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


Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM)

Rock Progressivo Italiano

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4 stars This is another one of my all time favorites and is in my opinion one of PFM's most complete offerings. "Chocolate Kings" is drenched in phenomenal musicianship with some superb song writing. "Chocolate Kings" is less symphonic than earlier releases, but offers a new prog challenge not unlike YES in many ways. Lyrics are in English here and work as well as earlier Italian recorded lyrics and vocals. As always, PFM employ amazing guitar and keyboard interplay which will certainly keep you amazed. This is a real classic!
Report this review (#16962)
Posted Saturday, March 13, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars Well, except on some derivative parts in the vein of GENESIS, the performance by Bernardo Lanzetti, the remarkable singer from the band ACQUA FRAGILE, is good! Besides the compact romantic sound, sometimes replaced by such heavy instrumental excursions, makes this album well worth checking out... for example "Harlequin", the title track and "Out on the Roundabout" are immortal classics, often perfomed during their old live performances.


Report this review (#16963)
Posted Saturday, April 3, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars This record sounds so exciting to me, like the classic Live USA.The virtuosism of this group is a serious thing. The voice of Bernardo Lanzetti is unique, and the arrangements are amazing. A progressive classic.
Report this review (#16969)
Posted Wednesday, April 7, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars if you like gentle giant you are gona love this album! complex structure and exelent solos paths, the rhodes and violin solos are fantastic!... a great record. pfm shows matureness and seriousness here, they reach a high level in terms of composition, it is less romantic than the previous recors, but not less sensytive...
Report this review (#16966)
Posted Saturday, April 10, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Compared to the previous outstanding albums "Photos of ghost" and "World became the world", this record is a bit less good: the PFM'S peak is passed, but it still remains a very good album: it is very complex, loaded and it contains intense passages. The band changed the singer here: the new singer's voice is more nervous & brutal, and it may sound irritating for many people including myself. The bass is absolutely complex, fast and impossible to play. The drums are very elaborated and never dull. There is always an aggressive & distorted organ that seems saturated, giving some power to the ensemble. The violins are well played. The technical performance is absolutely outstanding. Sometimes I find the keyboards a bit too gross, lacking some refinement. Unfortunately, I think there are also less subtle mellow parts here than on the previous albums.
Report this review (#16967)
Posted Wednesday, April 14, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars An excellent prog album that has two great tracks 'From Under','Harlequin' and one classic 'Out Of The Roundabout'.The playing is some of the best I've ever heard on a prog album.These guys are no slouches that's for sure! So why not 5 stars? 2 reasons.One is the vocalist clearly has a lot of difficulty singing in English.This is too much of a distraction to me.Second reason is the track 'Paper Charms' which fails to maintain the standard of the earlier peices and ends the album poorly.Maybe I'm being unfair deducting a star as I gave King Crimson 'In The Court' 5 stars despite 'Moonchild' but that said there is no Greg Lake here and more is the pity! Buy it for the instrumental qualities though and you won't be dissapointed.
Report this review (#16968)
Posted Monday, May 24, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars I'd wager that all of the glowing reviews posted here previously were written by people who were NOT already huge PFM fans when this album was released. My friends and I were very disappointed with this album back in 1975, and we remain so today. Though we all liked Acqua Fragile (well, SOME of their songs on the two albums they released), we all thought that Bernardo Lanzetti was a mediocre vocalist. His rough, gravelly voice simply does not fit PFM's lush, symphonic music. We also felt that the title track was, musically, a blatant attempt to capitalize on the popularity of"Celebration". Likewise, using the word "roundabout" in a song title is a bit questionable, yes? The lyrics took a huge dive in quality on this album, succeeding only in their obscurity. The four remaining tracks on the album (all of them over seven minutes) meander through forgettable melodies, sometimes echoing bits from their earlier albums. I keep going back to this album, giving it yet another chance. If it had been a debut album, or if I had never heard the earlier work, I might like it more. Tell you what, I'm going to go listen to it again....
Report this review (#16971)
Posted Thursday, December 2, 2004 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Little cause for Celebration

PFM's 1975 UK follow up to "The world become the world" and their live album "Cook", sees the band moving into a generally softer phase.

The first track, "From under" reflects the style of the album as a whole, with the influence of their mentors ELP still to the fore, particularly in terms of the keyboards. While the lead vocals are at times reminiscent of Peter Gabriel in his time with GENESIS, Bernardo Lanzetti voice is uncannily like the distinctive trembling tones of Roger Chapman (of FAMILY).

More of the tracks have soft acoustic intros. These tend to deceptive however, as the music builds to symphonic, jazz influenced or plain rock pieces. The title track for example has a soft flute intro, before a rather jarring simple rock theme is introduced. It ends with a pleasing synth section, similar to that on "Celebration" from their "Photos of ghosts" album.

Side two (of the LP) consists of just the two tracks, "Out on the roundabout", and "Paper charms". For me these are rather average tracks, which are somewhat directionless and rambling. There is certainly some good keyboard and violin work but the music, and especially the vocals, tend to ramble with no real sense of direction or purpose.

The album in total is only 36 minutes long, indicating perhaps that PFM were rapidly running out of the inspiration which had made their earlier albums so appealing. While there is enough good music on this album to make it "good", it is nothing more than that, and ultimately a bit disappointing.

Report this review (#16972)
Posted Monday, December 13, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Chocolate Kings - but, sadly, no longer Prog Kings...

As usual, PFM deliver superb instrumentation and dodgy vocals with creative and imaginative music and slightly damp production.

Somewhat surprisingly, though, this album does wander into slightly lost territories after the first three tracks - which are up to PFM's usual high standards. Hence I would not say that this is an essential album, but it is nonetheless one that contains some great music and would appeal to most prog fans (remember that the rating system here is not marks out of 5, but an objective meaure of the albums relative quality).

From Under carries the usual flavours of Focus, KC and ELP, with that symphonic extra that PFM always bring, but is in the mellow vein with suggestions of Procul Harum while somehow reminding me in places of David Bowie's "Starman". It's a very slick mix, and the bass/drums section towards the end is quite blistering, if a little repetitive.

Harlequin comprises two sections; The first another repetitive but uptempo, slick and rich-sounding jam around a bass/drum riff, and the second a short, gentle pastorale section. The first is unremarkable but very tight, the second is very beautiful.

The title track brings in an odd pop/rock flavour, hinting at all kinds of things, including a Scottish Jig, ABBA and the Beach Boys (more than once I thought they might break into a quote from "Waterloo" or "Good Vibrations"!), but ultimately PFM can't resist their prog roots, and the end result is quite fascinating.

Out On The Roundabout and Paper Charms lose direction quite significantly, and drag this album down a notch from previous PFM outings. There are one or two moments where it does all come together, but the bass tends to be altogether too busy - blustering rather than blistering, and the surrounding parts bland and unfocussed, even though you can hear all band members giving it their all.

In summary: worth buying, if you can find a cheap copy - but mainly for side 1. If you're new to PFM, check out their earlier albums.

