March 7th, 2013 marked the passing of innovative guitar great Peter Banks, one of the founding members of YES and the mastermind behind the British progressive rock band Flash. Banks was in the process of mixing this live archival recording from a concert recorded 1/21/1973 when he succumbed to a fatal heart attack at his home in Barnet, London.
The last few years of his life were tumultuous times for Banks - clinical depression, a second divorce, and in 2011 he was diagnosed with cancer as well as Legionnaire's disease. But in the end it was his heart that failed him.
Yet the day before his passing Peter Bank's was doing exactly what he enjoyed most in life ... working in the recording studio. Banks was preserving a part of his musical legacy - a Flash concert recorded 40 years earlier.
"In Public" features the original line-up: Peter Banks (guitar), Colin Carter (lead vocals) , Ray Bennett (bass, backing vocals), and Mike Hough (drums) recorded live - warts and all - at Kansas City’s Cowtown Ballroom on a cold snowy evening.
The concert was taped on the very first mobile truck for The Record Plant at a concert that would also feature The Byrds who would themselves disband a short while later.
Banks makes no excuses for the occasional Faux pas and odd sound here-and-there, assuring the listener that no overdubs or edits were done to alter the performance of the evening:
"We were late due to heavy snow and had no sound check. There were a few problems with the various audio levels and some compression had to be made; none of this is disguised by the enthusiasm, identity, and good humor of a typical Flash gig. On this CD the live performance shows all the flaws and cracks in our musical architecture. There are incidents when we sound like we are jumping through hoops instead of just grooving, or even relaxing. But leisure and blandness were never part of our agenda. Our songs were long and our trousers were tight."
The over-all recording quality is actually very good ... head-and-shoulders above the 1997 live bootleg album "Psychosync", featuring performances recorded in Hempstead, NY. in 1972, and a 1973 performance on NBC's "The Midnight Special" in 1973.
"In Public" is not only a vast improvement in sound quality over "Psychosync", but the band itself seemed to be more energized. The evenings performance was spirited, bombastic, and occasionally chaotic (as the album title promises). The final track, "Dreams Of Heaven" which clocks in at 12 minutes and 57 seconds on the studio album is extended into a raucous jam improvisation topping out at almost 25 minutes. It was a showcase for the creative genius and guitar prowess of the late Peter Banks.
Unfortunately Flash was a very short-lived band which only managed to produce three studio albums between the years 1971 - 73 ("Flash", "In The Can" and "Out Of Our Hands"). Can't help but wonder what the future might have had in store for the band had they continued.
Peter Banks liner notes say it all:
"We were FLASH. Our life was short but burned bright. We came and went in a flash."
The same might sadly be said of Peter Banks.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on December 22nd, 2013