Live in Auckland, New Zealand and have collected and listened to Prog since when it first started being played here on radio back in the very early 70's. First LP I bought was 'Close To The Edge' by Yes. Years later I wrote music articles and reviews for a number of local magazines for 20 years or so. i also worked on local radio with my own weekly show playing mostly instrumental music. I then wrote reviews and articles for an international screenwriting magazine for a couple of years. I loved 3 or so years playing prog rock on an online radio station with my own show called 'Too Close To the Edge' and got to play all types of prog-related music and make a lot of friends with fans and artists. My hobbies and spare time include writing my own music and playing guitar, collecting and reading books, mostly Science Fiction, still have the itch to write the next best novel, and I mooch around various FB pages and prog forums making a nuisance of myself. Glad to meet you.
“I realised a long time ago that instrumental music speaks a lot more clearly than English, Spanish, Yiddish, Swahili, any other language. Pure melody goes outside time.”
Here we are, 2017 and have to admit it’s been a long time since I last heard a new Prog instrumental album. You almost fell over them back in the 70’s. They were everywhere. You had the likes of Camel’s ‘Snow Goose‘ rubbing shoulders with Mike Oldfield’s ‘Tubular Bells‘ selling over 16 million albums, thank you very much. In some ways this was rocking up Symphonic Music and then some. Tangerine Dream were up for it and put out many an acid tripping the keyboard fantastic LP, and of course Vangelis was no slouch with his unique blending of electronic sounds on such albums such as ‘Albedo 0.39′ and ‘Opéra sauvage’ which also included Jon Anderson on harp.
Fast-forward thirty-five years or so and a handful of artists and bands are recording and releasing the odd instrumental album or three. You only have to look at Pink Floyd’s mostly instrumental 2014 album, ‘Rattle That Lock‘ to see the interest is still there. Something Canadian multi-instrumentalist (keyboards/bass/guitar) , Art Griffin is well aware of as demonstrated by his new album recently released, ‘Visions From The Present.’ The band is known as Art Griffin’s Sound Chaser and includes some of Canada’s finest musicians such as the drummer from Saga, Steve Negus, with Victoria Yeh on electric violin (amazing performances on this album) only equaled by Kelly Kereliuk‘s guitar work. That’s not to say Art is far behind. Is he what? If his mind-blowing keyboard solos are anything to go by, he’s charging ahead encouraging the others to keep up!Having the likes of well respected Ken Baird throwing down the occasional keyboard solo makes it an extra bit special moment to listen to.
“In short for me, the new CTP album is one of my all time favorites,”says Prog fan and collector, Robert Len Stallard. “I could go into extreme detail here because as a guitarist-composer myself, I have a special appreciation for Colin’s craft. “
High praise indeed from one of the lucky ones who has heard Colin’s new album, ‘Hair In A G-String (Unfinished but Sweet).’ “I was introduced to Colin and his music through mutual friends on Facebook,” Robert continues. “When I listened to his music for the first time I was blown away by his very unique music and guitar stylings that I had to listen to everything he had out there. The more I listened, the more I was entranced by it. So when I discovered he was creating a new album with featured musicians that I admire very much I was very excited.”
CORVUS STONE’s guitarist, COLIN TENCH is cautiously philosophical about his new album. “The COLIN TENCH PROJECT is not a designer album. It is melodic, much of it instrumental music and almost classical in areas; then suddenly a bit mad for fun.” He’s got that right. It really is hard to really define this album within a safe harbour of genres. Take your pick really. One minute you’ve got a musical play with all its dramatic flair Freddie Mercury would tip his hat at, and the next there’s an almost a solo Spanish guitarist caught in the beam of a stage spotlight. There’s touches of Prog with a handful of AOR, and a dab of Metal, and back around for a sweet ballad or three. If anything, something for everyone. As Colin has stated, “I love music. I hate music by numbers. If there is one album I consider to be a template of how to do things – The BEATLES White Album would be it. Something I realized recently, is that I am not a fan of the genre we call Prog. If I list every piece of music I love, all of it falls in to that genre tho’! There is a reason. Almost none of my favourite music was aimed at a prog market. It didn’t exist! Did GENESIS, ZAPPA, STEVEN WILSON, BEETHOVEN, PINK FLOYD design prog albums? Nope! Neither will I ever want to.”
Colin has handed some amazing and talented musicians known to a lot of us for their various projects and recordings. In my very own top five current Progressive Rock singers of all time is PETER JONES (now in Camel) and he provides for me, IMO, the jewel in the crown, the track “And So, Today,” a sad but respectful homage to a number of artists we’ve lost oh too soon. Peter’s own album under the band name of Tiger Moth Tales is one I would highly recommend you listen to and purchase. Peter’s also provided vocals for the band Red Bazar recently. worth checking out his work.
