PFM – River of Life -
The Manticore Years Anthology 1973-1977

(CD 2010, 76:19/76:49, Esoteric Recordings MANT CD 21004)

The tracks:
  1- River Of Life
  2- Photos Of Ghosts
  3- Il Banchetto
  4- Promenade De Puzzle
  5- La Carrozzi Di Hans
  6- The Mountain
  7- The World Became The World
  8- Just look Away
  9- Four Holes In The Ground (live)
10- Alta Loma Nine Till Five (live)
  1- Is My Face On Straight (live)
  2- Harlequin
  3- From Under
  4- Chocolate Kings
  5- Dove Quando (live)
  6- Oot Of The Roundabout (live)
  7- Celebration (live)
  8- Storia in “LA”
  9- Jet Lag
10- Traveller

PFM Website        samples        Esoteric Records

Premiata Forneri Marconi (better known as PFM) is one of the most popular Italian progrock bands, along with Le Orme and Banco. So it’s always interesting for a record company to remaster early material and release this with additional previously unreleased tracks for lots of wealthy middle-class progheads with stuffed wallets, haha! Here’s a double CD that spans the time between 1973 and 1977 in which PFM released four studio-albums with additional live material and an unreleased B-side of an UK single.

CD 1 focuses on the albums Photos Of Ghosts (1973) and The World Became The World (1974, the English version of L’Isola Di Niente) and additionally, the previously unreleased track La Carozza Di Hans (B-side of the UK single, this version fails to keep my attention) and songs from the live LP Cook (aka Live In The USA) from 1975. PFM’s music has obvious hints of early King Crimson (mainly their debut album) but the inventive arrangements with captivating musical ideas, the tasteful, virtuosic work on guitar, keyboards and violin and the shifting moods and changing styles turns PFM into an unique progrock formation. For example, in River Of Life, PFM flowingly changes from classical with flute, acoustic guitar and harpsichord to mellow symphonic rock with Mellotron and Minimoog. And Photos Of Ghosts delivers a thrilling acceleration while in Il Banchetto we can enjoy a shift from classical to lush keyboard oriented symphonic rock in which the harp is subtly blended, concluded with virtuosic Grand piano. The way PFM succeeds to generate excitement and surprise is breathtaking! In the composition The World Became The World, I notice a very delicate mix of Fender Rhodes electric piano and warm vocals, then a sumptuous eruption featuring majestic violin-Mellotron but the fat Minimoog flights give a special favour to the music. In the live track Four Holes In The Ground, the band showcases their heavy side with fiery guitar leads and use of the wah-wah pedal. But the highlight on CD1 is the long final track Alta Loma Nine Till Five (around 15 minutes). It opens with bluesy guitar and dreamy Mellotron, then the guitar gradually gets more heavy and the interplay with the Mellotron is awesome. Halfway through there’s a break with bass guitar, then a strongly built-up violin solo, and now the keyboard support is from the Hammond organ. In the end, PFM delivers a grand finale with catchy violin work, culminating in a version of Rossini’s Willem Tell Overture with fat Minimoog runs-goose bumps!

CD 2 opens with a 15 minute previously unreleased live version of Is My Face On Straight (USA 1974) where the vocals lack a bit power but I am carried away by the cascades of solos, from flute and guitar (with biting wah-wah) to accordion, sensational Minimoog and delicate Fender Rhodes electric piano. The sound is not really optimal but the remastering of the almost 35 year old material is good. With the 3 songs of the LP Chocolate Kings (from 1975), you immediately recognize Bernardo Lanzetti’s distinctive, theatrical voice (like in Harlequin featuring an exciting break with swirling violin) and PFM’s sound has much in common with early Yes (Howe and Wakeman sound), especially in From Under. Then 3 live previously non released tracks from 1976 that sound a bit sloppy but how classy PFM plays like on the Fender piano intro in Dove Quando and the violin with Hammond in Out Of The Roundabout. Finally 3 tracks from the LP Jet Lag from 1977 follow and now PFM show their musical direction has moved more towards jazz-rock, especially in Storia In L.A. (fluent synthesizer solo) and the title track (wonderful Fender piano with powerful bass).

I don’t know how many fans are pleased with both PFM’s symphonic rock - and their jazzrock sound, but this double CD delivers a comprehensive view on their era between 1973 and 1977, embellished with interesting live material from 1974 and 1976.

**** Erik Neuteboom (edited by Robert James Pashman)

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