Jethro PFM live in Roma Ian AndersonTull and PFM share a love of fluid, tune-based music with plenty of instrumental prowess. This has classics from some of Europe’s best.

Label: Aereostella
Time: 15 tracks / 88 mins.

If I consider PFM (Pemiata Fornieria Marconi) to be Italy’s best rock band, it is not just from lack of competition, but from a catalogue of material that stands head-and-shoulders above many fellow proggers like Wishbone Ash and Barclay James Harvest, putting PFM in the same league as Camel, Caravan and Iona. More accessible by far than King Crimson and Van der Graaf Generator, their ‘70s songs are some of the most melodious and memorable prog tunes around.

There are several ways to buy their core set, and the Live in USA/Cook is probably the best place for a one-off purchase. But for those who want several PFM discs in their collection, Live in Roma has its own benefits. It was recorded at Rome’s Prog Exhibition in 2010, where presumably Jethro Tull were playing, hence their main man Ian Anderson joining the band at two sections.

One advantage this release has over Cook is that it benefits from later songs, such as “Out of the Roundabout” and a lovely “Harlequin” from the superb Chocolate Kings.

After warming up the crowd with a few great songs (the classic “Four Holes in the Ground,” the lively instrumental “La Terra Dell’Acqua” and “Harlequin”) they break into “Bach Intro,” which is just Tull’s “Bouree” played as a PFM song, leading to Anderson walking onstage and taking the tune further.

With PFM sounding just like Tull, Anderson then leads “My God,” his swipe at organised religion (“The bloody Church of England in chains of history / Requests your earthly presence at the vicarage for tea”).

Anderson is then done with his Tull material, just stepping up for some flute on the next disc’s “La Carrozza Di Hans,” which has the same sort of sound as Tull’s earliest work and is one of only two weak tracks. (The other is a flaccid second part of their hit single “Celebration,” which loses power to too much audience involvement).

PFM’s strengths include having such distinctive songs with their own strong personalities, shown by the first four tracks on disc 2. “Out of the Roundabout” is a rock ballad that gathers pace, helped by an almost jig-like violin; “Maestro Della Voce” is PFM at their finger-clicking bluesiest, the audience exchanging chants with drummer/singer Franz Di Ciocchio; “Cyber Alpha 3.1” is like an instrumental section from a prog epic; while “Impressioni di Settembre” (“The World Became the World” in its English version) is largely acoustic until its unforgettable, soaring synth riff takes off. Even when the riff is absent, you can hear the band playing around it, particularly bassist Patrick Djivas, whose work is bold and warm-toned in this set.

Special mention must go to guitarist Franco Mussida, whose fluid electric and nimble acoustic playing colours the whole show.

While the expanded Esoteric release of Cook has more PFM classics, this collection is still very strong and is yet another of their albums that you can listen to on repeat and keep enjoying it.

(PFM are playing London Dingwalls on 11th November 2015).

Derek Walker

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