Thursday, June 26, 2008

by Brian Andrew Marek #6

Flash "In the Can" 1972

Here we go again (I must be in some kind of manic phase)!

Flash was guitarist Peter Banks' alternate universe version of early '70's Yes, in which Banks ousted the rest of those creeps (while keeping organist Tony Kaye on for one more album) and put his guitar front and center. On the positive side, Banks' originality as a stylist made Flash one of the few guitar-centric prog-rock acts that didn't sound like either Wishbone Ash or proto-Rush. On the negative side, the lead vocalist was a generic cliche of an early '70's hard rock singer (say what you like about Jon Anderson, but his vocals were always 100% original), the bass player was trying WAY too hard to sound JUST LIKE Chris Squire, their album covers were uniformly godawful, and two of their three studio albums have thusfar failed to engage me in any meaningful way.

But, miracle of miracles, they did manage to produce one fine album that I can listen to over and over and over, and that's their sophomore disc, "In the Can". I have a hard time putting my finger on just what exactly makes this album so preferable to the others; perhaps it's because it sounds the LEAST like Yes and, thus, has more identity. Mind you, that's not to say that their presence isn't felt - the bass line is still a helluva lot of notes played through an overdriven Rickenbacker - but there's a lot less of those "All Good People" choirs, very little in the the way of keyboards (just a little bit of unobtrusive synthesizer playing some simple melodic lines), and, well, it just kinda rocks in a way Yes doesn't.

But more importantly, it's loaded with hooks. Big, fat, clever, bombastic, end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it prog-rock hooks, that is. And, in classic progressive rock style, the very best tracks are the first and last. The opener, "Lifetime", is a sprawling epic (with some vaguely T2-like passages) with a main theme that sounds like an all-killer, no-filler version of... you guessed it... Yes. The closer, "There No More", starts off rather humbly, teases you with brief visions of transcendence, then finally gives you the closure you have begun to crave - one of those bigger than life chord progressions, taken at a stately pace, with a haunting melody outlined with wordless vocals and ominous synthesizer, getting bigger and bigger and more and more cathartic until, finally - The Every Popular "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" Arbitrary Razor Edit of Doom shocks you from your revery.

Incidentally, some fellow commenting on a blog that USED to have this album complained that this track was incomplete... I wonder if the ending just took him by surprise? (I own the vinyl, ripped it myself and can confirm, yes, it IS supposed to end that way!)

Sandwiched between the above mentioned tracks are "Monday Morning Eyes" (has some good moments, but it strikes me as kinda perpetually anticlimactic, if that makes any sense), "Black and White" (mostly nondescript except for an all too brief surprise appearance by a ukelele), and "Stop That Banging", a drum solo whose most best feature is its brevity (1:50, by the sleeve's reckoning). But lest these less than stellar recommendations scare you off, keep in mind that those three tracks account for less than half of the running time of the album.

Perhaps one day I'll start to understand the Flash albums that precede and follow. But "In the Can" appealed to me from the start and continues to bring me pleasure. May it do the same for you.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reminded me of Caravan

28 June, 2008 04:00  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The three Flash albums are fantastic. Perhaps too much Yes sounds into the grooves but excellents at last.Peter Banks is
a monster with the guitar. The most of sounds like keyboards are
making with the guitar. And The covers...ha, ha , ha !!!sexys !!
Thank You.

03 July, 2008 17:52  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For God's sake, please post the FIRST Flash album. I've been looking for it everywhere!

06 July, 2008 15:54  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post but most of all for clearing up the issue about the abrupt ending of "There No More". I guess I'm the fellow that commented about this in the past. I've never listened to the vynil. Thanks again.

Francisco Ayes

07 September, 2008 14:25  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Flash is neat. Definitely an extension of the early Yes sound. And, when you've heard the '69 debut and 'Time and a Word' enough times, it's nice to have the first Flash disc and its follow up,'In The Can', as righeous supplements.

20 October, 2009 01:29  

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