CD REVIEW – The Syn – Flowerman

So what we have here, as the album cover indicates, is an anthology of all surviving ‘60s recordings by The Syn.

But who were the Syn? In short they were active on the London summer-of-’67 underground circuit and have a strong link to prog legends Yes. Active from late 1965 as an Action-style mod/Motown band, The Syn embraced psychedelia with some legendary theatrical shows during their Marquee Club residency and a brace of flower-power singles for Deram.

On this release, those four Deram sides – ‘Created By Clive’, ‘Grounded’, ‘Flowerman’ and ’14 Hour Technicolour Dream’ – are joined by a clutch of rare recordings from the period, including a five-minute rehearsal excerpt of a stage favourite ‘The Gangster Opera’, an earlier demo recording of ‘Flowerman’, a pre- Deram acetate of the unissued-at-the-time ‘Merry-Go-Round’ and two tracks by pre-Syn band The Selfs. One for the fan / collector!

The CD also includes some post-Syn recordings, including a brace of songwriting demos by singer Steve Nardelli, and by keyboardist Andrew Pryce Jackman and bassist Chris Squire (the latter two aka the Selfs), some covers (eg ‘I Can’t Explain’) as they attempted to set up a production company at the height of Squire’s success with Yes. Yup, that’s your Yes link!

While Steve concentrated on the fashion industry, opening a chain of stores in Chelsea and Kensington with his business partner Ian Ross, The Syn – or, at least, Chris Squire and Peter Banks – became Mabel Greer’s Toyshop, who in turn morphed into …….Yes. But this album is about the original Syn, determined to make their mark as the Tamla/mod scene melted into the balmy, barmy days of flower power. Talking of which, no prizes for guessing the opening TV show riff of ‘Flowerman’.

Needless to say it sits fairly and squarely in its time. Band then there’s ‘Merry-Go-Round’ being very Yardbirds, and ‘Created by Clive’ very Syd Barrett. On a par, in fact. And the harmonies on the former are very noticeable, as is the excellent bass on ‘Grounded’ and Jackman’s ‘Mister White’s White Flying Machine’- some transferrable skills that band members Jackman and Squire took with them, I would suggest! (10 points for anyone who remembers the then singer Ayshea….who sang on the latter song, and others on it included Tony Kaye and Davy O’List)

‘The Gangster Opera’ – very Beatles meet Rolling Stones meet Cream, and an adventurous multi-time signature piece. Another transferrable skill learned! ‘The Last Performance of the Royal Regimental Band’ perhaps unsurprisingly has a bit of Sgt Pepper as well as Tommy Steel film about it! But again I can see how Banks and Squire liked the complexities within it, and I bet Jackman loved the orchestration. The bonus track ‘Grounded 2004’ is worth noting, recorded as it was by Steve Nardelli (lead vocals), the late Peter Banks (guitar, vocals), Gerard Johnson (keyboards, vocals), Steve Gee (bass) and Martyn Adelman (drums). Psychedelia removed and replaced by quality rock.

With a foreword by Phil Collins (a huge fan during their Marquee days it would seem), unpublished photos and a new narrative which, by the way is very comprehensive and really very good, this release from Cherry Red is attractive to admirers of vintage British psychedelia as well as completist fans of Yes.

Track Listing:

1 MERRY-GO-ROUND
2 CREATED BY CLIVE
3 GROUNDED
4 FLOWERMAN
5 14 HOUR TECHNICOLOUR DREAM
6 THE GANGSTER OPERA (Chorus/Legs Diamond/Reprise)
7 FLOWERMAN (demo version)
8 I CAN’T EXPLAIN (The Selfs)
9 LOVE YOU (The Selfs)
10 THE LAST PERFORMANCE OF THE ROYAL REGIMENTAL VERY VICTORIOUS AND VALIANT BAND
11 MISTER WHITE’S WHITE FLYING MACHINE Bonus tracks
12 CADILLAC DREAMS (Narsquijack)
13 SUNSET BOULEVARD LAMENT (Narsquijack)
14 GROUNDED 2004

Band Links

The Syn: Flowerman – Rare Blooms From The Syn – Cherry Red Records

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