Byzantium


Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1970-72)

- Steve Corduner -- drums, percussion

- Chase Jankel -- vocals, guitar

- Robin Lamble -- vocals, bass, guitar

- Nico Ramsden -- vocals, guitar

 

  line up 1 (1972-73)

- Steve Corduner -- drums, percussion

NEW - Shane Fonayne (aka Mick Barakan) -- vocals, guitar (replaced Nico Ramsden)

- Chas Jankel -- vocals, guitar

- Robin Lamble -- vocals, bass, guitar

NEW- Jamie Rubenstein -- vocals, guitar

 

  line up 3 (1973-75)

- Steve Corduner -- drums, percussion

- Shane Fonayne (aka Mick Marakan) -- vocals, guitar 

- Robin Lamble -- vocals, bass, guitar

- Jamie Rubenstein -- vocals, guitar

 

 

 

 

- The Blockheads (Chas Jankel)

- Boys Don't Cry (Nico Ramsden)

- Ian Drury and the Blockheads (Chas Jankel)

- Chas Jankel (solo effort)

- Jazz Sluts (Nico Ramsden)

- Jonathan Kelly's Outside (Chas Jankel)

- Kilburn and the High Roads (Chas Jankel)

- Robin Lamble (solo efforts

- Lone Justice (Mick Barakan)

- Merchants of Venus (Mick Barakan)

- Nasty Pop (Steve Corduner)

- Ora (Mick Barakan and Jamie Rubenstein)

- Nico Ramsden (solo efforts)

- The Secret Police (Chas Jankel)

- Shot In the Dark (Robin Lamble)

- Al Stewart Band (Robin Lamble)

- Twist (Steve Corduner)

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Genre: progressive

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Byzantium

Company: Warner Brothers

Catalog: BS 2659
Year:
 1970

Country/State: London, UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: still in shrink; opened; promo flyer

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 20284

Price: $75.00

 

Best time to play:  Grey Sunday morning.

 

Co-produced and arranged by Stuart Taylor and long-time friend and band associate Robin Sylvester, 1972's "Byzantium" is one of those album that leaves me on the fence.  As a naturally sucker for pretty melodies and sweet harmonies, the collection was swimming with those ingredients.  Tracks like 'I Am a Stranger To My Life', 'Come Fair One' and 'Into the Country' were great examples of the band's knack for writing highly melodic material that showcased their sweet harmonies.  I'll also readily admit to adoring several of these songs.  While it wasn't a classic tune, the funky opener 'What Is Happening' has always struck a chord with me.  Elsewhere, Lamble's 'Trade Wind' may be the best CS&N song they never recorded.  At the same time, their tight musical recipe helped explain why so many reviewers seem to dislike the album.  If you weren't paying attention, it was easy for the collection to fall into a deadly sounds-the-same mode.  You were also left with the feeling these guys were searching for a formula that would offer some commercial sales (not that sales are a bad thing).  Interestingly, while clearly a group effort, outside songwriter Jamie Rubenstein was credited with penning six of the eight songs.  Jankel and Lamble each turning in one song ('Why or Maybe It's Because' and 'Trade Wind').  

 

Shortly after the recordings sessions a personnel shake-up saw original guitarist Nico Ramsden replaced by Rubenstein and Mick Barakan (aka Shane Fonayne).

 

"Byzantium" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) What Is Happening?   (Jamie Rubenstein) - 5:10   rating: **** stars

Given what I'd read about this outfit, I wasn't expecting something as funky and rocking at 'What Is Happening?'.   Nah, it wasn't George Clinton and Funkadelic, but for four pale London-based Englishmen who are often slapped with a progressive label, the track had considerable energy.  At the same time, the song served to underscore their tight harmony vocals.   

2.) I Am a Stranger To My Life    (Jamie Rubenstein) - 4:54   rating: **** stars

While I can appreciate the pretty melody and the thoughtful lyrics, 'I Am a Stranger' also underscored why so many reviewers slam the album as being forgettable ...   While I liked the unexpected mid-song  jazzy interlude, this one certainly won't appeal to everyone.   Ear candy for folks who loved vocals hamonies.

3.) Come Fair One   (Jamie Rubenstein) - 5:54   rating: **** stars

Opening up with a wall of acoustic guitars and those sweet harmonies, 'Come Fair One' was a song that should have sent acoustic music fans into spasms of ecstacy.  The song got even better when the electric instrumentation kicked in.

4.) Baby I Can Hear You Calling Me   (Jamie Rubenstein) - 5:20   rating: *** stars

'Baby I Can Hear You Calling Me' sounded like it was destined to me yet another pretty, harmony rich ballad, and it was, but these guys changed things up a little, toughening up the sound and adding some killer twin electric guitars to the mix.   

 

(side 2)

1.) Trade Wind   (Robin Lamble) - 3:00  rating: **** stars

Lamble's lone contribution, the acoustic ballad 'Trade Wind' was certainly pretty.  To my ears the intricate harmonies, the arrangement (and the topic), bore more than a passing resemblance to Crosby, Stills and Nash.  Very pretty.  Easy to see why Al Stewart was interested in having Lamble join his band.

2.) Into the Country   (Jamie Rubenstein) -  4:13   rating: ** stars

Forgettable country-tinged acoustic numbers ...   and by the time it broke into an electric arrangement, it was too late to rescue the tune.  Yeah, this one was petty, but  just wasn't anything special.

3.) Lady Friend   (Jamie Rubenstein) - 4:40   rating: *** stars

'Lady Friend' was the album's most pop oriented tune.  Yeah, the sweet melody and pretty harmonies were still here.  Alan Skidmore's sax solo briefly added a strange, psuedo-Pink Floyd feel to the song.

4.) Why or Maybe It's Because   (Chas Jankel) - 10:00   rating: *** stars

Not to be unkind, but Jankel's ten minute closing suite has always reminded me of a bad Moody Blues effort, combined with some discarded "Magical Mystery Tour" outtakes.   Yeah, musically it bounced all over the place and there were some nice segments (guitars come to the fore around the eight minute mark and mellotron fans should be happy), but by the end of the ten minutes, you were ready to move on.

 

 

 



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