PFM / Premiata Forneria Marconi

L' Isola di Niente

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Premiata Forneria Marconi's third Italian album (their fourth if one counts the 1973 release Photos of Ghosts, the English version of Per un Amico) came out shortly before ELP's Manticore imprint released its English version under the title The World Became the World. Unless lyrics sung in a language other than English is aggravating to you, by all means prefer the original version. Like for Banco del Mutuo Soccorso and Le Orme, the music of PFM is impregnated with the lyricism of the Italian language. The most confusing of the group's first three LPs, L'Isola di Niente (The Island of Nothing) sees the group pushing its music to a new level of complexity, while giving a first hint at their later jazz-rock orientation. The title track (which will became "The Mountain" on The World Became the World) is a very powerful, almost shocking 11-minute epic, with choir, rolling echo-drenched drums and some of the most theatrical vocal performance you are likely to hear on a PFM record. BMG's 24-bit gold remastered CD reissue has helped clarify the choir sections (murky at best on the cheap vinyl pressings from days of yore), but the impact of the piece is still lessened by the tons of effects the group used. "Is My Face on Straight" is the only track that appeared in English on both LPs. The lyrics of ex-King Crimson's Pete Sinfield match the cadavre exquis-like collage of seemingly unrelated musical sections. PFM exhibit some of their best musical chops on this crazy number. "La Luna Nuova" (retitled "Four Holes to the Ground" on The World) is the track sounding the most familiar in comparison to the group's first two albums. It is also one of their best symphonic progressive rockers, with that sweet Italian flavor the harsh "L'Isola di Niente" eschewed. The ballad "Dolcissima Maria" is little more than that, but still much better in this rendition than its English counterpart "Just Look Away." The closing instrumental "Via Lumiére" (needlessly retitled "Have Your Cake and Beat It" on The World) was this album's enigma. Beginning with a rather free-form bass solo from Jan Patrick Djivas, it evolves into a frantic jazz-rock vamp, before reverting to a Yes-like mid-tempo finale. L'Isola di Niente was to be the group's last masterpiece (the next LP, Chocolate Kings, will show serious signs of fatigue) and remains one of the first Italian progressive rock wave's finest records, but it is more of an acquired taste compared to Storia di un Minuto and Per un Amico.

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