PFM – I Dreamed Of Electric Sheep

Posted: 271021

Review Lex Dresianes

When I listen to the new album by Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM) for the first time, I am completely overwhelmed…. What I hear is a truly excellent album, “I Dreamed of Electric Sheep”, in which the versatility of the band is amply shown right from the start. From fragile folk-like melodies via jazz and funk to prog and hard rock. Very much my cup of tea. Especially the last two categories are sufficiently addressed, but are sometimes lacking with many contemporaries. Even after several spins, my original observation still stands.

Whereas, when the last studio album of the Italians was released, 2017 “Emotional Tatoos”, my main criticism was that the specific sound, the band once had, had somewhat disappeared, this time I get my money's worth. An above-average number of songs contains those special ingredients that have always characterized the music of the legendary Italian band: a mix of rock, traditional local music, folk, jazz and prog.

As usual, the album is released in both an English and an Italian version, ”Ho Sognato Pecore Lettriche”, in both cases the instrumental side is identical. I've listened to both versions alternately and have developed a slight preference for the Italian one; mainly because the vocals come into their own a bit more. However much founder/bandleader Franz Di Cioccio tries his best, English will never be his preferred language, I prefer to hear him sing in his native language. His voice is something of an acquired taste anyway, not everyone can appreciate the somewhat hoarse, emotional voice of the original drummer. But it all fits perfectly with the band's music. And let's be honest: the same goes for bands (contemporaries) like Strawbs, Crack The Sky and to a lesser extent Procol Harum. It contributes to the authenticity of the music and its special character.

Unsurprisingly, the making of this album was also heavily influenced by the situation everyone was confronted with. The lockdown regularly interrupted studio activities, making the whole process take about a year. Work was mainly done at home, in bassist/co-producer Patrick Djivas’ home studio, eventually the album was recorded at White Studios in Milan.

The great passion for Sci-Fi films runs like a thread between Di Cioccio and Djivas. In particular classic Blade Runner (with a leading role for the Dutch actor Rutger Hauer). The title of the album refers directly to a book by the author Philip Dick, his famous novel 'Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?'. The movie Blade Runner is based on this book. The total concept for this new album was also developed from this: the power of people to use their imagination.

The musicians are also supported on the new album by a number of musical friends such as Ian Anderson (flute) Steve Hackett (electric guitar), Luca Zabbini (Barock Project: Hammond organ, piano, Mini Moog) and co-founder Flavio Premoli (Mini Moog).


Worlds Beyond is the title of the instrumental opener of “I Dreamed of Electric Sheep” with a heavy orchestral intro after which a kind of jazz-rock/fusion piece unfolds with wonderfully alternating keyboard and guitar playing. OK, we’re out of the gate.

Adrenaline Oasis starts as a dreamy piece with the hoarse, sometimes even (too) soft a voice of Franz Di Cioccio. The song develops into a true prog rock song in the characteristic style of PFM, but with a modern twist, could have lasted a little longer, in my opinion. Let Go, on the other hand, maintains at a low tempo with waves of synthesizer sounds and dramatic vocal lines. A cinematic song, the soundtrack to one of the composers favorite Sci-Fi movies? The old hippie sings 'Recharge your weary soul'.

A voice-over is the overture to City Life, which is slightly reminiscent of US rockers Journey, not only because of the title. Marco Sfogli's excellent guitar riffs, alternating with the keyboard parts, combined with a rocking pace make for a great sing-along. Could easily become a crowd favorite during live shows. If I Had Wings is also such a brilliant song that is reminiscent of PFM’s past, maybe a little less prog, but the classic characteristics are present. Lyrically, the song is about a drone that falls in love with Earth.

