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Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM) - Celebration - Live in Nottingham 1976 CD (album) cover


Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM)

Rock Progressivo Italiano

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3 stars For years I've been appreciating the releases of the British label Esoteric Recordings. Usually they are reissues of old albums, very often from the 70's, covering both highly regarded classic artists and less known acts and their hard-to-find-as-originals albums. The well written liner notes and some bonus material on discs are an essential part of it all. And what's best, progressive rock plays a significant part in ER's impressive and ever growing catalogue.

This recent release offers something new, ie. previously unreleased material. P.F.M. is without a question the most notable of Italian prog bands, and the first one to reach wide international success. The ELP fellows Greg Lake and Peter Sinfield were to thank for that; in December 1972 Lake witnessed PFM's homeland gig and invited them to England, and Sinfield wrote English lyrics for them and produced albums released via ELP's own label Manticore. The whole history of PFM is once again told (by the label boss Mark Powell) in the liner notes of this 2-CD.

The end of 1975 saw the Italian release of the album Chocolate Kings with the new vocalist Bernardo Lanzetti (formerly of Acqua Fragile), and Manticore's UK/USA release followed in April 1976, coinciding with a UK tour. This particular gig was held at the University of Nottingham, and it was captured on tape by Manticore Records and broadcast on a local radio. The line-up is Lanzetti, Flavio Premoli (keyboards), Franco Mussida (guitar), Mauro Pagani (woodwinds, violin), Patrick Djivas (bass) and Franz Di Cioccio (drums). I haven't listened to the mentioned studio album, which contains five tracks, three of them included here. The set opens with 'Paper Charms', a 10-minute piece of Yes & King Crimson influenced intense prog rock in which Lanzetti's vocals come and go. His raspy voice has always reminded me of Family's Roger Chapman. On the heavily extended version of 'Four Holes in the Ground' (originally from The World Became the World, 1974) Pagani plays both flute and violin. The energy of the band at the top of their game is strongly felt. In fact for a large part Lanzetti, fluent enough in English but not very brilliant vocalist technically, remains in a pretty small role, which is actually positive. As he raises his voice he sounds also like the rockiest voice in Gentle Giant (whichever Shulman he was, Derek?).

The third track widens the dynamics towards the more delicate end of the spectre: 'Dove... quando' is on PFM's debut album Storia di un minuto (1972) an acoustically oriented, calm and folky song, and pretty well its thoughtful spirit was captured in this gig too, although I think that for example the electric piano makes it a bit different. 5-minute 'Acoustic Guitar Solo' proves that Franco Mussida's competence doesn't badly pale in comparison to Howe or Hackett. The 1st disc is finished by two further Chocolate Kings tracks. There are effective riffs and strong playing, but all in all I'm missing the Mellotron-contained, more pastoral prog style of PFM's earliest albums.

Two further early tracks come on 2nd disc, the jolly near-instrumental 'Celebration' and 'La Carrozza di Hans' which are to me more rewarding in this set than the "thicker" Lanzetti-era material. The live sound is relatively good, just slightly stuffy, but the live energy makes up for little imperfections. This is a fairly recommended release if you're a fan of PFM and especially if you're fond of live albums in general. 3½ stars.

Report this review (#2165917)
Posted Friday, March 15, 2019 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars The very first album I ever bought by an Italian progressive rock group was 'Chocolate Kings' by P.F.M., and to be honest I knew very little about them at the time but was impressed that they were on ELP's own label. It was the first album to feature new singer Bernardo Lanzetti and the complex music, which also contained violin and woodwind, just blew me away. The band's performance on 1st May 1976, at Nottingham University, was recorded for posterity and as it was the 'Chocolate Kings' tour I must confess I am in my element. These guys were/are masters of their instruments, and the complex layers they intertwine shows just why they were accepted outside the Italian market, and indeed by this time they had toured Japan, were returning from their fourth tour of the USA, and 'Chocolate Kings' had reached gold status.

They do get lumped into the RPI (Rock Progressive Italiano) sub-genre just because they play progressive rock and are Italian, but to my ears they are quite different with a much greater use of jazz and interplay between instruments as opposed to heavy layers of keyboards which seems to be a signature of many. With Mauro Pagani moving between flute and violin, often within the same song, he provides extra emphasis and dynamics while Lanzetti has always been a star, as anyone who knows his work with the likes of Acqua Fragile or Mangala Vallis (among others) will attest to. His Roger Chapman style vocals may not be to everyone's taste, but it allowed the band to expand their market more than they could otherwise.

Okay, so it is 1976, which means that there are long solos, some which work more than other, but this double CD set really does capture a band at probably the pinnacle of their career (fans may not always agree on their best album, but for me it is 'Chocolate Kings' followed by 'Jet Lag'). There is an interesting essay from Mark Powell to introduce the band to anyone who may not have previously come across them, and overall this is yet another great release from Esoteric who continue to show just how old albums should be treated.

Report this review (#2200852)
Posted Tuesday, May 7, 2019 | Review Permalink

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