Sunday, December 14, 2014

Premiata Forneria Marconi - 1982 - PerForMance

Premiata Forneria Marconi

01. Maestro della Voce (7:20)
02. Quartiere Otto (QT8) (including "Vai Zivas") (7:01)
03. Lory (3:01)
04. Suonare Suonare (4:20)
05. Si Puo' Fare (including theme from "Impressione di Settembre") (8:57)
06. Chi Ha Paura della Notte (including Introduzione al Buio) (6:30)
07. Violin Performance (including Paganini's "Moto Perpetuo") (5:30)
08. Come Ti Va (7:20)
09. Il Banchetto (8:36)
10. Celebration (including "Se.Le.Brescion") (8:25)

- Walter Calloni / drums
- Jan Patrick Djivas / bass
- Franz Di Cioccio / drums, vocal
- Lucio Fabbri / keyboards, guitar, violin
- Franco Mussida / electric guitar, acoustic guitar, vocal

 Album recorded "live" in Florence on 24th of July 1981, "Performance" was originally released as a double album and now it's available on a single CD. In "Performance" most of the tracks are taken from the albums "Suonare suonare" (1980) and "Come ti va in riva alla città" (1981), but here the songs are dilated and improved if compared to the studio versions. This album is not exactly a "progressive" one, but the members of band seem to enjoy their music and their musicianship is still astounding. Franz Di Cioccio tries to "reinvent" his role in the band, acting as a "frontman", so there's a second drummer in the line up, Walter Calloni. The result is good, the music is full of energy and you can "feel" the interaction between the band and the public. All the musicians have some space to show their skills and sometimes they give a title to their "solos and improvisations" (for instance "Vai Zivas" is the bass solo included in "Quartiere otto", "Lory" is a kind of "guitar intro" to "Suonare suonare", "Violino performance" is the "solo moment" of Lucio Fabbri.).

Interesting the live versions of the only two tracks of the early seventies included in this album: "Il banchetto" here is re-arranged with a curious rock feeling and with a great guitar work (at a certain point, it's like if they would have tried to insert The Knack's "My Sharona" rhythm inside that old masterpiece. the result is weird but not bad at all!), while "Celebration" is dilated to let Franz Di Cioccio interact with the public (the result here is not memorable, though perhaps interesting for the fans)

In the whole a good album, although not an essential one in a prog collection.

Premiata Forneria Marconi - 1981 - Come Ti Va In Riva Alla Citta

Premiata Forneria Marconi
Come Ti Va In Riva Alla Citta

01. Come Ti Va (5:40)
02. Weekend (4:51)
03. Quartiere Otto (5:32)
04. Rock in LA (4:25)
05. Chi Ha Paura Della Notte (4:31)
06. Indians (4:38)
07. Poeta Mancato (3:01)
08. Meno Male Che Ci Sei (5:01)

- Franz Di Cioccio / drums, vocals
- Lucio Fabbri / keyboards, violin
- Jan Patrick Djivas / bass
- Franco Mussida / acoustic& electric guitars, vocals

Warning: this is not a prog album! After "Suonare suonare" Flavio Premoli left the band and PFM went on looking for an Italian way to AOR roc". Franz Di Cioccio became the "front man" with Walter Calloni on drums on stage.

«"Come ti va in riva alla città" contained a different musical language, maybe less poetic than the previous LP. Lyrics told about sub-urban stories: they were about young people who cannot get used to social reality which wants everybody to be homogenous; lyrics told also about young people who want to be protagonist in their life, in a good or bad way. The LP atmosphere was very well represented by its cover. As always critics were different, even if we had a great success during the Italian tour. Di Cioccio's front man role was giving the band a lot of energy» (from the official website of the band).

Lyrics have never been PFM strength and I prefer Franz Di Cioccio as a drummer. The music here is far away from the mood of early seventies albums: just some good simple pop-rock songs like "Come ti va", "Quartiere otto", "Chi ha paura della notte" and "Indians" to save (anyway the songs used to be dilated and improved in the live performances to let the band show his great musicianship). The rest is to forget. An album only for die-hard fans and collectors!

Premiata Forneria Marconi - 1980 - Suonare Suonare

Premiata Forneria Marconi 
Suonare Suonare

01. Suonare suonare (4:49)
02. Volo a vela (4:25)
03. Si può fare (4:51)
04. Topolino (4:47)
05. Maestro della voce (5:36)
06. Sogno americano (4:09)
07. Bianco e nero (5:47)
08. Tanti auguri (4:06)

- Franz Di Cioccio / percussion, drums, timbales, triangle, vocals, wood blocks
- Patric Djivas / bass
- Bernardo Lanzetti / lead vocals (except 2), vocals
- Flavio Premoli / organ, synthesizer, piano, vocals, Moog synthesizer
- Franco Mussida / acoustic, electric and classical guitars, vocals, lead vocals (2)

 I think that this is a good album, although it's not exactly a prog one. In 1980 progressive rock was out of fashion and PFM was looking for new ideas to survive in the music business like other bands in that period.

