Go for Per un Amico first, then here
BENJAMIN MILER | Veneta, Oregon | 06/28/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"For ages, I've been a bit hard on Photos of Ghosts, since hearing the original Italian lyrics to Per Un Amico, it shows that the band functioned best singing in their native language. But they still did a good job at breaking the international market singing in English, although their stab at English was no more worse than many of the German bands (like Eloy, Amon Duul II, or Grobschnitt). But for many not living in Italy back in 1973, Photos of Ghosts was most everyone's first exposure to PFM, and it even gave them some recognition here in America. I was born in 1972, so I obviously wasn't there the first time around, but rather my discovery of progressive rock beginning in the late '80s and early '90s while still in my teens (I first heard of PFM in 1992). Per un Amico is simply one of the greatest of Italian prog rock albums ever, it's on a regular top ten Italian prog poll, and is often included in the top ten of prog in general, and for good reason.
Well, the band realized they'd alienate an international audience (and especially the British and American audience) if they didn't record in English. So they got Pete Sinfield to write the lyrics, and had Sinfield's friend (dating back to his King Crimson days) Greg Lake to have it released on Manticore. Well, I have to say the English lyrics seem a bit clumsy for the band, but musically, it's still quite good. I am rather bewildered why they removed the Mellotron and harp intro on "River of Life"? What made the original, "Appena un Po'" so great was that intro which was removed in this new version. Of course the rest keeps all the same great themes and passages. They redo "E Festa" (from Storia di un Minuto, their fantastic debut from earlier in 1972) as "Celebration", it's shorter this time. It was also released as a single, and the flip side was "Old Rain", an instrumental that on LP, you can only find here. It's a mellow piece with violin from Mauro Pagani. "Generale" is now "Mr. Nine Till Five", with vocals added, but all the themes and passages are recognizable. "Il Banchetto" is preserved in its exact same form as on Per un Amico, including the Italian lyrics, so even American listeners get to hear what they sound like in their own language. "Genario" is now "Promenade the Puzzle". Once again, completely recognizable, except for the lyrics, of course. "Per un Amico" is "Photos of Ghosts" (referring to the song), as you guess, much the same, except for the lyrics. Also it needs to be reminded that Pete Sinfield's lyrics are not direct translations, so if you're looking for the actual translations of the lyrics to Per Un Amico, you've come to the wrong place.
The original vinyl (at least the American version) was not of very good quality, you really had to crank it up to hear the quieter passages, like the title track and "Promenade the Puzzle", but at least with the CD you don't have to worry about crackles and other such disturbances.
For years, I was a bit hard on this album, but looking back on it, it gave Americans and the rest of the world a sample of what this great band could offer. Though I prefer the original, this is still worth having."