The pioneer of the Italian progressive rock bands, Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM) is one of the leaders of the 70's prog movement. PFM developed a style which is uniquely Italian while maintaining links with the rest of the prog world; a lyrical, romantic and delicate music, full of fineness; a great melodic and instrumental richness, somptuous compositions and arrangements. The group built its own musical personality, with its elegant music. They were the first Italian group to have success abroad, entering both the British and American charts. Between 1973 and 1977 they released five albums with English lyrics. They also had several successful European and American tours, playing at the popular Reading Festival in England and on a very popular national television programme in the U.S.A. The albums Per Un Amico (Photos of Ghosts) and L'Isola Di Niente (The World Became the World) as well as their first album, Storia Di Un Minuto are all virtual classics of progressive music. The instrumentation is superb with fluid guitar, highly original synthesizer sounds, beautiful violin and flute and ethereal vocals that are so important to the music, that replacing them with English vocals becomes a detriment. PFM introduced new sounds, such as the synthesizer, to the Italian musical world. They were also among the first to combine symphonic classical and traditional Italian musical influences in a rock music context. Such innovations and their longevity have made them among the most important bands in the international progressive rock genre.
Early years & Formation (1966-1970)
The original core members of PFM, Franco Mussida (guitars, vocals), Franz Di Cioccio (drums, vocals), Flavio Premoli (keyboards, vocals), and Giorgio Piazza (bass, vocals) played together in the mid 1960's as backup musicians for many different Italian pop, rock and folk singers such as Lucio Battisti, Mina, Adriano Celentano and Fabrizio De André. They appeared on many recordings for other artists during this period and quickly established themselves as top players on the Italian rock and pop scene. In 1968, Mussida, Premoli, Piazza and Di Cioccio formed the group I Quelli and released one album and some successful Italian singles; they were a popular beat band of the 60's.
Italian & International success (1971-1975)
In June 1971, PFM were invited at the first Festival d'Avanguardia e Nuove Tendenze in Viareggio, which they won, along with Osanna and Mia Martini. Later in 1971 the group signed with the Numero Uno division of RCA Records in Italy, and released their first single, "Impressioni di settembre"/"La carrozza di Hans". It was a success and received wide recognition as the first Italian hit record to feature the sound of an electronic music synthesizer. Both songs are still regularly performed by the group. PFM began to play in a highly original musical style, where the foreign influences had been mixed with classical music and some typical mediterranean sounds, creating the distinctive italian prog sound that has been later perfectioned by many others. In early 1972, PFM released their first album, Storia di un minuto. It's a milestone in the genre, the quintessence of the Italian prog, and few others can be compared with this; one of the top five Italian LP's for its content and energy. The album topped the Italian charts in its first week and was the first by an Italian rock group to achieve this kind of success. It contained re-recorded versions of songs from the first single, as well as "È Festa" and "Dove... Quando..." which are still among the finest examples of their distinctive sound and continue to be essential parts of their live concerts. The fine playing of the members of the band, despite the lack of a good role singer, create a highly regarded sound that's still valid today.
La carrozza di Hans
|Storia di un minuto (full cover)|
Later in 1972, their second LP, Per un amico, was released containing the same elements as the previous one with cuts such as the title track, "Generale" and "Il banchetto". This album opened the way to broader audience recognition all across Europe. It featured a more sophisticated production and allowed the group to refine their Italian progressive rock sound.
PFM came to the attention of Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake & Palmer while ELP were on an Italian tour and PFM were signed to ELP's Manticore Records. The first album on Manticore, Photos of Ghosts, was released all across Europe, Japan, and North America and it was the first time an Italian rock band found success in foreign markets. It was also one of the first recordings by a European rock group to have chart success in the USA, peaking at No. 180 on the Billboard 200 albums chart in November 1973. The album contained mostly re-recordings of songs from Per un amico in English. New lyrics (not translations) were written by former King Crimson member Peter Sinfield, who helped produce and mix the new recording at Advision Studios in London. Sinfield also suggested that the band's name sould be abbreviated to PFM starting with this album. Songs included "Celebration", (a remake of "È Festa") which received considerable airplay on album-oriented rock stations in the U.S.A and Canada.