«We all started writing new songs, trying to go towards the Italian rock way, which was identifiable by lyrics. Our new project was not easy to realize, because we had to become authors. Anyway we succeeded thanks to our experience with Fabrizio De Andrè and the advices of our new producer, Mr. Colombini. "Suonare Suonare", that is to say "Eight stories made of music and words to express ourselves, communicate, suffer, enjoy and play music" (as is it written on the LP's back cover) is a new, fresh and vital LP which contains poetic autobiographical stories from the band's members» (from the official website of the band).

In my opinion this album is better than the previous studio effort "Passpartù" and, though the song-writing of PFM is far away from De Andrè's standards, here you can find at least three good songs that are still regularly performed live on stage: "Suonare suonare", a piano ballad with some "shy hints" of progressive and lyrics about "playing music as an antidote against boredom"; "Maestro della voce", song dedicated to Demetrio Stratos and built up around a catchy bass line; "Si può fare", with an interesting drums work. Remarkable also "Volo a vela", with a joyful rhythm that reminds slightly of "E' festa". In the other songs you can appreciate at least the great musicianship of the members of the band.

Though very far from essential in a prog collection this album is still an interesting one because it marks the definitive turning point in PFM's career and, in the whole, it's a good pop-rock work full of energy.

Premiata Forneria Marconi - 1978 - Passpartu

Premiata Forneria Marconi

01. Viene il santo (4:30)
02. Svita la vita (3:25)
03. Se fossi cosa (4:30)
04. Le trame blù (4:50)
05. Passpartù (4:40)
06. I cavalieri del tavolo cubico (5:15)
07. Su una mosca e sui dolci (4:45)
08. Fantalità (4:20)

- Franz Di Cioccio / percussion, drums, timbales, triangle, vocals, wood blocks
- Patric Djivas / bass
- Bernardo Lanzetti / lead vocals (except 2), vocals
- Flavio Premoli / organ, synthesizer, piano, vocals, Moog synthesizer
- Franco Mussida / acoustic, electric and classical guitars, vocals, lead vocals (2)

- Claudio Fabi / synthesizer, piano, electric piano
- Claudio Pascoli / synthesizer, tenor sax
- George Aghedo / congas
- Roberto Colombo / synthesizer
- Roberto Haliffi / bass, marimba, triangle

Probably the most underrated album from arguably the most famous band in Italy sounds like a long overdue homecoming, and completes what might almost be an otherwise unrelated trilogy. It was the last of three consecutive albums to feature the distinctive voice of Bernardo Lanzetti (after "Chocolate Kings" and "Jet Lag"), closing a circle that brought the group finally back to their native shores after finding success as global Prog superstars.

It was, significantly, also the first PFM album not released outside Italy. A deliberate effort was made to shrug off the lucrative Anglo-American mantle they had shouldered for so long: no more awkward English lyrics or symphonic rock stylings borrowed from pre-existing (English) role models, chiefly early GENESIS and KING CRIMSON.

The decision must have been liberating, and here was the result. In its all-too brief 36-minutes this album glows like a warm ray of Adriatic sunshine, sounding more authentically Italian and showing perhaps more genuine vitality than in all their earlier studio albums combined. The music is noticeably more acoustic, with Franco Mussida's electric guitar better integrated into the larger group setting (the core quintet was joined by five additional musicians), and the many synthesizers are used more for color and texture rather than indiscriminate soloing.

Some fans dismiss the album as lightweight Mediterranean pop, an understandable knee-jerk reaction maybe prompted by the cartoon cover art and lack of any textbook Prog dynamics. But the intuitive virtuosity of all the best PFM albums is still clearly audible: listen to the unstoppable drive and pinpoint precision of "Viene il Santo", surely one of the brightest songs in the entire PFM catalogue, or the deft synchronicity evident in the upbeat instrumental title track and the energetic "Le Trame Blù". The haunting ballad "Su Una Mosca e Sui Dolci" measures up well against any early PFM classic (allowing room for some tasteful Mussida soloing, too), and the album closer "Fantalità" wouldn't sound out of place at a Cosa Nostra wedding reception.

The long journey home for the band would end with a series of concerts the following year alongside Genovese troubadour FABRIZIO DE ANDRÉ (qv), for which this 1978 album was something of an unofficial rehearsal. But if they couldn't sustain whatever creative spell had befallen them during this recording session (and subsequent albums over the next decade seem to prove they didn't), at least the band managed to conjure a little home-brewed magic before their fire went out.

