PFM’s Paper charms: The Complete BBC Recordings 1974-1976

11th September 2015

Title: Paper charms: The Complete BBC Recordings 1974-1976

Label: Esoteric Recordings

PFM (Premiata Forneria Marconi) was one of the most important Italian prog rock groups of the 70s, not least because it was one of the rare Italian prog groups that was known to the English-speaking world. Partly because they used, in addition to their mother tongue, English lyrics (often written by King Crimson lyricist, Peter Sinfield), they were attached to a UK record label (Manticore) and they spent a lot of time in English-speaking countries, promoting their music. In fact, they first appeared in the UK on 24 March, 1973 at the ABC Theatre in Fulham, London.

Formed from the ashes of a beat band I Quelli, PFM became influenced by a host of UK prog bands such as Yes, King Crimson and Jethro Tull. At the same time, their growing reputation lead many prog fans to move in the opposite direction. I became a big fan of the multi-layered and complex Italian prog rock scene directly via PFM. It was a case of, “Bloody hell, if this lot represent the Italian prog rock scene, what must the rest be like?” Anyone listening to the track, Four Holes In The Ground (seen and heard on this box set), shouldn’t take too long to be convinced.

The BBC recordings have tended to appear in sporadic and piecemeal fashion so it’s good to find a collected suite of BBC tracks within a multi-disc set. This clamshell box set, which features two CDs and a DVD includes a host of performances that, thankfully, all remained safely in the archives.

What we have here are six tracks from a Radio One In Concert at the BBC Paris Theatre, 21 May 1975, disc two presents Radio One In Concert, which offers eight tracks at the same location but on 15 April 1976. Both of the CD-based shows are presented by Pete Drummond (an early presenter of Top Gear with John Peel). The DVD shows three films and four tracks from BBC 2’s The Old Grey Whistle Test from 22 October 1974, 23 May 1975 and 13 April 1976.

On all of these tracks, the band are in top form, playing their little hearts out and exhibiting a wide array of instrumental and creative prowess. The gigs took place during the Chocolate Kings LP era so the majority of the tracks derive from that album. That said, there are appearances from their debut (including their first ever single) and Cook.

Featuring top quality sound and vision, this set is not just essential for PFM fans but all lovers of prog.

A big thank you to Esoteric’s Mark Powell, who has done a sterling job on this set and made an old prog fan very happy.