The album’s recordings also include:
– Phil Naro / vocals
– Gordon Bennett / orchestra, string section, horns, basses, triangle, thing that goes boing
– Steve Gresswell / piano, keyboards, orchestration
– Petri Lindström / bass guitar
– Jay Theodore McGurrin / drums
– Sonia Mota / artwork
– Gary Derrick / bass guitar
– Marco Chiappini / keyboards
– Victor Tassone / drums
– Stef Flaming / keyboards
– Oliver Rusing / drums
– Angelo Hulshout / fretless bass
– Robert Wolff / drums
– Pasi Koivu / synthesisers, organ
– Ian Beabout / Flute
– Gary Hodges / drums
– Kelly Brown / keyboards
– Tina Sibley / violin
– Kirsten Weingartner / violin
– Ned Horner / violin
– Aleksis Zarins / violin
– Stephen Speelman / stunt bass guitar
All instruments and arrangements on Lisa’s Waltz by Gordon Bennett based on the original Lisa’s Waltz by Colin Tench.
As you can see – quite a turnout, and you’re not short for the structure and depth of sound. As music fan, Robert Len Stallard puts it: “In general, the mix production is such that it provides the listener (well, me at least) with a very satisfying immersive experience. It feels as if you are in the middle of the stage. It’s very refreshing to listen to this music that is not over-compressed and squashed for loudness sake.”
” The instrument arrangements and sound production are amazing and very creative. The sound quality and clarity (tonal balance, EQ, effects, etc.) were excellent in all playback and listening devices (computer, mobile devices, studio monitors, headphones, etc.). The sound stage and spatial aspects (stereo image/spread, instrument placement/panning, reverberation, etc.) are spot on and well distributed. The dynamic range (amplitude span, quietness, loudness, wide, narrow, etc.) is exceptional without clipping or excessive compression/limiting. So in conclusion I can state that in my very humble opinion, this album is close to perfection and is an audiophile’s and prog music aficionado’s dream. The entire album is soul-touching and mesmerizing, transporting me to a happy place of sonic wizardry.”
Thanks and well said, Robert. Given the buzz on Colin’s social media pages there is a lot of positive feedback coming through and approval. A link to check out the album and also purchase is provided below.
In the meantime, here’s an interview I did with Colin recently on his new project and album.
INTERVIEW WITH COLIN TENCH ON HIS NEW ALBUM
PAUL:What inspired you to pick up the guitar?
COLIN: I suddenly had time on my hands. I had just emigrated to Australia. Prog was in its death throws in 1977, so I had a go. I quickly joined a band who weren’t all that good but we were dedicated and we improved. That band inspired me to not give up. We were attempting to play Santana, Beatles, Alex Harvey. All of it could be labeled prog.
Colin in Sydney in 1978 at ‘The Battle Of The Bands.’ “The drummer in this pic appears on drums on two tracks on “Corvus Stone Unscrewed ”
PAUL:Do you recall hearing your first Prog Rock album and what it was?
COLIN: Prog didn’t exist as a term. Underground music was what we called it. It started with The Beatles of course. They brought it in to the mainstream, so we all heard it on radio and I learned to expect a lot from music from then on. I never really was attracted to straight pop, rock or blues etc. They all sounded boring to me.
PAUL:‘Hair in a G-String’ (Unfinished But Sweet) could almost be considered a double entendre in some circles. Is the origins around the title an inside joke? What’s the meaning around the album title?
COLIN: Bach’s “Air on the G String”! What I started with on this album, was very slightly orchestral, and unfinished (suite?). All of that stuck and became the title. Maybe the Beatles’ habit of not being obvious, stuck with me. So I like a good laugh and if the titles or the music raise a smile, all the better!
PAUL:Why a solo album now? Why not another Corvus Stone album?
COLIN: This time I wanted to make an album that is totally melodic, with surprising turns. Corvus Stone is almost the opposite. So this is quite different. It made sense for me to write most of the music this time and even lyrics. I have a love of simple music that has a lot going on. orchestrated in a way. This album is like that.
PAUL:How was the idea of doing a solo album received by your bandmates?
COLIN: I think they all like that I did this. In fact, Corvus Stone’s Petri Lindström is the main bass player on this.
PAUL: If this is a solo album why bring on some of your fellow Corvus Stone band members to play on this?
COLIN: I don’t even describe this as a solo album. It is a band but the band members vary throughout. I don’t even like solo albums. Ha! I love real bands that all have an input to the song they are playing on. That is the case here. All of the main players are on this but Petri is on most of it.
PAUL:You stated in your notes, “The album structure could be labelled Prog before there was Prog.” That would take you back to the mid to late 60’s in what got to be called Proto-Prog around various psychedelic and Space Rock type bands experimenting with sound and mood to compliment the times. Can you cite any musical influences you may have drawn from while you were writing these songs?
