Wednesday, July 09, 2008

by Brian Andrew Marek #16

"Flash" 1971

ripped from vinyl by BaM, by request

After my comments disparaging Flash's other albums while reviewing "In the Can", I was surprised by the amount of enjoyment I got from their self-titled debut while ripping it from vinyl (so thank you, "anonymous", for requesting it)! Once I got past the fact that there are tracks entitled "Children of the Universe" and "Dreams of Heaven" (for all the cheesiness of the titles, they're not bad musically), I was able to dig the prog-pop of their "hit" (and it really deserved a quote-free status) "Small Beginnings", the gentle acoustic trippiness of "Morning Haze" and the "what if Cressida had recorded a third album" vibe of "The Time It Takes". So, a pleasant listen - but, as my heart still belongs to "In the Can", I'll fill this out with some reviews I found on Flash's own website...



by Tommy Schönenberg

Excellent progressive rock band formed by former Yes-members Peter Banks and Tony Kaye. It would then may not come as a surprise that the music of Flash sounds quite much like Yes. This was their debut-album and their classic release. Cheerful and energetic progressive rock in the vein of "Yours Is No Disgrace". Any lover of Yes will eat up tracks like "Small Beginnings", "Children of the Universe" and not at least the fantastic "Dreams of Heaven". The latter is just as good as any of Yes' best moments, and that's not a joke! There's also some shorter and relaxed tracks here, but it's of course in the long tracks the group really shines. The performance is great, and besides the excellent playing of both Kaye and Banks you'll also notice the powerful bass- playing of Ray Bennett. Wonderful stuff for all fans of progressive rock.

by Bob Eichler

Flash was one of the first branches off the Yes family tree, with Peter Banks and Tony Kaye banding together after getting the axe from Squire and Anderson (who apparently wasn't all peace, love and brotherhood in his younger days). Unsurprisingly, Flash's first album sounds a lot like Yes from around the same time. In fact, with its extended composition, thick bass, flashy guitar and swirling organ work, "Small Beginnings" sounds like it could be a lost track from The Yes Album. "Morning Haze" has a more laid-back acoustic guitar and percussion sound and focuses heavily on the vocals. "Children of the Universe" returns to the early Yes sound, but unfortunately has lyrics that are so goofy ("Ya hoo cha hoo cha!") that they make Jon Anderson sound downright rational. After a chaotic opening section, "Dreams of Heaven" also settles down into a fairly Yessy song. "The Time it Takes" is a quiet, somewhat ambient song that washes away the end of the album on simulated ocean waves. The only real downside to this album is Colin Carter's nasal and nondescript vocals - they just grate on me for some reason. Fortunately, there are a lot of lengthy instrumental sections. After this disc, the band would lose Kaye, and their sound would drift a little further from the Yes sound on their second and particularly their third album. Those who think Banks and Kaye were "throwaway" members of Yes should give this disc a listen. It might have been interesting to see where the band would have gone had the original line-up remained intact.

by Joe McGlinchey

Flash approximates what a more overtly proggy release from the very first line-up of Yes might have sounded like. Released in 1972 with ex-Yes members Peter Banks on guitar and Tony Kaye on keyboards, this is a decent, under-recognized prog album. Every extended piece, "Small Beginnings" and "Children of the Universe" have some great playing (especially by Banks, who definitely makes his presence felt), energetic hooks, and enthusiastic harmonies. "Dreams of Heaven" is a bit more unbalanced, relying primarily on its harmonic-laden, anthemic chorus. The other two tracks are more laid back efforts. "Morning Haze," the one track with (frail) lead vocals from bassist Ray Bennett, is a short, interlude number that sounds at points like Crosby, Stills & Nash or the Grateful Dead around American Beauty. It has an informal jam-at-a-picnic feel, with Banks inserting playful acoustic guitar passages all along the way. The closer, "The Time It Takes" is soft and fades the album out with a whisper. One drawback of the album is the poor sound (and it definitely sounds of the period), but the material and performances are quite good.

by Clayton Walnum

If you like Yes's early sound, then you'll surely go bonkers over Flash, because there is no other band on the planet that better had that Yes sound down. That Flash should sound so much like early Yes is no surprise when you realize that two members of the band -- Peter Banks and Tony Kaye -- were members of the original Yes lineup.