Premiata Forneria Marconi - 1977 - Jet Lag

Premiata Forneria Marconi
Jet Lag

01. Peninsula
02. Jet Lag
03. Storia in "LA"
04. Breakin In
05. Cerco la lingua
06. Meridiani
07. Left-Handed Theory
08. Traveler
09. La Carozza Di Hans (Live)

- Franz Di Cioccio / drums, wood percussions
- Franco Mussida / electric & ovation, classical guitars
- Patrick Djivas / bass, Moog B12
- Bernardo Lanzetti / lead vocals, percussion
- Flavio Premoli / electric piano, organ, Moog
- Gregory Bloch / electric & acoustic violin

The title track "Jet Lag" is one of those elusive pieces of music i have been looking out for since i heard it on a Prog radio show back in 1977. This amazing piece had always stuck in my mind, though i had forgotten what it was called, i waited all this time until i managed to get an idea from PA listings of what it actually was, i bought a copy of the LP some weeks ago - and there it was just as i remembered it, the vocals very similar to Roger Chapman in places, the jazz-rock style playing, the catchy hook in the main theme all came back to me.

Side one begins with the instrumental track "Peninsular", delightful acoustic guitar piece though rather short, an unusual start to an album. The aforementioned "Jet Lag" is the longest track on the album at nine minutes, and is followed by "Storia in LA", a relaxing instrumental piece featuring what sounds like some beautiful flute playing (could be that mysterious "Pari" organ?) , followed by an electric violin solo, backed by fretless bass. "Breakin' In" ups the tempo, with electric violin, guitar and keyboards with the aforementioned gravelly vocals from Bernardo Lanzetti.

"Cerco la Lingua" starts off Side two with a beautiful violin solo, reminiscent of an Irish gypsy folk tune, accompanied by tambourine before the drums and electric guitar and keyboards kick in, that fretless bass is very prominent here, the singer is singing in Italian on this lively track which has an interesting mix of styles and intruments! "Meridani" drifts in with an interesting guitar solo backed by drums and bass, almost a blues-style jam in places, a very enjoyable piece! I would have liked to see them play this live.The next track "Left-handed Theory" is a very Jazzy-style piece featuring keyboards, a violin solo and again Chapman-style vocals, which is followed by the last track "Traveller", which has a very catchy theme and bass line running through it, interspersed by vocals and a winding guitar solo, and acoustic guitar. The "Family" comparison is really startling on this track, that is not to say the music is detracted by this, quite the opposite - i have hardly heard any other albums by "PFM" but i am extremely impressed by the sophisticated musicianship on this album - i gather this album is something of a departure from their usual style, but i shall be investigating their others with interest - an excellent addition to any Prog collection!

Premiata Forneria Marconi - 1975 - Chocolate Kings

Premiata Forneria Marconi 
Chocolate Kings

101. From Under
102. Harlequin
103. Chocolate Kings
104. Out on the Roundabout
105. Paper Charms

Bonus Tracks:
106. Chocolate Kings (Single Edit)
107. Harlequin (Single Edit)

Bonus Disc: Live At The University Of Nottingham. 01.05.1976

201. Paper charms
202. Four holes in the ground
203. Acoustic guitar solo
204. Out of the Roundabout
205. Chocolate kings
206. Mr. Nine 'til Five
207. Alta Loma Five 'till Nine / William Tell Overture

- Franz Di Cioccio / drums, percussion, vocals
- Jan Patrick Djivas / bass
- Franco Mussida / guitars, vocals
- Mauro Pagani / flute, violin
- Flavio Premoli / keyboards, vocals
- Bernardo Lanzetti / lead vocals

"PFM" has been quite successful outside Italy with their English lyrics album; and for the very fist (and last) time, they decided to release an all English lyrics album with no Italian counterparts. It will be their least successful one in terms of Italy.

The vinyl album I have features the American flag surrounding some chocolate (hence the title) on the cover and is far much more appealing than the one featured here. Still, they will receive lots of criticism for this cover.

I was so in love with "The World." that I didn't hesistate for a second to buy this work. Without any listening as usual for me. I just bought albums either on recommendations or because I knew the band.

This release is probably less symphonic than its predecessor but the music is still very good. Some more jazzy influences (more to come, unfortunately) like during "From Under" or "Out Of The Roundabout".

The band is also writing their own lyrics in English. Their collaboration with Sinfield being past history.

Almost normally, with such a title "Harlequin" starts as a "Genesis" song during their early days ("Trespass"). Still, at mid-part, a strong and jazzy part completely disconnects with these origins. The vocals, though, are rather close to Gabriel's ones (especially during this song but not only). They seem a bit forced IMO.

One of my favourite song is the title track. Fully joyful and very close to the "E Festa" spirit. A festive song indeed with a great beat and a passionate melody.

If I had to point out a weaker point on this album, I would definitely say : vocals. Maybe a production problem. This is particularly true during "Paper Charms". It reminds me the poor vocals sound on the original version of "ELO II". But this problem was solved much, much later with the remastered version. Unfortunately, there won't be such a treatment for this "PFM" work.

And it is a pity, because this is probably my second favourite here. Complex, with several changes and a good violin solo. Synth are also well used and the rhythm is rather sustained.

Actually there is absolutely no weak track on this album. The bad news being that it will be the last one of their greatest and most creative period but that's another story.