COLIN: Most of what was done from 1966 to about 1974 has influenced me. Outside of that time, prog was kept well clear of mainstream radio. The combination of incredible playing, comedy, uniqueness, song writing and arrangements was everywhere. Music that doesn’t make people switch it off but still has content that is unexpected, tho’ never losing the melodies. That’s what I wanted to do. It isn’t prog, it’s just fairly simple music with no rules.
“That was ‘Odin’ gigging in London when I was 28 in 1984. That’s Gary Derrick who is also playing bass on two tracks on this album.“
PAUL:Certainly you can pick up the vibe within some of these tracks that early Prog is very important to you. Did it ever occur to you the irony of bands in the 21st century trying to get out of the shadow of their bigger brother (70’s Prog Rock) and at the same time paying attention to it through the concept of this album?
COLIN: I wonder if a lot of bands are starting to think the way I do. Prog is doomed if it can be defined. Prog was just a term that contained anything not quite definable. It can wander from rock to pop to jazz. It can be long, short, have singing or not. Ian Anderson came up with “Thick as a Brick” to poke fun at the concept album idea. He says “I’ll give you the mother of all concept albums” because reviews said Aqualung was a concept, which it wasn’t. Thick as Brick is now considered the best concept album ever, by many prog fanatics and it was just a joke. I think that says a lot about the difference between fans a bands. This album is not a concept at all. It flows musically (Part 1,2,3, And so Today, The Sad Brazilian & Part 4b) Then I stuck loads of other songs in between them.
PAUL: You’ve kind of mixed up the song order with both vocals and instrumental, not to mention a number of musical styles such as recognising Progressive Rock moments and well Classic rock if not a touch of Metal as well as Classical guitar here and there and to top it all off you’ve thrown in the odd Musical Play moments. So I guess you had all these ideas for a number of projects it would appear that you’ve fashioned into one album. Was this intentional to begin with all did it just work out that way?
COLIN: I only had a few bits before I started this. I like all different kinds of music, so there are influences of all of that in here. As I said, the “Hair in a G-String” parts, are very simple. It may not sound that way because of the arrangements that keep changing but you do start to think you recognise something as it goes along. It actually isn’t from some old album, it is from the early part of THIS album. “And so, Today” is pretty much 2 chords most of the time, except for a very short part that Peter’s Clarinet appears in. They come back for most of Part 4b. Nobody seems to have spotted that though. The voice is an instrument. It was never the most important thing in music to me. When it is used like an instrument, all other instruments can be removed but the song remains the same (I think someone said that once). Our band isn’t a backing band. The guitar also is not the main thing. Nothing is.
PAUL:What do you consider as the essential elements of this album?
COLIN: Tunes and melodies. Also a great deal of fun. Some of the lyrics are supposed to make you smile but they don’t get in the way of the tunes. You can listen to the album in different ways. Ignore the lyrics and it is still great (IMHO). Next time, listen to the lyrics and get a different feel. It can be played at low volume when your mum is round for dinner, or as loud as hell and it still works. Maybe that is my version of good music and is now seen as 60s/70s Prog.
PAUL:First impression for me is that with both this album and what you do with Corvus Stone; collaborating with others is more of an important side to creating and playing music for you personally rather than just being in a band?
COLIN: Exactly. Like a recipe. That only happens with real band. I know that Yes would throw loads of their own bits at one song. It would be stitched together and then arranged to become a special and unique piece of music. Whole albums were that way back then. Every time someone went solo, no matter how much I liked them, the magic just wasn’t there. Soy sauce maybe amazing but not all that much good drunk neat. Ha ha! If someone on a song on this album, did something I loved and didn’t expect, that could change the course of the song. Stay flexible and it is a lot of fun.
PAUL: Sonia Mota is known to a lot of us who spend a lot of time inside social media for her positive and very hands on efforts within the Prog Rock fan community. How did she become involved in this project?
COLIN: Sonia has been the artist for Corvus Stone and Oceans 5 from the start. More than that, she named Corvus Stone and critiques everything we all do. If she says it sounds wrong, I know it does! We all have friends that say all the mixes are wonderful but that doesn’t help. You need someone who is honest and has an uncanny appreciation of music. Sonia has that. She says things like “It’s boring”, “You’ve ruined it”, “That’s horrible!” “OMG” and as much as I want to hit her with a big stick, in the end, we arrive at the album we wanted. Also, she paints while listening to the early mixes as we go along. The artwork is incredible and totally unique. Even the booklets with the CDs are her work.
PAUL: ‘And So Today’ and you have Peter Jones singing lead vocals on this song. This for me personally is the highlight of the album in relation to the vocal track. Not only does it have a superb melody, but also some great lyrics that Prog and Classic Rock fans will easily identify with. Did you have him in mind while you were writing or was Peter bought in later into the process?
