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Flash

In the USA

Review by Gary Hill

I am a Yes fanatic. I don't ever try to deny that They've been my favorite band for close to half a century now. So, that's how I initially got interested in Flash. Original Yes guitarist Peter Banks formed the band after exiting Yes. They only ever released three studio albums, and they were quite interesting. This new three CD set captures a number of live recordings of the band from 1972 to 1973. I find it to be an intriguing release for a number of reasons.

One of the things I find so fascinating about this has to do with the performances themselves. Let me set that up by saying that Banks played only on the first two Yes albums, both of which I like a lot. Recently, though, I heard a live recording from that period that I'd never heard before, and I was blown away. The band really rocked like crazy sometimes, standing so much taller than the studio recordings. That aspect can be heard with Flash, too. There is a hard-edged unleashed craziness here that really elevates this music. It also makes me wonder what Yes would have sounded like if Banks had continued playing with them. This is well worth having for that aspect alone.

This digipack also includes an extensive and informative booklet that's essential, too. It should be noted that a lot of these recordings are bootlegs. They've been cleaned up for release, but are not the kind of live album quality one expects. Still, they are all pretty good, but some are better than others. However you slice this, though, I heartily recommend this set for all fans of Banks and Flash. Very few of us got to actually see them live, and obviously the live performances were on a completely different level than the studio ones. That makes it great to have these recordings.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2022  Volume 5. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2022.

Track by Track Review
CD 1
                     
Roslyn, NY
                   
Black and White

Coming in hard rocking, the bass really stands up tall in the mix. Peter Banks' guitar paints lines of sound over the top as this moves forward, but that bass really dominates the mix. That's largely because of the recording quality, I think. I love the little jazz elements as the number evolves. The song features some particularly adept twists and turns, and the bass really shines at times. As many weaknesses as this recording has, this live performance outshines its studio counterpart. It also really showcases how this band was the natural successor to the Yes sound of the first couple songs. It's easy to see the straight line from one to another. At almost 13-minutes long, this is an epic, and they really use that space to stretch out and explore a lot of varying territory.

There No More

Crazed jamming leads things off on this second tune. The drums gets a showcase from there. After that drum solo section, they work out into more crazed Flash prog as this numbers drives forward. This thing gets every bit as crazed as later Yes ever did in its twists and turns. It turns rather heavy and almost psychotic in its rocking sounds at times, yet it also drops to mellower sections. Things like this really make me wonder what kind of cool stuff Yes might have done if they had continued with Banks as their guitarist.

Monday Morning Eyes
With more of the jazzy stuff in it at times, this is another crazed live version of a classic Flash song. It has plenty of changes and drama, and they really seem to up the ante from the studio version.
Small Beginnings
I've always liked this song a lot. This live recording is noisy, but the performance is absolutely on fire.
Children of the Universe
Another that's always been pretty special to me, this classic Flash tune gets a killer live performance, too. The sound quality is perhaps less of an issue on this song for some reason as it is on some of the others.
Lifetime
I really dig the instrumental section later on this song so much. It's purely on fire. The number is a solid live performance from start to finish, though. That movement with all its changes and killer instrumental work just really stands particularly tall. It sucks that it fades out in the middle of it, though.
CD 2
               
Hempstead, NY
                        
Small Beginnings

As this gets underway with its powerhouse opening jam, it is apparent that the sound quality of this recording is a little better. They put in an incendiary live performance of this classic and it sounds pretty good.

There No More
This killer jam gets a smoking hot live performance here, complete with a pretty crazed drum solo. I dig the bass work on this so much. The whole tune just works so well, though. There is a spoken section here where the band members are introduced.
Children of the Universe
It's very apparent on this version of the song that the recording quality is world's better here than on the other show. The cut works well, seriously benefitting from that increased audio acuity. There is some killer instrumental exploration on this including some smoking hot guitar work.
Dreams of Heaven
There is an intricate, mellower movement at the start of this that really benefits from the better recording. This grows out gradually with a cool psychedelic meets prog vibe. It works to some feedback drenched weirdness for a time that reminds me of both Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. They continue with instrumental exploration for quite a while before eventually shifting to the song proper to continue. They fade this out mid-jam.
Passaic, NJ
                     
Small Beginnings

Here the sound quality is again an issue. This one is obviously an audience recording, but the performance is on fire, making up for that issue to a large degree.

Black and White
Another solid live performance, I think the sound qualify on the first disc might be better, but this seems to fare better than the song that preceded it did. This thing seems to turn toward jam band territory at times. There is a real improv quality to parts of it. The drums get pretty crazed at points and really get to shine.
Children of the Universe
No real surprises here, this is just another strong performance of the Flash classic. There is some crazed jamming later in the tune. I really dig the little bit of "Hall of the Mountain King" that shows up.
CD 3
                   
Indianapolis, IN
                          
Small Beginnings

The recording quality on this is sort of middle of the road for the set. The performance is what you would expect of the song.

Black and White
The jazzy, mellower parts of this cut seem to work particularly well despite the audience noise. The number has some explosive jamming in other portions of it, too.
Children of the Universe
Here we get another effective live performance of this classic. The sound seems to work better on this than it did on the two tunes that directly preceded it.
Burbank, CA
                      
Dead Ahead

After a unique introduction the band work their way into a cool jam that feels rather playful as it gets going. This works out into the song proper from there, a driving proggy jam that has some cool twists and turns.

Psychosync
This is a powerhouse prog stomper in a typical Flash style. This is classy stuff, and the recording is pretty good.
Miami, FL
                         
Children of the Universe

While the recording quality doesn't do it a lot of favors, this performance is solid.

Black and White
This number also works reasonably well in this live performance, but the audio definitely holds it down.  That's a shame because this really covers some intriguing territory.
Cape Cod, MA
                 
The Bishop

I dig the echoey building on this number as it gets going. We get some cool jamming that ensues from there. This is another strong live performance.

Manhattan Morning
The hard rocking almost jam band stuff later in this piece is absolutely on fire. This tune has some of the most powerful music of the whole set. The sound quality isn't the best of the bunch, but it's not bad.
 
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