach Studios in Milan. Interestingly enough, there are 2 songs sung in English and those are the ones where the band veers off course of typical Italian Prog as they feature stinging lead guitar work reminiscent of Dutch band Focus as well as Thin Lizzy and early UFO. Unfortunately, those are 2 of the weaker songs (possibly recorded with radio-play in mind). When the band stays true to its Italian brethren, the songs burn with both the Progressive electric guitar-drum interplay of YES while the beautiful acoustic piece "Passa Il Tempo" emotes more of a British Prog Folk like The Strawbs with glittering harmonies and horn-like synthesizers.

The second band, Locanda Delle Fate which translates to "Inn of the Fairies" and refers to a former brothel located in their hometown of Nasti, Italy. Their sole studio album, Forse Le Lucciole Non Sie Amano Piu, released in 1977, is the most "Italian Prog-like" of these three reissues. Featuring lush orchestrations, complex key and tempo changes along with simply gorgeous symphonic piano runs, this album is similar in style to Genesis' Wind and Wuthering as well as mid-period Renaissance. If you had to play a Prog neophyte one album to demonstrate the Italian Prog sound, Forse Le Lucciole Non Sie Amano Piu would be it.

(Andy starts screaming off a mountain top to no one in particular) IT'S GOT EVERYTHING YOU NEED IN AN ITALIAN PROG ALBUM, THE MELODRAMA, THE PAGEANTRY, THE RIDICULOUSLY COMPLEX TIME CHANGES! YOU NEED THIS ALBUM! Pardon me (Andy wipes sweat off his brow)

Finally, Sensations' Fix's 1976 album Finest Finger probably threw me for a loop the most. While it is still Prog, it emanates an almost Space Psych-Rock sound in its guitar intensity akin to legendary German space rock band Agitation Free. Formed in Florence, Italy in the early 1970s, Finest Finger is their fourth and arguably best offering, introducing new keyboardist Stephen Head. Considering the album was self-produced, the sound quality is, frankly, amazing. The pensive instrumental song "Maps" which features acoustic as well as electric guitars is extremely well-balanced. The acoustic, electric and bass guitars can each be discerned individually or collectively as can the synthesizer which is quite a sonic feat for us audiophiles.


All three albums sound amazing considering the age of the original analog master tapes. The low end is represented very well on the vinyl and the high frequencies are less strident and have been balanced properly finally as opposed to previous CD incarnations of these albums. Cymbals decay naturally as well, and the synthesizers are not too harsh on the ear. Both engineers deserve kudos for the painstaking care and sonic integrity which they took in remastering these albums to vinyl. These recordings breathe! The 180 gram vinyl are available in orange or black vinyl but they are selling quickly so catch them if you can. The link to the series is here http://www.progrockitalia.com

I hope to be able to review the next set in the series so please do stay tuned!

I was able to speak with each engineer via email:

Email interview with Italian Prog Project mastering engineers Davide Benetti (D.B.), Product Manager of the entire project, and Alessandro Cutolo (A.C.), engineer.

Where were the master tapes for each of these albums found? Did any former members of any of these band have the tapes in their possession?

D.B.: All original analog masters are shelved at Universal Music Italia Archives; originally they were propriety of Polygram record company, then they became Universal propriety at the end of the nineties after the merging Universal/Polygram.

Were the original master tapes used for each of these releases or did you have to use Safety-Copies for some of them? We're any or all of the tapes in rough shape? How many master tapes had to be baked?

 A.C.: For the remastering process were used only original analog master tapes: the state for all of them was generally very good, however most of them had to be baked.

Were digital copies of all master-tapes made and could you someday release those albums in high resolution (24-bit 96kHz)? Either on Blu Ray Audio or streaming high resolution on Qobuz etc?

A.C.: All original analog master tapes had been digitalized in HD (24-bit/96kHz) with an AD Prism Sound converter and in the next future all the titles will be available for high quality streaming like QOBUZ and TIDAL HQ.

Were the original master tapes used for each of these releases or did you have to use Safety-Copies for some of them? Were any of the tapes in rough shape? How many master tapes had to be baked? (Andy dons a white lab coat and pulls out a green board and breaks into his best British Professor voice. Tape-baking is a process of tape restoration for tapes that due to age or improper storage begin to lose their binder-glue, a convection oven is used to temporarily restore the water molecules from the binder so the tape can be safely copied and digitized for posterity)

A.C.: For the remastering process were used only original analog master tapes: the state for all of them was generally very good, however most of them had to be baked.

Were any of the band members consulted or brought into any of the remastering sessions for their opinions? If so who or what band?

D.B.: For Il Balletto Di Bronzo "Ys" and Le Orme "Collage," artists like Gianni Leone (IBDB front man) and Aldo Tagliapietra (Le Orme, vocals and bass) collaborated with interviews and promotion, also they were really satisfied of all the reissues work done; in other cases, artists were untraceable or not available, so the work was done without their help.

Special Grazie to Claudio Magnani, Rafaella Leva, Davide Benetti and Alessandro Cutolo at Universal Music Italia!!

Stereo Playback for review:

  • Dunlavy SC 4A speakers
  • Hanss Acoustics Turntable w/Hana ML cartridge
  • Audio Research VT 100 Mark 2 amplifier
  • Audio Research Reference 5 SE preamplifier