Symphonic Slam - Symphonic Slam

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Musea
Catalog Number: FGBG 4386.AR
Format: CD
Total Time: 39:35:00

The guitars of Timo Laine are the focus of this release, Symphonic Slam. Timo, referred to in the liner notes as having been referred to as the "Father Of Guitar Synthesis," plays a 360 Systems Polyphonic Guitar Synthesizer as well as a "traditional" guitar. This album is mentioned as the "first major guitar synthesizer record." He is joined by David Stone on keyboards and background vocals, and John Lowry on drums and background vocals. Originally released in 1976, this album is, for the most part, very much of its time. For the most part, it's space-rock, but then there's something like "I Won't Cry," which is funky -- it recalls the very same silver futuristic space suit adorning Laine in the booklet -- flowing hair, sunglasses, black boots, and the silver outfit.

Some of the tracks will be of some interest to space-prog fans, especially parts of the first track "Universe," "Everytime," and especially "Let It Grow," though lyrically that latter one is a rather sappy love song. "Universe" begins with a subtle, marching drum beat -- oh, its something Pink Floyd might have done. It's dark and ominous, which will make you think of The Wall, though that was to come 4 years later. There's a guitar solo in "Everytime" that seems a bit Gilmour-esque. The guitar synth flourishes are what we would hear in disco - that wavery, yet clipped and metallic wah-wah. When he plays in a more fluid style, you'll hear echoes of it in recalled other period pieces, though not necessarily of the true prog variety -- more in the AOR bands of the day. Laine as a vocalist is in the Lake/Wetton style, though he sounds most like Wetton, and yet not really like him at all. "Let It Grow" will recall Trilogy-era ELP...until it goes disco.

"Times Run Short" is the epic, Vegas number, it's splashy with a faux-horn section. The instrumental "Days" steals a few pages 70s rock anthems songbook, Kansas being the artist that leapt out immediately (esp. "Carry On Wayward Son") and, towards the end, Yes. There's also a rumbling, frenetic drum solo from Lowry in this piece (the second longest at 5 minutes). "Summer Rain" is a piano-like keyboard and vocal piece, actually rather nice. Synths swirl like strings in the background - not just strings as in violins, etc., but also like long silvery threads. Not to take away what Laine does on guitar, mind you. "Modane Train" has a classic, arena rock feel to - Pablo Cruise come to mind. This puts an epic spin on a train crash. Actually, this is, musically, a rather cool tune.

The longest track is the 6-plus minute "Universe." After that, most of songs are in the 3 - 4 minute range. Laine wasn't really much of a lyricist, but seemed to indicate there was more by the way he sang. The least impressive song is the "Fold Back," though it tries to make up for it in bombast. Sure the arrangement is complex and it's more fuzzed, rock than disco...but there's that disco element to it. You can shake your thang to it, though you might be a little dizzy afterwards. Ditto the aforementioned "I Won't Cry."

It might sound harsh to say so, but this is why there was punk. It's not that I don't like this album, I do. If its historical significance is accurate, and I've no reason to doubt that it is, that would be its major redeeming value. Laine as a guitarist is good and the performances are good, so that doesn't disappoint, though it is far from a perfect album. That is, sonically it is a great sounding record, but the material is a little lightweight. I have to give credit to Laine, though, for not making a guitar album that forgot everything but the guitar. The album is balanced in that regard. It's prog in the sense that Laine was pushing at the envelope a little bit drawing from a new, and untested, pallette. But, it's 70s-era fluff (nearly) that would probably have remain buried but for the historical value and the quality of the performance.

Musea licenced this release from Univeral Music Canada

Universe (6:37) / Everytime (4:21) / Fold Back (2:50) / I Won't Cry (2:55) / Let It Grow (3:56) / Modane Train (4:19) / Times Run Short (2:48) / Days (instrumental) (5:00) / Summer Rain (3:53) / How Do You Stand (Before The Lord) (4:56)

Timo Laine - guitar synth, guitar, vocals
John Lowery - drums, backing vocals
David Stone - keyboards, backing vocals

Symphonic Slam (1976/2001)

Genre: Psychedelic/Space Rock

Origin CA

Added: June 26th 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 655
Language: english


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