[Around Prog #9] Le Orme

Le Orme are one of the main groups of Italian Progressive Rock and one of the best known also abroad. The first experiences took place in the 1960s, precisely in 1966, when Nino Smeraldi and Aldo Tagliapietra, who had just won a competition for emerging songwriters, decided to start a group. Together with the bassist Claudio Galieti and the drummer Marino Rebeschini, the story of Le Orme begins, initially however with the name Le Ombre, soon since in the Veneto dialect it means glass of wine, and to avoid double meanings it was no longer used. Taking their first steps, they showed up at EMI for an audition, but were discarded and therefore their first single “Fiori e Colori” from 1967 was released for the CAR Juke Box. Following the fashion of the time, it was also recorded in an English version “Flower and Colors”. Shortly after the release of the single Frebeschini he left the lineup, replaced by what would become the historical drummer Michi Dei Rossi. With international experience, Dei Rossi had played in the Hopopi, the top group of the Veneto scene, who participated in the Beat Festival in Liverpool at the invitation of Los Bravos. Thus began also the live performances that saw them protagonists at the renowned Piper Club in Rome, in addition to recording another 45 rpm. “Senti l’estate che torna”, also in the English version “Summer Comin,” while with the Italian version they participated in the competition “Un Disco Per L’estate,” aggregating the Hopopi keyboardist and founder Tony Pagliuca. We are in 1968 and the group decides to record their debut album “Ad Gloriam,” which as the title says, was released “for glory,” knowing that it would not have been a commercial success, as it actually happened. The low commercial impact of the album ended relationships with the CAR Juke Box. In 1969 Galieti and Michi Dei Rossi are called to military service, the first was never replaced, while the drummer remained in training and was temporarily replaced by Dave Baker. With this temporary lineup they made a single “Irene” and some auditions on some pieces of classical music, “Il Concerto Brandeburghese” by J.S. Bache “Blue Rondò A La Turk” by Brubeck. This was the step towards the Progressive genre, but it only came out in 1973 because it was thought that the public was not yet ready for certain sounds. During the same period they recorded other singles, which will be collected in a compilation “Aurora De Le Orme” which, however, not being authorized by the band, is soon withdrawn from the market. A discussion on the group’s soundtrack involves guitarist Smeraldi and keyboardist Pagliuca, with the first leaving the band. In a short time, Le Orme went from a quintet to a trio with Michi Dei Rossi on drums, Aldo Tagliapietra on bass and vocals and Tony Pagliuca on keyboards. Pagliuca in his travels to London realizes that the Beat period has come to an end and that the music that is taking place is more elaborate and closer to Symphonic Pop, with groups such as ELP, Nice and YES. Back in Italy with that wealth of experience, he also convinces the other two members of the group to move towards a more progressive sound. Initially they entered the Telegram stable, and then moved on to Philips Records, with which they released their first album Prog “Collage” in 1971. It is considered the first album of Italian Progressive Rock, made thanks to the support of Giampiero Reverberi and focused on a massive use of keyboards. The texts deal with important and uncomfortable issues for the time such as prostitution (Era Inverno) and death by overdose (Morte Di Un Fiore). The following year they publish “Uomo Di Pezza” who also wins the Disco d’Oro and is considered one of their best works. A special feature, for the first time in Italy, the cover graphics, edited by Walter Mac Mazzieri, are entrusted to a painter. Another thing to note is that Peter Hammill of VDGG participated in the whole theatrical tour of the band as a regular guest. We are in 1973 when Le Orme recorded their first concept album “Felona e Sorona”, with a spatial theme, linked to the story of 2 opposing but complementary planets. He won the band’s second Disco D’Oro, soon rising to the top of the sales charts, although strangely part of the critics of the time labeled it as a naive disc. 2 versions were published, one in Italian and the other in English translated by Peter Hammill himself and published by Charisma Records, the label of Genesis and the same VDGG among others. The only one of the translated version is the interpretation of the sung that is not always clear and convincing, and it seems that Hammill has disregarded the operation, which was later denied. Thanks to the “international” version, the band conquered the first tour in the United Kingdom, one of the dates was at the famous Marquee Club. It was precisely in the period of maximum notoriety of the group that the old label CAR released the single “Blue Rondò A La Turk / Concerto No. 3,” with the disapproval of the band, but the 45 rpm came out the same. On January 17, 1974, during their performance at the Teatro Brancaccio in Rome, the performance was recorded, thus resulting in “In Concerto,” the first live album in the history of the Italian Prog. Obviously, the entire concert was not recorded on the disc, but only the songs with the best audio resolution, including the unpublished and never recorded in the studio “Truck Of Fire,” song in English. After a trip to Ceylon, on their return the band recorded “Contrappunti,” a darker album with more refined sounds, obtaining excellent feedback from critics. A controversial anecdote, in the song “Frutto Acerbo” the band takes a clear position against illegal abortion and in favor of legal abortion, despite their manifest Catholic faith. Another curious fact is the 1975 American compilation, where the