COLIN: There you go! A great melody. Simple in a good way. I knew Pete would be singing it. I only wrote what I did because I knew he would feel the same way I do about the characters it refers to. Also that he sings like an actor. He makes you feel it. All the lyrics I wrote, were for Peter. It made it easy to write funny or serious. He can also make funny lyrics sound serious and that can be tricky.
PAUL:Looking back, and I guess it wasn’t that long ago, but for you personally – what was the highlight of creating a solo album? Did you have any challenges in the process of getting this made?
COLIN: The mixing finished the day I released it! Mixing never really finishes. You just stop, wait a few days and listen at low volume. Nothing sounds off, it’s done. So this isn’t looking far back at all. Mostly all the challenges were good ones. Everyone is busy, so it’s an honour that they put so much thought and care in to what they did. So many people involved but for good reasons. it would be easier to have a small band and do an album. Then it would not be THIS album. I go about this being simple melodic music but I did throw in quite a few WTF moments and they can be a bit difficult for someone to play to or figure out what the hell to do. Challenging but loads of fun for us all (I hope). In the end, the mixing is the nightmare, then the technical difficulties of producing everything correctly for the CD makers. We have to do everything these days!
PAUL: Are you playing to release a music video in conjunction with any of these tracks?
COLIN: So far only, “Part 4b” and “The Brazilian” have short videos that I made during the recording. There will be more but I never promise anything that may not happen. Something will tho!
PAUL:With the release of ‘Hair on a G-String’ have you made any plans to play the album live in concert?
COLIN: That is impossible. We are all over the world. There is always a hope that “And so, Today” will get attention in the mainstream. Or “A Beautiful feeling”. That could trigger all kinds of possibilities.
Thanks to Colin for providing input into this article on his new album. Also to Robert for his thoughts on the album. For me, I really got into it last Sunday when sitting back and relaxing in the warm evening with the album playing in the background. It really is a mood setter and one I’d recommend for yourself and as a gift for a friend or relative.
Hair In A G-String (Unfinshed But Sweet) can be purchased either as a digital download or on CD at this link:
The CDs are in and even on their way to the really early birds already. It takes quite a bit of work to get to this for any band. Our band is rather a big one!
Colin will talk as little as possible about it with Tony this Saturday and maybe others will join us too.
The album will get played of course!
If there are any free albums knocking around, that will happen only in the chat room
1. Hair in a G-String part 1 (The opening) [6.25]
Peter Jones: Vocals, Saxophone
Colin Tench: Guitars, Piano
Steve Gresswell: Piano, Keyboards, Percussion
Petri Lindström: Bass guitar
Stef Flaming: Percussion
2. Can’t see it any other way [4.36]
Colin Tench: Guitars, Synths
Phil Naro: Vocals
Gary Derrick: Bass guitar
Marco Chiappini: Piano
Victor Tassone: Drums
3. Hair in a G-String part 2 (The Hairy Part) [6.04]
Colin Tench: Guitars, Synthesisers, Drum programming
Phil Naro: Vocals
Steve Gresswell: Keyboards
Stef Flaming: keyboards
Oliver Rüsing: Drums, Percussion
Petri Lindström: Bass guitar
Stephen Speelman: Stunt bass
4. The Mad Yeti [2.54]
Colin Tench: guitars
5. The Sad Brazilian [7.19]
Colin Tench: Guitars, Piano
Gordon Bennett: Orchestra, Shaving cream
Petri Lemmy Lindström: Bass guitar
6. And so, Today [4.12]
Pete Jones: Vocals, Clarinet
Colin Tench: Guitars, Piano, Percussion
Gordon Bennett: Orchestra
Petri Lindström: Bass guitar
Jay Theodore McGurrin: Drums
7. Hair in a G-String part 3 (I’m Going Down) [10.09]
Peter Jones: Vocals
Colin Tench: Guitars, Synthesisers, Piano
Gordon Bennett: Orchestra
Petri Lindström: Bass guitar
Oliver Rusing: Drums
Steve Gresswell: Keyboards
Angelo Hulshout: Fretless Bass
Sonej Retep: Sciryl lanoitidda
8. Lisa waltzes back in with no G-String [3.53]
Colin Tench: Guitars
Gordon Bennett: String Section, Horns, Basses
Petri Lindström: Bass Guitar
Robert Wolff: Drums
Pasi Koivu: Synthesisers, Organ
Sean Filkins: Tamborine
9. Lisa’s Entrance Unplugged [3.09]
Colin Tench: Guitars, Synthesisers
Ian Beabout: Flute
10. Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Screwed [7:32]
Colin Tench: Guitars, vocals, Percussion, Piano
Gary Derrick: Bass guitar
Marco Chiappini: Keyboards, Piano
Victor Tassone: Drums, Percussion
11. La Palo Desperado [5.54]
Colin Tench: Guitars, Annoying noises
12. A Beautiful Feeling [5.58]
Phil Naro: Vocals
Colin Tench: Guitars, Piano, Percussion
Petri Lindström: Bass guitar
Gary Hodges: (Buckingham Nicks): Drums
Kelly Brown: (Ozark Mountain Daredevils): Keyboards
Vic Tassone: Percussion
