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F.M. - 'Transformation' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/9d/98/c9/FM-Transformation-14-1442866335.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     September 21, 2015    
 
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Band leader Cameron Hawkins made good on his promise to release a new studio album, their first since 1987.

Hot on the heels of the re-issues of this Canadian Prog trio's first four studio albums and the release of a live album/DVD from their performance at Nearfest in 2006, band leader Cameron Hawkins has only gone and made good on his promise to release a new studio album, their first since 1987.

This particular F.M. formed in the mid-seventies and were notable for not having a guitarist, instead utilising (firstly) madcap violinist/mandolinist Nash The Slash alongside the more traditional bass, drums and keys, and then (latterly) Heart/Rush/K.D. Lang alumni Ben Mink in the same role. With Nash now sadly deceased and Mink otherwise successfully employed, original drummer Martin Deller is the latest to opt out, his place taken by ex-Kim Mitchell, Gowan, Roger Hodgson and Rik Emmett man Paul DeLong, whilst new members Aaron Solomon (violin, vocals) and Ed Bernard (violin, viola, mandolin, vocals) complete the line-up.

Jumping straight back into their eighties style of commercial songs with unorthodox instrumentation, 'Brave New Worlds' has a Folky vocal intro that leads into catchy melody lines and dark instrumentation that, at first, seems grating; it's a trait that's true for a few of the other tracks too. However, repeated plays reveal layers of tuneful violin and mandolin, orchestral arrangements, incredible drum patterns and Hawkins' inventive bass and smooth vocals. It does sound strange that most of the mandolin sounds are organic and not the overdriven and fuzzy electric sounds of old, plus there's a distinct lack of Hawkins' trademark synths on some tracks.

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For his part DeLong is a revelation, effortlessly switching between signatures on otherwise catchy tunes like 'Cosmic Blue', 'Reboot Re-Awaken' and the simply wonderful ballad 'Safe And Sound', always playing the right thing for the song. Elsewhere 'Tour Of Duty' has melodic violin and mandolin over a busy drumbeat and killer bass line, and while a lot of its seven minute running time is instrumental, the song parts are simple and memorable.

Both the rhythmic 'The Love Bomb (Universal Love)' and the breezy 'Heaven On Earth' have Yes and Rush overtones and are pretty immediate, with only the processed vocals of the avant-garde 'Children Of Eve' and the sparse 'Soldiers Of Life' being too jerky and bizarre for their own good.

With a spacious self-produced sound and clear mix from the legendary Terry Brown, 'Transformation' will hopefully lead to continued activity and the band will make more great albums like this one.

Phil Ashcroft

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