Premiata Forneria Marconi - 1974 - Cook

Premiata Forneria Marconi 

101. Four Holes In The Ground (7:22)
102. Dove....Quando.... (4:30)
103. Just Look Away (8:05)
104. Celebration (including "The World Became The World") (8:55)
105. Mr. Nine Till Five (4:25)
106. Alta Loma Nine Till Five (including "William Tell Overture") (15:20)

Live In Central Park, NYC

201. River Of Life (6.04)
202. Four Holes In The Ground (7.26)
203. Is My Face On Straight (17.31)
204. Dove....Quando..... (4.37)
205. Guitar Solo (3.34)
206. Just Look Away (5.00)

301. Mr Nine 'Till Five (5.23)
302. Alta Loma Five ' Till Nine (Inc William Tell Overture) (19.54)
303. Celebration/Drum Solo/The World Became The World (17.40)

Live, released in 1974

- Jan Patrick Djivas / bass
- Franz Di Cioccio / drums, vocal
- Franco Mussida / electric guitar, acoustic guitar, vocal
- Mauro Pagani / flute, violin, vocal
- Flavio Premoli / Hammond organ, piano, Mellotron, Moog, vocal

If Focus are called the "Dutch Masters" (as a compilation album of their music was called in the seventies), P.F.M. are IMO the "Italian Masters" of Progressive Rock music. This is a very enjoyable album, from start to finish. Even if the quality of the recording of this album is not very good (it was recorded in August 1974), this band shines. They play with energy and feeling. Their music is very original, with their very particular "Italian taste".Even if Progressive Rock was created in the U.K., bands from Holland (Focus), Germany (Triumvirat), France (Ange), etc., took this style of music, and they added their own sound and style influences from their respective cultures.

This album, IMO, was predominantly recorded and released to promote P.F.M.`s International version albums with lyrics written and sung in English ("Photos of Ghosts" and "The World Became the World"), even if "Dove...Quando" was sung in Italian and "Celebration" too. I have read that one of the weak things of this band were the vocals, but I think that the main lead singers (Franco Mussida and Flavio Premoli, I think) do a very good job despite not being "purely lead singers".

This live album starts with "Four Holes in the Ground", the English lyrics version of the song "La Luna Nova". Every member of the band shines in this song, particularly drummer Franz Di Cioccio and keyboard player Flavio Premoli. This song has several changes of tempo, and hard time signatures. It is a good start song for this album.

"Dove...Quando" is a more "quiet" song without drums, but with a bit of percussion. It is played in a Fender Rhodes piano. It also has a very good flute arrangement.A very good "Prog ballad" in the Italian style.

"Just Look Away" is the English lyrics version of the song "Dolcissima Maria". It stars with a an acoustic guitar improvisation. Drummer Di Cioccio plays very good drums in the final part of the song. This song also has a very good flute arrangement. It is very melodical.

The song "Celebration" is really the English lyrics version of the song "É Festa", but the version included in this live album is really the Italian version because it has Italian lyrics. This song also includes a brief keyboard melody taken from the song "The World Became the World" (the original song with Italian lyrics is called "Impressioni di Settembre").The mix of both songs sounds very good.

"Mr. 9 till Five" is the English lyrics version of the song "Generalle" (which didn`t have lyrics in the original version released in Italy). This is also a very good song, with hard time signatures and even with some Jazz influences.

"Alta Loma 5 till 9" is a song which was included for the first time in this album, not being released in their previous studio albums.It is really a very "Jam" song, which starts with a very Bluesy guitar.It has several guitar, keyboards and violin solos, and it is the "heaviest" song in this album. It also includes an arrangement of Rossini`s "William Tell Overture", which closes this long instrumental piece.

IMO, if one Prog Rock music fan wants to listen for the first time to this band, this album is very representative of their music of the seventies. The band was, IMO, at their peak then.

Premiata Forneria Marconi - 1974 - L'Isola Di Niente

Premiata Forneria Marconi
L'Isola Di Niente

01. L'Isola di Niente (10:42)
02. Is My Face On Straight (6:38)
03. La Luna Nuova (6:21)
04. Dolcissima Maria (4:01)
05. Via Lumiere (7:21)

- Franz Di Cioccio / drums, percussion, vocals
- Jan Patrick Djivas / bass, vocals
- Franco Mussida / guitars, lead vocals
- Mauro Pagani / violin, flute, vocals
- Flavio Premoli / keyboards, lead vocals

 Not in the level of "Per un Amico" or "Storia di un Minuto" but any early release by PFM is always good enough, incredible arrangements, impeccable vocals in Italian by Franco Mussida (in the language that were meant to be listened) and a band that has nothing to envy from the classic British monsters.

Much more calmed than the previous releases may be a bit boring for those who are not used to Italian Symphonic, but interesting for the ones that already love the special lyricism of Premiata Fornería Marconi

The incredible introduction of the title song "La Isola di Niente" (Nobody's Island) is reason enough to pay for this good album, the contrast between the chorale intro and the hard instrumentation is reminiscent of King Crimson but with a symphonic edge typical from the Italian progressive, a very complex epic that may be arid for people who don't understand Italian.

