Let’s not beat the living shit out of each other fellow prog-heads, let’s face it: PFM kicks a shit load of ass! Although taken their name from the bakery in where the band rehearsed daily, the idea of Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM) of being an opening band at first was a good idea opening for; Yes, Deep Purple, and Procol Harum to give the audience’s positive reaction. The chances of getting heard seemed it would happen despite the original quintet of Flavio Premoli, Franz Di Gioccio, Giorgio Piazza, Franco Mussida, and Mauro Pagani having surprised Greg Lake of ELP and King Crimson fame, after hearing their second album, Per Un Amico at the Pala Eur in December of 1972, he knew that this was the band would be signed to ELP’s new label, Manticore. These four albums, now digitally restored and re-mastered by the reissue indie label, Esoteric Recordings with full co-operation of Manticore Records featuring liner notes by Ernesto de Pascale shows that a band who were about to achieve cult status.
Since the classic Italian versions of the first three PFM albums; Storia di un Minuto, Per Un Amico, and L’isola Di Niente, are not reissued with this re-release sadly, plainly were at the band’s most achievement with 1973’s pastoral English version with Photos of Ghosts, wherein former King Crimson lyricist Peter Sinfield produced and translated five of the songs into English as the band recorded the album in London at Advision Studios. The band unleashed some of their most dynamic complex songs and time changing centerpieces that would be a part of the PFM trademark. River of Life (Appena Un Po) which edits out the ambient introduction into the classical guitar introduction, is still a complex number with all the symphonic dramatic beauty and crystal love-song folk background as for the FM single friendly voltage dance clapping electrifying rocker, Celebration (E ‘Festa).
They are dazzling along with the smooth pastoral King Crimson influential sounds with the title track, Old Rain, and the 8-minute pastoral ballad, il Banchetto while Mr. 9 ‘til 5 (Generale!) has the mid-rock beats in the mind of Gentle Giant. As with Promenade the Puzzle (Genario), you can tell of the fantasy story writing Sinfield lyrics definitely fit PFM’s profile as it reminds a bit of Cadence and Cascade meets Playing the Game. The tracks are so powerful as it was originally released while the bonus tracks of the first and instrumental mixes shows proof that PFM were ready to hit the United States as the album reached the billboard charts at 180 in the top 200.
Very exquisite and showing their true colors is The World Became The World (L’isola Di Niente) in 1974. The band needed to change their image as they met bassist Patrick Dijvas from the Italian Prog-Jazz fusion, Area to replace Giorgio. He mentioned that he wanted to adopt a new point of view. “It was hard sometimes, it wasn’t easy to find and justify your place in a band like PFM, but eventually I did”
As he brought the Jazz fusion sound to the table with the new line-up of PFM’s music, this was the first time the band was moving away from their Italian Prog sound into a world that was dangerous, deep, and various styles of music. While Photos of Ghosts brought them into the United States for the first time, they knew they had to stay true to their musical background. Beginning with the mighty operatic choir before transforming into a dynamic explosive rocking vocal that is out of this world with an amazing instrumental composition that picks up the slice of pizza with the 10-minute opener, The Mountain as Peter based the lyrics on the ancient god of mountains from Japan that they believe is a legend and a myth.
Just Look Away (Dolcissima Maria) is a clever folk ballad as the lyrics are very much into a blissful childhood memories and looking back while the translation of the anthematic, Impressioni di Settembre which is translated into the title track with it’s lukewarm ballad and the increasing moog and mellotron and a shattering guitar work makes it show why PFM take the music to a ground level. And then it goes off with coins plunk into the changer into a symphonic dance complex composition with Four Holes in the Ground as it goes into more of the situation with Is My Face on Straight? its a great number with the style and image that carry a Yes influence rather than an ELP sound. While Have Your Cake and Beat It shows a Jazz Fusion sound which has a Jaco Pastorious bass work done by Djivas for the first few minutes and then it goes into a stylization of Weather Report’s Heavy Weather homage that just can’t be beat. Same with the bonus tracks which feature a single version of La Carozza di Hans, Four Holes in the Ground, and an unreleased single version of Celebration portrays the band’s stylistic in their own courtyards in Italy.
Having the first two English albums to receive word of mouth, it took everyone by surprise as when they brought Acqua Fragile’s lead vocalist Bernado Lanzetti, who had a combination of Family’s Roger Chapman and Genesis’ Peter Gabriel to the foreplay. Chocolate Kings is considered ‘less-romantic’ but I digress, this was one hell of a controversial album that the band made alongside a live bonus CD of their performance at Nottingham University on May 1, 1976. As punk was settling in the U.K., they found themselves moving away from the pastoral prog sound into fast highway speed voltage with a lot of virtuosity that was carrying the sword of fast upbeat tempos. The title deals with the critique against fascism and nuclear weapons, but into consumerism. Whether you love or hate Chocolate Kings and despise/love Bernado’s voice, this was PFM at their best.
From the coolness of acoustic ballad of Harlequin, the bouncy title track, the symphonic opener of From Under, the homage of the Mahavisnu Orchestra meets Return to Forever on Out of the Roundabout, and the most beautiful closer Paper Charms which features extraordinary and majestic compositions along with the time changes to the core. As for the live recording it is un-fucking-believable. You have the dazzling versions of the title track, Alta Loma Five ‘til Nine/William Tell Overture which features an explosive violin solo done by Pagani as he goes Darryl Way on your ass while the acoustic guitar solo done by Mussida gives the audience a beautiful 15th century renaissance style that they’ve never seen before.
It all came to an end by the time they released 1978’s Jet Lag which was the final album on the Manticore label after the label closed its doors. The band was more of a Classical Jazz Fusion band rather than a Symphonic band, but pack with a Gentle Giant punch, it’s has it’s moments, not to mention the Spanish guitar composition introduction of Penninsula that begins as it goes into the 9-minute title track. It’s a great track in the work of all Prog epics that it goes through time signatures that gives the power of music with all of it’s glory of Patrick’s bass work and Bernado’s homage to Derek Shulman in a weird, but good way as if Return to Forever worked with PFM to create this strong number while Storia in L.A. which starts off with a Chick Corea keyboard introduction as Patrick can be considered “the Italian version of Stanley Clarke and Jaco Pastorious”, brings it to the forefront as Bernado still shines a light on this number which has a Zappa Zoot Allures-era quality to it.
Breakin’ In has a funkadelic quality to it. The beat is very much bouncy than CK, however the guitar and violin work to bring the track into heavy solo work during the midsection as Cerco La Lingua which has an eerie violin introduction and then it goes into a Area-like jitter dance, but it works and delivers to a standstill. They also demonstrated their homage of the Canterbury sound of National Health and Egg with Meridani which features Mussida doing a Steve Howe guitar solo as the drums and bass follow him wherever he changes the key moments into the number with more of the Frank Zappa power punch while Left-Handed Theory is a jumpy jazz composition featuring Premoli doing some crazy shit on the keyboards ala Herbie Hancock style, violin, and pounding drums to the scenery as the closing number, Traveler, which is a lifting theme and gives us the curtain call for PFM.
Though they decided to take a break in the late ‘80s, they didn’t call it a day, they wanted to take some time off. PFM were actually one of the most influential Italian Progressive Rock band of their time period and while there’s a new following of kids getting to explore this new music rather than the shit you hear on the fucking station, they should be given a second chance to fit the global world of Progressive Rock. Here, listen to these as brilliancy, magnitude, and exploration comes within the forefront.