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Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM) - Passpart¨ CD (album) cover

PASSPART┘

Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM)

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.06 | 154 ratings

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Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
3 stars With 1978's `Passpart˙', Premiata Forneria Marconi returned to purely Italian vocals after the English language only albums, `Chocolate Kings' and `Jet-Lag' in the couple of years before, abandoning the heavy jazz-fusion experiments of the latter. While the group certainly didn't return to the symphonic prog or the ground-breaking purer RPI sounds of their earlier years, they headed in something that could be best described as a constantly acoustic-based folky pop direction, yet still thankfully miles away from anything obnoxiously radio/chart friendly. It's proven to be a real one-off in their discography, but an album that has much to recommend it for the more forgiving and accepting of listeners.

`Passpart˙' is an album that has the band placing the greatest priority on presenting a concise tune with exquisite vocals throughout, and despite very little in the way of instrumental flourishes (only one track is purely vocal-free), every piece has something interesting about it that lifts it above the more straight-forward pop/rock music of the era. The playing on even the most pedestrian moments is still full of a vibrant urgency, and there is an energetic finesse to the performance of the musicians that helps keep the album moving briskly. Vocalist Bernardo Lanzetti has never sounded better and is a world away from his efforts on the previous two discs, singing in Italian with a genuine warmth and smoothness that was frequently absent on those English discs.

The joyful `Viene Il Santo' is a pleasing melodic opener of spirited piano, acoustic guitar flair and twirling flute with welcome bursts of energy and vocal drama, containing plenty of the classic PFM qualities, just packed tighter into a pop-length tune, and sprightly `Svita La Vita' is a short and sweet acoustic folk number with sweetly recurring themes. `Se Fossi Cosa' is one of the more atmospheric and more overtly `proggy' pieces, a gentle melancholy to its longer drifting passages of carefully chiming guitars, Lanzetti's raspy sombre vocal, Flavio Premoli's floating low-key synths and early a.m saxophone, and `Le trame Bl¨' adds a bouncy and playful funkiness with quick bubbly Minimoog/synth soloing, bursts of Franz Di Cioccio's busy drumming, Jan Patrick Djivas' bouncing bass and a catchy repeated refrain throughout.

The second side opens with one of the absolute highlights of the disc, the all-instrumental infectious title track, full of dazzling acoustic guitars runs, murmuring slinking bass adding a jazz- fusion touch and fun little synth trills here and there. `I Cavalieri Del Tavolo Cubico' is probably the closest the band come to the previous `Jet-Lag' disc, an electric piano-driven jazz-fusion rocker with added poppier tropical elements by way of exotic percussion, thick funky bass and Franco Mussida's spiky electric guitar soloing that moves from slow-burn to nimble fire. `Su Una Mosca E Sui Dolci' could also have easily fit on the earlier PFM works, a thoughtful and intelligent longer composition with drowsy synth drifts, restrained electric guitar ruminations, a lovely lead vocal and comforting group harmonies grafted to the all-over acoustic prettiness, and it turns out to be a very dignified and exquisite track from the band. But sadly `FantalitÓ' is a shorter jazzy-popper to close on, perfectly breezy and easy to enjoy, but probably the most throwaway moment of the album despite a lovely repeated group vocal chorus spot.

`P.F.M's Suonare Suonare' in 1980 would extend the commercial style present here a little further, and the recently released `Live Collection' performance from the 25th November 1980 with an accompanying DVD showed they still had the musical chops to put on a good show, but the rest of the decade would see a string of forgettable pop releases until a fine comeback work in 2005 with `Dracula Opera Rock' and especially the all-instrumental and much-loved `Stati di Immaginazione' a year later.

Some collectors only want to accept the best and most well-known/classic works of the wide range of progressive-music acts, but others find great worth in looking into the unappreciated curios or lesser-regarded works from the same artists. For those listeners, or for those who want to explore the less than glorious years of the defining and important Italian groups, P.F.M's `Passpart˙' proves to be a perfectly lovely album that improves with every single listen, offering a few very special gems and a bunch of charming lighter well-played pieces that makes it perfectly worthwhile and definitely underrated.

Three stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 3/5 |

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