Report this review (#16973)
Posted Thursday, January 6, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is a very good Progressive album by this band.They spent some time living in the U.S. They met Bernado Lanzetti, who also lived some time in the U.S., so he didn`t have problems singing in the English language.The lyrics for this album were originally to be written by Peter Sinfield, but he declined, because some lyrics criticize the U.S. lifestyle and politics, so the lyrics were written by the members of the band, with some help from Marva Jan Marrow in two songs. This album is very enjoyable. There are a lot of melodies in the songs. Side One of the old L.P. (tracks 1, 2, 3) are the best part of this album. After this album, they still recorded one album for the English language market, before returning to Italy to concentrate in lyrics written in the Italian language and for the musical market of their own country.There are diferences in the cover art between the U.K. and the U.S. releases and the Italian release. In the Italian release, the songs are credited to individual composers only, not credited as composed by the whole band as in the U.K. and U.S. versions.
Report this review (#16974)
Posted Sunday, January 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I have a special caress for this record. I thion it was the first symphonic album which I bought in the seventies. Until 1976 I have heard only the classics like Led Zep, P. Floyd ans Stones. PFM opened my ears to Yes, Genesis, ELP..., I think this album quite different when you compare with the previous records. This is more in the English style than the Italian of the predecessors. From Under is a classic of symphonic rock, a must have for all fans of 70 bigs.
Report this review (#16975)
Posted Wednesday, February 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I got this album recently and have listened 4 times so far, i can tell you that this is another great album by PFM, despite it is sung in English it is very good, i always prefer when the lyrics are in their native language , the best PFM albums are sung in Italian obviously, but anyway this wont let you down at all, the music is what really matters not the lyrics.

Chocolate Kings is not a title i like but i know they had an excuse to put this name, this album is great musically talking, the line up is astonishing and the prog music is magnific, this album is from 1975 , that era and year are full of great albums, this is another one, it has only 5 songs but all are good, my favorite ones are "Harlequin" and "Paper Charms", great keyboards and guitars, the other songs are also excellent there is no weak song in this album, so when you listen to it you will probably like it a lot, this is not as awesome as L´Isola di niente or Per un amico, but give it a chance, 4 stars.

Report this review (#16976)
Posted Tuesday, March 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This amazing slab of PFM-ness marks a shift toward a more English style of prog. As other reviewers have mentioned, and one can't fail to hear, there's a heavy whiff of Genesis here, mostly due to the fragile yet expressive strength of vocalist Bernardo Lanzetti, who resembles Peter Gabriel. But, like Neuschwanstein, it's less a rip-off and more a case of inspiration (or even coincidence). 'Chocolate Kings' offers plenty of wonderful moments and it sees them avoiding the stereotypical Italian prog sound that they helped define, in an effort to evolve and not be trapped into a box of their own making. (Nothing wrong with '70s Italian prog of course, but once a band in any prog sub-genre becomes predictable, it's all of a sudden not that progressive anymore, is it?) All songs offer a steady balance of instrumentation, from the thunderous bass/drum syncopation between Franz Di Cioccio and Patrick Djivas (so rightly credited with "ripper bass"!) and the kinetic performance from woodwind/violin man Mauro Pagani. Plenty of activity, truckloads of dynamics, captivating vocals, and the kind of songcraft that shows a band its peak.

The last two songs capitalize on the great moments that come in the first half, with "Out Of The Roundabout" merging their newfound style with an element of their exotic early years, along with an approach that almost reaches into fusion at times. There is no weak point here. Every song offers something the others don't, yet all of them unify in a tight focus, which makes for very satisfying listening. Overall, 'Chocolate Kings' is a high point in PFM history, and for some fans represents their last great '70s album before stylistic rot started to set in.

Report this review (#35878)
Posted Thursday, June 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Work released in 1975 "Chocorate King". It becomes the sixth work as an original studio album. It is a dynamic album of tough performance power. Masterpiece of P.F.M that reigned in age. In the refined sound, an Italian color has already thinned. However, the charm of music has not become weak a little. Anyway, it is wonderful. The performance of the opening number and the title number is still P.F.M. It is a work with which a new charm has been filled though it is regrettable that expression of feelings respect was suppressed.
Report this review (#63499)
Posted Saturday, January 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Simply their best album I have discovered "chocolate kings" many years ago and i was fascinated about the completeness. It's like a movie; even the songs stands for itself the whole album is really a "concept". Iwas a terrible fan of pfm in my youthness; now i have no great simpathy for them because there was more professionality then ideas but this album is so fiery, musical, emotional and whit big intentions that is no a surprise the fact that in 1972 rise up in the english poll at n.12!!!! Starting from first track "From under", with some reminiscences of past works and some kingcrisonesque flavours and with lyrics so good coloured and full of pictures so well designed, you arrive at the top with the great "out of the roundabout", maybe the greatest pfm song ever made. Great sounds, great Lanzetti voice (a la Roger Chapman and not as all says a la Gabriel) and over all Premoli's hammond and rhodes.
Report this review (#64183)
Posted Wednesday, January 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I have always thought that PFM were one of the best progressive bands from the seventies era. I saw them live in Athens, OH in late '74. At the time, they were touring with Robin Trower. They were the reason that I drove 120 miles to see this show. Of course, this was right before Bernardo Lanzetti joined the band, and Chocolate Kings was recorded. So, already being a fan, I was very excited when this record came out. While bring a great album at the time, I actually think it has gotten better with age. This album is a classic example of what made these type of bands so great. The music was complex, emotional, and full of a creativity that is sorely lacking today. I'll admit that Lanzetti's vocals were somewhat of an acquired taste, but I challenge you to find a vocalist who is as easy to recognize and filled with any more emotion than he. I was already familiar with him through Acqua Fragile. This album has been rediscovered by me many times over the years, as with all the PFM albums. I highly recommend Chocolate Kings to anyone wanting to discover what the progressive rock era of the 1970's was all about.
Report this review (#66054)
Posted Sunday, January 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars 4.8/5.0

WOW. I can't believe I did not review this masterpiece yet! This is an absolute gem, a once in a lifetime achievement for this band of musicians. This album is a classic: it is a great improvement on the previous albums which are absolutely good, but not as great. The rythm is everything there, with great bass and wow: the vocals are awesome!

Just sit down, and when you hear the beginning of "From Under" you know you listen to something special, something different, something great! "Chocolate Kings" is PFM greatest achievement, with "Jet Lag" and "L'isola di Niente" as close second/third. But don't be fooled: this one is their peak, this is their time of glory. This is the pinnacle of inspiration, imagination and one of my all-time top ten, along with Camel, Harmonium and some other rare first-class near perfect gems.

Report this review (#72318)
Posted Sunday, March 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars I was already a fan of PFM when this first came out, albeit only on the basis of having heard and exhaustively played "Cook". Maybe as result of that I wasn't so set in my expectations of what a PFM studio album would produce.

Well, after Cook came "Chocolate Kings" and the addition of Bernado Lanzetti as a lead vocalist. Comparisons with Peter Gabriel and Roger Chapman were immediately made (and still are). Personally I see maybe a little similarity with Gabriel, a good deal of Chapman, but also a unique and in my opinion, talented individual. All tracks are sung in English and his singing is quite distinctly accented at times but to me it's never been a distraction.

I saw the band for the 1st and only time on their UK tour promoting Chocolate Kings and was absolutely blown away. Everything that I like about earlier PFM is here on this record as well. Magnificently technical playing from all concerned.

Special mention to Franco Mussida for some truly stunning nylon string guitar work on "Out of the Roundabout" and Franz Di Coccio is as exuberant as ever on the drums.

Over the 30 years since I first heard it I've also come to realise that the lyrics, far from being the abstract almost Jon Anderson-esque structures that I'd initially taken them for, actually made a good deal of sense. So there's another positive.

To be absolutely truthful I can't give it the full 5 stars though. I just get the feeling on some numbers you can almost hear the joins between sections (Paper Charms being possibly the most obvious example to me). Mauro Pagani's input seems a little subdued too (this was to be his last album with them, not counting the live Piazza Del Campo some 30 years later)

Still it regularly comes out of the CD rack and gets played in the car and at home so no hesitation in awarding 4 stars. It's still a favourite of mine.