songs are in the original version (in Italian), while the titles in English. “Contrappunti” did not have a great response from the public and the record company “forced” them to participate in the 1975 Festivalbar with a light song “Sera” which was never published. This crisis led to the choice of inserting a guitarist and the semi-unknown Tolo Marton was selected, who also played the harmonica. So they recorded in America “Smogmagica,” but the sound had changed, oriented towards a more Blues Rock style, with Marton stealing the show. The album was not a great success among longtime fans, and in addition the 3 historical members would have liked to continue to propose a more avant-garde sound, while the label looked at their economic interests. So Pagliuca set up a sort of “Spray,” an ironic live show where he joked about the greats of Rock. A similar thing was proposed 20 years later by U2. This choice led to the abandonment by Marton, who would later become a world-renowned guitarist. Germano Serafin will take his place and participate in this formation at the 1976 Festivalbar with a love song that will end in Hit Parade. In the same year, “Hidden Truths” recorded an album focusing on the dangers due to the abuse of narcotic substances. “Regina Al Troubadour” was very successful, like the whole album, which sold more copies of the previous two, marking a return to the original sounds. An English version of “Hidden Truth’s” was recorded which was never published. We are in a period of change in both the musical styles and the tastes of the public, with the advent of Punk, New Wave and Disco Music, and the group announced that their next album “Storia O Leggenda” would close an era . The record companies therefore proposed to the band to adapt to new trends and the reaction of the band was however more progressive than the music itself, starting to study the typical instruments of classical music. In 1979 “Florian” came out from the name of the famous bar in Venice, and the sound was very close to chamber music and was not very successful. In the song “Fianale Di Un Viaggio” the band sings: “Change Mr. Tambourine man / You don’t need me anymore.” They thus entered a phase of crisis, with Pagliuca and Serafin convinced that the choice was spot on, while Tagliapietra was against it. Polydor needed another record for a contract and Le Orme complied with the request with “Piccolas Rapsodia Di Un APe” from 1980. The album composed almost entirely by Serafin marks the unofficial dissolution of the band, the guitarist will spend the following years on the violin, following other paths and disappearing prematurely in 1992. The crisis is palpable and in 1982 Tony Pagliuca leaves the band during the Festival of Sanremo, forcing them to insert an appearance. In the following years they devote themselves to Electro-Pop and New Romance sounds, singular the videoclip of the song “Rosso Di Sera”, where Michi Dei Rossi even figures with a Casio VL1 synth in hand. In the meantime, Tagliapietra in 1984 recorded the first solo album, in which Dei Rossi, Marton and Michele Bon, future member of the band and not Pagliuca, took part. The turning point took place between the 80s and 90s, where Mario Lavezzi and Angelo Branduardi appears with the supervision of Mogol. Given the different musical views gained since the late ’70s, Pagliuca in 1992 definitively abandoned Le Orme, he would never enter training again. So it was that to fill the void left by this departure Michele Bon entered the keyboards outright and Francesco Sartori as a pianist. The official Fanclub recognized by the group itself was born, a periodical Fanzine with 2500 circulation and both Pagliuca and Tagliapietra publish their second solo album. The period of self-production also began, inaugurating this new era with “Il Fiume” produced with the support of Trig, an independent label. Another record was that in 1996 they were the first Italian group to have an official website. Back in vogue, the group is invited to Los Angeles to participate in the ProgFest, making it the only Italian band, thus starting a period of international dates between Canada, Mexico, the USA and South America. The band continues its live activity around the world and publishes 5 studio albums between 2000 and 2019. “Elementi” in 2001, “L’Infinito” in 2004, “La Via Della Seta” in 2011, “ClassicOrme” with old and new songs in classic version and “Sulle Ali Di Un Sogno,” also remakes of historical songs in 2019. The lineup has undergone several changes, also returning to the trio, but seeing in 2009 the release of the historic founder and frontman Aldo Tagliapietra. To date only Dei Rossi has remained of the historic trio of the ’70s, and the band has also announced that after the scheduled tour Le Orme will take a break, probably ending their story. Meanwhile Pagliuca is continuing his musical paths both soloists and as a guest in other projects, Tagliapietra has long since started to devote himself to the sitar, an instrument of which he has also published a manual. A band that has donated unique and inimitable masterpieces to the Italian and worldwide Prog. Their sound characterized by the classic 3-element formation without guitar and the sweet voice of Tagliapietra, the energy and technique on drums of Michi Dei Rossi, and the supporting keyboards of the maestro Pagliuca, make this band one of the main ones on the Prog scene world. The only flaw is the electronic turnaround of the 1980s, which, however, as we well know, was forced by the needs of record producers rather than by the musicians themselves. Concluding this long chapter of our editorial on the masters of the Prog, we can say that Le Orme have been among the pioneers of Progressive made in Italy music, a fundamental listening for all lovers of the genre, having published unique and inimitable masterpieces.

