Review Summary: One of the greatest works of progressive music of all time. An essential masterpiece.
PFM (Premiata Forneria Marconi) blazed onto the thriving prog rock scene of the early 70's with 'Storia Di Un Minuto'. They were one of the pioneers of the Rock Progressivo Italiano movement and went on to achieve almost legendary status before their decline in the 80's. PFM were sometimes compared to King Crimson but they certainly have their own distinctive personality and style which is demonstrated admirably on this debut release.
Greg Lake was so impressed with these guys he signed them to ELP's Manticore label and indeed there is a hint of ELP about some of the more pastoral passages on the band's most well known song 'Impressioni Di Settembre'. However, this isn't the sort of album where one can easily resort to comparisons with their contemporaries. British prog was very popular in Italy at the time and countless of the more experimental RPI bands of the age were no doubt influenced by the likes of Genesis, King Crimson and ELP but PFM's music clearly has an original quality about it. The passionate qualities that so we often associate with the Italians come into play with the beautiful melodies and romantic vocal style and there are times when the music almost approaches classical music in substance and style.
This isn't all pastoral passages, strings, woodwind and synth melodies though. PFM weren't afraid to rock out as is evidenced by the driving riffs of 'E' Festa' which wouldn't sound out of place within the context of a heavy prog band. Synth and flute weave in and out of the trundling riffs until the song closes with flute set against piano and harpsichord. 'Dove... Quando...(Parte I) ' opens with a haunting melody of cello, flute, acoustic guitars and solemnic multi-tracked vocals. This is without a doubt one of the most beautifully melancholic progressive songs ever penned. Part 2 of the piece feels almost akin to classical music in nature but features some jazzy flute soloing that might have brought a smile to the face of contemporary Ian Anderson. The epic 'La Carrozza Di Hans' is maybe the most progressive track on the whole album with its fusion of light and shade, tempo changes and pot-pourri of ideas. King Crimson-esque guitar riffs interspersed with calmer passages of acoustic guitar, flute, vocals and organ dominate this ever changing melange of inspired songwriting and lend it an almost grandiose feel.
An album called 'Photos of Ghosts' with vocals in English was released a year later than this and includes Anglicised versions of some of the songs on here but the Italian original is superior mainly due to the more natural vocal delivery. I cannot recommend this heartily enough to any fans of the more well known prog greats such as King Crimson, ELP and Jethro Tull. The album clocks in at a mere 35 minutes but I can guarantee that is will one of the finest half-hour's spent listening to music for any fan of the genre.