Album review: FM – The Italian Job (CD/DVD)

Frontiers [Release Date 22.02.19]

FM have delivered consistently excellent live performances since the second phase of the band effectively kicked off a decade ago with guitarist Jim Kirkpatrick’s arrival. However this era of their history has gone undocumented so far, making this – the latest in a series of Frontiers Records live shows from their annual showcase festival near Milan – a very timely release.

While it comes as a CD and DVD package with identical track listing, the sound seems more geared towards an audiovisual project, and is better experienced in the latter format, where judicious filming shows spontaneous interactions with the crowd as Steve Overland is overcome by them bursting into chanting and bassist Merv Goldsworthy in particular shares a knowing nod and a smile with those in front of him.

The show is the complete 17 track set, comprising a variant of their setlists over the last few years. At the time of the festival in April 2018, last album ‘Atomic Generation’ had been newly released and they opened with ‘Black Magic’, while ‘Killed By Love’ harked back to their glory days.

The set included some of the choice cuts from the post-reformation period, notably ‘Over You’ with harmony guitars from Steve and Jim, and ‘Story Of My Life’, the unaccompanied opening section a vehicle for an emotional performance from the singer.

However the bulk of the material comes from the much-loved, AOR-tastic first two albums ‘Indiscreet’ and ‘Tough It Out’. Highlights include Jem Davis’ keyboard intro to ‘I Belong To The Night’, the twin guitars of ‘Let Love Be The Leader’ and Steve’s remarkable vocal prowess, whether soaring on the choruses of ‘Someday You’ll Come Running’ or smooth and soulful on the only song from their bluesier  Andy Barnett years in ‘Closer To Heaven’.

The lesser spotted ‘Love Lies Dying’ even gets an airing, a strange single choice back in the day but here Jim’s solo sounds superb on a song that comes over as a distant cousin of ‘Who’s Crying Now’. However as with the best live sets, the familiar anthems are left to last with a great closing quartet of ‘Bad Luck’, ‘Tough It Out’, ‘That Girl’ and ‘Other Side of Midnight’ as Jem joins the fun up front with his keytar.

They may be too subtle a band to blow the proverbial doors off as in the eponymous film, but this release successfully manages to capture the definitive FM and confirm they just get better with age.  **** 1/2

Review by Andy Nathan

David Randall plays a selection of new and classic rock in his weekly show first broadcast 14 June 2020 including reference to the Feature series “2020 Vision”.

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