Review Summary: One of the best progressive albums to come out of Italy, with a unique emphasis on deep atmosphere and a delicate sensitivity.
One of the genre's most representative works, Le Orme's Uomo Di Pezza
is pure Italian Progressive Rock (RPI). All the classic elements are present: romantic themes, soaring melodic vocals (in Italian), and heavy classical influences. Le Orme were one of the three major Italian groups, the other two being Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM) and Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, which both released their debuts during the same year. This was the album that placed Le Orme in the same league.
Uomo Di Pezza
was a huge advancement from its predecessor Collage
, which musically was much closer to the proto-progressive and psychedelic movements. Even further before that, their music was psychedelic pop, as demonstrated on Ad Gloriam
. Following Collage
, Le Orme took a definitive step into progressive territory. The jams and reckless abandon of their earlier style were completely shaken off at this point, and the trio re-appeared as a symphonic progressive group of the highest order, with a unique style that can be described as dreamy, yet powerful. The Baroque sections that appear in some places on the album come from their own national tradition, so it's not surprising that they manage them so fluidly and effortlessly.
The band's power trio construction was quite similar to Emerson, Lake & Palmer, with vocalist Aldo Tagliapietra handling bass and occasional acoustic rhythm guitar duties. He was the group's main songwriter from day one, with the reputation of being an excellent storyteller. Although the drumming provided by Michi Dei Rossi is very strong, the music is generally dominated by Toni Pagliuca’s keyboards, another similarity to ELP. Pagliuca had expanded his sonic palette of organ and piano with the addition of mellotron and synthesizers, making tasteful and intelligent use of both instruments. Aside from the comparisons to ELP (the overall sound of this album is much more pastoral than ELP, however), the band’s melodic content is also reminiscent of PFM.
At times Le Orme’s music can be raw and intrusive, yet at others it's too beautiful for words. The group goes from mellotron to fuzz organ, from sinister-sounding organ to elegant acoustic guitar passages, the many moments of contrast being executed flawlessly. The sound is constantly spiced up with bombastic power-organ, heavy symphonic outbursts and unique effects, courtesy of the keys. The more aggressive parts convey a sense of insanity, and just appear more menacing within the generally mellower, peaceful tone of the album.
The record features excellent keyboard-driven recordings with emphasis on romantic atmospheres, sophisticated breaks and sensitive vocal lines. The tracks contain a variety of alternating keys, transforming them from light, classical-based rock songs to majestic, melodic progressive pieces. Although displays of virtuosity are often considered synonymous with progressive rock, Le Orme were one of the few groups to give priority to the actual structure of their arrangements, as well as carefully balancing music and lyrics. Their greatness basically lies in the fact that the band had a unique chemistry: its individual members may be extremely skilful, but the sum is far greater than its parts.
Uomo Di Pezza
is quite mellow – perhaps too much so in some places, but the overall quality of the music is impossible to deny. The only other complaint might fall to the short duration of the album: these themes could have been worth exploring even more. But even if it is relatively short, Le Orme simply created some of the most beautiful prog with this particular set of songs. Thankfully, more great material followed, with Felena E Sonora
(1973) and Contrappunti
(1974) rounding out a classic trilogy from the group. These albums would effectively bring a close to their streak of success.