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Peter Banks Empire - 'The Mars Tapes' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/2c/64/0a/Peter-Banks-Empire-The-Mars-Tapes-15-1443468284.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     September 28, 2015    
 
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Likely to be an item only actively sought out by existing Banks fans and Collins completists.

Readers of a certain age will know that Peter Banks was the original guitarist with Yes but was soon replaced by Steve Howe as part of the changes that would create the band's unique sound and ultimately take them on to legendary status. After that Banks, from my perspective, became a peripheral figure on the scene, dabbling with Flash before forming Empire and very occasionally appearing on Yes-related output.

This release represents version three of Empire in rehearsals at Mars Studios in Los Angeles during 1979 and that effectively makes these tracks live demos, many of the songs never having appeared on an official album until this substantial two disc package; a consequence of that being the sound quality of the recordings which leaves a lot to be desired with plenty of hiss, buzzes and crackles.

Anyone expecting any Yes-like material will be sadly disappointed with there being only fleeting glimpses of his former band, but (of course) it was Howe's guitar sound that became one of their most distinctive elements.

In this incarnation of the band, Banks is joined by female vocalist and co-writer Sidonie Jordan (aka Sydney Foxx), Mark Murdock (drums), Brad Stephenson (bass) and Paul Delph (keyboards). Jordan was both a staff-writer and recording artist with A&M and apparently has an extensive list of music credentials to her name, probably not in genres close to the average Fireworks reader's heart. From a musical standpoint it's far from terrible; there are any number of very tasteful passages and themes but there's a lack of consistency which is not surprising when you consider that this is material being worked up and developed. Some of it would fit very neatly into the "eclectic" category.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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Of interest to some will be the appearance on the bonus track 'Sky At Night' of a certain Phil Collins (drums) and his Brand X cohort John Giblin (bass) which gives you something of a clue as to the general style of material on offer, closer to the Jazz and experimental end of BX rather than the grandiose Symphonic elements of Yes.

All the above aspects taken into consideration, I have to conclude that this release is going to be of very limited appeal and is likely to be an item only actively sought out by existing Banks fans and Collins completists.

Sadly, Banks passed away in 2013 and like many artists who suffer the same fate, unfinished and previously unreleased material (whether it actually deserves to or not) starts to appear.

Gary Marshall

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