Paper Charms is a composition written by the Italian progressive rock band Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM). It was featured on the album Chocolate Kings (1975), but it's also the title of a three-disc live collection published in 2014 which contains all BBC radio and TV appearances of the band. The first disc contains a large part of a concert recorded in May 1975 at the BBC Paris Theatre in London. At the time the line-up consisted of Franz Di Cioccio (drums, percussion, vocals), Patrick Djivas (bass, vocals), Franco Mussida (guitars, vocals), Mauro Pagani (woodwind, violin, vocals) and Flavio Premoli (keyboards, vocals) the same musicians who recorded the masterpiece The World Became The World (1974).
However, don't expect tracks from this album, and its predecessor Photos Of Ghosts (1973), to be performed similarly as the original studio versions; this was never the case with PFM. The songs always lasted longer, because they always liked to improvise and play longer solos than on the original albums. Sometimes they even sang the Italian lyrics instead of the English written by Pete Sinfield, but that doesn't mean that these songs were less enjoyable. On the contrary! I've always been a big fan of live recordings that differ from the studio versions, although sometimes their improvisations lingered on too long. I also loved PFM incorporating classical pieces into their live shows like the famous arrangement of Gioacchino Rossini's William Tell Overture. You can enjoy this piece at the end of the first disc following Alta Loma Five 'Till Nine.
The second disc contains a one-hour recording from the same venue, but now from April 1976. At the time the band had already released Chocolate Kings with the new lead singer Bernardo Lanzetti. Therefore songs from this album like Paper Charms, Out Of The Roundabout and the title track can be enjoyed as well and again these live tracks differ from the original studio album. The older songs like Four Holes In The Ground and Dove... Quando sounded differently anyway because of the new lead vocalist. Even Rossini's William Tell Overture sounds slightly different.
The last disc is a DVD containing the video footage from all appearances in the classic BBC 2 TV series 'The Old Grey Whistle Test'. I think many fans of PFM have already seen these recordings on YouTube or downloaded these tracks from torrent sites. However, it's always nice to have them all together on one disc. The DVD starts with a playback version of Four Holes In The Ground shot at the Advision Studio broadcasted on the 22nd of October, 1974 at The Old Grey Whistle Test. Next are live versions of Celebration and Mr. Nine 'Till Five recorded by the same line-up as can be heard on the first disc. The awesome footage was broadcasted on the 23rd of May 1975. The last clip shows the band with singer Lanzetti performing a good live version of Chocolate Kings broadcasted on the 13th of April 1976.
Paper Charms certainly is a nice collection of old PFM material recorded in the seventies. Especially the fans of the band will love it regardless of the fact that it's not recorded with the current state-of-the-art quality. But I guess that's less important. We should be thankful that it's published for everybody to enjoy almost forty years later!
*** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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