Report this review (#96091)
Posted Saturday, October 28, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Can't see the Gentle Giant connection as one reviewer suggested... plus - and let's be honest - poor old Bernardo Lanzetti was one of the worst prog vocalists ever, achieving the considerable feat of taking good singers like Lawton, Gabriel, Chapman and only taking the worst out of them all. BUT... this is, notwithstanding, a considerable album, meandering and unfocussed in places, diminished in comparison to earlier works, but still more than listenable. The clincher, of course, is From Under, a devastating opener, a passionate anti-smack paean with one of the longest, most seductive and beautiful main subject themes of any prog track which slowly unfurls, led by Pagani's violin, into a gathering crescendo of orchestral violence. It's rare that a track timed at 7:27 can seem too short, but here's one that does.
Report this review (#98479)
Posted Sunday, November 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
Moogtron III
Crossover Team
4 stars "Chocolate Kings" may not be PFM's finest album, but there are some very good songs on it: Harlequin and Out On The Roundabout show that PFM still were going strong after high quality albums like "Per Un Amico" and "L'Isola Di Niente".

Still, PFM were over their peak. Some influences are a bit too clear (Genesis and Caravan come to mind), and although PFM proved themselves to be real musical chameleons (they already learned a lot from bands like King Crimson and Yes), "Chocolate Kings" will not go down in history as the album with the highest originality factor.

Also, their lead singer Bernardo Lanzetti, who was new to the band, was not the best lyricist, and his voice is a so Gabriel - like that it tends to be a bit irritating from time to time. He tends to bit a bit vulgar (e.g. "From Under", "Chocolate Kings", which doesn't help either. The ugly sleeve is also a downer.

Somehow, it seems as if PFM was striving very hard to be heard on an international level, and that they didn't really know how to achieve that. Their chameleon-like musicianship sounds a bit restless, from time to time.

So why did I give the album 4 stars after all? That's because when PFM shine, they really shine. They still were one of the best bands in the world in the '70's, and on Chocolate Kings they really made some compelling music. However unoriginal their Hammond organ sound was, they knew how to use it. The guitar playing is beautiful, the violin playing is superb, and even lead singer Bernardo Lanzetti does strike a chord from time to time. And they were a very professional, fast rocking band, as well as a well-accomplished pastoral band. The music sounds very natural; the tempo changes also.

So, a mix of brilliance and professionality on the one side, and unoriginality and even a bit of vulgarity on the other side. But the positive aspects are much more weighing through than the negative aspects. Four stars, because taking all aspects into consideration, Chocolate Kings still is a powerful album, even sensational some times.

Report this review (#117192)
Posted Tuesday, April 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I had been so long not listening to this legendary album by PFM. When I browse my CD shelf I found this album and I was stimulated to play this album to revisit the times in the past when rock was in its glory days. No one who follows the history of progressive music would dare to challenge the existence of this memorable album. PFM had been very unique with its music style by putting together the elements of symphonic music with the contributions of violin and keyboards (organ). The band had some similarities in style with Genesis. But the use of violin in their composition precluded that thoughts of being influence by Genesis.

"From under" (7:25) is relatively fast tempo music with multi breaks that demonstrate the virtuosity of violin work by Mauro Pagani. The music moves in energetic way that showcases excellent combination of violin, organ - played intertwiningly - backed up with rhythm section of drums, bass, and guitar. The vocal timbre of Bernardo Lanzetti sometimes reminds me to the voice of Peter Gabriel. The only different is that Bernardo never sing at low register notes. The song indicates energy and complexity but it's enjoyable. ""Harlequin" (7:40) starts mellow with nice acoustic guitar work and vocal line. The song moves faster in complex setting with powerful vocal by Bernardo. What I like about this song is that it has various styles and textures, and structurally is not straight at all.

The album title "Chocolate kings (4:45) brings the music back into full energy and drive with powerful vocal backed with keyboard based music in relatively complex arrangement. Musical segments which demonstrate the intertwining sounds of keyboard and violin are really nice and had then become the band's character. In fact, I like this song due to its varied textures, styles and changing tempos. "Out on the roundabout" (7:53) is no doubt an excellent track with stunning acoustic guitar fills and powerful vocal. The song moves into part with combined work of violin and keyboard. The keyboard /organ solo in the middle of the track is awesome. The concluding track is another excellent and memorable track "Paper charms" (8:29).

I would recommend you to purchase this album.

Report this review (#120997)
Posted Monday, May 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is a real PFM masterpiece, not less the early band efforts like "Storia di un minuto". The new singer Bernardo Lanzetti exalts the strong English lyrics, extremely critics about American system, and is a value added to the great qualities of the Italian band. Mauro Pagani violin and flute, Mussida guitars and the excellent rytmhical section (Djivas and Di Cioccio) make a great work on every song, but especially on the opener "From under", and the power title-track. On "Harlequin" you can appreciate a progressive growing, full of finenesse and instrumental breaks, while Bernardo Lanzetti ductile voice stands out again.

I think PFM caught here its artistic peak, before a slow decline, and I recommend it to all Italian Prog fans.

Report this review (#127938)
Posted Monday, July 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Is brilliant, they are released two albums in english three whit this. But this is not a reedition of any album in Italian. Is almost Genesis, jazzy feel like Yes and Focus a little of King Krimson but after all is very particular, the voice is like Peter Gabriel but most finest. Have exelent guitar work and the keyboards have an great job. Is fast, this album is very fast and the album title "Chocolate Kings" is weird. In my opinion this album worth, not only are the third job in english because is very pleasant. Really worth five stars
Report this review (#134720)
Posted Friday, August 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
3 stars After their peak, the slow downfall? Well, I believe an album like The World Became The World would be a hard act to follow anyway, as were the previous ones too. But now the band seemed to be trying to make albums to please the international market. Or so it seemed to me at the time. Maybe they were simply looking for something different. Anyway, the resulting album is not bad at all, I like it very much, but it is also not par to their previous two, at least.

Also the inclusion of singer Bernardo Lanzetti was not a move for the better. The guy is good, but sounds too much like Peter Gabriel, including many of his maneirisms. The musicians in the band had handled the vocal duties up till then and did a fine job. If they had to get another lead singer they should have chosen somebody else, and I´m sure Italy had plenty of better and more original vocalists.

As for the songs themselves they are good, if not exceptional. It looked like the band was losing the strong sense of direction they always had up till then. No wonder this would be the last album to feature original founder member Pagani. The playing in general is a little more restrained and less adventurous here too. Future releases were uneven and would further show the decline of Italy´s finest prog band ever. Highlights are the clever title track and the opener From Under.

Conclusion: a good album, but hardly essential. 3 stars.

