Written by: Kev Rowland
When I was asked if I would review this album, I obviously said yes, partly because I knew that I already had at least one other of theirs in my collection. Now, when you’ve been writing about music for as long as I have, and have the odd album or two in their collection in one format or another, sometimes things don’t connect as quickly as they should. Yes, I do have another Acqua Fragile album in my collection, ‘Mass-Media Stars’, which was released back in 1974!! Unlike many other Italian bands at the time, they decided to perform in English, with songs that weren’t always quite as symphonic as the rest of the Italian progressive scene, and these two factors really put them up against it. But, the real nail in the coffin for the band was the departure of Bernardo Lanzetti to PFM, and although the band did keep going for a while, they never recorded again.
Over the years Bernardo has appeared in different places (I remember interviewing him when he joined Mangala Vallis), but now, more than 40 years since his departure the group have reformed around him, drummer Piero Canavera and bassist Franz Dondi along with multiple guests. ‘Chocolate Kings’ is probably my favourite PFM album, the one where Bernardo made his debut for the band, but arguably he is singing better than ever, with a band that are bringing together styles that have as much in common with neo-prog, Gabriel-era Genesis and IQ as they do with the Italian scene. This is glorious prog, soaring and symphonic when it needs to be, layered and structured at times, but simple and reflective at others. If ever an album oozed class from every pore then this has to be it. There are ballads, there is an Italian march, there is intensity but throughout there is also always beauty. Bernardo’s Chapman-style vocals have weathered and become more rounded, as happened with the Family man, but still have the stridency when it is required.
The only real question now, is do we have to wait 43 years for the next one? Superb.
My Forte // The Drowning // Wear Your Car Proudly // Tu Per Lei // Rain Drops // All Rise // How Come // A New Chant