The jazzy/funky bass lines of Patrick Djivas are prominent on modern sounding, hard rocking Electric Sheep, progmetal guitarist Sfogli (James LaBrie) also leaves his mark. Daily Heroes is a nice sing-along song with a catchy tune, in which violin and keyboards take the lead, it’s hard to sit still. Kindred Souls is by far the longest track, at over six minutes, the most proggy song on the album. Bagpipes, Ian Anderson's flute and electric guitars by Steve Hackett are extremely recognizable. Hymn-like song and a potential encore.

Transhumance is an ultra-short track that should be seen as a prelude to the subsequent instrumental Transhumance Jam. Quite a jam session, this fusion of jazz, funk, rock and prog is a joy from start to finish. An excellent stage for the considerable capabilities of all individual musicians. Mahavishnu Orchestra meets PFM. Brilliant ending to the new album.

“I Dreamed of Electric Sheep” starts and ends with two instrumental parts that can be counted among the absolute highlights, as far as I'm concerned. Wonderful jazz/prog rock of the highest quality, nothing to the detriment of the vocal parts, but that's actually how I prefer the band to sound. I regularly press the 'repeat' button for both tracks.

There are hardly any weak songs on the album, the production is clear and tight, completely up to date, while the original sound has largely remained intact. The songs are not that long, on average no more than four minutes, and sometimes have a somewhat abrupt ending, where I had hoped for just a little more. But that's about the only criticism I can think of.

This could well be the best album of these gentlemen after the successful seventies, an absolute must. I can hardly wait for them to visit our country again for one of their unforgettable live shows, as of yet nothing has been planned.


Total playing time: 40:44


Line-Up:

Franz Di Cioccio - Lead vocal, Drums
Patrick Djivas - Bass, Keyboards
Marco Sfogli - Electric and Acustic Guitars
Lucio Fabbri - Violin, Viola
Alessandro Scaglione - Keyboards, Piano
Alberto Bravin - Keyboards, Acustic Guitar, Back vocal
Chorus: Alberto Bravin, Lucio Fabbri, Alessandro Scaglione, Marco Sfogli

Special guests:

Ian Anderson - Flute
Steve Hackett - Electric Guitar
Flavio Premoli - Mini Moog
Luca Zabbini - Hammond Organ, Piano, Mini Moog

 

PFM – I Dreamed Of Electric Sheep

Posted: 241021

Review Erik Neuteboom

PFM was my first encounter with the amazing Italian progressive rock, in the late Seventies, the album The World Became The World, I still love it as a huge Old School proghead. But during the years PFM turned out to be a musical chameleon, they flirted with jazz, pop, rock, and that’s excactly how PFM (with drummer Franz Di Cioccio as the only original member) sounds on this new album, as a musical chameleon (with guest musicians Steve Hackett and Ian Anderson in one track).

An exciting blend of classical (wonderful orchestrations) and Heavy Prog (swirling Hammond, flashy Minimoog and heavy guitar), in a sumptuous and dynamic atmosphere but with a subtle tender piano conclusion in the instrumental Mondi Paralleli.

Dreamy with beautiful mellow work on violin and piano, topped with melancholical vocals in Umani Alieni.

AOR featuring a mid-tempo with rock guitar and a spectacular synthesizer solo in La Grande Corsa.

A funky bass and, biting wah-wah guitar and a heavy guitar solo in the end in Pecore Elettriche.

Pop meets rock with powerful vocals and a swinging rhythm in Mr. Non Lo So.

Another swinging rhythm, with wah-wah guitar and slap bass, in the instrumental Transumanza.

The final composition Transumanza Jam (instrumental) is at the level of the first track, very exciting and dynamic, from swirling Hammond organ and pitchbend driven Minimoog to heavy guitar, the interplay is awesome, to me it sound like late Seventies Al DiMeola, wow!

So a lot of variety, with some exciting compositions, but most of the tracks are not really my cup of tea, and I had expected more violin work from the very talented Lucio Fabbri (I was lucky to see him a few years ago during a Dutch PFM gig).

The 2-CD contains an Italian – and an English version, I prefer the Italian one because the singer sounds more expressive in his native language.