Report this review (#135311)
Posted Wednesday, August 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars 4.49/5 stars, purely because there are no incredible tracks on the album.This is not to say, however, that this is in any way a bad album.One of progs most underrated albums. "Chocolate Kings" is an excellent all rounder, and although I haven't heard much of the band (Per Un Amico, Chocolate Kings, Cook) it is easily the strongest of what i've heard. The bands Italian roots shine through particularily well in this album, especially with the opening track "From Under", which displays clear Mediterranean influences as well as excellent keyboards and lyrics. The albums texture varies throughout, from the full-on and at times very up-temp opener, to the quiet eight minute long "On The Roundabout", which has the feel of an epic despite it's length. The finest track on the album is "Chocolate Kings", a jazzy yet almost celtic sounding song about America's capitalist grip tightening mercilessly upon the world and Italy in particular. The other song that stand out on this album is "Paper Charms", which contains elements of just about every type of prog in the book, with everything from Van Der Graaf Generator-like melodies to an almost Gabriel like vocal performances. Thsi album is an excellent addition to any prog collection, with the track"Chocolate Kings" being a must-hear for any fans of Italian prog, or indeed just prog in general.
Report this review (#146907)
Posted Thursday, October 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars "Chocolate Kings" is a great album, maybe one of the best into PFM discography: awsome symphonic compositions, superb and powerful instrumental sections leaded by keyboards and guitar and at least a pair of songs which could be in the PFM Top 10 Songs of All Time (From Under and Harlequin). But there's something strange here...

I don't know if the english lyrics inffluenced me to think that album is closer to the classic 70's symphonic prog from England but PFM sound in this release has new and different musical elements that gives to their compositions a twist which leads every song to an uniform sound. I insist, the album is great, well arranged and composed but there's a missing piece that I still can't find. That piece (could be more agresiveness, more inspiration, more compromise...) is the little detail which could made this album a masterpiece. But is missing...

Report this review (#147284)
Posted Friday, October 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars "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.

Four stars for this "Chocolate Kings" even if everyone knows that we, Belgians, are the kings of chocolate...

Report this review (#152862)
Posted Monday, November 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars The album starts off with the enjoyable, yet unspectacular, tracks From Under and Harlequin but this album is really about the masterful works that follow that. Chocolate Kings and Out On The Roundabout carry this album over the threshold passed enjoyable and into pure listening bliss. Chocolate Kings has a quicker tempo and its lyrics are delivered with a drive and determination while Out On The Roundabout sweeps one of their feet with its soft beauty. Not that the last track, Paper Charms, is any slouch but its just a few steps below the mighty summit that the two songs ahead of it occupy. All and all Chocolate Kings gets a rich and tasty 4 Hershey's Symphony Bars out of 5.
Report this review (#159998)
Posted Sunday, January 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Released in 1975, Chocolate Kings is perhaps my favourite release from PFM though admittedly my acquaintance with the band is somewhat limited but I prefer it to the often highly rated Per Un Amico and L'isola Di Niente, which although no doubt about it are great albums, this one has the edge for me. Chocolate Kings is Symphonic Prog of the highest quality that fans of Genesis and ELP are sure to enjoy. The standard of musicianship is excellent with Keyboards well to the fore including some wonderful Hammond Organ playing. Violin also adds a nice edge to the sound complimenting the usual Guitar, Bass and Drums. Vocalist Bernado Lanzetti has a decent voice reminding me a little of Roger Chapman of Family and it's worth noting that the vocals are sung in English, which is not always the case with PFM.

The two best tracks kick off the album. From Under and Harlequin are both explosive tracks though with quieter passages creating excellent dynamics against the heavier moments and with strong melodies too. The latter track is particularly powerful with an Organ led mid section that really takes off with some wonderful musical interplay between the band. Shortest and title track follows and ends side one of the original vinyl album. It's an up tempo song with some nice use of Violin and a worthy inclusion if not quite up to the standard set by the first two tracks.

Side two consists of just two songs, both around the eight minute mark and though not as strong as side one is still an enjoyable listen. Out on the Roundabout continues PFM's strong use of dynamics, Guitar arpeggio's complimenting swirling Organs and Violin, solid Bass playing and Drumming sometimes veering into Jazz territory. Paper Charms quiet Organ/Vocal intro builds with the adition of synth and flute before the full band join in for another powerful track to close the album.

By today's standards a fairly short album then but at least no fillers are present making the whole record a highly enjoyable listen. The perfect place to start for anyone wanting to check out this excellent Italian Sympnonic Prog band.

Report this review (#161943)
Posted Saturday, February 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
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.
Report this review (#163695)
Posted Tuesday, March 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
Andrea Cortese
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Chocolate Kings is the first album of PFM to divide fans. The reason is basically the introduction of a stable vocalist: BERNARDO LANZETTI from ACQUA FRAGILE. I never hated his voice. On the contrary I always found it interesting as it reminds me a sort of mix between PETER GABRIEL and DAVID COUSIN of SRAWBS. Not bad. Not bad at all. Ok, I still prefer to listen to an italian band who sings in THE native language, but that's not a serious problem for me.

On about the musicianship, Chocolate Kings is where the band touches the apex, in my humble opinion. I like soft electric piano here and there. I like also the exciting crescendos as you can hear in Harlequin, a classic with sparkling acoustic guitar playing. They seems to create a more liquid sound this time. Just slightly less pompous and more fluent, more elegant. This is probably the foreshadowing of what would have happened later with the album Jet-Lag. These jazz- fusion touches really enriches the whole work.

For now music is still very solid and mesmerizing thanks also to the vague GENTLE GIANT light reference and to the massive use of synth. This is also the last album to feature MAURO PAGANI as violin and woodwind player since his departure just after the recording sessions.

An essential record. The last great contribution of PFM during the seventies, just fefore entering the downfall phase.

Report this review (#164806)
Posted Monday, March 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Never accept sweets from strangers

I think this album was titled after the nickname given to American GI's stationed in Italy during the 2nd World War who attempted to endear themselves to the local children by handing out bars of American candy. However, as the members of PFM and the Beatles will attest, this practice certainly 'Can't Buy me Love.'

'From Under' - A startling and enervating opening with some rapid unison playing a la Mahavishnu interspersed with slow organ crescendos which all serves to grab the attention from the outset and prepares the level of expectation i.e you can't relax for a second during this whole album such are the many changes of pace, timbre and dynamics throughout. Wonderful parched Hammond scuttling scale from Premoli before we reach the glorious main theme. This is wonderful stuff and even Bernardo Lanzetti's habitually irritating fishmonger's vibrato can be forgiven on material as strong as this. Sparing use of flute and violin helps to break up the lush symphonic nature of the backing and provides a sinuous relief to the main textures employed. Admittedly it's hard to be unremittingly breathtaking for a full 7 minutes and 25 seconds but PFM somehow pull that feat off here. Use your inhaler before listening to this one asthmatic progbuddys.

'Harlequin' - Starts with a beautiful quiet section which features some inspired jazzy guitar arpeggios from the brilliant Mussida (is there ANYTHING this dude can't play?) Thereafter, things go rapidly ever onwards and upwards during an incendiary transition section which rocks like the proverbial female canine featuring some guttural Hammond and violin/flute injections that betray the players jazz leanings. Some reviewers have pointed out that these sections are redolent of early 70's Genesis and although there are surface similarities the one huge demarcation criteria is that PFM have jazz in their fingers while Genesis patently do not.

'Chocolate Kings' - I am always surprised that when folks bandy around classic prog riffs this one never appears to get a mention. Once heard, it is never forgotton and must be deserving of classic status by now surely? Anyway, despite Bernie's vocal being recorded while he was apparently gargling in the bathroom, this is a great rock song interspersed with delicious portamento Moog and some caustic lyrics to boot (in this case the US of A):

Her supermarket kingdom is falling, her war machines on sale, no one left to worship the heroes, her TV gods have failed, hope she takes a look in the mirror, while she is on her way home

It seems ironic that the band would relocate to those shores they denounce so scornfully here, and the resultant Jetlag album would only serve to polarize their fans at the time. (but that's another story)

'Out of the Roundabout' - Mussida's rippling chorused guitar is exquisite and the electric piano again lends a jazzy inflection to what would otherwise be a straight rock vocabulary. This is one of PFM's best melodies and despite my previous bashing of Mr Lanzetti, he does on this occasion deliver with aplomb as this song appears to suit his eccentric vocal style perfectly. Percussive organ and jaw dropping arpeggiated guitar from Mussida duet in a jazzy developmental passage before we meet some Mahavishnu tinged electric piano. Here on 'Roundabout' is more than a hint of the fusion style they were later to pursue, but the crucial difference is that we have a strong song as the 'cake' with the added jazz flavoring being but the 'icing'. Unfortunately on Jetlag they sometimes forgot to take the cake out of the oven.

