This mid-1970s Prog Rock band from Italy is both fascinating and mostly unknown, even among some of the biggest aficionados of the genre. This is the only album they ever recorded, and, while it has been reissued on CD and is available for download on iTunes and for streaming on Spotify, it has still managed to slip below the radar in terms of the acknowledgement and appreciation I believe it deserves.
While I don’t claim to be an “expert” on Italian (Symphonic) Prog or even Progressive Rock as a broad genre, Maxophone’s eponymous LP stands out to me as being not only the best Italian Prog Rock album I’ve ever heard, but also one of the best Prog Rock albums I’ve heard, period. At least for me, the melodies presented here are endlessly intriguing and, from a compositional standpoint and when taken as a whole, it is complex enough to challenge me even after years of enjoying it.
When compared to other Italian Prog Rock albums from the early to mid ‘70s, this album sounds similar in some ways. Much of the Italian Progressive repertoire has a certain “look and feel” which consists of distinctly Italian influences that are appropriately combined with more Classical and Jazz elements than Rock elements, all in all. This differs from some of the more mainstream Prog bands that feature Rock’n’Roll primarily and Classical and Jazz elements that are secondary (for the most part). Additionally, while Italian Prog in general and this recording specifically certainly does contain heaping elements of Pop music and a tight, moderately digestible format, it sounds classically-trained and “serious” in a musical sense, enabling you to view it as more “Symphonic” than “Popular.”
Despite any similaries shared between them and their Italian peers, Maxophone’s material stands out as “bigger.” Other acts such as Premiata Forneria Marconi, Le Orme, and Semiramis don’t sound quite as Symphonic or fleshed-out as Maxophone. These bands also present shorter run-times and overall “smaller” compositions (in a metaphorical sense). Maxophone, on the other hand, presents the listener with what appears to be a meticulously developed and unusually detailed masterpiece which might best be described as epic, sensational, bombastic, cinematic and somewhat schizophrenic.
Now, I imagine that you can clearly see just what sets this album apart and what makes it a valuable release in the genre. I’m sure that you can also understand how this recording can make for a refreshingly rare and satiating journey through sound, even for a seasoned Prog Rock listener.
It should be noted that Maxophone has issued more material in the form of an English version of this album and a live show entitled “Live In Tokyo” (Immaginifica Records; January 20, 2014). Both recordings are available on CD, as well as iTunes and Spotify.
Joseph A. Bremson
The Exciting Sounds Project