Got room for some Argentinian prog in your collection? Litto Nebbia’s 1977 album El Vendedor De Promesas (The Seller Of Promises) is a first-class symph-prog album from 1977, reissued in 2002 by the Viajero-Inmovil label. He’s unknown on this continent (and most others) but Litto’s somewhat of a rock icon in his country, first coming to prominence in the early 1970s as the leader of a group called Los Gatos. Nebbia’s keyboard and guitar skills are up to snuff, and so are his vocals and backup band. He’d dabbled in various styles and genres, and by the mid-70s was recording progressive rock, just like Todd Rundgren.
For Promesas, Litto recorded on a Fender Rhodes electric, a Steinway grand, a good ol’ Minimoog, an ARP String Ensemble, and a Hohner Clavinet D6—he really cooks on the D6—and he played all of the electric and acoustic guitars. Litto sings clearly, resonantly, and sans gaudy inflections which typify many a singer. Simply put, he doesn’t overdo it, and he does not try to sing beyond his range—a huge plus. Nebbia enlisted bassist Jorge Gonzalez and drummer Nestor Astarita for his rhythm section, and commissioned friend and poetess Mirtha Defilpo to cook up the concept & lyrics. Defilpo categorizes the concept as a “parabolic” discourse concerning human destinies. To whom it may concern: all vocals, lyrics and liner notes are in Spanish.
Two pairs of very short “copestone” pieces frame the long tracks of Promesas, one at the beginning and end [per LP side]. “Obertura” (Overture) is just what the title indicates: a taste of all things to come, a not-taut, not-slack fusiony number which has Nebbia attacking all of his instruments, save the Steinway, even adding wah-wah guitar. “El Vendedor de Promesas I” comes off with a lot of soul, reaffirming Litto’s pedigree as a balladeer. Remember what I said regarding his range? There are a couple of la-la’s thrown in, which don’t sound particularly good, but they’re over with quickly. There’s no mistake that the Clavinet and Rhodes form the album’s backbone, both are dispatched quite often. On “El Hombre Del Adagio” (Man Of Wisdom) easily the first half’s best section, we’re treated to a funk-prog-musicálatina-flavored jaunt—the Clav line underscores an icy-cool Minimoog solo.
A short Steinway “Prelude” segues into the twelve-minute mini-opus “Sueños de Ofelia” (Ophelia's Dreams). Vocal and instrumental segments alternate; Nebbia looses himself on the Minimoog or ARP for short spurts—the latter's majestic string sound initiates a terrific duel between the former and the Clavinet. Taking a step up from accompanist, Jorge performs a nearly minute-long acoustic bass solo nine minutes in.
Now, when Nebbia's acoustic guitar solo counters the ARP's electronic aura, and complements those subtle Rhodes shades, the composition’s beauty borders on the sublime—does it get any better than this? “El Vendedor de Promesas II” resolves everything by revisiting musical passages without regurgitating them: it’s still new music, but the players run the gamut of every previous brushstroke-to-canvas. The amusingly-titled “Final” is much like the first part's “Final Instrumental,” quietly executed, distant-sounding.
This reissue tacks on three bonus tracks: “Ellos, Los Mares” (They, The Seas), “Manías de Graciela” (Graciela’s Old Habits), and “Limpia Silueta” (Clean Silhouette). These aren’t prog compositions (and obviously from an earlier or later period), with drums on “Ellos” and “Manías.” Enjoy them for what they are; Nebbia’s a talented guy.
There are many listeners who distance themselves from non-English vocals and lyrics—they don’t know what they’re missing. There are still more who listen to prog from Italy, Spain, Japan, Scandinavia—many if not most of these groups sing in their native languages. El Vendedor De Promesas will appeal in no small way to those who enjoy foreign prog, and Argentina may be poised to reign as prog's Latin capital.