Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, or Banco, or BMS – one of the cornerstone bands of the Italian Progrock movement, beginning in 1969. Having been inspired by the likes of Jethro Tull, Genesis, Van der Graaf Generator, Caravan, Emerson Lake and Palmer and several other bands from the UK, along with the Dutch band Supersister, the German group Can and a musical proficiency that rivaled those of Jazz and Classical ensembles, Banco, along with fellow countrymen, PFM, Il Rovescio della Medaglia, Ys, Le Orme, and Il Balletto di Bronzo formed the basis for the Italian wing of the Prog movement.
Because Jazz and certainly Classical were so much about ensemble playing and technical expertise, Banco, and in fact all the Italian bands of the period, were astonishing soloists in their own rite. Together, working as a unit, they were revolutionary in redefining the potential of Rock in the early 1970s. Taking it to uncharted territory in the process.
But it wasn’t for everybody. Jethro Tull and ELP had managed to cross over styles and directions and they had achieved broad appeal, due in no small part to the evolution of FM radio. Of all the Italian bands of the period, probably PFM would be singled out as the one American audiences were remotely familiar with. The rest were relegated to hardcore fan status or musician’s musicians. To most people, Banco and the others were too complex – the Press were often dismissive, saying they were pretentious and lacking soul – lumping them into a sort of hybrid of freeform Jazz – too much of an intellectual exercise to be considered Rock. The Prog movement required a degree of thought on the audience’s part, a willingness to sit and listen; a desire to soak up the notes, not be dazzled by the theatrics and riffs.
But some 40 years on, listening to this particular concert – which is remarkably well recorded and preserved, you hear elements which are commonplace today. You hear a lot of what Banco and Le Orme and PFM were doing in many Indie and Techno bands from 2008 onwards. That their message managed to get through to fledgling musicians coming up in the late 1980s and 90s, is no small testament to the lasting effect they’ve had on the music world in all that time. And maybe because they weren’t instantly popular in the early 1970s it made their discoveries by other musicians and fans a perpetual newness and all that much more profound.
If you are familiar with Banco, this concert will remind you of why you loved them in the first place. If you aren’t, or have only heard about them, but never actually heard them, this live concert is an important element in your understanding of what was a new and exciting period of time in our musical history.
Suggested method of listening: Headphones, cranked up – no distractions.