PFM (Premiata Forneria Marconi)

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 ()

- Franz Di Cioccio drums, percussion, backing vocals

- Patrick Djivas -- bass, backing vocals  

- Bernardo Lanzetti -- lead vocals, rhythm guitar

- Franco Mussida -- guitar, backing voice 

- Flavio Premoli keyboards, backing vocals 

- Mauro Pagani flute, violin, backing vocals 




- Acqua Fragile (Bernardo Lanzetti)

- Quelli

- Slow Feet





Genre: progressive

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:   Chocolate Kings

Company: Numero Uno/Dischi

Catalog: ZSLN 55684

Country/State: Italy

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: Italian pressing

Available: 1

Catalog ID: --

Price: $50.00


LOL - now that I'm officialy a senior citizen I have to marvel (or recoil) at how time flies. I can clearly remember sitting in my high school library and reading a Rolling Stone review of this album.  I'd never heard of PFM and the only reason I read the review stemmed from the fact I thought the album cover (the US pressing), looked cool.  It then took me twenty years to stumble across a copy of the LP.


 PFM's sixth studio album introduced a major personnel change with former Acqua Fragile singer/rhythm guitarist Bernardo Lanzetti taking over lead vocals from guitarist Franco Mussida.  While several earlier PFM albums had featured English lyrics and performances, 1976's "Chocolate Kings" was the first collection where the material was originally written in English (several tracks featuring an assist from American Marva Jan Marrow), rather than being translated from the original Italian. 


Lanzetti was fluent in English, though exemplified by performances like 'From Under' and 'Out of the Roundabout' his vocals were heavily accented.  His quivery voice also bore a resemblance to Family's Roger Chapman.  Depending how you felt about Chapman that was a mixed blessing, though my ears quickly became acclimated to his vocals.  As for the music; well I had a friend tell me they sounded like an Italian version of Peter Gabriel's Genesis.  I can hear legions of PFM fans screaming in protest, but I have to admit that tunes like the opener 'From Under' did remind me a bit of Genesis-meets-Family. Admittedly, I don't have a background in music criticism and I'm not a gigantic progressive fans.  I would have a hard time describing the difference between progressive rock, symphonic progressive and Canterbury scene.  I'm also not insightful enough to know whether the lyrics were intended as a dig at American society and culture (an odd thought given the band was seemingly interested in breaking into the American marketplace).  What I can tell you is that tracks like 'Harlequin' and Out of the Roundabout' made this one of the most tuneful PFM album's I've heard.   While the collection seems to divide the PFM fan base, I've always found it enjoyable.  (Tip - buy the original Italian pressing if you can find a copy.)


Who knows why, but Asylum signed the band, releasing the album in the States, albeit with slight modifications including a shortened version of the title track and alternative cover art (Asylum catalog number 7E-1071).  


Unfortunately the band's efforts at breaking in the US were undermined by their decision to perform at a 1976 benefit in support of the Organization for the Liberation of Palestine.  The band's Italian management company cut ties with the group; torpedoed a planned US tour and even took out adds criticizing the band's political leanings.




"Chocolate Kings" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) From Under  (Flavio Premoli - Franco Mussida - Mauro Pagani - Ivan Graziani - Marva Jan Marrow) 7:29    rating: **** stars

I'm no progressive expert, but listening to 'From Under' always reminds me of an Italian version of Peter Gabriel era Genesis coupled with Family lead singer Roger Chapman.  That comparison was meant as a compliment.  Admittedly it took me a couple of spins to warm up to lead singer Lanzetti's voice, but the ever-changing melody was fascinating.  Flavio Premoli added some lovely synthesizer washes to the mix while drummer Franz Di Cioccio and lead guitarist Franco Mussida just went insane during the closing segment.

2.) Harlequin   (Flavio Premoli - Mauro Pagani) 7:48    rating: **** stars

Starting out with one of the prettiest melodies they ever recorded, 'Harlequin' actually had radio potential.  The abrupt shift into hard-rock territory was jarring, but the melody remained mesmerizing and the closing section of the song found them returning to the original melody.   I guess Lanzetti's quivery voice and thick accent were probably too much for most American audiences.  An edited version of the song showed up as the slip side to their 'Chocolate Kings' single. Recorded at the Prog Exhibit in Rome, YouTube has a lovely live May, 2010 performance of the song: Premiata Forneria Marconi - Harlequin - Live @ Prog Exhibition, Roma 5/11/10 - YouTube

3.) Chocolate Kings   (Franco Mussida - Mauro Pagani - Marva Jan Marrow) 4:39     rating: **** stars

Hum - PFM tries to get funky, or attempts to incorporate Scottish influences on the title track   = )  Perhaps the biggest surprise for me came in the form of the sweet harmony vocals - reminded me a little of the German/UK band Lake.  It may take one or two spins to click, but it was a fascinating performance with the lyrics apparently intended as a criticism of American post-World War II capitalist excesses. The video and sound quality are poor, but YouTube has a 1976 clip of the band performing the song on the BBC's Old Grey Whistle Test television show: PFM Chocolate Kings - YouTube   Perhaps the most conventional song they ever recorded, though it's still hard to believe the track was actually tapped as a single in Italy and the UK.

- 1976's 'Chocolate Kings' b/w 'Harlequin' (Numero Uno catalog number ZN 50342)


(side 2)
Out of the Roundabout  (Franco Mussida - Mauro Pagani) 7:53     rating: **** stars

Recalling a more melodic Jan Akkerman, Franco Mussida's acoustic guitar was simply beautiful on this lovely ballad.  When the song shifted into a more rock-oriented arrangement, the tune retained it's charm.  Admittedly the lyrics were largely lost on my ears, but then who cared?

2.) Paper Charms  (Franco Mussida - Mauro Pagani) 8:30   rating: *** stars

Ah, a tale of two songs ...  The first three minutes of 'Paper Charms' reflected a pretty, is slow moving ballad that highlighted Flavio Premoli's prety synthesizer washes and Lanzetti's vocal charms, or underscored his shortcomings.  And just as you were settling into the tunes low-key charm, Mauro Pagani 's violin announced an abrupt shift into a more rock-oriented segment.