Saturday, 12 May 2012

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

From  Rock Progressivo Italiano: an introduction to Italian Progressive Rock

In 1972, when Premiata Forneria Marconi released their debut album, all the members of the band were already experienced musicians and their live performances were excellent. The band began life in the late sixties playing “beat” as I Quelli and later as I Krel. Eventually, in 1971, they chose the name Premiata Forneria Marconi, inspired by the name of a bakery. On the debut album the line-up featured Franco Mussida (guitar, vocals), Mauro Pagani (flute, violin, vocals), Giorgio Piazza (bass), Flavio Premoli (organ, piano, mellotron, moog, vocals) and Franz Di Cioccio (drums, percussion, vocals). According to the band, they chose to record “Storia di un minuto” playing “live in studio” to keep the freshness of their concerts and the result was a “fresh” and very personal blending of progressive rock, classical influences and Italian folklore, powerful and delicate at the same time. It was conceived as a concept album and tells the story of a man who remembers a whole day in just one minute of dreams and visions [1].


The first track “Introduzione” is just a short introduction with reminiscences of King Crimson and it leads to “Impressioni di settembre” (September Impressions), probably the best known PFM song. You can still hear echoes coming “from the Court of the Crimson King”, while the suggestive lyrics written by Mogol “paint” the feelings of a man looking for himself in the countryside on a foggy September morning... “How many dew-drops around me / I’m looking for the Sun but I can’t find it / The country is still asleep, maybe not / It’s awake, it’s staring at me, I don’t know / Now the smell of the soil, smell of grain is slowly coming up towards me / And life softly beats in my chest breathing the fog, I think of you / How much green all around here and even further / The grass seems almost a sea / And my thoughts fly lightly and go away / I’m almost afraid they will get lost... But at the same time the Sun is leaking through the fog / As always the day will be!”. The instrumental refrain is really catchy, with the powerful sound of the moog in the forefront, “à la Emerson Lake & Palmer” (according to the band, “Lucky Man” was really a source of inspiration for this track). The album version is slightly different and more dilated compared to the single version that you can usually find in anthologies (for instance in “Prime Impressioni” or “Gli anni settanta”). In 1974 “Impressioni di settembre” was released in English as “The World Became The World” with lyrics by Peter Sinfield but I prefer by far the original version! 


“E’ festa” is another outstanding track. It’s a kind of joyful, frenzied “Rock-Tarantella” almost completely instrumental with a short vocal part...  “As always that’s the feast of a light bird that keeps on flying...”. Here elements of Italian folklore are blended with classical influences. The English version of this song was released on “Photos Of Ghosts” as “Celebration”, but in my opinion the Italian version is better...

The first part of “Dove... Quando...” (Where... When...) is a dreamy, delicate ballad about a man longing for his sweetheart who feels the urge for her knocking heavily on his heart. The inspiration for the music comes from the XV century and the shy vocals get along very well with the melody and lyrics... “Where do you live? Where are you? / Just inside of me / What are you doing? / How do you look? / Just as me / Inventing you here and there is an old game now... What would I do my love, in which way will you smile? / From your ayes and noes what will I learn? / Serene princess from Heaven, you will be mine...”. The theme of the first part is developed by the band in the second one which is completely instrumental. Here the musicians try to blend their classical influences with jazz and rock and the result is really good...

Storia di un minuto: album cover

“La carrozza di Hans” (The carriage of Hans) is one of my favourite PFM songs. The piece is built up starting from the amazing guitar work of Franco Mussida. I dreamt many times of playing it properly on my acoustic guitar and when I was a teenager Franco Mussida seemed to me like a merchant of musical dreams but unfortunately my guitar never turned from a “pumpkin” into a magnificent carriage like in Cinderella’s fairy-tale... “Look! Search! Run far away, fly! / Hans the merchant is waiting for you, fly...”. By the way, in this track there’s not only amazing guitar technique to be found, but a perfect interaction between the guitar and the other instruments. The album version is slightly different from the single version, but I love them both...


The last track “Grazie davvero” (Thanks a lot) is another good piece with a melancholic mood and lyrics about the rain that brings life to the world, the “ageless water” playing with the colours and sounds falling on a pond... “It’s already raining / It rains softly, it rains on me... Thanks so much for living / Thanks for the day that’s here / Thanks for the time that will come... It’s already raining / It rains softly, it rains on me...”.

A great finale for one of the most important albums of the Italian prog scene of the early seventies, one which contributed to outlining an Italian way to progressive rock.



[1] F. DI CIOCCIO, Due volte nella vita, Aereostella, Milano, 2009, p. 42 - 45