Dateline: January 2005
Review: The Syn: Original Syn (YesServices; 2-CD)
Source: Shindig! Magazine
By Paul Martin
Of course there's no point in reviewing a CD that is already sold out and
unobtainable, as is the case with this set. However, most of the music
contained herein, will be made available again as a single CD in 2005,
hence the review/preview. This edition of The Syn's collected recordings
was a limited edition offered by the Yes information website in November.
Initially, a numbered and signed edition of 300 were produced but demand
was such that more (presumably uncertified or signed) copies were made, all
of which have been distributed.
Although disc one clocks in at a meagre 37 minutes, if this is really all
the original 60s Syn material there is, it is right and proper that it
exists as a collection in one place. This disc kicks off with 'Mallard Way'
an inconsequential 30 second ivory tinkler that has no right to be called a
track in its own right. Then we move on to the four recordings proper,
compiled on numerous occasions in recent years 'Grounded', '14 Hour
Technicolour Dream', 'Created By Clive' and 'Flowerman', all from the
masters and sounding pristine and excellent (although I still prefer The
Attack's take on 'Created By Clive'). Of the newly available stuff there
are some beauties. 'The Last Performance Of The Royal Regimental Very
Victorious And Valiant Band' is an excellent piece of toy town pop with cod
military march rhythms which sounds like Mark Wirtz could have written it -
excellent stuff. 'Mr White's White Flying Machine' sounds like you think a
song with a title like that ought to, although this version is sung by
Ayshea Brough (of TV's Lift Off With Ayshea fame) from her 1970 self-titled
LP on Polydor (the rest of which is well worth a listen as well). There
does not seem to be an extant version by The Syn although it is one of
their songs. Ayshea's version is excellent. 'Cadillac Dreams' is just a
piano/vocal run through and doesn't really register but 'Merry Go-Round'
catches The Syn at their earliest in 1965 and they sound as gnarly and
snotty as any US garage band of the same vintage - a great piece of beat
and with Chris Squire's bass chops already sounding above average. The
three-part rehearsal tape of 'The Gangster Opera' (all that survives as a
fragment) is also a pretty cool piece of 1967 era underground. The rather
superfluous band member chattering could have been left off, it serves
little purpose, but the 'Chorus' and 'Legs Diamond' segments are glorious
and a real shame they do not survive in completed version. The Selfs (who
merged with The High Court to form The Syn) get two goes at post-functional
survival in the from of a tame version of The Who's 'I Can't Explain' and
'Love You' which is more interesting. This is all that you can expect to
hear on the new single CD edition.
The second disc contains a suitably (for a prog piece) 14 minute long
version of 'Illusion' by Syn vocalist Steve Nardelli and Peter Banks. I'm
not a progger by any means, in fact the approach of which tends to make me
adopt the persona and appearance of Edward Munc's painting The Scream!
However, 'Illusion' is no bloated prog monolith - it's an intelligent and
well crafted, not to mention tuneful and groovy roller coaster ride and I
love it! The Syn (or parts thereof) have reformed and are recording a new
album next year. I don't usually put much store in these kind of
reformations and resurrections, but if 'Illusion' is any gauge as to what's
coming, I'll be up for the first available copy. Disc two also contains a
new 45 minute interview with Chris Squire about The Syn and the context and
times they were playing in etc.
All in all this is a great package. If you don't suffer from musical
sectarianism, I can recommend the single disc version of this set. It is
more than just archival, it's revealing and that's got to be good.