This 2-CD/DVD set from the good people at Esoteric Recordings released this year, contains the BBC Sessions that Premiata Forneria Marconi did from 1974 to 1976 at the time they were promoting The World Became the World, Cook, and Chocolate Kings. On the DVD, it includes three performances that the band did on the Old Grey Whistle Test hosted by "Whispering" Bob Harris that includes a promo film by their label Manticore and three live performances that is a real gem for fans to really sink into the realms of the Italian Prog band showing their heart and the instruments to give it 100 percent.
On the 2-CD set, the band recorded two performances at the BBC Paris Theatre which was known as Paris studios located at the Lower Regent Street in London, was hosted by Pete Drummond. Who also was a presenter for John Peel’s Top Gear, Sight and Sound in Concert, Rock Goes to College, and Sounds of the Seventies. Listening to the CDs, you could almost close your eyes and imagine yourself being at those shows and just being prepared to be at a concert you will never forget.
The first disc was recorded on May 21, 1975 on Radio One as Drummond’s introduction and the audience applauding as PFM goes straight into a thunderous version of Celebration to kick things off as the chugging guitar by Franco Mussida, intense drumming, bass, and synths done by Franz Di Cioccio, Patrick Dijvas, and Flavio Premoli to get ready for an exciting adventure. And then going into the beautiful touches of Jazz Fusion as Premoli’s electric keyboards sets the lushful surroundings of the genre mixed in with classical boundaries a-la Mahavishnu Orchestra’s A Lotus of Irish Streams that carries a resemblance on Dove…Quando.
Not to mention the sounds of Medieval-Renaissance up-tempo waltz and the driven beats on Four Holes in the Ground featuring amazing flute and violin playing by Mauro Pagani and its almost like they are having a blast as Premoli sings to lend support. The sessions are like opening a treasure chest and just being touched on how much wonder to discover how the band were getting recognition thanks to support from Greg Lake and the Manticore label.
And who would never forget Mussida’s guitar playing on Alta Loma 5 ‘till 9. He is going through a lot of improvisations and just nailing the solos in the styles of John McLaughlin, Robert Fripp, and Frank Zappa at times. The band is going into taking turns on which solo is the best, but they are all winners as Premoli goes into the reminiscent of Darryl Way as the band go into an homage of Vivaldi before having a sense of humor of Rossini’s William Tell Overture.
On the second disc, they came back for another session on April 15, 1976. They were promoting at the time, their international success with Chocolate Kings featuring Acqua Fragile’s Bernardo Lanzetti who would join the group, and his voice resembled at times Genesis’ Peter Gabriel and Roger Chapman of Family and it was for me, the last real PFM album. The band moved into the Classical into the Jazz Fusion sounds that at times resemble French-Prog group, Atoll at times, but you could tell they are having a blast on the soothing turned adventurous beauty with Paper Charms.
However on Out on the Roundabout, PFM goes into the laid-back grooves and having the different signatures of the time changes that would be a resemblance and homage to Gentle Giant as getting into the swirling beats thanks to Di Cioccio, Mussida and Premoli creating a driven beat on their instruments that carries the Fusion sounds like a race car going 125 miles per hour as Lanzetti’s voice joins in to make it to the finish line.
Then on the title track its begins with a fanfare introduction thanks to Flavio’s organ and synth and it’s a foot-stomping yet almost sing-along song with the line “When I was born they came to free us/to heal our battle wounds/with photographs of big fat mama/the chocolate kings arrived!” It’s very catchy on this live edition and I could imagine the audience just being in awe and blown away of the band’s giving the electrical juice and energy of their powers to give them a chance of a lifetime not to mention the seguing into the eruptive version of the reprise on Alta Loma 5 ‘Till 9.
On the 14-page booklet, there are pictures of the band including one of the Queen of England visiting them and the liner notes done by Mark Powell who helped adapted notes that were written by the late Ernesto De Pascale, is a wonderful history of the band and their BBC performances of PFM at their peak and how much they are one of the legacy of the Rock Progresivo Italiano scene of the ‘70s.
And it’s a real treat discovering both the two CDs and the DVD, showing how much PFM were ahead of their time and often overlooked in the Progressive genre. This is a recommendation for anyone who wants to sink into more into their music, the Photos of Ghosts, the Celebration and the Worlds becoming the Worlds of Premiata Forneria Marconi.