Oh boy, I just did some band research to become a little more informed about this group before I put fingers to keyboard, but I seriously wish I hadn’t. It seems just about everything the musicians involved have done since the recording of this seminal album has been to capitalise upon and tarnish the reputation of a great band name. I understand musicians need an outlet and might want to be creative more than forty years after the fact, but couldn’t they do it under a new moniker? More on that later. Let’s just pretend for now that this is a band that only released one album before fading into obscurity. Somehow, that’s far more graceful than trying to stay present by milking a name to death.
Reale Accademia di Musica was released in 1972, the pinnacle year of prog rock, and a year when many progressive artists from England and Italy were releasing arguably their best material. It’s perhaps understandable then why this album was overlooked, when there was just too much good music to hear everything. The band’s name doesn’t help either as it seems rather formal: ‘Royal Academy of Music’ doesn’t exactly shout “Rock and Roll”. But it’s not an entirely inappropriate moniker either. While bands like Yes and Premiata Forneria Marconi were creating balls-to-the-wall, high energy music, Reale Accademia di Musica offered a more mature, restrained alternative though showing no less musical genius.
I should mention that I have the 2014 Sony Music reissue of the album, which offers absolutely no frills: no bonus tracks, no liner notes, just the gatefold album artwork (including the vertical inner sleeve) and obviously the music itself, which sounds crisp as ever. Sometimes that’s all a listener can want.
The album begins with Favola, a light, pastoral piece that is, unfortunately, the worst track on the album simply because it’s slow and contains few surprises. It’s not a bad track by any means, with lovely arrangements and a mellow feel, but listeners will be glad to hear it’s not representative of the rest of the album at all. In fact, all six tracks that occupy this LP have a completely different sound, yet achieve what they set out to accomplish, something that makes this band very unique.
Il mattino is the longest track on the album and unsurprisingly the most symphonic of the tracks. The first half of the song is a brooding, melancholy lyrical section which gracefully gives way to a steaming powerhouse of an instrumental in the second half. This is a good case in point of the band being restrained: any other Italian prog band would have been too impatient to wait a full nine minutes before showing their chops.
Ognuno sa follows, and everyone knows that this is the sunnier of the album’s tracks. With jolly, bouncy piano and a classic Hammond organ backing, this has the makings of a timeless bar piece. An odd but ingenious choice was to filter the vocals as though they’re being played on the radio, giving the song a perplexing hot-and-cold timbre.
Padre is the second longest track and is clearly vying with Il mattino to be the ‘money shot’ of the album. The gloomy melancholy is kept for an extended introduction, which once again gives way to a quiet brooding lyrical section. Unexpectedly, this leads into a choral break backed by more organ. When the instruments once again come back in, you might have forgotten you were still listening to the same song.
Others reference the longer tracks as their favourites from this magnificent album, but to me, the last two songs, six and seven minutes long respectively, are the pieces that hold the most musical and creative water, and also where the band show their best performances. Lavoro in città is a simple yet effective song about a person working in the city who feels unable to be free, longing for fresh air and nature. The musical accompaniment perfectly encapsulates the emotions, dark and industrial for the “City” section and pastoral and melodic for the “Nature” part. The repeated line “E se tu lo vorrai sarà” which translates to “And if you want it, it will be” is amazingly effective, though possibly idealistic.
Vertigine certainly stands out as the most ‘prog’ of the tracks, with crunchy drums accompanying a truly retro organ lead on this mostly instrumental piece. While the instrumental does sound rather like a jam, to begin with, it inconspicuously moves into more scripted territory later on, changing the tone and emotion of the piece despite the drums crunching along with the same rhythm. A very satisfying finish to an all-around dazzling album.
The band would go on to team up with singer Adriano Monteduro and release a soft-pop album two years later, a very disappointing blight to fans of the band’s original work. The band would also team up with female pop-rock singer Nada for a similar outing on 1975’s 1930: Il domatore delle scimmie. Three decades later, Monteduro decided he owned the band’s name and released two poorly received albums with none of the original band members appearing on the album. Yep, you can officially compare Reale Accademia di Musica to Sugababes, how low we have sunk. In 2013, three original members snatched back the name to release La cometa, which only received lukewarm reviews. But the drama didn’t stop there as last year the original guitarist Pericle Sponzilli, who wasn’t on any of the other subsequent releases after the first album, decided he wanted to have a go at using the band’s name, even going as far as using the original band logo on his album Angeli Mutanti as if to say “No, I’m the real one!”. All in all, there have been three inferior bands trying to masquerade with the title Reale Accademia di Musica in the 21st Century.
That’s why I’ve simply chosen not to bother with any of that and see the band for what they were always meant to be, a one-shot group with incredible creativity and taste for fine progressive rock. It’s by no means the most technical or inventive Italian prog album of that era or even that particular year, but its diversity and self-assured restraint are highly refreshing and likely to keep the listener coming back for more.
01. Favola (3:54)
02. Il mattino (9:23)
03. Ognuno sa (5:24)
04. Padre (8:46)
05. Lavoro in città (6:00)
06. Vertigine (7:13)
Total Time – 40:35
Federico Troiani – Piano, Organ, Electric Piano, Mellotron, Vocals
Nicola Agrimi – Acoustic & Electric Guitars
Pierfranco Pavone – Bass
Roberto Senzasono – Drums, Percussion
Henryk Topel Cabanes – Solo Vocals
Pericle Sponzilli – Electric Guitar
Record Label: Ricordi (Original LP)
Catalogue#: SMRL 6105
Country of Origin: Italy
Year of Release: 1972
Album Art: Wanda Spinello