Violins: (String Section) http://www.springfieldmosymphony.org/
Tina Sibley (Springfield Symphony)
Kirsten Weingartner (Springfield Symphony)
Ned Horner (Springfield Symphony)
Aleksis Zarins (Springfield Symphony)
13. Dnieper Summer Day [1.38]
Colin Tench: acoustic guitars
David Knokey: Rhythm Guitar
Stef Flamming: Bass guitar
14. Part 4b [7.56]
Peter Jones: Lead Vocals
Phil Naro: Lead Vocals
Colin Tench: Guitars
Gordon Bennett: Orchestra, Percussion, Triangle, Thing that goes boing
Petri Lindström: Bass guitar
Angelo Hulshout: Fretless bass
Jay Theodore McGurrin: Drums (We fired Neil Peart)
15. Part 4b Redux [0.23]
Peter Jones: Piano
Peter Jones: Main vocal
Peter Jones: Backing vocals
Peter Jones: Foley guy
Peter Jones: Production
Colin Tench: Bugger all
BONUS TRACK: Liza’s Waltz with full orchestral arrangements [4.23]
All instruments, arrangements & Production by Gordon Bennett
Based on the original Lisa’s Waltz by Colin Tench
We know how much The Beatles influenced Yes. But could Yes have influenced one of the Beatles? Paul Watson explores this amazing revelation.
Late 1973 saw a couple of amazing musical things happen. One of them was the release of Yes’s epic concept album, ’TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS’ and John Lennon’s track, ‘MIND GAMES.’
Let’s see… Going back a few years before that Alan White was drumming for Lennon in 1969 on a number of things such as the Imagine album and touring with the ex-Beatle and his band. Years later John actually expressed over the telephone to Alan that he was a big Yes fan. That “he loved the band.”
John Lennon, Yoko Ono and Alan White 1970 performing Instant Karma! on Top Of The Pops.
Of course we know how much a big of a fan of The Beatles Yes were. When they started playing back in 1968 they were covering Beatles’ tracks, and Sgt Pepper’s was a great inspiration and blueprint to where they would take Progressive Rock in years to come. You only have to listen to “Your Move” to appreciate that. And what about the line – “Send an instant karma to me, initial it with loving care“? This has been attributed to a reference to Lennon’s ‘Instant Karma’ that came out a couple of years before. Yes even has a Beatles cover of “Every Little Thing” on their first album. Even now Jon in concert likes to tell fans how much he loves John Lennon and his music.
Hi everyone. I’m thrilled to announce one of the newest crop of Progressive Rock bands has released their second album ‘Counterpoint.’Not only that but they’ve also been well deservedly nominated as one of the Rising Prog Stars in the new band Limelight Award over the past 12 months in the prestious PROG Magazine. How cool is that!And so pleased for you and your fans.
GOOD LUCK, CIRCULINE!
If you had read my previous article and interview in PROGARCHY on Circuline’s first album then you know who the members are.
Since then there has been a small lineup change, and as you will find out they have bought on board not only one guitarist but for the album they featured SEVEN guitarists! But more on that below. I’m also pleased to announce that Andrew allowed us to share on here their TRACK BY TRACK notes on their recordings of the new album. This gives us a unique look in to the mindset of these musicians and where they were on any given day while creating these tracks and recording them.
Do you remember that scene in the original Star Wars movie where Luke is watching nightfall on Tatooine and we see two suns sinking beyond the horizon… Well, scientists not that long ago in their search of the Heavens came across a similar phenomenon 200 light years away which they like to call a circumbinary planet — a planet orbiting two stars. These scientists obviously are not into Prog Rock because we could have told them they should have searched a lot closer to home and discovered two stars orbiting us who have recently put out an album called “Invention Of Knowledge.”
To those of you who own Kanye West albums, Anderson/Stolt are Jon Anderson (ex-Yes, ABWH, APB, ARW and other assorted projects) and Roine Stolt (Kaipa, The Flower Kings, Transatalantic, Agents Of Mercy and equally other assorted projects), and thanks to a little boat ride out to sea they’ve hung out together over many thousand miles apart to create a real gem of a Prog album. Oh, did I mention it is a PROG album? Welcome back, Jon. You’ve been sorely missed.
Good news for not only THE SYN fans but also those who enjoy music by the Swedish Prog Rock band, MOON SAFARI. A collaborative effort by both sees the release this coming week of their new album titled TRUSTWORKS. If you want to know more about THE SYN then see my previous review of their Live album they put out not so long ago. The Syn Live at ROSfest
Keeping with a Scandinavian flavour, Jonas Reingold of The Flower Kings produced the album made up of nine tracks ranging from ‘British Invasion’ to a slice of country to full on Progressive Rock, but more on that in the interview with THE SYN leader, Steve Nardelli.
