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


Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM)


Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.94 | 500 ratings

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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)

ExittheLemming | 4/5 |


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