'Paper Charms' - If left to another less volatile set of tonsils this may have been very good indeed as it has a good opening melody but given that Bernie's industrial strength vibrato is the focal point in the mix this is a very hard going 8 minutes. As ever the playing is exemplary but I suspect PFM used this track as a 'mopping up' exercise utilizing all those decent bits that were left over from the sessions that stubbornly refused to belong anywhere else on the album. Perhaps the only real disappointment on what is otherwise a great record.

From here on in, PFM rather lost their way and it could be argued that it wasn't until Stati Di Immaginazione in 2006 that an album appeared worthy of their name adorning the cover. (Although I confess to not having heard all their intervening releases)

Report this review (#172774)
Posted Sunday, June 1, 2008 | Review Permalink
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.


Report this review (#175383)
Posted Thursday, June 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars This was a surprise for me mainly because they just sounded different. The romance is all but gone, and in it's place a more Symphonic / GENESIS flavour. Even the new vocalist (the former ACQUA FRAGILE singer) reminds me of a cross between Gabriel and Collins. It took a while to get used to this change, but once I did, I have to say I am impressed. It will be another 30 years before we get anything as classic as this.

"From Under" opens with outbursts of instrumental sections which are contrasted with calmer passages. Vocals and flute then lead the way until it kicks into gear after 2 minutes. Violin 4 minutes in followed by mellotron and synths before 5 minutes. It picks up again with some nice bass. The drumming is fantastic here. "Harlequin" features those quivering vocals with bass, acoustic guitar and drums standing out. The tempo picks up 4 minutes in thankfully as we get some killer bass and drum work. Violin starts to rip it up. A calm 7 minutes in as flute and keys take over to end it..

"Chocolate Kings" is a bright and uptempo track. The bass is killer ! Fun song. Aggressive guitar before 1 1/2 minutes with violin coming in a minute later. "Out On The Roundabout" opens with gentle guitar and a mellow sound before it kicks into gear after 1 1/2 minutes with vocals. This contrast continues. Violin 3 minutes in. An uptempo melody of guitar and keys before 5 minutes. Vocals are back a minute later. Liquid keys after 7 minutes as it settles again. Great tune. "Paper Charms" opens with a slow paced melody of synths, organ and vocals for 3 minutes. Then it becomes faster paced as violin and some active drumming comes in. It settles again with violin leading the way this time after 5 minutes.The contrast continues.

I prefer their earlier albums for sure, but this really is certainly worth having. A low 4 stars.

Report this review (#183235)
Posted Monday, September 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Premiata Forneria Marconi finally decided to try with full time vocalist, instead of a couple of vocalists. And so they bring in Bernardo Lanzetti, a man who speaks english fluently. They decided to make original album in english, instead of english cover version. I think this decision was made, because of the willingness to broke the international market. I think the english language experience for such a band is not the right decision. This italian band cannot arrange its music, when the vocal is in english as well as in italian! The new vocalist is something absolute different for the band. His voice reminds me Peter Gabriel. And the whole music on the album reminds me Genesis, too! Not only because of the vocals, but because of the compositions as whole. In my opinion, this is the last negative moment on the album. Everything else is so fresh and mercurial. All songs of the album have the same high quality. The album is lined with very courageous progressions and musical virtuosity. The violin and guitar solos are remarkable. Of course, Chocolate Kings is weaker than Storia di un minuto, Per un amico and L'Isola di niente, but not quite much! 4 stars!!!
Report this review (#190607)
Posted Thursday, November 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Absolute perfection from PFM. The way these songs develop leaves my spine tingling. We're talking about an album with 5 gems. 4 of the tracks are flat out masterpieces and the title track is a nice little diversion that kind of takes you back to the fun of E Festa.

So many reviews on this one already but after spinning it again recently it confirmed for me that this is arguably PFM's finest hour, and I thought I'd say a few words about it. The band had really matured here and the compositions are simply not to be believed. They weave in and out of different textures and moods effortlessly. The way the band is working together by this point is nothing short of astonishing, and to have a great lead vocalist seems to have propelled them to an even higher level. I suspect that some of these songs might not have the immediate impact for some folks of some of the earlier material, but repeated listening to this one is really a reward that in some ways transcends even the brilliance of the first three albums. These are highly complex pieces of music that are as much about feel as they are about simply executing them. No better example illustrates this than when the main melodic theme is reintroduced by Pagani towards the end of From Under. It's as if you can feel him caressing the melody. Utterly breathtaking and a moment that truly depicts the inside the note concept if ever prog was able to venture into that territory.

Of special note is the guitar work of Franco Mussida, which is sensational and rivals most any of his peers from the time. He is really off the charts on this album.

Sonically, this is a fantastic sounding album. The original RCA CD is best in the digital world. Avoid the Japanese mini lp versions. If you insist on collecting those, then at least get the JVC version (and note that the regular K2 will slightly beat out the K2HD so don't waste your money on the latter). The BMG Japan release with the original Italian cover is horrible. Avoid that one, BIG time. Oh, and that RCA gold disc is also a kind of a joke. Not nearly as good as the original CD.

I also intend to pick this up on vinyl again soon, because as good as the original CD mastering sounds, I think it had a bit of EQ applied and sounds a bit smiley-faced (read: bass and treble goosed). I ownded this on vinyl years ago and I'd like to do some comparisons with the CD, but for those who just want a nice sounding disc without any compression, grab the original CD and turn it up!

Report this review (#196834)
Posted Friday, January 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars I am a big Premiata fan, so I will say up front this review is somewhat biased. And although this record marks a departure from the King Crimson-influenced style of progressive rock that made them famous from 1971 to the time this album was released, it represents the band at it's zenith from a personnel perspective since this is the last time we see PFM record a studio album with Mauro (il Maestro) Pagani. I had bought Live in USA early in 1975 while living in Italy, and when I bought this album upon return to the US as an import, I was struck by how vastly different this album sounded. The only real down-side to me is that it far too short, but perhaps because it is so short that each track is masterful and by the time it's finished playing you are begging for more. If you can find the BBC bootleg of PFM performing in 1976 to support the album, you will get another perspective of just how strong this band is when playing live.

The title track Chocolate Kings is the only time you will hear PFM try to make a political statement by taking a swipe at Uncle Sam's arrogance. Still as fresh to me today as it was in 1975. The sound/music from the album is unique, all PFM, and I've never heard anything since sound like this, and is very different from say their follow-on album Jet Lag that was heavily influenced by the LA jazz scene. I only own the Numero Uno pressing so I don't know if the other releases included the poster of mamma Cicciona, but I actually had the nerve to hang the thing in my room much to the dismay of my parents.

Like with several major prog acts with a prominent lead vocalist, early Genesis, VDGG and Gentle Giant come to mind, you may or may not appreciate Bernardo Lanzetti's performance, but if given a good listen, one will appreciate how the vocals work as added instrument to this already vastly talented symphonic progressive rock band.