"Is My Face On Straight" is the second track and only one in English with lyrics by Pete Sinfield, sarcastic song that mentions themes as racism and elitism, very complex music with touches of Jazz, the problem is that the changes are too radical, loosing any logical sequence. Honestly a bit weird for my taste.

"La Luna Nuova" (The New Moon), starts as an hymn with a very beautiful keyboard section that goes in crescendo meanwhile flute and percussion join with some jazzy feeling, when the listener thinks the track has reached a calm point, everything starts again, a song that's always in advance as if chasing something that never completely reaches. The violin at the middle gives a special delicate taste and again the hymn and the chase start all over. One of my favorite songs in this album.

"Dolcissima Maria" (Sweetest Mary): I'm not a person that likes ballads, but in this case I make an exception, seems soft, calm and simple but it's extreme beauty and placidity has something that always makes me feel the world is Ok. The sweet flute and soft percussion section is one of the highest points of the whole the album. Still I'm not sure if the lyrics have religious connotations related with the Holy Virgin, because the text is so ambiguous that can work as a prayer or a pure love song.

The album ends with the Instrumental "La Via Lumiere" (Lumiere Street), the first question that comes to my mind when I listen this track is Who let Mahavishnu in? If I didn't knew Premoli is the keyboardist, could swear Ian Hammer took his place, around the middle of the song PFM retakes the classic Italian sound to prepare the ending that gently fades in the typical symphonic mood.

Great album but not recommended for newbies, maybe a bit boring for not prepared ears, if you're not a fan go for "Storia di un Minuto", "Per Un Amico" or even "Photos of Ghosts" I'm sure after listening those you'll enjoy La Isola di Niente much more.

Premiata Forneria Marconi - 1974 - The World Became The World

Premiata Forneria Marconi
The World Became The World

01. The mountain
02. Just look away
03. The world became the world
04. Four holes in the ground
05. Is my face on straight
06. Have your cake and beat it

Bonus Tracks:
07  La Carrozza Di Hans (Live)
08  Four Holes In The [Unreleased single
09  Celebration (1975 Single Version)
10  Celebration (Single Edit)

- Franz Di Cioccio / drums, percussion, vocals
- Jan Patrick Djivas / bass, vocals
- Franco Mussida / guitars, lead vocals
- Mauro Pagani / woodwind, violin, vocals
- Flavio Premoli / keyboards, lead vocals

A prog album which is surely a must for anyone who likes prog - there is something for everyone, and no disappointments. However, this is not a masterpiece and will not necessarily keep you coming back for more - unless it "crumbles your cookie". That said, this is not an album that will gather dust either, as, possibly vocals apart, it is a pleasure to listen to every time, holding on to just enough to keep the listener interested.

The 2-minute choral opening to "The Mountain" is atmospheric enough, and sets the right kind of prog pretensions to let you know you're in for some prog with a liberal dash of the classics, but more importantly, it provides a more than serviceable springboard into the sumptuous prog riffs that follow. If you listen to the choral section closely, it comprises largely unison movement interspersed with rare 3rds, and extreme soft/loud dynamics in a rather ham-fisted manner - but that doesn't matter, as it is not the focal point of the music, more a light starter to whet the appetite.

There are a few grumbles which should be noted; in the big ensembles, the drums are sacrificed in the mix, and the vocals seem rough and unnecessarily harsh - the latter only being partly the fault of the mix.

On the flip side of the same coin, when PFM get into a groove, the result is sublime, broad- grin prog which reminds me of Camel in its ability to transport you - although not in sound; the sound seems to draw from Yes, King Crimson and Genesis, especially with the mellotron washes combined with acoustic guitar (yum!). The delightful flute and percussive additions to the "floaty" sections are pure, dreamy bliss, and PFM seem to specialise in making smooth transitions between these and the harder riffs - although there are a couple of heart-stopping drop-ins and fade-outs, notably around 7:30 after the 1st choral reprise. The second fares better, and there is a wonderful section of acoustic guitar topped with soaring electric lead, proudly showing off the Italian's uncanny ear for a good melody in an uncharacteristically understated way.

"Just Look Away" puts me a little in mind of "Grantchester Meadows" in flavour, but there's much more too it than that! A lovely little folksy-style song with intriguing keyboard parts and sensitive vocals (and cheesey vocals) that develops into a bold, yet soft prog statement. I particularly like the violin and flute parts.

The title track is a kind of Moody Blues/Barclay James Harvest meet COTCK King Crimson style piece.

Beginning with a percussion loop that sounds suspiciously like the intro to "Money", "Four Holes in the Ground" (well, well, well, well...) launches into a Romany-sounding fiddle-jig. Yes, you get VFM with PFM! er... I digress ;0)

Imagine an Ian Anderson flavoured flute over a Chris Squire bass, if you will. Now add a dash or two of imagination and Italian melifluousness and a generous helping of prog. Stir well and you have "Four Holes in the Ground", a piece that seems to make itself up as it goes along - but in style! Some Yes-style harmonies later, some fluid cat-on-a-hot-tin-roof style jumping and PFM are clearly gunning for the prog Premier league. Superb stuff!

