Dateline: March 20, 2005

Review: Original Syn

Source: The Phantom Tollbooth

By Barry Nothstine

Original Syn
Artist: The Syn
Label: Syn Music Limited
Length: 2 Discs/18 Tracks (Including 5 Interview Tracks)/98:12

Here’s a fun bit of history for psychedelic music fans to enjoy. Back in the 60’s when mod music morphed into the psychedelic genre a young group of British musicians called the Syn featuring Steve Nardelli on vocals, Peter Banks on guitar, Chris Squire on bass (both of the latter before their legendary work in progressive rock giants Yes), Andrew Jackman on keyboards, and Gunnar Hakonarson on drums. The Syn released two (now highly sought collectors item) singles on Deram in 1967: "14 Hour Technicolor Dream" ( calls "Dream" "…one of the best British psychedelic singles by any band," "Grounded" (a freakbeat classic featuring a stellar booming bass riff from Squire and a Keith Moon-like drumming performance), "Flowerman" (a big hit in France), and "Created by Clive." The 2-CD set Original Syn also features other Syn rarities never before officialy released including a 24 piece orchestra supporting the band with "The Last Performance of The Royal Regimental, Very Victorius and Valiant Band," "Mr. White’s White Flying Maching," and rough-yet charming Acetate transfers of early demos "Merry-Go-Round," a cover of the Who’s "I Can’t Explain" (the only disappointing tune in the bunch!) and "Love You." Rounding out the archival CD 1 is an exceptional demo called "Cadillac Dreams" I would love to see the band rerecord, and an excerpt of the band rehearsing "The Gangster Opera."

CD 2 starts with a great big ol’ 14-minute psychedelic/progressive rock nugget of joy…the first NEW Syn Recording in over 35 years! The band got back together to record the '60’s composition "Illusion"-a song that the band performed live but never recorded. Ex-Yes and Syn member Peter Banks produced this delectable bit of psychedelic wonderment that somehow manages to at once sound current and fresh while maintaining the swirling psychedelic touches that made the Syn a memorable band. Echoes of Yes and other progressive rock greats can be gleaned from the song as well. One of the most exciting things about the new song (and this wonderful archival project) is that a reformed Syn is now recording not one but two new albums. I can hardly wait!

The Syn gigged hard for several years in the '60’s, including supporting acts that created quite a stir in the music industry: Jimi Henrix, the Who, Pink Floyd, and Cream. The Syn never got to record an album proper, and the members sort of "drifted apart," according to founder Steve Nardelli in the liner notes. Banks and Squire went on to form Mabel Greer’s Toy Shop and then made the now-historic leap to Yes-creating the link between psychedelic rock and the dawn of progressive rock. _Original Syn_ does a fine job of creating a lasting archival tribute to a seminal early psychedelic band that is fondly remembered for creating a small legacy (and helping to launch careers of two prog-rock favorites). All wrapped up in a colorful psychedelic package, Original Syn delivers a solid bit of sonic, psychedelic history. Groovy!

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