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(Vinyl Magic VMO13) [1971]

Italy in the first half of the seventies was incredibly fecund when it came to progressive rock. Well over two hundred bands recorded singles and albums of what they called "Pop Italiano." Many of these bands recorded only one album, but some -- PFM, the New Trolls, Le Orme, Banco and Formula Tre (Three) among others -- had a string of releases. Thus a considerable body of music built up in Italy in only a few short years: Italy's "golden age" of progressive rock. In 1976 the political and commercial situation changed, and progressive rock virtually disappeared from the country. New and fledgling groups found themselves unable to get recording contracts and the few who did put out records did so privately, on their own. Groups like PFM, the New Trolls and Banco followed Genesis into the commercial mainstream -- probably in order to survive.

But in the late eighties the CD revolution changed all that. Japanese companies like Edison and King -- which had started releasing Italian progressive music in Japan on LP in the early eighties -- began a comprehensive program of CD releases, starting with groups like PFM. And in Italy a new label was launched to re-release on CD the classic albums of the seventies -- Vinyl Magic. Since the late eighties Vinyl Magic has released albums by Panna Fredda, Metamorfosi, Arti + Mestieri, Biglietto per L'Inferno, Semiramis, the Trip, Dedalus, Zauber, Errata Corrige, I Dalton, Circus 2000, Odissea, Nuova Idea, Edgar Allan Poe, I Teoremi, Blocco Mentale, I Numi, and Cherry Five, among others (as well as over a dozen albums by new, nineties, Italian groups).

I Giganti's album was Vinyl Magic's thirteenth release on CD, back in 1989. The original (1971) album was described by Paolo Barotto in his encyclopedia of Italian progressive music, Il Ritorno del Pop Italiano (The Return of Italian Pop): "After having obtained some success as a beat group (disbanding in 1968), Giganti came together again in 1971 with a very avantgarde album, 'Terra In Bocca.' It deals very boldly with the Mafia problem, basing itself on incidents that seem to have really occurred. The lyrics are beautifully written by Piero Rossi and take inspiration from an interview with a man who was arrested and imprisoned. Vince Tempera's music is also very good, with conceptually a very avantgarde use of beats and pauses (f.e. the 'Introduction'). As far as the instrumental aspect is concerned, the backing up is provided by guitarist Marcello Della Casa (Latte E Miele), bass player Ares Tavolazzi, drummer Ellade Bandini and obviously keyboards player Vince Tempera. It's too bad that this interesting group never produced anything else (even at a collaborative level) because of their definitive break up." The musicians mentioned above are in addition to the group itself: Enrico Maria Papes (drums, vocals), Sergio di Martino (bass, vocals), Francesco Marsella (keyboards, vocals) and Giacoma di Martino (guitar, vocals). Vince Tempera went on to be an integral part of Il Volo, a "supergroup" that built on the musical successes of Formula Tre and released two albums (both out on one Japanese CD).

TERRA IN BOCCA is one long song-cycle suite, and although the original LP had divided this suite into nine tracks, the CD version is divided into only two tracks, the original sides of the LP. The music is very Italian, very Mediterranean, richly melodic. The arrangements, which use a Mellotron liberally, hint at times of atypical King Crimson. The lyrics are of course in Italian, and vocals are featured throughout with occasional harmonizing. This is a very rewarding album.

But I haven't mentioned its most intriguing aspect: There are two versions of this CD, both issued by Vinyl Magic, and both carrying the same catalog number! (Actually, there is yet another CD as well -- the first CD, issued in Japan. But since it is long out of print, we'll ignore it here.) The first version issued by Vinyl Magic in 1989 is not taken from the 1971 album. Collectors noticed this when they compared it with the Japanese CD (which was a direct transcription of the LP itself). In 1993 Vinyl Magic quietly and without notice reissued the CD, this time using the master tapes for the 1971 release. The result is that two significantly different CDs exist. What are their differences? Well, to begin with, the "correct" (1993) version is two minutes and 33 seconds longer. (The 1989 version clocks in at 44:11; the 1993 version at 46:44.) While the same musical themes appear in both versions, they do not appear in the same order, nor in the same arrangements. My best guess is that the 1989 version was a demo, cut first, perhaps to sell the album to the record company (originally RiFi, owned by Dischi Ricordi). Its arrangements are sparer, but not without depth, color and complexity. Indeed I prefer it -- but that may be simply because it's the one I became familiar with first. Oddly enough, the 1993 version has a mastering or manufacturing defect of its own: there is a two-second drop-out (2 seconds of silence) which occurs at 11:59 in the first track.

How can you tell these two versions apart? Not easily. In the record store, dealing with a sealed CD, there are only two subtle clues, both to be found on the back of the box.

The "back cover" of the jewel box shows a reproduction of the back of the original LP cover, all reduced to tiny print. On the far right side there is a vertical black stripe, within which is printed Vinyl Magic's address, telephone number, and fax number. Just to the left of this stripe, the 1993 version has the following tiny line of type, running sideways, parallel to the stripe: "Su Licenza PEER SOUND." (There may also be, to the left of this line of type, an Italian tax stamp -- a red-inked, round stamp the largest letters in which are SIAE -- which is not on the 1989 version, but this after-the-fact stamp may not appear consistently on all 1993 copies.) There is no equivilent line of type on the 1989 edition. The second clue is to be found in the telephone number printed in the black stripe: it had changed between 1989 and 1993, and the new number printed on the 1993 edition is in a somewhat different typeface than the rest of that line of type. If you are checking an open CD to determine which is which, it's much easier: the 1989 version has a wide red horizontal stripe across the middle of the CD itself. The 1993 version has no color printed on the CD. Otherwise the labels (including timing information!) are identical (only the credit, "Made in Italy by Phonocomp," is missing from the 1993 label). The jewel-box inserts are themselves identical, but the 1989 edition has an added, folded, insert: an approximately 7 x 9 "poster" showing a grainy photo of a man with two children (his daughters?), and these lines (in English, oddly): "I was in Sicily in 1936. Sun and sea as in California. Wonderful!" at the top, and, at the bottom, "No one washes his teeth, just someone drink milk: terrible!" Presumably this relates somehow to the topic of the album. This separate insert is missing from the 1993 edition, which has instead (stapled into the single-fold sheet that replicates the original LP fold-out cover) Vinyl Magic's mail-order catalog.

Either version of this album is well worth having, but I recommend getting both, if you can. The differences are intriguing and illuminating.

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