Band: Peter Bankís Empire
Label: Gonzo Multi-Media (2014)
Original Yes guitarist Peter Banks had quite a productive musical career after leaving the symphonic proggers. After a solo disc and then three discs with the band Flash he went on to form Empire. This two disc set represents the rehearsal tapes for what would eventually become Empire III released in 1979. The sound is that classic seventies progressive rock, with mostly longer songs featuring Bankís guitar solos everywhere. I find it difficult to make the distinction of his guitar work sounding like early Yes because it sounds equally Flash and ultimately Empire. Perhaps the primary distinguishing feature of Empire was the powerful vocals of Sidonie Jordan. She brings a bluesy intensity to the musical proceedings that set it apart from other prog inspired music of the day. As you would expect there are plenty of musical change-ups given that many of these compositions are built of varying segments or bits of music. Thereís a fair bit of music on these two discs and some of it does seem to go nowhere, just jamming. Other times the songs just sound rather ordinary as if the band were simply playing to see where their music would go. Ultimately itís an insight into the inner workings of the band on the studio floor. There was a fair bit of debate on whether to actually release this material given itís rough, off-the-the-floor sound. In truth the mix is a little flat in spots and thereís plenty of tape or studio hiss to go around. Still itís a valuable document showing the band in more-or-less a live situation full of energy and musical ideas. Fans of Peter Banks will undoubtedly have much to appreciate as they listen to The Mars Tapes.