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Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM) - Chocolate Kings CD (album) cover


Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM)


Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.95 | 434 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I always thought that the inclusion of Lanzetti in PFM (an excellent singer with a unique voice that was so crucial for Aqua Fragile's sound) was a mistake, and I keep on thinking this way. I mean no criticism against his powerful style, and I really admit that the now sextet is well adjusted as a whole for the arrangements and performances of the "Chocolate Kings" reperoire. What I find (slightly) disappointing is the fatc that PFM had to change their musical essence so much in order to find their own way to evolve and not repeat themselves after an amazing string of excellent albums (their first 3 studio efforts). I don't own a specidif formula, but I'd like to think that there were other potential options for PFM to evolve creatively without heading for a downslide. "Chocolate Kings" is a good album, indeed, but it is styilistically alienated from what could have been a softer transition to new ideas: it's like a part of Acqua Fragile's own magic had been imposed on the world of PFM. Le Orme's "Contrappunti", BMS's "Ultima Cena", Area's "1979": all these items are better examples of how you can evolve after a certain zenith and remain 100 % interesting in artistic terms and linked to a unique essence. This was not evolution in the case of PFM, but a transformation: quite reasonably, they found it necessary at the time, but I seriously doubt that this new direction is deeply connected to the peculiar grandeur that PFM created for "Per un Amico" and "L'Isola di Niente". The album kicks off with 'From Under', which is solid, effective and catchy, although it also has the difficult duty of announcing pretty soon the kind of sound that this augmented line-up was trying to achieve. Definitely, Franz di Cioccio is the most noticeable hero in the instrumental deliveries, since his foundations, rolls and assorted adornments are very featured in the mix. Next comes one of the album's highlights, 'Harlequin', a mesmerizing example of how well can symphonic prog and jazz-fusion merge into the powerful resolution of goos compositional ideas. The mood shifts are fluidly controlled, with a middle section that smokes with folk-inspired energy. Pagani shines on his violin and flute inputs, which is really no surprise - in both the delicate and rough passages, his deliveries cry their refinement. 'Out on the Roundabout' is the album's other gem, following a similar structure although with a higher dose of jazzy prog and less fusion - Mussida's polished guitar playing is featured on the nylon item, with the electric piano and violin providing additional textures in the instrumental interlude. The title track is an old-fashioned boogie rock provided with a suffcient amount of skill: this 4'45" album version is nos as impressive as the more expanded renditions that I once saw in a DVD (from a TV performance in 1975). The closure is a beautiful yet not remarkable exhibition of melodic prog, clearly the most symphoni-oriented track in the album: a good finale, indeed, but in terms of creativity, far from the weird climax that the closing track for each previous studio album. After this album, Pagani left in order to pursue a more folk-oriented kind of experimental music, both solo and other projects. Right in this album, with him still as a PFM member, there were already signs of artistic decline, but his ultimate departure was a clear sing of not so good things to come in future albums (although "Jet lag" is still enjoyable and has its moments): lack of direction, loss of that distinctive early sound, increasingly less genius in compositions (not performances, they're still top-notch). "Chocolate Kings" is simply a good album by a band that had started as a one of the definitive Demiurges of Italian prog rock.
Cesar Inca | 3/5 |


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