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Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM) - Jet Lag CD (album) cover


Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM)


Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.18 | 283 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars Thanks to Easy Livin' for deleting my previous review of this album. The reason for my requesting a second go was that I realised on listening that this is a much better album than I'd originally given it credit for. I'd made some comments about it lacking the joyful feeling of their earlier stuff which I now feel are unjustified.

To put it in context, this was the first PFM album after the departure of Mauro Pagani. In his place came Greg Bloch, unusually for PFM given full band status on the credits. This was also Bernardo Lanzetti's second album with the band and strangely, bearing in mind how suited Lanzetti's voice was to the rock idiom of "Chocolate Kings", they decided to switch to a more overtly jazz-rock style, but very much still prog.

So to the tracks: Peninsula (2:35): A meditative solo acoustic piece by Franco Mussida. A strange choice to start an album maybe but nonetheless pleasant. Maybe the production fails to do full justice to the tone of Franco's classical guitar here.

Jet Lag (9:10): This is where the real flavour of the album kicks in. The theme is the disorienting effect of jet travel. A keyboard riff, followed note for note by Lanzetti's vocals (no mean feat- it's a complex to sing). Then into a fairly laid back jazz-rock style, into a quieter, more meditative section, suggestive of sitting in comfort on an aircraft watching the clouds below, and then into a section started by electric piano and Patrick Djivas on fretless bass, which leads back into vocals and eventually Franco Mussida joining with some understated guitar parts.

Storia in "LA" (6:25): Now here's a track that confused me for a long time. It's an instrumental with a slow opening with a little cymbal work, fretless bass and something that sounds a little like a sax. However there is no sax player credited. When I first heard the album on released I wondered if it was Greg Bloch putting his violin through some sort of synth however I now realise that it's Flavio Premoli on synth and it is simply incredible keyboard playing. Gradually the violin and guitar come in. I guess it's nothing more than a jam in reality but it has a nice build and feel to it.

Breakin' In (5:34). Bouncy, joyous sound with more of Premoli's virtual sax keyboards at the start over drums and fretless bass. Lanzetti in with vocals, Bloch in with some fine violin playing.

Cerco La Lingua (5:34). An extended violin intro from Greg Bloch shows his ability yet again and then in with a tambourine, a drum crash and the rest of the band. Franco uses a very cutting and clean guitar sound initially. Quite distinctive and unlike any guitar sound I've ever heard him use before or since. Lyrics in Italian. No idea what they mean but then again I'm not bothered by an inability to understand Italian. It just sounds right. Great central riff to the song.

Meridiani (5:34). This is the weakest track on the album by a long way. It's nothing but an instrumental jam and doesn't seem to have a sense of direction. Might work in a live context but it's really not well enough developed to include on a studio album. Pretty poor by any standards.

Left-Handed Theory (4:11): This starts off with one the most irresistible riffs I've heard even from PFM. Complex and jazzy but I can't stop humming it (badly) along with them. Pretty soon the whole band's in. Only negative comment would be the dominance of the fretless bass in some places. Great violin passage by Greg Bloch.

Traveler (5:39)- What at first sounds like a simple chord pattern is deceptive. Franz Di Coccio is playing his drum patterns in a time signature I can only guess at. It adds a subtle complexity to a track that could otherwise be pretty straightforward. The middle section breaks off into another piece centring on classical guitar by Franco, which gradually builds back into the main theme. This track probably gives Bernado Lanzetti his best opportunity to shine on vocals and he tackles it with gusto. Ends with some more incredible keyboard by Flavio.

The album has undeniably sparser sound than their earlier stuff. I think this is due to a more sparing use of Mellotron/synth washes primarily. Maybe that factor makes it sounds less "symphonic" than earlier PFM. A lot of complex riffs seem to be played in unison (at least the keyboard and bass parts).

So onto individual ratings for the members of the team: Greg Bloch: A solid start (and end) to his recording career with PFM. Very smooth, flowing style. Lacks the versatility of Pagani with the latter's abilities on woodwind. 8/10

Franz Di Coccio: Reliable as ever, though I always feel that he's at his best in a live situation where you can see the effort and enthusiasm at work. 8/10

Franco Mussida: One of the great under-rated guitarists in my view. No great solo opportunities on this except for Meridiani, which doesn't work. 7/10

Patrick Djivas: Extensive use of the fretless bass. Played in a similar manner to Percy Jones (Brand X). Sometimes over-complex to my ears and almost functioning as another virtuoso instrument rather than underpinning the music with solid bass. 7/10

Bernardo Lanzetti: Shows great ability in holding complex melody lines. Really lets rip in his most Chapman-eque style on Traveler. 8/10

Flavio Premoli: For me this is his tour de force. Great playing and ability to emulate the feel of saxes/clarinets through use pf phrasing and pitch bending. Probably the reason I rate this album as highly as I now do. 10/10

This is by far the longest review I've done so far so I guess this album must impress me. Indeed I'd be tempted to give it the full 5 stars were it not for the inclusion of Meridiani which is nothing more than filler. 4 stars then, one more than I originally gave. I think that's fair. This rates pretty close to Chocolate Kings in my view, even though it'sa different sounding PFM.

zedkatz | 4/5 |


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