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


Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM)


Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.95 | 435 ratings

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Italian Prog Specialist
3 stars Being the first album with vocalist Bernardo Lanzetti onboard, Chocolate Kings is an important point of PFM history, marking both increasing stability and a change in sound. Released in 1975 after a couple of amazing and also commercially successful albums, much of the fiery intensity and passion from the earlier efforts are now replaced with a sense of maturity and tightness. Compositions are kept on a shorter leash, which inhibits the qualities of the band as I see it. It's still intricate, but not as outgoing and sweeping on Chocolate Kings.

Furthermore, if L'Isola Di Niente felt like an alignment with the British school of symphonic prog, PFM now turn to the jazz-rock/fusion scene for some extra inspiration. It's still not as evident as on the unjustly maligned Jet Lag, but still noteworthy. It manifests itself in a set of fast, complex guitar arrangements, a different use of the keys (lighter, more poignant), intense drumming and the fact that the whole album has a lot of that stressful, sweaty atmosphere I always find in jazz-rock/fusion. From Under, the opening track, makes this clear right from the start, and most of the other songs follows the concept to various degrees.

There is a disappointing adaptability on Chocolate Kings, an ongoing search for a sound that will keep the popularity of the band alive, and this immediately leads to a number of disjoint ideas. PFM wants to prove a lot here; dense, jazzy passages flow into melodic symphonic ones only to break up in a clumsy attempt at more direct hard rock. Of course they really succeed sometimes, but not in such a grand way that you're likely to forgive past mistakes. Harlequin, with a sweet, mellow intro that almost reaches Per Un Amico's style grows into a rocking, rumbling, Hammond-driven middle section with some of that sweaty jazz-improvisations on top of it, but also an interesting Yes-like bridge before descending down into mellow, symphonic territory again. Complete with flute and all. But most of the other songs can't compete with this one in terms of timing, flow and ideas. What they suffer from is not lack of ideas, but that most of the ideas feel just a little too basic. It's a freshness without foundation, it lacks depth, and thus the initial surprise of the album quickly fades out into acceptance.

Uninspired melodies, repetition and a musical marriage that only works at times doesn't make a great album, even if the band works hard to make it appear like one. A fair effort, a slightly failed experiment. I honestly recommend going straight for Jet Lag if the musical ideas expressed on Chocolate Kings interest you. There they have grown even more into jazz-rock territory, but it's a lot smoother and tighter.

A very transitional album from a band that can do better. 3 stars.


LinusW | 3/5 |


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