Tuesday, 2 April 2013


With their sophomore album, “Per un amico”, Premiata Forneria Marconi developed the ideas of their debut album. The line-up is the same and features 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). You can still find here the influences of King Crimson and EL&P blended with classical music patterns, Italian folklore and a touch of jazz: anyhow the result is an album without weak moments, well balanced and where the music streams fluently with many changes in rhythm and mood...

The opener “Appena un po’” (Just a little bit) begins softly, the music is clearly classical influenced and the mood is dreamy and a little bit melancholic... “Away from here, away from here / I wish I could go away from here at once / How I wish I could go / I would leave, I would run towards another truth / If only I could believe it, that would be enough / I know I would set off... Away from here, away from here at once, away from here / I would find myself in another reality / Just to see open space in front of me / Away from here, away from here at once, away from here...”. Well, the lyrics are about the desire to escape from reality and in my opinion they’re a little bit “naïve”, but they perfectly match the music and the result is good... You can find another version of this track in “Photos of Ghosts” as “River Of Life” with English lyrics written by Peter Sinfield, but I prefer the original version.

Generale” is a good instrumental track where all the members of the band show their great musicianship. After a “jazzy” beginning with great drum work, a military march breaks in led by drums and flute... Then come organ, violin and the other instruments for the “finale”. The version of this track on “Photos Of Ghosts” (“Mr. 9 till 5”) features English lyrics provided by Peter Sinfield and weak vocals... I prefer by far the instrumental version!

Per un amico” (For a friend) suggests a soft way to “revolution” giving “friendly advice” about the need to come back from dreams to reality and to fight for a better world... “Don't ask me if one day it will change / Start to do something and it will change with you / It will change... You run away, you hide yourself and that is not possible / You live your compromises and that is not possible / There’s no time for dreams anymore / You must fight harder, harder...”. There are no screams or rumours of war here: the dreamy vocals and the romantic mood of the first part of the piece contrast with the more “struggling” instrumental closing section and the lyrics fit the music very well. In my opinion the English version called “Photos Of Ghosts” (with completely different lyrics) is not so good...

Il banchetto” (The banquet) is a complex and “politically engaged” song. The simple lyrics draw the image of a banquet in a king’s court while outside the people are whining. The beginning is soft, with acoustic guitar and vocals in the forefront... “Sir, His Majesty / Reverent as always, here we are / Sir, that’s us / The poet, the killer, and His Holiness / All together, your faithful friends / Ah, His Majesty... Please, my friends / You know I can’t stay without you / Hurry up, take a seat! / At the banquet we were just waiting for you / As always, as every day that will come / As long as love and peace will rule...”. Then, there’s a long, complex instrumental middle section with clear classical influences that melts back in the “reprise” of the main theme... ”Everybody smiles / Only the people don’t laugh, but you know / They always whine / They’re never satisfied / Who knows why...”. A little prog gem!

The final track “Geranio” (Geranium) features almost whispered vocals and an oneiric mood... “The wind dances in the night / It dances slowly in the street / A melted dream dances / The shadow of the moon dances / Barely touching time and fortune / It dances softly, it dances down there...”. Well, in my opinion the lyrics here are not particularly inspired and the music, though not bad, is not at the same level as the other tracks. You can find an English version of this piece in “Photos Of Ghosts” as “Promenade The Puzzle” and I think that this is the only track where the lyrics of Peter Sinfield fit the music better than those of Mauro Pagani...

Though perhaps not perfect, on the whole “Per un amico” is without any doubt one of the most influential albums of the Italian progressive scene of the early seventies and an essential one in every prog collection. 

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