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The Syn

Flowerman – Rare Blooms From The Syn

Review by Gary Hill
This is an interesting release. If you own the 2005 Syn album Original Syn, which is out of print now, you already have these songs. However, here they are in a different order, and the packaging is all new. To more casual fans, The Syn is probably best known as an pre-cursor of Yes featuring both Peter Banks and Chris Squire. They were a band well worth hearing in those days beyond that connection, though. Now that the group (with different lineups throughout with the exception of singer Steve Nardelli) have produced several newer albums in the 21st century. This set includes a CD and fairly extensive booklet all in a digipack. It should be noted that the individual track reviews here are modified or copied from the previous review for the sake of consistency.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2021  Volume 6. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2021.

Track by Track Review
Merry-Go-Round
With a song structure that is constructed around the bass line, this one has an intriguing stuttering sort of texture. It feels a lot like a more psychedelic take on the early Rolling Stones. The guitar solo is quite vintage and quite tasty. This was actually The Syn's first ever recording and was taken from the only surviving copy, an acetate.
Created By Clive
A bouncy, playful sound seems to combine the more psychedelic side of early Pink Floyd with The Kinks. This one is a bit odd, but also a lot of fun.
Grounded
This track has a pretty strong psychedelic rock texture. It also feels a bit like punk rock, mainly because this type of song had a pretty heavy influence on that musical style. It's a little bit of The Animals, too.
Flowerman
Chris Squire's bass starts this, and as it moves into the psychedelic jam that creates the song proper it feels like a cross between early Who and early Yes. This is definitely one of the stronger songs from the band in this era as the arrangement is both dynamic and creative. This one gets pretty powerful at points.
14 Hour Technicolour Dream
Starting with vocal harmonizing that reminds me of '50s music, this becomes a bouncy Animals type rocker. Psychedelic tinges are all over this. This turns into a killer jam that feels a lot like The Who - particularly on the instrumental segment. The vocal arrangement that comes out of that is very typical 1960s, but also done exceptionally well. This is a great track!
The Gangster Opera (Chorus/Legs Diamond/Reprise)
The production here also leaves a lot to be desired. That said, this is a cool Dave Clark Five / early Stones / Kinks type rocker -at least in the early section. They show it composed of three sections, ("Chorus," "Legs Diamond," and "Reprise"). If I'm reading it right, the "Legs Diamond" segment feels more like a '50s doo wop song - a style I've never really liked. Still, as that type of music goes, this is rather cool. There is a bit of conversation, and probable confusion separating that segment from the "Reprise" section - this is a "rehearsal" after all. I wish there was a better recording of this one because it's really pretty distorted here and shows a lot of promise. As it sits here it is a collection of edits of recordings produced with a single microphone on Peter Banks' tape recorder.
Flowerman (demo version)
A somewhat different version of the earlier cut, this one is still relatively the same. I can't help it, but every time I hear this (and the other version) I think of "(Listen to The) Flower People" by Spinal Tap.
I Can't Explain (The Selfs)
Showing their roots, the band puts in a nice, if not exceptionally original, take on the Who number.
Love You (The Selfs)
This is another pretty well stripped down, a bit rough around the edges rock and roller.
The Last Performance of the Royal Regimental Very Victorious and Valiant Band
Well, first off, this has to be one of the longest song titles of any review I've ever done. Secondly, the links to the Beatles' Sergeant Peppers is not only all over the title, but in fact the song. With its symphonic instrumentation and bouncy, but unusual arrangement, this feels a lot like that album, but also a touch of The Monkees. It's pretty cool, if very dated in its approach. At times it feels like you are at a marching band competition here. It even drops to a segment that is only those instruments.
Mister White's White Flying Machine
Starting (appropriately) with the sounds of an airplane, this one starts with Squire's bass. As it moves into the song proper, though, the female vocals and the overall arrangement remind me a lot of "Up Up And Away." The horn section certainly contributes to that sound. The song definitely turns weird later on what seems like the outro - a piece of psychedelic strangeness. I say, "what seems like the outro" as it is really a false ending that gives way to a reworked variant on the chorus of the track. That takes it to its final segment, a piano solo. The song is not actually done by The Syn (although they used to perform it) but rather recorded after they broke up by Ayshea Brough. Andrew Jackman arranged the number, and Squire provided both the bass and backing vocals.
Bonus Tracks
                 
Cadillac Dreams (Narsquijack)

This is one of the strongest of these original Syn cuts. It's sort of a bluesy jam that feels just a little like a cross between early Beatles and Bob Dylan with maybe just a touch of Bowie thrown in for good measure. Piano dominates this one, and it's a shame that the vocal line wasn't a bit higher in the mix. The production on this is rather weak. That should be expected, though, as it was strictly a song writing demo recorded at Chris Squire's house.

Sunset Boulevard Lament (Narsquijack)
An acoustic guitar based rocker, other than the change from piano, this one feels a lot like the last song. Perhaps this change gives it more of a Kinks texture, though, than the leanings of the other one. Still, Dylan remains in the house here. If the production was lacking on the last one, it's nearly non-existent here. Another song-writing demo, interestingly enough Squire provides the acoustic guitar on this track.
Grounded 2004
The modern version of the band takes on their earlier track. This still has the psychedelic hard rocking elements, but with a killer modern sound.

 

 

 

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