fri 03/12/2021

Music Reissues Weekly: Fire - Father's Name Is Dad, Flowerman - Rare Blooms From The Syn | reviews, news & interviews

Music Reissues Weekly: Fire - Father's Name Is Dad, Flowerman - Rare Blooms From The Syn

Music Reissues Weekly: Fire - Father's Name Is Dad, Flowerman - Rare Blooms From The Syn

Definitive statements on the British psychedelic contenders

The Syn in 1966. The pre-Yes Peter Banks second from right, and fellow future Yes member Chris Squire right

Between August 1966 and November 1967, The Syn played 36 shows at London’s high-profile Marquee Club. In June and September 1967 they issued two singles on the happening Decca subsidiary Deram, an imprint scoring hits with releases by Cat Stevens, The Move and Procol Harum.

The Syn’s singles were voguish: tracks included the flower-power referencing “Flowerman” and “14 Hour Technicolour Dream,” its title borrowed from the recent underground event at Alexandra Palace. Amongst The Syn’s members were Peter Banks and Chris Squire, who went on to Yes. Regardless of all this, The Syn did not click with pop pickers.

Fire want further than The Syn as after two singles they released an album in September 1970. Earlier, they had been signed by Decca and to the Beatles-backed Apple Publishing, and in March 1968 released the driving, infectious Beatles/Who hybrid “Father’s Name is Dad”  the first of the pair of singles for the label. No hit. Following the album, they fell apart in late 1970 and band member Dave Lambert went on to The Strawbs. Rick Wakeman was involved in The Strawbs and Yes, so there’s a non-linear connection between The Syn and Fire.

Fire Father's Name is DadThe status of both bands as psychedelic-era contenders has resonated since their demise. Each was rediscovered in the early 1980s when tracks from their rare singles were included on the important Chocolate Soup For Diabetics albums. Once the ground was broken, easier to find releases followed as did the telling of the stories. Now, Fire’s Father's Name Is Dad and Flowerman - Rare Blooms From The Syn have arrived.

Rare Blooms From The Syn is a single CD in a digi-pack with a booklet. The 14 tracks include the four sides from their two singles, demos, recordings from a rehearsal, pre-Syn material by The Selfs, two related (and indifferent) tracks from 1974 and an inessential 2004 re-recording of the Deram 45 track “Grounded”. Father's Name Is Dad is a triple CD in a card wallet with a booklet. Each disc has a card sleeve. Disc Three is a recording of a live reunion show from 2007 when the whole of 1970’s Magic Shoemaker album was reprised. Of tangential interest. Discs One and Two collect the band’s two 1968 Decca singles, Magic Shoemaker and tons of demos. Four 1967 tracks date from when Fire were known as Friday’s Chyld.

Such thorough digging into bands which had a limited amount of original releases leads to musing on what might have happened if they had become commercially successful. Did they have the goods? Was there more there than “Flowerman”, “14 Hour Technicolor Dream” or “Father’s Name is Dad”? Was there unrealised talent?

flowerman rare blooms from the synThe answers are yes and no. With The Syn, a rehearsal recording of “The Gangster Opera” is fascinating. From January 1967, it’s a portmanteau composition obviously influenced by The Who’s “A Quick One (Whiles He’s Away)” (its parent album was issued in December 1966). Even with the adoption of psychedelic trappings in 1967 – they supported The Pink Floyd at The Marquee on 29 December 1966, so knew what was looming – The Syn come across as a mod-soul outfit with an edge. “Grounded”, the B-side of their first single, has a soul vibe as do the Motown-esque vocals of “14 Hour Technicolour Dream”. This was an assured band yet their debut single was topped by the awful novelty “Created by Clive”, a very sub-Ray Davies outside composition which they refused to play live. If The Syn had been left to follow their own path, who knows?

Fire were also given a terrible song to record. “Round the Gum Tree”, the A-side of their November 1968 second single, is horrible proto-bubblegum. In Melody Maker, Chris Welch said it was “unbelievable teenybopper rubbish...worst record of the year.” Unlike The Syn, Fire found a way to pursue what they wanted: after leaving Decca they ended up with Pye for whom they recorded the concept album The Magic Shoemaker. The production is undercooked and the arrangements tentative, but The Magic Shoemaker (recorded in January 1970) is a fine piece of British whimsy. But it was too late for such an album – the blues boom meant heaviness pervaded the British scene and a lightly progressive record about a cobbler and his magic shoes wasn’t going to sell. If Fire had arrived at The Magic Shoemaker earlier, a Moody Blues-like status might have beckoned.

Fire and The Syn issued some exceptionally fine records. These and everything else which survives are collected on both CDs. At this remove, the chance of more recordings emerging must be zero. Despite being as all-encompassing as they could possibly be, Father's Name Is Dad and Rare Blooms From The Syn tantalise – intimations of possibilities linger. It’s fun to imagine a world where each band charted with their singles and became as big as Marmalade.

@MrKieronTyler

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