"Is my face on Straight" is probably a good question, as I kept grinning whilst listening to this track - it just gets better. The bass lines fly away, reminding me of Pete Trewavas on amphetamines, and I simply don't want to describe the music here, leaving it as a reward for the listener who makes the right choice and buys this album. Trust me - you'll love it!

"Have Your Cake and Beat it" is probably one of the best titles of a prog track from this era, although the bass bluff at the beginning seems out of place and feels a little directionless - especially when the light instrumentation joins it. However, it does calm down quickly and becomes a part of the team again - and how! A rolling, gorgeous funky section, kind of like Yes but with more feeling and less tangents drives through lighter jazzy terrain, reminiscent of the Mahavishnu Orchestra without John McClaughlin's terminal noodling. The overall ensemble is utterly fabulous, and in a kind of Focus vein - the best is left for last!

Those last three tracks could have pushed this album into masterpiece territory, yet there's something overall that's slightly lacking. This album is superb - a wonderful slice of prog, but yet I would not return to it as often as I would to other albums. It's an essential part of my collection now that I have it - and I would recommend you make it part of yours!!

Premiata Forneria Marconi - 1973 - Photos Of Ghosts

Premiata Forneria Marconi
Photos Of Ghosts

01. River of life
02. Celebration
03. Photos of Ghosts
04. Old rain
05. Il banchetto
06. Mr. 9 till 5
07. Promenade the puzzle

Bonus Tracks:
08.  Photos Of Ghosts (Instrumental Mix)
09.  River Of Life (First Mix)
10.  Old Rain (First Mix)
11.  Il Banchetto (First Mix)
12.  Mr. 9 'Til 5 (Instrumental)
13.  Celebration (Unreleased Single Edit)
14.  Mr. 9 'Til 5 (Single Edit)

- Franz Di Cioccio / drums, vocal
- Franco Mussida / electric and acoustic guitar, vocal
- Mauro Pagani / flute, violin, Windwood, vocal
- Giorgio Piazza / bass
- Flavio Premoli / keyboards, Hammond organ, piano, Mellotron, Moog, Vocal

This album from the Italian Progressive Rock giants PFM was designed for the international market, and is almost a rehashed version of the band's second album "Per Un Amico" but with English lyrics by Pete Sinfield (except 'Il Banchetto', which stayed in Italian). The origin of the tracks on "Photos Of Ghosts" is as follows: 'River Of Life' is 'Appena Un Po' ' from "Per Un Amico"; 'Celebration' is 'È Festa' from "Storia Di Un Minuto"; 'Photos Of Ghosts' is 'Per Un Amico' from "Per Un Amico"; 'Old Rain' is an instrumental written by Premoli that had not been released on a previous LP; 'Il Banchetto' is the same as 'Il Banchetto' on "Per Un Amico"; 'Mr 9 'till 5' is 'Generale!' from "Per Un Amico", but with vocals; 'Promenade The Puzzle' is 'Geranio' from "Per Un Amico".

The tracks on "Photos Of Ghosts" were remixed by Pete Sinfield and are not absolutely identical to the original Italian albums. And neither are the English lyrics translations of the original Italian lyrics: Sinfield imposed his own poetic lyrics. Many people do not like the heavy Italian accent in the English vocals on this album, and I do admit they do stand out at times, but I can honestly say they have never bothered me. And neither do the altered lyrics. I have lost count of the number of reviews that I have read over the years that in essence stated "Forget Photos Of Ghosts, it's awful; the original albums are much better." Well, all I can say is that I have both versions and I like them both. For example I like the clap of thunder that Sinfield added at the end of 'Appena Un Po' ' ('River Of Life'); I like his remix of 'È Festa' ('Celebration'); I like the corny lyrics on top of 'Generale!' ('Mr 9 'till 5'); I like the whole darn lot! There, after all these years I've finally got it off my chest!

Now, for those of you who don't know the band's music, PFM were (strictly speaking, "are") one of the most melodious Progressive Rock bands I know. The tracks on their early albums are sophisticated: full of changes of melody, tempo and mood, and the music (on the early albums) includes classical influences (I hear baroque, or perhaps even earlier) and Italian country tunes. The band were experts at melding acoustic guitar, flute, synth, Mellotron, organ, bass, drums and violin - amongst other instruments. Sometimes the music is acoustic and mellow, at other times it is grandiose and pure symphonic Progressive Rock. Their musicianship is second to none, and they were masters at using the acoustic guitar, flute and piano to great effect.