Report this review (#196897)
Posted Friday, January 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
Errors & Omissions Team
5 stars 01. From Under (Excuse the expression) Damn! This introduction is even or false? This is the first question that comes to mind listening to the beginning of From Under therefore know is true! The voice of Bernardo is unusual, somewhat anasalado which only enriches the sound, in my humble opinion. And for the first time I saw a school of the bassist Chris Squire (Yes), Patrick Djivas is a virtuoso of the bass as long I have not heard. The following is a Q melody of urgency and outflow. What then to take the almost silent, and a violin to give it all back leaves from the moorings. The final is a wonderful instrument. Without a shadow of a doubt this band could do music, the final part with low battery and marking a frenetic pace (and copied difílcimente) that gives the tone for violin and guitar and keyboard solos against eating soltoem- soils. Whew!

02. Harlequin A beautiful keyboard starts the song with the bass, and then enter the guitar making a beautiful fingering, enter the voice complementing the song with the battery. Everything has been gathering since the beginning. Bernardo sings with a beautiful entonamento. The beginning is calm, and soon gives way to a sound crazy, (just after the 2nd verse and melody of a calm with vocalizations), a gradual increase in the time of the song in the music involves a pitch full of keyboards and strong, with with the melody of the violin and bass, fully present and marked, some flutes can be heard if the fund pay much attention. Only then enter the vocal track for this part. A completely astonishing passage of stops and returns. A confusing solidification, I would say it is an organized mess for a final beautiful and contemplative.

03. Chocolate Kings Chocolate Kings starts hit! Keyboard and voice a heady melody, hard not to sing along. The chorus then, even more captivating. Soil arrasadores keyboards and repetitive mark the back. This music gives prominence to Franz and his battery, full of rolls, face, broken and bumbos. Sensacional the keyboards this band! Fade out sensational.

04. Out Of The Roundabout The kitchen is welcome to Out Of The Roundabout, total focus of Franco Mussa this track. Then the band returns to its Art Rock, then to make the instruments convensőes unified and leave always amazed with the talents of musicians. From now on the way a guitar melody is ultra-fast and the keyboard is a touch almost percussivo the music. The final is a quebradeira alone, almost like a Gentle Giant each is alone, and would at the same time as the mutants' a single person. To finish it in one single moment of beauty in a convention of instruments.

05. Paper charms Paper charms is beginning with a unique timbre of keyboards and a beautiful vocal melody. Many synthesizers around a certain time and the flute back again, a half-moon tambourine gives the rhythm of the song and then .... Pulsating rhythm, accelerated heart violins ... .. What bass! In a crazy rate hikes by the band heard on a masterful, well embedded belíssimamente guitars. The final full of violins still full of urgency and an almost desperate to be expected, almost a hallucination of the way things are slowly returning to its rightful place after we heard one of the coolest records of the movement and Italian prog world.

There is nothing that put this disc here, has significant memories for me and for sure who else to hear it.

Report this review (#196938)
Posted Friday, January 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
3 stars I guess that Premiata Forneria Marconi got a bit tired of releasing both an Italian and an English version of their album's so they went for a completely Engligh-sung performance on Chocolate Kings!

Since the band knew their limitations in the vocal department they made a wise decision of recruiting a professional vocalist by the name Bernardo Lanzetti who possessed a much better English pronunciation and gave the music a completely new spin. I'd also like to mention that he tends to sound a lot like an Italian Cat Stevens on this album which is a definite compliment on my part!

From Under is the energetic opener and probably this album's biggest highlight where the music plays like an interesting mix between the Jazz Rock/Fusion and the familiar sounding sections from the band's early albums. The production and Bernardo Lanzetti's English-sung vocals make it almost sound like a completely different band and had it not been for those softer section I wouldn't even know that this actually was the good old Premiata Forneria Marconi!

Harlequin is another great ballad-styled composition which gains a lot of momentum halfway through the composition and turns into a crazy instrumental jam which really pleased me immensely. This was the kind of music I was expecting to hear more of after the band's performance on Via Lumiere from their previous album.

I can't really say that I'm a big fan of the album's title-track which reminds me of an extreme version of Celebration/E' Festa from the band's debut album. It does feature quite a few great instrumental passages but ultimately plays a bit like one of those instrumental compositions from the classical Genesis era which were then enhanced by a slightly out of place sounding vocal track from Peter Gabriel (Get 'Em Out By Friday and The Battle Of Epping Forest, to name a few).

Out On The Roundabout is the tune that has grown the most on me lately especially after I had my Gentle Giant-phase were every new well-executed acoustic guitar number received a whole lot more appreciation from me then it would have before. This is another performance that would have probably worked a whole lot better as a completely instrumental number since the vocals don't enhance the music all that much and the instrumental section has instead the difficult task of maintaining a high quality performance while still making the vocal sections sound coherent.

Paper Charms is where my analogy about Bernardo Lanzetti sounding like an Italian Cat Stevens really comes well into place. This performance plays like another roller-coaster ride with a lot of tempo changes and a very strong concluding section which serves as a great end to the album.

I can't say that I love Chocolate Kings as much as I probably should since there isn't anything particularly wrong with the performance. What I do lack are the strong highlights which can probably be explained by all the changes that the band had undergone with this release. It's a solid but non-essential album that I would rather recommend to those who have already established a taste for Premiata Forneria Marconi.

**** star songs: From Under (7:31) Harlequin (7:50) Out On The Roundabout (7:56) Paper Charms (8:33)

*** star songs: Chocolate Kings (4:41)

Report this review (#274708)
Posted Saturday, March 27, 2010 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars This album and "Cook" were my first exposure to Premiata Forneria Marconi. I found both at a used record store in the late seventies, and bought them solely because they were on Emerson Lake and Palmer's Manticore label. And, strangely enough, it was years before I found out just what P.F.M. stood for, as neither of these U.S. albums has the full band name printed anywhere on the cover, sleeve or label.

The music is spectacular, and since this was the first I heard of this band, it hold a special place in my collection. It it a wornderful form of symphonic prog. The keyboards sound a bit like Keith Emerson, but the variety of sounds Flavio Premoli uses is closer to Yes or Genesis. Guitarist Franco Mussida often reminds me of Steve Howe's phrasing when he solos. And drummer Franz Di Cioccio play with a Carl Palmer-like energy and precision throughout. This isn't to say that the music is derivative, just that it ranks up there with some of the best of it's time.

My only complaint is lead vocalist Bernardo Lanzetti. I've often wondered if he was hired because he sounds similar to Peter Gabriel. But his thin, reedy voice, and constant tremolo don't match the music, tend to get annoying by the end of the album.

Report this review (#308688)
Posted Sunday, November 7, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars By mid-70's PFM had big time international success both with releasing English versions of their studio albums and recording a live performance in the USA.These facts led the band to give the lead singer role to ex-Acqua Fragile frontman Bernardo Lanzetti,who had a sensitive Gabriel-esque tone in his voice but could also sing in sufficient English.In 1975 PFM decide to record a full-length album only with English lyrics and so ''Chocolate kings'' was born.

