When Banco’s sole self-title debut English album was launched back in 1975 from the Manticore label, it didn’t too well, but they received word-of-mouth in Europe and in the States, however they never got a chance to tour in America while the competitors, PFM received appreciation with Photos of Ghosts. But it wasn’t until after they had done the soundtrack to Garofano Rosso with As in a Last Supper (Come In Un’Ultima Cena) released in 1976 at the time Punk was starting to come out of the sewers.
While the cover is disturbing, controversial, and paying homage to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the music itself is challenging and complex structures like the other Italian Prog Rock bands were doing in the 1970s and Banco’s music is definitely one of them. The story of the album is about Jesus last days before he is crucified and has the last supper with his Apostles and he would predict his betrayal against him including Peter.
In the gatefold cover which is a design of Da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper features the band members as if they were at the Supper to say farewell to Christ, even though the gatefold cover looks brilliant, the songs and arrangements from start to finish, is completely a breathtaking underrated experience. While the album didn’t do well like their previous debut English album, the people at Esoteric Recordings, who acquired the rights to ELP’s label and have done a superb job featuring liner notes done by the late Ernesto De Pascale and the CD looks like the vinyl design of the Manticore label, and after 36 years, it is finally given the respect it deserves.
While people have drawn lines in the sand including myself have issues of Italian bands singing in English like Le Orme’s Felona and Sorona, As in a Last Supper is a treat for prog listeners to give it another shot. With its odd time signatures, classical complex music, haunting lyrics, and Francesco’s operatic vocal arrangements, the band carry a huge luggage of influences of Gentle Giant, ELP, Genesis, and The Nice to go along with it, I figured that they have finally have gotten the warm hand shake they have gotten.
Songs like the flourishing dramatic haywire beauty of Voila Midae and The Spider that keyboardists of brothers, Vittorio and Gianni Nocenzi do together, is so powerful and the tension is out of this world as they would play a note and go to town whether its Jazz and Classical, they know what they’re doing. While the ballad of John Has a Good Heart and the dooming bass line introduction of hell done by Renato D’Angelo on Slogan is a vicious powder keg waiting to explode, it’s the beautiful acid folk of The Night is Full and the jazz fusion waltz of the finale, Towards My Door to close the album out with keyboards attacking throughout the night.
It was sad that Manticore said bye-bye in 1977, but it was almost the little engine that could and As in a Last Supper is a way that a band that were ahead of their time and never gotten the recognition they deserve. Still 40 years later, they are still performing in Prog Festivals to surprise fans to see what they would come to the table.