How should I advise you regarding this album vis-à-vis "Per Un Amico"? If you don't have any PFM albums and want to experience only one, then get "Per Un Amico". But the trouble is, you shouldn't stop there because you must hear 'È Festa' ('Celebration'), so you'll have to get "Storia Di Un Minuto", which has other excellent tracks not on "Photos Of Ghosts". But if you see "Photos Of Ghosts" and feel the impulse, go ahead and get it - it's no dud.

Now, with regard to my star-rating of this album, I'm going to give it only 4 stars (excellent addition to any prog rock collection) simply because the material is available on the original albums (well, except for 'Old Rain', which I believe was the flip side of the 'Celebration' single and is pleasant enough but no masterpiece in itself).

Premiata Forneria Marconi - 1972 - Per Un Amico

Premiata Forneria Marconi 
Per Un Amico

01. Appena un Po' (7:43)
02. Generale (4:18)
03. Per un Amico (5:23)
04. Il Banchetto (8:39)
05. Geranio (8:03)

- Franco Mussida / vocals, guitar (12 String), chitarrone, mandocello, guitar
- Franz Di Cioccio / drums, percussion, vocals
- Mauro Pagani / flute (alto), piccolo, vocals, flute, violin
- Giorgio Piazza / bass, vocal
- Flavio Premoli / spinetta, keyboards, organ (Hammond), vocals, Moog synthesizer, Mellotron, tubular bells, clavicembalo, piano

Ever since I got to listen to this album for the first time, and by that I mean entirely, I couldn't believe my ears. Before "Per Un Amico", my Italian symphonic prog rock perspective was based merely in some other well known exponents of this sub-genre such as BMS, LE ORME and MUSEO ROSENBACH, and I don't know why I haven't listened to anything regarding PFM in the first place! and the way I got to know them was quite funny. When purchasing BANCO's album "Di Terra" over this famous music website, I noticed that there was this offer about purchasing two albums and paying just for one, and the other album within the BANCO's CD pack was actually "Per Un Amico". and ever since I got this recording, I cannot picture the Italian symphonic scene without it.

Besides getting to consider this album as one of my favorites throughout the 14 years I've been listening to prog rock, I think that many other subsequent Italian or not Italian bands, whether they play symphonic prog rock, psychedelic prog or art rock, they owe most of their musical accomplishments and success to bands like PFM that due the inevitable pass of time they're still present upon the nowadays prog scene.

Thanks to this album you will get to experience several comfortable and inexplicable situations like the feeling of sorrow, happiness or even madness, and I mean all that in the progressive intended way provided by this unique masterpiece. "Appena Un Po' " explains all this by its own means, this almost 8 minute track contains way too many contrasting profiles of the style that the bands to come through the next ten, maybe fifteen years, adopted and implemented perfectly; this melody has got it all: musical arrangements resembling a renaissance époque all the way through punchy, signifying drum preludes, and most important, marvelous rhythmic guitar playing by signore Franco MUSSIDA. Also, you might as well think of "Per Un Amico" itself as one of the most representative PFM's songs, and you won't be mistaken because far beyond from what the band actually did with its first album, "Storia Di Un Minuto"; they also proved that they could be more than a single, and created some other meaningful prog pieces like "Photos of Ghosts", "Prime Impressioni" and "Passpartú" with their own representative singles as well. Simply magnificent!

Premiata Forneria Marconi - 1971 - Storia Di Un Minuto

Premiata Forneria Marconi
Storia Di Un Minuto

01. Introduzione (1:10)
02. Impressioni di Settembre (5:44)
03. E' Festa (4:52)
04. Dove... Quando... (Parte I) (4:08)
05. Dove... Quando... (Parte II) (6:00)
06. La Carrozza di Hans (6:46)
07. Grazie Davvero (5:52)

- Franz Di Cioccio / drums, Moog, aggeggi, vocals
- Franco Mussida / electric & acoustic guitars, 12-string guitar, mandoloncello, vocals
- Mauro Pagani / flute, ottavino, violin, vocals
- Giorgio Piazza / bass, vocals
- Flavio Premoli / organ, piano, mellotron, harpsichord, piano a puntine, moog, vocals

The pioneer of Italian Progressive groups, PREMIATA FORNERIA MARCONI (PFM for short) is one of the leaders of the 70s prog movement. PFM developed a style which is uniquely Italian while maintaining links with the rest of the prog world. A lyrical, romantic and delicate music, full of fineness. A great melodic and instrumental richness, somptuous compositions and arrangements. Sometimes compared with the early KING CRIMSON, the group had its own musical personality, with its elegant music.

"Per Un Amico" ("Photos of Ghosts") and "L'Isola Di Niente" as well as their first, "Storia Di Un Minuto" are all virtual classics of progressive music, obviously influenced by early KING CRIMSON and GENESIS yet sounding nothing like them. The instrumentation is superb with fluid guitar, highly original synthesizer sounds, beautiful violin and flute, and ethereal vocals that are so important to the music, that replacing them with English vocals becomes a detriment. "The World Became The World" is another English-language album, but this time with the same music, so it's not as bad as "Photos Of Ghosts".