This brand new PFM chapter begins with ''From Under'',one of the most complex tracks ever written by the band but with the familiar PFM sensitivity,featuring complex violin breaks and bass lines along with nice organ.''Harlequin'' continues the old school PFM style with evident GENESIS-influences throughout like the pastoral opening notes,the good use of mellotron before the violin-based explosion after the middle.''Chocolate Kings'' is perhaps the most energetic but also the weakest track of the album with early YES overtones in the guitar and vocal section and some strong KANSAS-like violin work,yet the track is not really conveincing,maybe beacause it sounds so far from the classic PFM style.With ''Out of the Roundabout'' the band presents a new face,some light yet nice electric piano makes its appearance on the GENTLE GIANT-influenced soft parts while the choruses have a DIXIE DREGS-like edge led by Pagani's violin.What was somewhat suspicious on the last track becomes more evident with ''Paper charms''.The track opens with a GENESIS-sounding flute- driven pastoral intro with Lanzetti almost copying Peter Gabriel,but soon the track will transform into a jazzy orgasm in the vein of MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA with beautiful violins,romantic piano passages,excellent interplays and attractive guitar solos.

The whole new PFM world in front of your eyes (or ears) remains adventurous, romantic and intricate but not that ''Italian'' compared to the past work.Yet the composition level is absolutely georgeous with plenty of fantastic interplays and will make the listener overcome both the obvious foreign influences and Lanzetti's unpersonal style of singing.Highly recommended!

Report this review (#492374)
Posted Friday, July 29, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Chocolate Kings' - Premiata Forneria Marconi (7/10)

In the early 70's, Premiata Forneria Marconi quickly made an indelible mark on the Italian prog rock scene with a handful of albums that have since been labelled as classics. 'Per Un Amico' and 'Storia Di Un Minuto' are huge landmarks for the Italian scene, and they even released some material for their English-speaking audience that wasn't too shabby either. 'Chocolate Kings' is another English-language album for PFM, but it holds the greater distinction of being the final album in a string of classics; the band's golden material would get fairly intermittent from here on. While the signs of the band's downward slide are evident here, 'Chocolate Kings' is still a great album from PFM, and right to sit next to the band's golden throne, albeit not on it.

For one reason or another, PFM's work would be less and less acclaimed after 'Choclate Kings'; their work after this generally ranges from receiving a lukewarm response, to be outright panned by its audiences, with few notable exceptions. Indeed, Premiata can be heard somewhat losing their individual grasp of symphonic prog here, but even so, 'Chocolate Kings' has alot to offer. When you look past the intriguing (read: ridiculous) album title, there is a very classic sound here, full of dramatic build ups, atmosphere, and even melodies that hold fairly steady in a listener's mind. There is much more energy than on earlier work, and I might even say that at this point, the band was going for a more technical, conventionally proggy direction. The decision to go for English language lyrics is not something that has ever worked particularly well for the band, but does not necessarily weaken the album.

Premiata Forneria Marconi have had quite a few different sounds even within their classic material, and the addition of vocalist Bernardo Lanzetti gives a new incarnation to the sound of this band. Lanzetti's performance is very memorable here, if only for the fact that he is a dead ringer for Genesis' Peter Gabriel. Even with the band's history as one of the heavyweights for prog and despite the strength of the music, I cannot help but feel that PFM were trying a little too hard to nail down the British sound of Genesis, rather than sticking to their own ideas. Even the pompous instrumental displays here are reminiscent of Genesis. Although bands who try to emulate Genesis or Yes are fairly common by today's standards, hearing one of the classic bands who so many now look up to copycatting a particular sound is a little jarring, to say the least. Suffice to say, this is a great deal of the reason why I cannot consider 'Chocolate Kings' to be on the same playing field as some of their earlier stuff. The quality is here, but the identity is not.

Report this review (#527271)
Posted Monday, September 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars There are two clear epochs for progressive symphonic rock in the 1970s, one during King Crimson's reign and a second after King Crimson. The second half of the seventies is marked by the adoption of new technologies that relegated the mellotron and greatly improved in the quality of the recordings. Chocolate Kings by Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM) was one of the first records to clearly enter into this second progressive symphonic phase. This was also the first PFM record I ever listened to, and while much appreciating their earlier discography this is the one I continue to listen most frequently.

This record has two main features that divide it apart from the earlier PFM discography: the abandonment of the mellotron and the addition of a new singer: Bernardo Lanzetti. By leaving the mellotron the band loses the epic touch characteristic to their most acclaimed works, but gain a tempo dynamics that at this time had not been fully explored. The mellotron is an instrument that to be fully appreciated requires certain tempo signatures that somewhat constraint song structure; PFM where not afraid to experiment and go beyond that. They retain the prominent presence of one of the characteristic instruments of the earlier days of prog, the electric organ, but use it an much more versatile fashion, perhaps at the image of what Keith Emerson or Hugh Baton were doing at the time. And then there is Lanzetti, both god and evil. On the one side he is a good English speaker, bringing that internationality that the band seek for the years before; the lyrics are thus more coherent and bond naturally with the melodies. On the other side Lanzetti's voice constantly falls into an over-vibrato that is really hard to listen, requiring a great deal of habituation.

Finally it must be noted that the recording quality of Chocolate Kings is well ahead of previous recordings. All instruments sound much cleaner, resulting in a more modern sound and overall a markedly different style. I especially feel this with the bass guitar, that sounds more lucid and precise than ever, underpinning the dynamic tempo changes the band dives into.

From Under

This opening track immediately proves that this record is like nothing PFM had done in the past and possibly no other band of the time. Going through several moments that provide for Lanzetti's work, the song is underpinned by a clean, fast tempo melody where all musicians follow the same catchy line. The organ in some moments shows some influence from Van Der Graff Generator, though in its structure the track is not really related to that band's work. It is a major display of musicianship and fresh creativity, while at the same time providing comfortable references for the less technical listener. The scene is set for a great album


My favourite song of the album, that starts by a beautiful mellow introduction with bass, nylon string folk guitar and the electric piano. During this section Lanzetti opts for lower tones where the over-vibrato almost disappears, resulting in a moment of great density. But it all jumps into a whirlwind with the organ commanding another highly dynamic, fast tempo piece. After a long, exhilarating excursion the song slowly winds down back to the initial melody, this time leaded by the flute; a fabulous finale.

Chocolate Kings

Another high-tempo song commanded by an organ melody. The other musicians have plenty of room to stretch their legs, delivering a track that while not outstanding is perfectly framed in the whole musical concept of the album.

Out Of The Roundabout

An exquisite intro is provided by the nylon string guitar again accompanied by tame vocals and an atmospheric electric piano. The structure is similar to the one in Harlequin, but with some alternation between high-tempo sections and tamer, atmospheric intermissions. This time relegating the organ to the ending stages, the band manages to achieve another major track with several high points melodic-wise. Once again the band returns back to the initial melody with the folk guitar to close the track, building a comfortable sense of completeness.

Paper Charms

The band tries to pull an epic ending to the album, that while not materializing, is not dissonant from the remainder of the songs either. Again the organ provides the backbone of the song together with the bass; on these the violin and guitar build several short variations of great creativity. Closing, the band tries hard to recover the emotion of earlier records, but is clearly boycotted by Lanzetti's awkward vocals; though it can be said it doesn't work either, it is just different.

This is one of the alba that easily leaves one watering for more, it really fells some more of that great music could be had.

The Veredict

On the negative side I can only point to Lanzetti's vocals, which may make this a record really hard to get into. But it can't be said Lanzetti is a bad singer, he has a good range , sings on key and seems well conscious of his place in each song. In the end it may all resume to a matter of taste.

This record is very compact and without any weak moments that can be pointed out, it constantly delivers with great creativity and musicianship. Adding to this the seminal grounds it broke at the time I have no doubts in giving it five stars. I can understand that pure fans may find this record somewhat disappointing, PFM takes a totally different path from that trailed with the three earlier LP, that gave the band worldwide recognition. But considering the symphonic genre in general I find this a very important record that fully deserves the title of Masterpiece.