Promenade the puzzle
Following the release of Photos of Ghosts, bass player Giorgio Piazza left the group to form the short-lived Crystals, being replaced by Patrick Djivas (ex-Area). The next PFM album release in Italy was L'isola di niente in 1974. Highlights of the album include "Dolcissima Maria" and the instrumental "Via Lumiere". Again a similar English language version of the album was released by Manticore as The World Became the World. The English album included another re-recording of "Impressioni di settembre" as the title track. This was their last collaboration with Peter Sinfield, as the group was not entirely pleased with the content of his English lyrics.
L'isola di niente
La luna nuova
On the 1974 U.S. tour PFM played concerts with Little Feat, The Beach Boys, The Allman Brothers Band, Aerosmith, ZZ Top, and Peter Frampton. Concerts were recorded in Cleveland, Ohio and Toronto, Canada (Convocation Hall). These recordings were released in the U.S. titled Cook. The album spent 8 weeks on the Billboard 200 chart, and peaked at No. 154 in January 1975. The same recordings were used with different artwork for the next European album titled Live in U.S.A. PFM reached their biggest American audience when they appeared on NBC's Midnight Special program on February 21, 1975. Their nationally televised performance included "Celebration" and the instrumental "Alta Loma Nine Till Five".
Bernardo Lanzetti era (1975-1978)
The lack of a strong lead vocalist had always been considered PFM's biggest liability so, they enrolled Bernardo Lanzetti, who was previously with the group Acqua Fragile. While a college student Lanzetti had lived in Austin, Texas for a few years, so he could speak fluent English but most importantly he had a powerful and distinctive voice. The first release by the six-piece band was Chocolate Kings in 1975, the first album released only with English lyrics. Featuring a harder sound, it had modest success at home and it was their least popular album in Italy so far. The same album was released with a different cover art by Manticore in the U.K. and by Asylum Records in the U.S. The controversial U.K./U.S. cover features a chocolate bar in a partially peeled stars and stripes wrapper on the front, along with the crumpled and discarded wrapper on the back. Containing some very good songs such as the title track and "Out on the roundabout", the album had probably lost some of the typical Italian feel of their previous works, going closer to the foreign markets' taste. A successful album abroad, it gave the band new chances to play in foreign countries, with a new tour in Europe, USA and Japan. PFM appeared on the BBC television show The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1976 performing the title track to the album. The album reached the U.K. Top 20, but it was less successful internationally.
|Chocolate Kings (UK/US full cover)|
Mauro Pagani left the group following Chocolate Kings to pursue a solo career. Lanzetti also appeared on Jet Lag (1977), an album highly influenced by the jazz-fusion movement, which was recorded in Los Angeles. This was their last album with English lyrics and their last attempt to reach the international progressive rock audience. It was also their last album released in the U.S., on Asylum. American violinist Gregory Bloch, previously with the groups Flock and It's a Beautiful Day, replaced Mauro Pagani on this album.
With Passpartù (1978), PFM shifted stylistic direction once again. The album contains seven songs in Italian with lyrics written by songwriter Gianfranco Manfredi and one instrumental, characterized by an international pop music style; an early example of what today is known as Worldbeat. The album contains mostly acoustic guitar (rather than electric) and draws from Italian folk and latin music, as well as from jazz and pop styles. This was the last album to feature Lanzetti, who then left to pursue a solo career.
Svita la vita
In 1979, PFM once again played as the backup group for Fabrizio De André. The group contributed new arrangements for De André's songs and the ensemble toured Italy to packed concert halls. De André and PFM released two highly successful albums during this period, entitled In Concerto-Arrangiamenti PFM (1979), and In Concerto-Arrangiamenti PFM, Volume 2 (1980). During the 1980s PFM enjoyed success at home while concentrating on commercial music for the mainstream Italian audience. In 1980 Flavio Premoli left the group and built a successful career writing and performing music for Italian films and television. Mussida and Di Cioccio also released solo albums. Multi-instrumentalist Lucio Fabbri (ex-Piazza delle Erbe) joined adding skills on violin, keyboards, and rhythm guitar. Albums during this period were Suonare Suonare (1980) -that contains the track "Maestro della voce" dedicated to singer Demetrio Stratos who died of aplastic anemia in 1979-, the live Performance (1980), Come ti va in riva alla città (1981), and PFM? PFM! (1984). The title track of their 1987 album Miss Baker was written in honor of the American dancer Josephine Baker. Though PFM stopped performing in 1987, they never officially broke up.
