Once again I have to break my rule of not reviewing something that's already been reviewed because I don't like wasting anyone's time. But this live set from Flash, recorded in 1973, deserves more attention than it's getting. But I'm not really surprised. The band never got the attention it deserved when it was a living, breathing, working band. Sadly time has claimed another fine musician, Peter Banks, so this great live set will stand as a fitting memorial to one of the finest guitarists from that whole period. I heard the band live in the Fall, after this show. I remember Banks' guitar playing and Carter's vocals, but not who else was on the bill--possibly a good L.A. band. Sadly many of those great memories have blurred together a bit with time. And I have a sneaking suspicion that I went to hear equally whoever else was on the bill besides Flash. Hmmm.
The band's first two albums ("Flash" and "In The Can"--both with very cool, sexy album covers for the times) are still relevant today. I remember when I brought home the original vinyl gate-fold album--the cover was cool--but the music turned my head around. I knew guitarist Peter Banks was from Yes (I still think that their first two albums, though derivative in spots, are two of Yes' better releases), and had heard of both Ray Bennett (bass) and Mike Hough (drums) from other progressive albums of the period. Vocalist Colin Carter was new to me, and to be honest, at the time of the original album and my age and preferences, his vocals were an acquired taste. Thankfully that has changed, and I think Carter (like the band) has never gotten the notoriety he deserved.
And yes, Flash sounds similar to Yes. How could it not--with Banks and (on the first album) Tony Kaye on keyboards. Plus the arrangements were similar to Yes, but they had an exciting, "alive" quality missing from the more produced (over produced?) sound of Yes. Needless to say both albums are well worth having in your library. The third album (and here Flash fans will not be happy) didn't seem to have that certain magic, that I heard in the first two albums. To each his own I suppose.
And now we have this great live set from 1973, from a concert in Kansas City. In a nutshell, this set embodies everything that was great about this band. Each player gets a chance to shine--Banks has many scintillating, sometimes incendiary guitar solos, both Hough (with a drum solo track) and Bennett are always on the mark, keeping everything on tempo while adding flourishes of their own. And Carter's vocals soar above all the firepower with seeming ease. As on the studio albums his voice shows no straining to hit the high notes, and his musical tone fits in with the other band members instrumental work.
The recording itself is very good--clean and crisp without any harshness or compression to make things sound "big" and impressive. Plus Banks has said that there's no overdubs on this set--which makes this album even more astounding. The booklet has several reminiscences from road crew, managers, and musicians like Pete Townshend ("I don't like Yes at all. I used to like them when Peter Banks was in the lineup."), Steve Howe ("I really liked what he played...he was quite an original guitarist."), Jan Akkerman, Keith Emerson, Tony Kaye ("Without Peter, Yes would have been Maybe."), Steve Hackett, and others, plus notes on each song. Plus the album graphics are very cool and fit the music and that whole period perfectly. All in all, a nice package with some great music.
If you're a fan of progressive guitar (Banks was one of the best in that era) along with a band that was his equal, you need to give this a listen. The more you hear this set the more you'll hear--the time signatures that change at the drop of a dime, the soaring vocals, and the musicianship (especially Banks' use of his volume pedal)--all combine into one fine band. Why they never "made it" is a bit of a mystery, but at least fans (like me) have this live set and their studio albums (which have been remastered) to remind all of us just how good this band was. Check it out.
And while you're at it check out "Two Sides Of Peter Banks", a solo album from Banks with some great progressive tunes, with Jan Akkerman, Steve Hackett, John Wetton, Mike Hough, Ray Bennett, and others from the era. Another good relatively unknown album from that same period. The jams are quite intelligent and exciting. Plus, there's a book by Banks, "Beyond and Before: The Formative Years of Yes", which lays out Banks' life in music, including the band Flash. It's pretty good reading.