In hindsight as far as history and recognition goes, there are two major bands that went some way to building Yes, or at least bought some of those parts together where they would in a short time later shape and direct them to a certain defining sound.
(The Syn playing at the Marquee in 1966 – photos used by kind permission and the property of Jacki Downey)
For all intents and purposes the sounds were already there. One of those bands is The Syn formed back in 1965 by Steve Nardelli and George Arzimanow which would go on to include Andrew Jackman, John Painter, Chris Squire, Peter Banks, Martyn Adelman, Gunnar Jökull Hákonarson to name a few. For their troubles during their first but very short incantation they would go on to having a strong following in the 60’s playing important gigs at The Marquee in London with the likes of Hendrix and other important bands of the time.
Oddly enough they only put out two singles during this 3 year period. The first 45 had “Created By Clive” on side one and on the other, “Grounded” that The Syn included in their playlist at Rosfest last year. Their next single, both side one and two would also get to be played live at Rosfest. “14 Hour Technicolour Dream” is probably their most recognisable track for most prog fans and paid a certain homage to one of the concerts of the same name back in the swinging 60’s. Surprisingly to the band the B-side number “Flowerman” went on to become a No.1 song on French radio. They would soon split up with Squire and Banks moving on to Mabel Greer’s Toyshop and then renamed to Yes.
Since then there have been a few projects around The Syn, including one that never got off the ground with Tony Banks (the master tapes were unfortunately lost), and then their first album in 2004 “Original Syn 1965 – 2004” which included a compilation of their songs (some rarities) and also a great mellow version of a Yes standard, “Time & A Word.”
2004 also saw them in the studio with Steve Nardelli bringing in Paul Stacey, Gerard Johnson, Gary Husband and also the return of Chris Squire on their first released album “Syndestructible” which included for me, my favourite track by the band, “Catherdral of Love,” released in 2005.
So bringing it up-to-date, in a way The Syn have been making up for lost time given the slim pickings of releases from where and when they began back in the last century to now having released their 6th album THE SYN LIVE ROSFEST.
Wikipedia notes, “The Rites of Spring festival or RoSfest is an annual progressive rock festival which takes place at the end of April or in early May. Established in 2004, the festival was held at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania until 2007, and then moved to the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, Pennsylvania for 2008 and 2009…. The intent of the promoters was to establish a new international progressive rock festival in the United States. The inaugural three-day festival was held April 24, 25, and 26, 2004 at the famous Colonial Theatre located in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. The RoSfest artwork since 2007 has been designed by Ed Unitsky. Through the 2013 festival, 104 different bands will have performed at the Rites of Spring Festival.”
May 1 -3 2009 saw a number of Prog bands and artists meet at the Keswick Theatre in Pennsylvania for the 6th ROSfest gatherings. Included there were Nectar, Barclay James Harvest, Lazuli, The Syn, Moon Safari, Frost, Moth Vellum, Mangala Vallis, Touchstone, Abigail’s Ghost and others. A veritable international summit of great bands with all sorts of flavours of sound to suit and discover.
The Syn started an American tour in April 2009 after the release of their album Big Sky (Progressive Music magazine voted Big Sky best Prog album for 2009). Included with founding Syn member, vocalist and songwriter, Steve Nardelli were Francis Dunnery (It Bites, and working with Robert Plant, Big Big Train and Frost) on guitar, Tom Brislin (played with Yes, Renaissance, Camel, Meatloaf) on keyboards, Jamie Bishop (Stratospheerius) on bass, Brett Kull on guitar and Paul Ramsey on drums (both of Echolyn fame). Their setlist for the concert would include songs from the new album as well as a few numbers from the early years. The CD records this concert and the accompanying videos include ‘The making of Big Sky’ showing the band in practise, filmed and produced by Matt Urban, and ‘The Syn in the 21st Century’ with interviews with Steve and previous members reflecting on the formative years, directed by Kazimir Bielecki and Lennie Vareaides. It also pays homage to a mutual friend of mine, Jacki Downey who with Jenny Tissington ran The Syn fan club back in the 60’s, and who was very supportive recently unearthing a bunch of black & white photos of The Syn playing at The Marquee which includes Peter Banks on guitar to forward to Steve for this documentary. There are a lot of memories of that time shared here. You’ll also pick up Steve conversing on the Live CD with the audience during songs on how some of these tracks originated. It’s a very polished performance by all on the day. This live and video album resonate on so many levels. The Syn were one of the pebbles thrown into the pool that would become Progressive Rock. The music of their time has become the sound of our times and well worth exploring as the band once again moves forward I the 21st century. Look out for a new studio album which will feature members of Moon Safari on it. Can’t wait!
