Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM) – Photos of Ghosts (1973)

PFM_PhotosGhosts4 out of 5 Stars!

After releasing an impressive debut album (Storia di un minuto), then an equally stunning follow-up (Per un amico), PFM got “discovered” outside its native Italy by Greg Lake, who signed the band to Emerson, Lake, and Palmer’s Manticore label.

Immediately afterward, the group either re-recorded or remixed some of its past material (mostly from its sophomore album) and added English lyrics, created one additional song as well (“Old Rain”), and packaged the “new” album as Photos of Ghosts, thus giving PFM more worldwide exposure through the Manticore distribution channels.

For the most part, the gamble paid off, and countries including America started to pay attention. Unfortunately, despite the added exposure over the next few years, the band went only so far in expanding its worldwide fan base and still remains horribly obscure.

Regardless, some PFM fans prefer the original Italian-lyric versions of the various tracks offered on this release, while I sit on the fence and replay all the band’s early albums, both in Italian or English, about equally.

Whichever preference one may have, however, the listener is treated to sophisticated, complex, and creative music from arguably Italy’s most talented Prog-Rock group in the first half of the ’70s, and Photos of Ghosts includes several of PFM’s most famous and classic tracks, including “Celebration,” “Mr. 9 Till 5,” “Il Banchetto,” and “Promenade The Puzzle.”

For those still Prog-Rock fans still unfamiliar with this legendary group, Photos of Ghosts wouldn’t be a bad place to start when delving into the band’s extensive catalogue.

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Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM) – Storia di un minuto (1972)

PFM_Storia4 out of 5 Stars!

Storia di un minuto is the impressive debut album of a band many Prog-Rock fans (and friends of mine) deemed to be “the Italian Gentle Giant.”

Okay, I’ll concur with that, but to only a marginal extent. Sure, PFM occasionally incorporated “unconventional” instruments (woodwinds, violin, etc.) into its overall sound, bringing about much of the “Giant comparisons” from my friends. But PFM had actually created its own rather unique and theatrical style and so—to me, at least—truly sounded nothing much like Gentle Giant.

Regardless, Storia di un minuto was one of the first albums I investigated by this band, and I remember coming away with a smile on my face.

With its riotous and ever-changing tempos, chunky guitar and bright synth riffs, not to mention the inclusion of flute and the glorious Mellotron, the track “E’ festa” is where I viewed the most Gentle Giant comparisons. Similarly, the opening section of the instrumental “Dove… quando… (parte II)” offered some additional comparisons.

But that was about it. On other tracks such as “Impressioni di settembre” and “Dove… quando… (parte I)” the group’s more pastorial side came through, offering something completely different. Additionally, in the second half of the aforementioned “Dove… quando… (parte II),” when the band dove headfirst into Jazz-Rock territory during a free-styling flute solo, I realized that the seamless merging of genres was a trait not many other groups shared with PFM, and I was hooked. And as if to further intrigue me, the band also tossed in “La carrozza di Hans,” where again, the merging of numerous genres, of shifting styles and widely varied instrumentation within such a short time span (the track is just shy of seven minutes) gave PFM a unique character and enduced me to investigate even more groups with Italian heritage.

Unfortunately, in its heyday during the ’70s, the talented group could never quite break big into the booming “American market”—although it came damned close—therefore, PFM remains shamefully obscure even now.

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