"Marconi Bakery" is a compilation of music from the first three Italian albums. "Jet Lag", from 1977, had much of the original PFM spirit with a jazz inclination, akin to groups such as ARTI + MESTIERI, though somewhat more low-key. "Suonare Suonare" came out in 1980, and saw PFM turning back toward their original sound, from the style of "Passpartu". On "PFM - Live In Japan 2002 (Tokyo)" the band plays classic tunes from the Seventies. A must for all prog fans...!

PFM's debut SDUM (Story a minute long) must certainly rank among the best "premières ouvres" in the music world (and certainly of Italy with QVL and PDP's respective debut) ever published and unlike many other such works, it had the chance of wide public notice. But in fact of experiences, these fives were no rookies at all, and had way more experience than their average competition. Recorded in late 71 and early 72, SDUM was released early 72 and obviously they had heard some of the UK canons of the genre such as KC, ELP, GG and even Genesis whom had toured for the first time in their country. The album has a superb contrasting gatefold artwork, hinting at dark (night at the back) and bright (day at the front of the album) history that obviously lasts more than a minute since it seems to come down from prehistory (the inner gatefold), but on galactic time, man's history is about a minute's time.

After the short self-explanatory Introduzione, (which I find a good condensé of what PFM is about), the group's best known track comes in triumphantly, taking its inspiration between KC's debut (the drumming could be Giles') and ELP's Lucky Man, but adding a typically pompous Italian slant. Starting on sizzling guitar riff Festa could've been an early 70's British heavy prog song (ala Atomic Rooster) if it had an organ instead of moog answering the riffs, but soon enough a piccolo and weird Focus-like vocals interrupt the reverie and the madness continues, with the mellotron holding the centre of the debate.

One of the rare real critics I have for this album is the way they divided the album centrepiece over the two sides of the vinyl, but this less a problem on the Cd. Dove Quando's first movement starts in typical PFM fashion, having those soft vocals over mostly acoustic music that is close to classical music (at times) The second part is an instrumental expansion of the musical themes developed in its first movement, but dares pushing a little jazz in the arrangements. And a bit later going wild in the call and response. Both Han's Car and Thanks are excellent tracks that are again within the realm of the music developed on the A-side of the album.

I Quelli - 1969 - I Quelli

I Quelli
I Quelli 

01. Dici (Dizzy by Tommy Roe)
02. Marilù
03. Nuvole Gialle
04. Lacrime E Pioggia (Rain And Tears by Aphrodite's Child)
05. Mi Sentivo Strano
06. Tornare Bambino (Hole In My Shoe by Traffic)
07. Pensieri
08. Sigillato Con Un Bacio
09. Hush (Hush by Joe South, Deep Purple)
10. 15 Anni
11. Hip Hip Hurrà (1-2-3 Red Light by 1910 Fruitgum Co.)
12. Questa Città Senza Te (Even The Bad Times Are Good by Tremeloes)

- Franz Di Cioccio / drums
- Franco Mussida / guitar
- Pino Favarolo / guitar
- Tony Gesualdi / bass
- Teo Teocoli / voice
- Alberto Radius / guitar, voice
- Giorgio Piazza / bass

I have always felt there's a lot in common between GENESIS and PFM, starting with that Symphonic Pastoral style so unique in the Italians but also in the first two GENESIS albums, but after listening I Quelli, I'm more convinced of this similarities. As in the case of the Charterhouse School band, three classic era PFM members were in the Italian group (Mussida, Di Cioccho and Piazza) and like in From Genesis to the Revelation, the I QUELLI album is a collection of short simpler songs with a clear Psychedelic influence and 60's melodic music, where hints of their future magic can be heard.

Of course I will never try to compare this cute album with masterpieces as Per Un Amico or Historia Di Un Minuto, but I like it, there's naive charm with no pretensions that captured me from the start, but most important we can listen some very clever instrumental arrangements and nice vocals by Di Cioccio.

I won't try to make a song by song review because the music there's not much to comment, except in a couple of tracks like the cover version of Rain and Tears by APHRODITE'S CHILD called Lacrime E Pioggia, which maintains the original spirit but a very unique sound that only an Italian band can add.

It's also interesting the "silly" cover of Hole in my Shoe by Traffic (Tornare Bambino), soft, melodic and with a very beautiful vocal work and nice sitar. Of course there are weaker songs like Hush (Cover from Deep Purple), that really demonstrates us that they were born to be an Italian Symphonic band and not a Heavy Prog one.

From their original material I was impressed by the dramatic and elaborate Nuvole Gialle, that has really spectacular moments and the romantic Sigillato Con Un Bacio, which was poorly covered in Spanish by a Peruvian band that hated when I was a child but really loved with the excellent arrangements and the orchestral passages of I QUELLI.

To summarize: Don't expect a Prog or a really complex Psychedelic album, it's a cute collection of songs with ups and downs that deserves to be listened as part of the history of the most recognizes Italian Prog band, just as in the case as From Genesis to the Revelation.