A loosely organized concept album — an otherworldly prophet is institutionalized, befriends a fellow inmate, and escapes back to his home world — this release is primarily of interest today to Peter Banks fans. Too often the songs appear to be formed around the lyrics, rather than the other way around, and they only really get rolling when Colin Carter steps aside to let the band kick out the jams. “None the Wiser” has some tearing leads by Banks, and “Man of Honour,” their strongest track, moves from a phased banjo introduction to fine interplay between acoustic guitar, bass, and tight drumming. But waiting for the four or five worthy instrumental passages on this album may try the patience of most listeners. A note to fans: despite the album’s title, Banks’s later Empire song of the same name is nowhere to be found here.
Out Of Our Hands, the underrated third “concept” album, complements the debut well; along with guitar, Banks plays a few synth parts, so the texture of the two records is fairly similar. The band self-produces but to no detriment. What is different on OOOH is a more calculated commercial approach: shorter songs, clearer attempts at hooks and choruses, and a tighter, less jamming style. The concept that underpins the songs is trite and unoriginal: an alien savior, sent on a mission a la The Day The Earth Stood Still, is betrayed and returns disappointed to his planet Catalina. Er…what? Honestly, without the LP’s liner notes and a close reading of the lyrics, you’d never have picked up any plot or coherence, but that wouldn’t be any great loss.
The songs could use more development (more jamming!) but especially in the latter half (the old side 2) the band locks into some very satisfying prog riffing that recalls Wetton-era King Crimson titles like “Fallen Angel” or “Easy Money.” Check out “Psychosync” or “Manhattan Morning,” the album’s absolute high point, with its Western imagery, lead bass, and ascending Lark’s Tongues-style chords. Banks really lets loose on the fade-out, too. You also get some quite lovely ballads in “Man of Honour” (check out Banks’s acoustic runs on the fade-out there, as well) and the Crimson-meets-Yes closer “Shadows.” Again, it’s all great but under-developed, as if the band is clearly trying to rein in their tendency to 12-minute epics (see In The Can, their second record, for more of those).
A comment on the musicianship: clearly the group sounds like early Yes, especially with the propulsive bass and soaring guitar, though the drums are more on the beat than Bruford ever liked to be. The one difficulty is Colin Carter’s voice; getting use to him is half of the challenge of growing to like Flash. He can be a bit shrill and nasal in place, as he sounds like a bad hybrid of Anderson, Robert Plant and Ian Lloyd, emulating their worst rather than their best qualities.
The band released three albums,but disbanded during an American tour in Albuquerque, New Mexico in November 1973. By this time, relationships between Banks and the rest of the band had soured, and it had been suggested by management that the band find a replacement for Banks and carry on. They decided to stick it out because of their excellent musical chemistry, but in the end, ever-increasing tensions resulted in the band’s abrupt demise.
A1. Open Sky – 0:35
A2. None The Wiser – 3:17
A3. Farewell Number One – 1:36
A4. Man Of Honour – 4:45
A5. Dead Ahead – 4:38
B1. The Bishop – 4:21
B2. Psychosync – 4:50
(b) Farewell Number Two
B3. Manhattan Morning (Christmas ’72) – 6:23
B4. Shadows (It’s You) – 3:20
Record Company – EMI Records Ltd.
Recorded At – Advision Studios
Recorded At – Morgan Studios
Artwork [Tinting] – Philip Crennell
Bass Guitar, Vocals, Mellotron, Clavinet, Synthesizer [ARP], Piano, Acoustic Guitar – Ray Bennett
Design, Photography By – Hipgnosis
Drums, Congas, Tabla – Mike Hough
Engineer – Geoff Young, Mike Butcher, Mike Dunn
Engineer [Assistant] – Paul Northfield
Guitar, Synthesizer [ARP, Moog], Backing Vocals, Banjo – Peter Banks
Producer – Flash
Vocals – Colin Carter
Written-By – Carter (tracks: B3, B4), Banks (tracks: A1, B2.a), Bennett (tracks: A2 to B2.c)
Style: Prog Rock
Label – Sovereign Records