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(63:39, Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Cyclops 8:49 2. The Nights About to Come 4:39 3. Dream 3:55 4. Do Me Slow 4:57 5. No One Knows 5:01 6. Keep Freedom in Your Heart 4:16 7. Megalomania 5:43 8. JJ Jane 2:56 9. I'm on My Way 4:20 10. River Runs Wide (Part I) 4:04 11. Tweek Me 7:55 12. Sara 4:11 13. Humans 2:53 LINEUP: Timo Laine vocals; guitars; synthesizers, pedals Linda Nardini keyboards Jimmy Haslip bass John Lowery drums; vocals With: Mimi Wagner backing vocals Jan Uvena drums Bob Winn drums Noe Cruz bass Jeff Hull bass
Prolusion. SYMPHONIC SLAM was a Canadian band based around Finnish composer and instrumentalist Timo LAINE, which issued two full length productions prior to disbanding. SSII is their second and last album and was initially released in 1978. This latest reissue comes courtesy of Musea Records, and saw the light of day in 2011.
Analysis. The late 70's werent always a good time to be in, especially if you had the inclination to create and release rock music of a sophisticated nature, which is perhaps what ultimately caused the demise of Symphonic Slam. Their 1976 debut had landed them gigs opening for acts like Rush and Village People, but while the former was closest to what they wanted achieve their label desired the band to develop more towards the latter in style, and by preference with some disco moves included. The band as such kind of fell apart from what I understand from the sources, and when the label sent them to Los Angeles to get the proper inspiration the end result became more of a solo album for Laine than a band effort by Symphonic Slam. Or perhaps one might describe the end result as one partially made by a new band. The opening efforts are the ones made with Laine's new backing band, to my understanding, and these efforts are the most interesting. Pieces with something of a foundation in classic rock, with down to earth lyrical topics, well developed verse and chorus sequences and a basic straightforward arrangement. Apart from the use of synthesizers and keyboards that is. Symphonic tinged textures flavor most parts of these opening four tracks, backed by a liberal use of futuristic sounds and effects, which eventually gives these compositions a strong space rock association, even if the core foundation is closer to a mainstream oriented variety of rock and hard rock. The remaining five tracks are less intriguing to my ears, and to some extent come across as time specific creations. The use of disco-inspired instrumental details on No One Knows and the upbeat and energetic rockabilly flavored JJ Jane perhaps the oddest ones out in that department, although the dampened Uriah Heep sound explored on I'm On My Way is just as much a creation of its time as the others. The common denominator through all these rather different compositions is, obviously, Timo Laine. And while he's a good instrumentalist, it's his voice that manages to unite this production into an album experience rather than a collection of bits and pieces. He has a strong, powerful and melodic set of pipes, and uses them in an excellent manner throughout. That is, apart from the bonus tracks. A further four compositions have been added to this reissued version, and these are all-instrumental. Final piece Humans is the most intriguing as far as I'm concerned, a creation that sounds like a studio improvisation, but also the slightly Robin Trower tinged Tweek Me is a nice effort that warrants mentioning.
Conclusion. "SSII" is a curious album that basically consists of material recorded by three different band entities, each with their own particular traits and stylistic expressions, with Laine's vocals the element that gives the original nine features compositions a common identity marker. The symphonic and space rock tinged pieces that cover the initial 20 minutes of this disc are the main reason for investigating this production to my ears, but this is also an interesting disc from a defined historical perspective: an album that documents what the end results often could be when the artists and their labels didn't see eye to eye in regards to creative freedom and stylistic expression.
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