The story goes like this: Sometime after the recording of Yes's second album, A Time And A Word, Peter Banks left Yes and was immediately replaced by the now legendary Steve Howe. (This fast switcheroo is why, although Peter Banks played on the A Time And A Word album, Steve Howe's picture is on the cover. Another prog mystery solved!) After recording The Yes Album, keyboardist Tony Kaye was unhappy with the band's direction (it's been said that the other members of Yes wanted Kaye to experiment with more electronics, while Kaye was perfectly happy with his Hammond organ, thank you very much) and so he left the band, too. Peter Banks and Tony Kaye teamed up, and Flash was born. The Banks/Kaye partnership was to last only one album, though, after which Kaye quit Flash to form the band Badger. Banks and Flash went on to record two other studio albums, but each was a step further in the wrong direction, although each had its moments.

The first Flash album, however, is a great piece of 70s style prog rock, featuring long compositions, lots of guitar and keyboard flash (hmmmm), and complex Yes-like arrangements. The first track, "Small Beginnings," which clocks in at almost 10 minutes, is very reminiscent of the Yes composition "Yours Is No Disgrace," starting with a speedy, trademark guitar riff and featuring some hot organ playing by Kaye. The high-octane verses give way to the requisite prog changes, including a mellow centerpiece, before roaring back into gear for a final verse. If it wasn't for the vocalist -- who sounds nothing like Jon Anderson -- you would swear this cut was performed by Yes itself. Great stuff!

The album includes a couple of less Yes-like tracks, such as the acoustic "Morning Haze" (nice background harmonies on this one) and "The Time It Takes" (a relaxing closer for the album). Still, tracks like the nine-minute "Children of the Universe" and the 13-minute "Dreams of Heaven" feature plenty of those cool unison guitar and keyboard riffs, as well as happy, infectious, bouncy beats and arrangements that tread back deep into Yes territory. On these other long tracks, you'll hear jazzy, cooking guitar interludes that sound very much like Banks' style on the first Yes album. Kaye's piano comping in these sections is outstanding. Kaye was (and is) such a talented player, one has to wonder why he has always been content to stay in the background.

Bottom line: No fan of Yes can be without at least the first Flash album. For all intents and purposes, this is Yes circa 1969-70. You may ask yourself, though, how such a great album ended up with such a terrible cover.

Biff Rose "The Thorn in Mrs. Rose's Side" 1968

This unlikely album was a notable influence on David Bowie's "Hunky Dory" period - not only did he cover "Fill Your Heart" (officially) and "Buzz the Fuzz" (on bootleg), but several of the originals (particularly in the arrangements) owe a clear debt as well. Biff Rose's sound is rather middle of the road (but agreeably and catchily so), his lyrics are quirky, and his piano playing is quite lively - no wonder Bowie had to hire Rick Wakeman! Naive, sweet and just plain weird, Biff Rose is about as unclassifiable a singer/songwriter as you'll run across.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are my hero!!!!

I cannot thank you enough for fulfilling my request. This is the best album that I've been unable to find in forever!

I will give you my firstborn if you want him (and if I ever have one.)

Here's another review that may intrigue some people and make them realize what a great service to humanity you have just done.

"As I read the reviews for this album, I find that they are all slightly deceptive about the Flash sound.

Of course Flash had strong roots in Yes. But the Flash sound does not harken back to A Time and a Word (except for Dreams of Heaven), and neither does it echo the new style that Yes established beginning with the Yes album, wth one exception (that being that parts of Dreams of Heaven seem to foreshadow the "word pictures" that Jon began including in Yes lyrics, most notably in Siberian Khatru.) In fact it sounds like they took off from Time and a Word and then started moving in the same direction that Camel was to follow in a year or two, but with a nod towards the early prog band Fantasy.

Nevertheless, this is excellent prog. Peter Banks has really cleaned up his playing and Kaye is still at the height of his skills. Ray Bennett adds a lot to this grouping, with his strong bass and acoustic playing.

Dreams of Heaven is an epic as worthy of mention as anything else that other prog groups have released. It's a great piece of music that I enjoy often. Children of the Universe is another extremely strong song.

Sadly, Flash was quickly to fall back into mediocrity. But they started out great. 4 stars."

10 July, 2008 15:19  
Anonymous online music promotion said...

nice list of songs. very inspirational.

06 August, 2010 00:45  

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