Discography

Studio:

  • 1969 – Ad gloriam
  • 1970 – L’aurora delle Orme
  • 1971 – Collage
  • 1972 – Uomo di pezza
  • 1973 – Felona e Sorona
  • 1974 – Contrappunti
  • 1975 – Smogmagica
  • 1976 – Verità nascoste
  • 1977 – Storia o leggenda
  • 1979 – Florian
  • 1980 – Piccola rapsodia dell’ape
  • 1982 – Venerdì
  • 1990 – Orme
  • 1996 – Il fiume
  • 2001 – Elementi
  • 2004 – L’infinito
  • 2011 – La via della seta
  • 2016 – Felona e/and Sorona
  • 2017 – ClassicOrme
  • 2019 – Sulle ali di un sogno

Live:

  • 1974 – In concerto
  • 2008 – Live in Pennsylvania
  • 2009 – Live Orme
  • 2010 – Progfiles – Live in Rome

Lineup

Current Members:

Michi Dei Rossi – drums (since 1967)
Michele Bon – keyboards (since 1990)
Alessio Trapella – voice, bass, guitar and double bass (from 2017)
Federico ‘Tich’ Gava – piano and synthesizers (from 2009 to 2012 and then from 2020)

Past Members:

Aldo Tagliapietra – voice, guitar, bass, sitar (from 1966 to 2009)
Marino Rebeschini (from 1966 to 1967). After finishing his military service he founded Il Mucchio with the collaboration of Pino Donaggio.
Fabio Trentini – bass, acoustic guitar, bass pedal and voice (from 2009 to 2017)
Nino Smeraldi (from 1966 to 1969). He is the founder of the band.
Claudio Galieti (from 1966 to 1969). Born in 1949, he left the complex to fulfill his military obligations. Resident in Campalto, a hamlet of Venice, he continued to play the electric bass for pleasure, often participating in jam sessions and re-establishing contacts with Smeraldi and Tagliapietra. It suddenly dies on July 4, 2016.
Tony Pagliuca – piano, keyboards (from 1968 to 1991). After leaving the complex, he started a solo career in the research field. His activity as a concert musician and composer is intense: www.tonypagliuca.com
Dave Baker – drums (in 1969)
Gian Piero Reverberi – piano (in 1974). He is officially listed as a member of the lineup that recorded the album Contrappunti. However, he has collaborated on other works of the band as a pianist / keyboard player.
Tolo Marton – guitars (from 1975 to 1976). It remained in the complex from September 1975 to February 1976: the only non-American to have won the prestigious “Hendrix award” in Seattle in 1998.
Germano Serafin – guitars (from 1976 to 1980)
Giorgio Mantovan – guitars (from 1991 to 1992)
Francesco Sartori – piano, keyboards (from 1989 to 1997). Co-author of the famous Con te partirò by Andrea Bocelli, he left the group to enter full-time in the stable of the authors of Sugar.
Andrea Bassato – piano, keyboards, violin (from 1998 to 2007)
Federico ‘Tich’ Gava – piano, keyboards (from 2009 to 2012)
Jimmy Spitaleri – voice (from 2010 to 2012)
William Dotto – guitar (from 2010 to 2015)

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Author: Jacopo Vigezzi

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