Monday, 4 November 2013

Flash In Public

The cover of the CD gives it away "Flash featuring Peter Banks".

These recordings do showcase a super tight band which has benefited from months on the road. However, without Tony Kaye on the first album cuts, more than ever the level of the music rises and rises a bit more as a result of Peter's performance.

He is absolutely wired and nails all the difficult passages and runs on Small Beginnings. But the live performance also has some thing of the mad abandon of Hendrix you can almost hear him thinking "ah that's what I will do next" and away he goes but there are also moments of calm where his playing and sound are exquisite.

So we get high energy performances of the material from their first two albums benefitting from the sometimes naughty, some times humorous, close to the edge playing that we all loved in Peter when we saw him play live.

The sound is very live and raw in the right way, a kind of punk progressive vibe. The music making is intelligent but it is also in your face and aggressive, the latter aided by the fast tempos.

The riffing is intense and furious and Colin gives an amazingly athletic vocal performance just to keep up. Mike Hough drumming is pure live prog. rock, Buddy Rich on speed.

Whilst Flash would improvise they would never dawdle. The pieces are long, longer than when recorded, but there are none of those self conscious prog. rock intros they get down to business straight away and then the exploration begins.

Whist Flash Fans do not need to reminded of the tunes contained herein I would like to highlight Black & White. Although it appeared on the 2nd LP it is an early piece. I remember hearing it on a BBC session in the spring of 1972. Whilst it contains the ubiquitous lightening fast sections the overall construction of the piece makes it one of their most sophisticated arrangements. It develops through a number of moods offering light and shade some wonderful jazzy playing from Peter and some great big band jazz fills from Mike. Flash's musical vision was very focused but this piece  shows a more relaxed kind of music making and allows other qualities to enter into the mix.      

For fans of the band all their best tunes and melodies are there played and sung with great skill and commitment, it is just that because Flash and Peter in particular were such a free wheeling outfit live you get so much more. It is demonstrated at its best on Dreams of Heaven. Its the end of the gig the band have gone down well and they are determined to have some fun and Peter takes us through a journey of snippets which include amongst other things Something Coming and Lieutenant Kije. The latter is interesting because I recall Peter suggesting to Chris Welch that it might form the basis of a future full scale piece for the band.

Do not buy this out of nostalgia or for the memory buy it because it is a highly entertaining slice of progressive rock which stands the test of time and works NOW.