Report this review (#593866)
Posted Wednesday, December 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Having discovered PFM relatively late in the game, I don't possess any fervent allegiance to any particular lineup. Thus I'm somewhat surprised by the intense lambasting of Lanzetti's vocals in these reviews. I can understand why some may find his delivery off-putting, but he's no Peter Hammill! Every cut on this album is strong, and Lanzetti's vocal interpretations only strengthen them. The weakest track is the title cut.-a fairly straight ahead rocker. "Harlequin" is an all-time classic, and would not sound out of place on Nursery Cryme or Foxtrot (yes, he sounds alot like P.G.) The same can be said of "Out of the Roundabout" a monumental track that holds your interest throughout. Song for song, I think this album rivals the beloved Per Un Amico. The true measure of a great band is their willingness and ability to evolve, and PFM travelled light years in just a few albums.
Report this review (#817011)
Posted Saturday, September 8, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars My first review of a PFM album. One could say that perhaps it would be better to start with the two first albums... ou Isola de Niente... but I love so much Chocolate Kings...

The album has a heavy historical background. The tile of the album and of the main song refers perhaps to the Marshall Plan (planned to endebt the European nations and conect them to USA, already preparing the Cold War to come) or to Imperialism as a whole (as others Italian artists would follow the same approach - Area, Eugenio Finardi, Stormy Six...).

The album seems to be carefully produced, and is a surprisingly short one. The instrumental passages shows the best alignement of Mauro Pagani's acoustic habilities and the band furious playing (most furious than ever, I suppose).

The low point is the vocals. They should have sticked with something more closely to what they were already doing. The Peter Gabriel emulate did not work very well. Maybe they should have hire Peter Gabriel himself!

Well, lets dream... and give 4 stars.

Report this review (#930068)
Posted Thursday, March 14, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars Here's where the PFM magic began to fade for some listeners, and after giving it due consideration I have to declare myself one of them. The addition of Bernardo Lanzetti from Acqua Fragile to the lineup could have been an interesting opportunity to shake up the band's sound - certainly, his raw vocals don't quite fit the band's gentle, pastoral style of previous albums - but the realignment seems to have been pitched to gain more widespread appeal amongst the international prog-listening community (remember, this came out at the commercial peak of prog) rather than to properly incorporate Lanzetti's voice into the band's sound. There's a Roundabout reference here, an ELP keyboard flourish there, and of course the vocals are all in English. It's pleasant enough stuff, but we all know they can do better.
Report this review (#930332)
Posted Friday, March 15, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars "Chocolate Kings" is Premiata Forneria Marconi's seventh studio record (fifth if you don't count "Photos of ghosts" and "The World became the World") and it was released in 1975. I've got a version of the record with a chocolate bar in many incarnations on the cover. The band was made up by Franz di Cioccio, Patrick Djivas, Franco Mussida, Mauro Ragani, Flavio Premoli and Bernado Lanzetti and this is a record totally in English. I would rather have heard it in Italien but this worked still out well.

If you like Genesis, you probably would like this. I adore Genesis and love this sound. I may happen I come back and raise this rating to five but now I think four is enough, and that is a high rating. This is a record especially for fans of Genesis and PFM of course. If I compare it to their british precursor I would compare this record with "A trick of the tail", a little more poppier but still a fantastic progressive sound. These songs are so clever and fine, all of them are good. They use many instruments and do it well. There is a lot of brilliance and and elegance here. One thing that makes this a good record is the great vocals that sometimes has been breached in prog. "From under" starts the record with speed and a good text, "Harlequin" continues with a great song and the title track "Chocolate Kings" is quick and has a funny meaning. Next side has two longer pieces in "Out of the Roundabout" and "Paper Charms". They are both very good but I think this record is a bit short. With one song more thay could have gained appreciation, and done a more complete disc. Beside of its small faults this was a great experience of Premiata Forneria Marconi in English and the first review I write about them. I will listen again and perhaps give it a better opinion furthermore.

Report this review (#963707)
Posted Wednesday, May 22, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Ok, context: One wonderful summer, when I was young enough to do daft things like this, I spent with the perfect hippie chick and this was the soundtrack to those late night chats and drinking black coffee while watching the sun rise type interludes. So yes there may be a bias here but surely most music evokes a time and a place and people..... Anyhow, mumble, mumble years on, how does Chocolate Kings stand up? It was their first album as a 6 piece and featured the new vocals of Bernado Lanzetti...who was fluent in English...and this shows in comparison to the vocals on earlier albums (those versions sung in English). Also, as my intro to PFM then this was the touchstone and, as much as I like earlier output (discovered later), they don't work for me as the vocals are weak. Kings just transports me back but actually sounds astonishingly fresh, again listening to any 1975 prog as comparison. Actually that is my first problem here. Who to compare to? This has become so much my template that I usually compare others to PFM/Chocolate Kings! Ok, being on ELP's Manticore label then it is churlish not to mention them in passing....but this is not a keys heavy drum driven thing....PFM always had the light and shade balance of multi instruments. Yes it does have some real kick ass sections, the opening track 'From Under' as one example but they can segue seamlessly into gorgeous acoustic passages as in 'Harlequin'. The electric violin that appears throughout makes Curved Air (for one) sound rather limited and PFM used it as 'part of' rather than bolt on or 'lead' even allowing for its prominence in 'Out On The Roundabout' perhaps Jean- Luc Ponty has to be mentioned in passing.....without the fusion! The title track is the most 'commercial', perhaps looking for the 'Celebration' groove again. Everything bears the hallmarks of superb musician ship and the interplay between them, especially on the mirrored lines in 'Roundabout', is breathtakingly dexterous. No song has anything other than balanced dynamics and the longer 4 tracks make 7 plus minutes feel short, although they do perhaps allow 'Paper Charms' to over stay its suspended keyboard chord atmospherics welcome...for all the flute/sounding distractions...and it never quite breaks out in as smooth a way as previous tracks. But it does have a great Genesis type rolling hook once it gets in to stride. So being objective, how does the listening go, without the summer and previously mentioned person as accompaniment? It goes damned well and I had been guilty of seeing the album as the background when in fact it should have been the foreground! This is as good as it gets in a 4 000 album collection....although I would add an extra star if I could for Lady Stef...where ever she may be! Perfection!
Report this review (#1525135)
Posted Thursday, February 4, 2016 | Review Permalink
3 stars A Step Down.

Thinking PFM could compete with/mirror the success of the big UK prog-rock bands like ELP and Yes, they were encouraged to hire an English singer, and to switch completely to English-language lyrics. To do this, they brought on Bernardo Lanzetti as lead singer. They also went full-tilt electric. The result is a big shift in their sound, but it is a major step down from the beauty that defined their earlier work. There is by now very little subtlety, and they go for a louder arena-rock style. They are still writing decent music though. "From Under", "Harlequin" and "Out on the Roundabout" provide good examples of mid-70s progressive rock. Lanzetti's vocals, however, are really inferior, and to my mind would ruin their subsequent album (Jet Lag). On this album, they were able to rain him in enough to make listening to the singing here passable, but at every turn you are just waiting for the instrumental passages. "Chocolate Kings" is OK, but goes on to long and the singing makes one want to hit skip. "Paper Charms" would have been great music, but the singing here is the worst on the album, thus leaving a bad taste in one's mouth, particularly after repeated listenings. After many years, I can hardly sit through this in one go. I give it 6.3 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which is on the low side of 3 PA stars.

Report this review (#1702491)
Posted Thursday, March 16, 2017 | Review Permalink

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