FM: Surveillance: CD

This is a remastered edition of the 1979 album by the Canadian Progressive Rock group FM that includes an illustrated booklet and a new essay. The band began life in 1976 with Cameron Hawkins (synthesisers, bass, vocals) and Nash the Slash (Jeff Plewman) (electric violin, mandolin, vocals) coming together as a duo, and making an appearance on national TV in Canada in the summer of 1976. By March 1977, FM became a trio with the addition of Martin Deller on drums and the band’s debut album soon followed. By the end of the year, Nash the Slash had been replaced by Ben Mink on electric violin and mandolin. Surveillance was the third album by the band and includes a cover of “Shapes Of Things” by THE YARDBIRDS that was released as a single.

First song “Rocket Roll” is a very catchy rock song that would have made a great single and basically the only prog rock element is the theme and lyrics because it doesn’t get more straight ahead than this. The instrumental track “Orion” is a complete spacey prog song with great playing that flows perfectly into “Horizons” which has a bit of a PINK FLOYD feel in the vocals, but the fluid guitar playing and the fantastic drumming keep it grounded in their own style. “Random Harvest” starts of with a RUSH sound on the instrumentation, but it goes into a GENESIS sound while still retaining the more rock playing in the song. “Shapes Of Things” is a very energetic cover and the band plays it pretty straight forward, but the vocals seem to be mixed down too low and fixing that would have put this over just good into great. “Seventh Heaven” is a very smooth sounding prog song that has a touch of SAGA going on and again, the guitar playing and drumming are standouts. “Father Time” is a more laid back track that keeps the prog flag flying, this time the keyboards are the standout. “Sofa Back” is a mostly instrumental track which the group performed live without its brief vocoder chant of “Moe, Larry, Cheese,” a quote from the Three Stooges short called “Horses’ Collars”. Expecting the audience would not understand it, to the group’s surprise, the audience usually chanted the phrase for them during the performance. It has a definite RUSH sound to it, but it’s a fun track all the same. Finally we get to the last song “Destruction,” which mixes the more rocking bits with prog and ends the album on a high note.

You can see the band coming to the crossroads of more commercial rock and the more technical prog that they started with and being able to combine the two styles very well on this album. This is definitely a very well done album and one that has not aged too badly, with stellar performances from the band and is highly recommended.

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