Premiata Forneria Marconi – Chocolate Kings

In the early 70′s, Premiata Forneria Marconi quickly made an indelible mark on the Italian prog rock scene with a handful of albums that have since been labelled as classics. ‘Per Un Amico’ and ‘Storia Di Un Minuto’ are huge landmarks for the Italian scene, and they even released some material for their English-speaking audience that wasn’t too shabby either. ‘Chocolate Kings’ is another English-language album for PFM, but it holds the greater distinction of being the final album in a string of classics; the band’s golden material would get fairly intermittent from here on. While the signs of the band’s downward slide are evident here, ‘Chocolate Kings’ is still a great album from PFM, and right to sit next to the band’s golden throne, albeit not on it.

For one reason or another, PFM’s work would be less and less acclaimed after ‘Chocolate Kings’; their work after this generally ranges from receiving a lukewarm response, to be outright panned by its audiences, with few notable exceptions. Indeed, Premiata can be heard somewhat losing their individual grasp of symphonic prog here, but even so, ‘Chocolate Kings’ has alot to offer. When you look past the intriguing (read: ridiculous) album title, there is a very classic sound here, full of dramatic build ups, atmosphere, and even melodies that hold fairly steady in a listener’s mind. There is much more energy than on earlier work, and I might even say that at this point, the band was going for a more technical, conventionally proggy direction. The decision to go for English language lyrics is not something that has ever worked particularly well for the band, but does not necessarily weaken the album.

Premiata Forneria Marconi have had quite a few different sounds even within their classic material, and the addition of vocalist Bernardo Lanzetti gives a new incarnation to the sound of this band. Lanzetti’s performance is very memorable here, if only for the fact that he is a dead ringer for Genesis’ Peter Gabriel. Even with the band’s history as one of the heavyweights for prog and despite the strength of the music, I cannot help but feel that PFM were trying a little too hard to nail down the British sound of Genesis, rather than sticking to their own ideas. Even the pompous instrumental displays here are reminiscent of Genesis. Although bands who try to emulate Genesis or Yes are fairly common by today’s standards, hearing one of the classic bands who so many now look up to copycatting a particular sound is a little jarring, to say the least. Suffice to say, this is a great deal of the reason why I cannot consider ‘Chocolate Kings’ to be on the same playing field as some of their earlier stuff. The quality is here, but the identity is not.


1. From Under (7:25)
2. Harlequin (7:40)
3. Chocolate Kings (4:45)
Side 2
4. Out on the Roundabout (7:53)
5. Paper Charms (8:29)


* Franz Di Cioccio – drums, percussion, vocals
* Jan Patrick Djivas – bass, vocals
* Franco Mussida – guitars, vocals
* Mauro Pagani – flute, violin, vocals
* Flavio Premoli – keyboards, lead vocals
* Bernardo Lanzetti – lead vocals

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