Bakers

One of my favourite bands of the 70s was Italian group PFM (that means Premiata Forneria Marconi or first prize to the Marconi bakery).

They started being a group in the style, vaguely, of King Crimson, and even covered 21st Century Schizoid Man, but they were far better suited to their own compositions.

They made two albums in Italy, before coming to the attention of Greg Lake, who signed them to ELP’s Manticore label. With the help of Peter Sinfield, English lyrics were created for existing tracks and new lps were released.

PFM appeared on UK radio, did international tours and had much success, but it all seemed to go downhill later and some of their later albums are not so good.

However, there is a live double cd from 1998 which is hugely enjoyable, and they are still on the go. Indeed, their 2017 release Emotional Tattoos (in Italian or English) is a real return to form and is hugely enjoyable.

Live albums, especially Cook, are great but always sound a bit frantic to me.

Switched on…

One of my favourite albums from the late 1960s was Switched-On Bach.

The album was a number of classical pieces written by J S Bach performed on an early Moog synthesiser by Walter, actually Wendy Carlos.

I loved this album, and actually still do. My vinyl copy is very well worn. I remember dj Alan Freeman played bits of it on his show. It felt like the future, something different. The performances were fantastic, and it seemed that the entire work had been a labour of love, especially the Brandenburg number 3 performance.

The album was a smash hit. I remember that my friends did not like it. Why was classical music being performed on a synthesiser? Well, these performances were, and are, great to listen to, you can hear very clearly the lines in the music and how it is constructed. This record’s existence does not stop any traditional performances existing, nor does it undermine them. And if it makes people investigate classical music more when they might otherwise not have, then great.

Gracious!

One of my absolute favourite prog rock bands, in the 70s and still now, is Gracious! You may not have heard of them. They did support The Who, King Crimson and others for a time.

They were on the famous Vertigo label.

Their first released album (1970) has the famous white cover that has a textured effect and gathers marks like you can’t believe. I remember buying mine in Bernard Dean’s in Scarborough and being given a clear protective sleeve because the cover had picked up marks on the rack. It cleaned easily enough with a rubber. I still play it.

It’s a concept album of sorts. Side one consists of a self-referential Introduction, Heaven and Hell, all linked with odd beeping noises. The second side has a fugue for harpsichord and guitars, then a lengthy piece with bits of Beethoven included. There’s lots of mellotron, of course.