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Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM): Per Un Amico (1972)

Having the Italian prog scene pretty well covered here, it should only come as natural I should review one of the best albums from one of the biggest names of Italian prog. I am referring to Premiata Forneria Marconi, better known as PFM for us non-Italian speakers. Per Un Amico, released near the end of 1972, was their second album and definately one of the highlights in the Italian prog scene. The band tended more to the pastoral-end of prog rock, highly acoustic, with mellow vocals. Folk and classical are some of the influences, as well as early King Crimson. Many more of you might be more familiar with the English language version of the album known as Photos of Ghosts, but in my book, the original Italian language version is the best.

The album opens up with “Appena un Po'”. It starts off with Mellotron and harp, before the acoustic guitar and vocals kick in. The song goes through several changes, including one using a Pari portative pipe organ. This song ended as “River of Life” when recorded in English on Photos of Ghosts. The next song is the instrumental “Generale”. A bit louder, with some great violin use, as well as synthesizers at the end. On Photos of Ghosts, this song became “Mr. 9 till 5” (but with English vocals tagged on that the original didn’t have). The title track starts off rather mellow, but starts picking up, eventually the acoustic guitar and synthesizers (the English language version of the song “Per Un Amico” was the title track to Photos of Ghosts).

“Il Banchetto” (which is the same on both Per Un Amico and Photos of Ghosts) is perhaps the most complex piece on the album. It starts off acoustic, as often the case, with more nice pleasant vocals. Eventually the music switches to Mellotron and harp, before some experiments on Moog synthesizer, plus a piano that sounded like it came off Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s Brain Salad Surgery (although the ELP album was released a year after Per Un Amico), before going back to how it started. The last song, “Geranio” (known as “Promenade the Puzzle” off Photos of Ghosts) again shows all the best qualities of PFM. Starts off quietly, then you get some piano, some Gentle Giant-like quirkiness, before ending with a fanfare of Moog synthesizers.

There is no doubt about PFM, they were too good to be known just in Italy (where they happened to do very well from the start). No doubt that Greg Lake appreciated these guys, and had them signed to ELP’s own Manticore label giving the international recognition they deserved (thanks to Photos of Ghosts, their Manticore debut). Per Un Amico is truly an essential album. If you like Photos of Ghosts, I think you’ll like this one even better. Great stuff!
– Flavio Premoli: piano, clavichord, Hammond organ, Pari portative pipe organ, Mellotron, modular Moog synthesizer, lead vocals
– Franco: Mussida: guitars (acoustic and electric), mandolin, lead vocals
– Franz Di Cioccio: drums, percussion, vocals
– Giorgio `Fico` Piazzo: bass and vocals
– Mauro Pagini: flutes, violin, vocals

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