Steve Nardelli kindly took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions for Progarchy regarding this album as well as other points of interest…
PROGARCHY: Just trying to set the scene, or should I say “set the Syn”… although a lot of this is covered in Henry Potts’s excellent interview with you back in November 2003 (http://www.bondegezou.co.uk/iv/sninterview.htm) and I don’t want to go over old ground too much… how surreal was it for you back then in the late 60’s caught up and involved in the whole psychedelic music movement as it started gathering momentum and playing before all your heroes like The Beatles and the Stones on stage?
STEVE NARDELLI: Surreal is the right description. It’s just a blur on one level and yet some very vivid memories as well. The cramped stage at the Marquee, the even more cramped dressing room shared with Hendrix and his band, the even more cramped audience area (there were a record 1400 people there that night in a club that held 1000 maximum!), the Beatles, the Stones, Clapton, Townshend…..’was this for real or was it surreal?’
PROGARCHY: As far as origins go, who came up with the name ‘The Syn’ and why? Did you have any other names for the band considered?
STEVE NARDELLI: ‘The Syn’ was the idea of our first guitarist, John Painter. He had played in a band with me called ‘High Court’ and we had met Chris Squire, Andrew Jackman and Martyn Adelman at a battle of the bands competition at the Hampstead Country Club when they were playing in their band ‘The Selfs’. John and I had just changed our name to ‘The Syn’ when we decided to merge with the ‘Selfs’ as a new version of ‘The Syn’ and that’s how it started.
PROGARCHY: I started off this article in the first paragraph using a line from one of your songs, “Life doesn’t run in straight lines…” It’s interesting in Chris Welch’s book ‘Close To The Edge: The Story of Yes (Omnibus Press) that Chris reflected, “… The Syn were very similar to Yes in fact. It was very much a precursor to Yes… and we did similar stuff with three and even four part vocal harmonies…” With that in mind and given the ingredients were there where Chris took them into Mabel Greers Toyshop with Peter Banks and Jon Anderson and then Yes, is there a part of you still that still wishes you had stayed together instead of calling it a day even though you all felt you had gone as far as you could and was getting into the boutiques side of things?
STEVE NARDELLI: No, I thought at the time that ‘The Syn’ had come to the end of its cycle and I moved on to other projects, I have tended to do that all my life. I was very pleased to reform the band in 2003 thanks in part to the interview with Henry you reference and I think that Syndestructible reflects the direction ‘The Syn’ would have taken if we had stayed together.
PROGARCHY: One thing I’ve always admired about The Syn is the impressive line up you put together for either an album or a live gig, and I guess back in 2009 you were playing live in support of your new album “Big Sky.” Can you go through your mindset selecting two of the more notable musicians such as Francis Dunnery and Tom Brislin for this album and of course the ROSfest concert?
STEVE NARDELLI: Francis Dunnery was originally scheduled to play with ‘The Syn’ on the ‘More Drama Tour’ that was cancelled following the terrorist attacks in London that resulted in visa problems. I’m a big fan of Francis and was always looking for the opportunity to work with him again at some point. Tom Brislin I knew from his work touring with Yes and I went to see him play some shows in New Jersey with his band Spiralling. He is a terrific keyboard player, singer and a really nice person to work with. I was also drawn to keeping the Yes connection for continuity reasons.
PROGARCHY: What were some of the challenges you faced getting the band together before you performed?
STEVE NARDELLI: Not very many. The reason being that Francis was the musical director and Brett Kull lined up the Echolyn road and sound men. By the time I arrived from England to Philadelphia, the band had rehearsed for a week at Brett’s studio and we were ready to tour. Everything went incredibly smoothly until I got recalled to London following the Government selecting my eco town promotion at Bicester as one of 4 eco towns to be developed and the tour had to be postponed after the Rosfest show. As it turned out, our last performance with that line-up.
PROGARCHY: How did you become involved with ROSfest?
STEVE NARDELLI: We got a late booking following one of the bands cancelling and it fitted very nicely with our tour schedule. All credit as well to our agent Gary Hill for sorting it all out with George Roldan, the Rosfest promoter and thoroughly good person.
PROGARCHY: Where did the idea of filming your performance come about?
STEVE NARDELLI: We recorded the show at Rosfest, we did not film it. What you are confusing is the shows and workshops we did at Gloucester High School in Virginia. The shows and workshops were filmed by the students and that is what we used in the film ‘The Syn in the 21st Century’. The school workshops were organised by local radio presenter and teacher Steve Sikes-Nova and were a highlight of the tour in many ways, connecting with young people through music is magic.
PROGARCHY: What was it like drawing songs you had written and played, what nearly 50 years ago, like, “14 Hour Technicolour Dream” and “Grounded” and playing them in 2009 before an audience who for some of them may have been hearing them for the first time?