Volo a vela
Recent recordings by the group have successfully integrated their mainstream Italian and progressive rock styles. In 1997, Flavio Premoli rejoined the three other core members, Franz Di Cioccio, Patrick Djivas and Franco Mussida, and released the comeback album Ulisse. Though it wasn't progressive, it has been regarded by fans. The success of Ulisse helped to bring PFM back to the attention of the international progressive rock audience. Ulisse (Italian for Odysseus) is a song cycle based on the Odyssey legend by Homer, with the contributions of noted Italian lyricist Vincenzo Incenzo. A double live album, www.pfmpfm.it, was recorded with two additional musicians on their sold-out Italian tour the next year.
Serendipity (2000) is a strong studio collection of new songs in Italian, though this time there was no concept linking the songs.
Live In Japan 2002 was released in both double CD and DVD edition. The double CD edition contains two new studio tracks including a collaboration with Peter Hammill of Van der Graaf Generator. Hammill wrote lyrics and sings on the group's first recording in English since 1977, titled Sea of Memory. Piazza del Campo (2005) was released in both a single CD and CD+DVD edition. It captures PFM's performance with the one time only return of Mauro Pagani, filmed outdoors in the title's main square of Siena. Due to health concerns keyboard player Flavio Premoli left the group for a second time in early 2005, replaced by Gianluca Tagliavini, who's still in the current line-up. PFM then returned to the USA for the first time since 1977 to play the Progressive Arts Showcase at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on July 8, 2005. This concert was held in conjunction with the 7th annual NEARfest Progressive Rock event. Other shows on this tour included dates in Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Panama, and Venezuela. Premoli's last work with the group, Dracula, taken from the theatre play of the rock opera, was released late in the same year. It's an original rock opera based on the Dracula legend and a masterpiece.
Il mio nome è Dracula
Ho mangiato gli uccelli
La morte non muore
Stati di Immaginazione (2006) is an entirely instrumental effort that has an accompanying DVD of video images made for each song. As it's typical for PFM, the music alternates serene and calming sections of acoustic guitar with blistering balls to the wall rock. The video content ranges from fantasy style vignettes made with computer graphics to archival black and white historic films. PFM was the first confirmed act for the NEARfest 2009 festival which was held June 20–21.
Il mondo in testa
In 2010, PFM released their new album A.D.2010 La Buona Novella, a reworking of the Fabrizio de André album La Buona Novella. The group included sections of their own music within the original De André songs, often adding significant instrumental passages. The album differs in style from the original. Unlike their previous album, this one isn't instrumental, but features vocals. In 2011, PFM performed at the San Remo Festival, duetting with Roberto Vecchioni. This was the band's second appearance at the festival, having previously performed in 2009. The group continues to perform across Italy where their live performances remain popular.
Storia di un minuto (1972)
Per un amico (1972)
L'isola di niente (1974)
Chocolate Kings (1975)
Jet lag (1977)
Suonare Suonare (1980)
Come Ti Va In Riva Alla Città (1981)
P.F.M.? P.F.M.! (1984)
Miss Baker (1987)
Stati di immaginazione (2006)
A.D.2010-La buona novella (2010)
Photos of Ghosts (version of Per un amico, 1973)
The World Became the World (version of L'isola di niente, 1974)
Live in USA (also known as Cook, 1974)
In Concerto-Arrangiamenti PFM (with Fabrizio De André, 1979)
In Concerto-Arrangiamenti PFM, Vol 2 (with Fabrizio De André,1980)
Live in Japan 2002 (2002)
Piazza del Campo (2005)