What a marvelous idea. You take one seasoned musical genius,
put him in a room with a tape deck with all his archive material, and ask him
to play a selection of his hidden treasures from the dark and murky past. This
is exactly what happened here.
Peter Banks, the original and best guitarist from the band
Yes, has trawled his back catalogue for some juicy rare and often unreleased
back catalogue material. He was first asked to concentrate on his pre-Yes days
from the sixties, when we were all reeling and a-rocking, quaking, and
a-shaking, making and breaking, faking and mistaking, joking and smoking -
everybody was loco from those years. This collection of songs is basically
collected from Peter’s early years 1964-1968, and gives a fascinating insight
into a musician’s formative years.
From his first tentative steps as a young seventeen year old
guitarist with Devil’s Disciples (after which the guitarist admits in the
wonderful booklet that comes with this collection, that he found the whole
experience so terrifying, he doubted he would ever pluck up the courage again
to enter a recording studio. During that 2-hour session, both the tracks here
from the Devil’s Disciples were recorded) to Peter’s solo spot with Yes on
one of their first gigs, Peter Banks musical birth is laid bare. It certainly
isn’t all pretty, and to keep the listener’s attention, neither is it in
As well as the two Devil’s Disciples tracks (quite
honestly, their take on ‘For Your Love’ does not hold a light to the
Yardbirds’ version), you also get five cuts from Syn, where Peter Banks first
teamed up with bassist Chris Squire. You get to hear ‘Flowerman’, the
single from Syn’s own Rock Opera, in which the band used to dress up as
flowers for the stage production, and then finish the set with a huge fight
featuring gardening implements. The Flowerman also sounds like very early
‘Spinal Tap’, and is made all the more galling as you get two versions of
it back to back. Obviously, Peter Banks is proud of it all.
The bulk of the material here, though, comes from the second
band that Banks and Squire formed after ‘Syn’ and were turned into compost.
The magically monikered ‘Mabel Greer’s Toyshop’ the music takes a cosmic
leap forward with versions of ‘Beyond and Before’ written by Mabel
Greer’s Toyshop vocalist Clive Bailey with Chris Squire, which in a slightly
amended version was to go on to be track one on side one of the debut vinyl
recording of Yes.
The almost telepathic understanding between Squire and Banks
is a wonder to listen to as you can hear them establishing the sound that was
to become Yes’ trademark, and still is today even though Peter Banks has not
been in the ranks for over 34 years (mind you, just about every other jobbing
musician has been through Yes ranks with each guitarist having to copy Banks’
original guitar template).
To kick start the proceedings, Peter Banks has included a
version of Peter Gunn from his jamming band in 1980. Perhaps breaking the rules
a little, but it is well worth the effort as it literally knocks heads
together. A wonderful place to start.
Then to finish off this collection, there are nearly nine
minutes of Peter’s solo section of the Yes set, which used to come during
Yes’ cover of the Byrds ‘I See You’, where the other musicians would
depart the stage (at that time Yes had Chris Squire on bass, Jon Anderson on
vocals, and Tony Kaye on keyboards), leaving our intrepid guitarist backed only
by Bill Bruford on drums, to, in the vernacular of the day, completely freak
out on the guitar. You will either love it or find it totally boring and
pretentious. (This Dog loves it.)
All the songs are linked together by more sound bites from
Peter Banks’ musical library. The 12-page booklet of this collection is
crammed full of informative facts and funny anecdotes written in the
guitarist’s own hand, with a wonderful Peter Banks Rock family tree from the
era and the necessary embarrassing era photos.
Although this collection does have its weak moments, they
are made up for by the highs that are contained here. For another insight into
this very underrated musician, read his autobiography “Beyond and
Before’’ or, to hear Peter Banks at the peak of his powers, try the debut
album from Flash (1972), the band Peter formed after he was unceremoniously
dumped from Yes, or Peter’s second solo album Instinct (1993).