January 27, 2021

Il Rovescio della Medaglia (RDM) was an Italian symphonic rock band formed in Rome in 1970 and apparently they chose not to have a keyboard player which was most unlike an Italian progressive rock band at that time as they were looking for a rockier sound! They released a couple of albums before coming to the attention of the orchestra conductor Luis Enriquez Bacalov in 1973 and he proposed the idea of them producing a fully symphonic rock album (of course, other bands were experimenting with this concept too) which became the album Contaminazione in 1973 (the English version Contamination coming out in 1975). This being the early ’70s when the word ‘pretentious’ was rarely used in music (except by disgruntled and/or non understanding journalists) the album was to be a concept work based around the music of J S Bach’s preludes and fugues to a tale on an alleged theme of a supposed Scottish son who was not recognised by Bach.

The album was a success which meant that the band had to enlarge to take on a keyboard player so that the new music could be played live. Shortly afterwards, all of the bands equipment was stolen which put a damper on everything and matters later came to a head with the singer leaving and, ultimately, the break-up of the band. Fast forward to 2011, skipping a reformation in 1993, and guitarist Enzo Vita resurrects the band and they release a couple of new albums with Labyrinth vocalist Roberto Tiranti featuring on Microstorie in 2011 and then Tribal Domestic in 2016 which this time featured Chris Catena alongside original vocalist Pino Ballerina. It was then decided in 2017 to put a live band together which brings us neatly to Contaminazione 2.0 which was recorded live in San Galgana which is near to Siena in a ruined 13th century abbey.

This is a reworking of the original Contaminazione from 1973 which I haven’t previously heard so am unable to comment on how the two versions compare. The performing musicians are Enzo Vita on guitar, Andrea Castelli on Bass, Nicola Costanti on vocals and keyboards, Carmelo Junior Arena on keyboards and backing vocals, Pino Polistina on guitar and Andrea Bruni on drums and they are all masterful and play with perfect style and verve. So what we have here is a ’70s infused baroque meets progressive rock grand work which is sung in Italian which suits the piece perfectly and is a swathe of wonderful keyboards, perfect guitar and amazing orchestral work that thoroughly delights. Yes, it’s over the top in the same way that some of Rick Wakeman’s finest works of the ’70s were but that doesn’t stop us loving them all the same. Just listen and go with the flow as the mixture of prog meets orchestral/classical works very well and you will recognise the odd Bach tune too.

The album was recorded live and all is perfectly played with the audience being very much in the background and just occasionally you will hear a cheer between tracks but I believe they were very well behaved, caught up in the music and also mainly edited out. It seems that the original work is out of print or very difficult to get hold of but this splendid release could see a resurrection of interest in this fine and sadly overlooked Italian progressive rock band. The CD features three bonus tracks which I believe are tracks from earlier albums so I am guessing that they were the encores but whether encore or re-worked studio tracks they blend in perfectly with the earlier material.

This is perfect ’70s retro rock with an abundance of keyboard and amazing solos played with real Italian style and panache and so much to enjoy and savour.

Contaminazione 2.0 track list

  1. Absent For This Consumed World (1:36)
  2. Ora Non Rocordo Più (3:45)
  3. Il Suono Del Silenzio (3:43)
  4. Mi Sono Svegliato E…Ho Chiuso Gli Occhi (7:10)
  5. Lei Sei Tu: Lei (2:15)
  6. La Mia Musica (4:29)
  7. Johann (5:44)
  8. Scotland Machine (1:06)
  9. Cella 503 (1:48)
  10. Contaminazione 1760 (5:46)
  11. Alzo Un Muro Elettrico (5:16)
  12. Sweet Suite (3:16)
  13. La Grande Fuga (6:46)
  14. Il Nula (1:19) (bonus track)
  15. La Criazione (7:31) (bonus track)
  16. L’Ammonimento (5:48) (bonus track)