STEVE NARDELLI: I know the songs so well, it is so natural for me to sing them. I liked what we did with ‘14 Hour Technicolour Dream’, it was a classic ‘Grounded’ and we created a whole storyline around ‘Flowerman’ that was very well received and features on the cd.
PROGARCHY: What were some of the highlights for you at this festival?
STEVE NARDELLI: The friendliness of the audience and George Roldan and his Rosfest team; selling over 400 copies of our Big Sky cds; meeting Moon Safari for the first time that has resulted in our collaboration on the new album from ‘The Syn’ called ‘Trustworks’ that will be released later this year. ‘The Syn Live Rosfest’ cd/dvd is the perfect prelude to that album because it’s all connected.
PROGARCHY: On a certain level and this is just my own personal observation, my first impression is that you come from the old school of Bob Dylan in not just poetic storytelling but also the styling of your voice (especially in the later years). Would there be any truth to this? Did Bob Dylan
STEVE NARDELLI: I’m a big Bob Dylan fan, so yes I have been very influenced by him on every level, singing and writing.
PROGARCHY: The CD also includes two documentaries on DVD with one being a kind of retrospective history of ‘The Syn in the 21st Century’ (20:12) minutes There must have been a lot of mileage from the past 50 years to draw from. What for you personally were some of the pivotal moments you’re most proud of?
STEVE NARDELLI: I’m proud of our history, the association with Yes, the Marquee days, playing with Hendrix, the great musicians that I have been honoured to work with across the years, the songs I’ve written and the music we’ve created.
PROGARCHY: And also the other being ‘Making Of Big Sky’ (23 minutes) where we also get to see you, Francis, and Tom working together for the song creation and recording of ‘Big Sky’ as well as an in depth interview with each of you. There was an interesting comment during it that Francis made regarding how during these moments accidents happen which benefit the overall album? Are there any instances that come to mind on any of these songs that you can give an example of this during the making of this album?
STEVE NARDELLI: We chose to include ‘New Reality’ as a music interlude and it ended up as one of the defining tracks on the album, you never know what happens with tracks when you break away from a rigid structure and let them develop a life of their own.
PROGARCHY: It was also interesting to note that you actually started recording this album with just Francis (guitar) and Tom (keyboards) before adding the vocals and drums. How did you arrive at that decision to doing it that way? Were you happy with the outcome and would you record it that way again?
STEVE NARDELLI: The three of us demoed the tracks first with my guide vocal, so we had a good idea of how we were going to record when we went in the studio. So we recorded guitar and keyboards, drums and bass, finally vocals in that order. It’s very similar to how we recorded ‘Syndestructible’ actually, the key thing is to create decent demos as the footprint to the album. It’s the same process we have used on the new ‘Trustworks’ album as well, we could have released the demos they are that good. I guess that’s how I like to work, I also spend a lot time writing and developing the songs over a long period of time.
PROGARCHY: I guess it put you in good stead for playing live?
STEVE NARDELLI: We knew the songs back-to-front by the time we got to tour them, so yes, it created a good base for playing live.
PROGARCHY: Of course The Syn are currently working on a new album with Moon Safari which is an interesting and exciting project for most of us and look forward to hearing when it is completed – was it at ROSfest that you met up with them? How did the idea come about that both bands should join together and write and record an album?
STEVE NARDELLI: I’m a big fan of Moon Safari. I saw them at Rosfest playing at the festival with us and I already had an idea for a new album of operatic proportions. So their amazing harmonies were like a dream come true for my concept and I asked them if they would like to make the next Syn album with me and they said yes. I’ve been back and forth to the far north of Sweden over the last 5 years working up the tracks and in the last 6 months we have actually started studio recording. Jonas Reingold has joined as our producer and we are getting close to the finishing line. It’s a brilliant album though I say so myself!
PROGARCHY: A lot of bands these days in Metal and Prog are playing onboard specially packaged cruise tours. Is this something that would appeal to you to do or does your work involved in setting up Eco-towns in the UK pretty much conflict with the time you have for music these days?
STEVE NARDELLI: The Eco town is a huge project, a defining project for me with another hat on. 6000 houses, 4 schools, massive infrastructure, sustainable and carbon free environment, Prog Town! I’m building a Hollywood Bowl type theatre there, a farm school, hotels, retirement village, it’s a project I created from start to finish, designed by my friend and master architect Sir Terry Farrell as 4 interlocking villages, recently awarded Garden City status by Prime Minister David Cameron, I can’t help but be very proud of my achievement and my knighthood’s in the post. Everybody said I couldn’t do it and I did, ‘if you’re not afraid to lose, you will never fail’. Meanwhile the collaboration with Moon Safari on the new album is in parallel with the Eco town project which has given me balance, and the two have grown organically together. My music and the Eco town have worked together to create a positive force and a positive outcome. Meeting Moon Safari has been a blessing for me. I wouldn’t get much balance on a cruise tour, I suffer from terrible sea sickness!