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The Syn

Live Rosfest

Review by Greg Olma

The Syn may not be a household name but many prog fans know it as a band that Chris Squire lent his talents to before forming Yes (and again for a while when the band reunited in the twenty first century).  While Squire may be the most recognizable name, this is definitely Steve Nardelli’s baby.  He and his band of prog cohorts have amassed quite a bit of a catalogue of music so it only makes sense to put forth a live recording.  I have not heard many of the studio versions, but what I can say is that this is one of the better sounding live records I have heard in a long time.  All the instruments come through clearly and Nardelli’s voice has a great emotional tone throughout.  Even though I have heard The Syn material before, this is my first time really “listening” to the songs and like any good live record, Live Rosefest has sparked more than enough interest in hunting down their other works.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2015  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
14 Hour Technicolor Dream

The set starts out in fine fashion with a song from their 60s beginnings.  It has some elements of prog, and I hear sounds that would later be found in the Talking Heads.  It has a very catchy chorus and it really is a great way to start a show.

Milo
This track is off the Big Sky record and is named after Nardelli’s grandson.  It is an acoustic piece that has a very whimsical sound and lyric.  If you really listen closely, you can hear his love for his grandson come through the lyrics and Nardelli’s voice.
Running out of Time
Even though this is a very acoustic affair, this track has a bit of a harder edge to it.  The song chugs along at a moderate clip and contains a great acoustic bridge section.  The piece is augmented with some nice background vocals courtesy of Francis Dunnery and Tom Brislin.
New Reality
I really like the opening guitar work at the beginning of this tune.  It reminds me a bit of Marillion but then it slows down a bit only to have that Marillion sound return.  It’s a great mood piece that has some nice electric guitar work, especially towards the end.
Devils And Demons
Here we get another track off the Big Sky album that has both heavy parts and softer bits.  The main body of the tune is a 70s rock track but it is peppered with 60s sounding prog.  It is probably my favorite off the disc.
Grounded
We are transported back to the 60s with The Syn’s first single.  I am not that knowledgeable about their music but Nardelli gives a little back story to many of the songs here.  It’s one of the reasons this works so well as a live record for new listeners.  Anyway, like the first track, this does have a very 60s sound with keyboards being the main instrument.
Madonna And Child
The guitar and piano interplay that starts this piece is beautiful.  The vocals on top are a bit harsh sounding but as the tune starts in earnest, they fit better.  The tune builds up to have a sort of heaviness about it and then reverts back to the great guitar/piano interplay from the beginning.
Flowerman
According to Nardelli, this was a hit in France for 13 weeks.  I can see this being a hit back in the 60s as it has a very hippy trippy sound.  Although it is my least favorite off this live record, it is extremely catchy and it had me humming the chorus for the next couple of days.
Universal Witness
Now this is more like it.  The subtle beginning turns into a mid-paced tune that twists and turns a couple of times.  There is a pop sensibility to the whole track but there are other parts that really bring out the early prog elements making it an enjoyable listen.
Kings Clowns Cardinals
The beginning starts off as a bit of an acoustic guitar solo.  After that, the song goes off into a cool 70s rock vibe before we get an odd bridge.  The bridge then turns into a great guitar and keyboard solo.  This is probably the most rocking the band gets, and (even though it is late in the set) it is well worth the wait.
The Reason
A solemn piano intro builds into a mellow tune about the dangers our world is in. I like that when you listen to lyrics, you enjoy the tracks on another level.  Too many artists just use throwaway lyrics, but here you get the sense that the performer means the words he is singing.
Big Sky
The Syn end their set with the title track off the then recent album.  This track is approximately seven minutes of pure prog that takes elements from many of their tracks and rolls them up into one tune.  It’s a great way to end a show and this live record.
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