Symphonic Slam

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1975-76)

- Timo Laine -- vocals, guitar

- John Lowery -- drums, percussion

- David Stone -- keyboards, synthesizers


  line up 2 (1976-78)

- Timo Laine -- vocals, guitar

NEW - Jimmy Haslip - bass

NEW - Linda Nardini -- keyboards (replaced David Stone)

NEW - Jan Uvena -- drums, percussion (replaced John Lowrey)


   line up 3 (2005)

NEW -  Les Carlsen -- vocals

NEW -  Noe Cruz -- bass

- Timo Laine -- vocals, guitar

NEW -  Bob Winn -- drums, percussion



- BB Gabor

- BloodGood (Les Carlesen)

- Timo Laine (solo efforts)

- Oak (David Stone)

- Rainbow (David Stone)

- Solo Flight (Timo Laine)

- Space Rangers (Timo Laine)

- The Yellowjackets (Jimmy Haslip)





Genre: progressive

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Symphonic Slam

Company: A&M

Catalog: SP 4619

Country/State: Canada / Finland

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 1

Price: $20.00


Often listed as a Canadian band, front man singer/guitarist Timo Laine was actually born in Finland, but raised in Southern California.    The Canadian connection came from the fact he recorded 1977's "Symphonic Slam" in Toronto with Canadian band members John Lowrey (drums) and David Stone (keyboards).


Hopefully nobody will mind that I grabbed this brief biographical history from an online interview with Laine:  "I had just completed an album recorded at Capital Records in 1974 with Neil Merryweather. The band was called "Space Rangers". I had written most of the originals for the Space Rangers years earlier with a group called Zebra, which were recorded at Pat Boons Lion and the Lamb studios.
But our producer Tony Carey died in the middle of the project. So when I started with Space Rangers, I used the same material over. Neil wrote the words, I wrote most the music, and played lead. When a conflict of interest in relation to actually getting paid came up, I left Space Rangers along with Bob Silvert, the Mellotron player.  I then was asked to record a demo with Epic Records in San Francisco, However, in the middle of that production, the producer was fired. He gave me the tapes and said good luck.  So I decided it was time to go elsewhere. I took the band to Canada, played clubs for a few years, and one day had Chum FM play the demo over the air. The president of A&M was listening and called the DJ and said "Tell that kid Timo Laine to come and see me." We got signed to record Symphonic Slam. The material was a collection of musical ideas I had been saving while playing clubs and concerts over the years.  The songs for Symphonic Slam took years to develop, and about 9 months to rehearse and record."

I actually had a friend in high school who owned this album and thought it was one of the holy grails of progressive rock.   I remember being less impressed, though all these years later I can still recognize the cool Mati Klarwein cover art.   If there was ever an album that cleaved people into opposing camps, this would be it.   Fans praise the set for it's groundbreaking use of guitar synthesizers and it's mix of progressive and rock genres.  Critics go after it for Laine's use of guitar synthesizers and it's mix of progressive and rock genres.   Take your pick.  For hardcore techies, Laine was using a Easton 360 Systems Polyphonic Guitar Synthesizer (reportedly one of six Bob Easton built).  Quite impressive piece of equipment having seen a picture of the system ....



Produced by George Semkew, the album certainly had it's moments, though anyone looking for a hardcore collection of Genesis, or King Crimson-styled progressive moves was probably going to be disappointed by the set.  Exemplified by tracks like 'Fold Back', Laine had a knack for crafting strong melodies and even his most progressive numbers incorporated catchy elements.  Unfortunately, as on the sappy ballads 'Let It Grow' and 'Summer Rain' he occasionally strayed too close to MOR for his own good.   Interestingly, while the focus wasn't on Laine's voice, he actually had some impressive vocal chops that should have attracted the folks who programmed FM radio play lists.   


"Symphonic Slam" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Universe - 6:39  rating: *** stars

Starting out with Gregorian chants (the band apparently played some concerts wearing monk robes), and assorted copycat progressive-styled moves (ringing bells, martial drums, ominous synthesizer washes ...) after a minute and a half  I had pretty much give up on the opener 'Universe'.   And then all of a sudden around the three minute mark the song shifted into a Nektar-styled slice of catchy progressive moves with more than a passing resemblance to Neil Merryweather's 'King of Mars' - by coincidence, Laine had been a member of The Space Rangers with Merryweather.   Not sure what happened around the six minute mark when the song abruptly shifted gears into what sounded like adult contemporary jazz mode.

2.) Everytime - 4:24  rating: *** stars

Pretty synthesizer power ballad that suffered from a tense, kind of pompous vocal and simply never quite kicked into gear.   

3.) Fold Back - 2:48.   rating: **** stars

Showcasing the Easton 360, 'Fold Back' had a bright, bouncy melody that made for one of the album's most enjoyable offerings.  

4.) I Won't Cry - 2:53  rating: *** stars

Hum, I don't if a pseudo-progressive outfit could really get funky, but  kicked along by some gurgling Moog, 'I Won't Cry' was a nice stab at the genre.   

5.) Let It Grow - 3:55  rating: *** stars

If you stripped away some of the synthesizers washes, the first two minutes of 'Let It Grow' would have been a fairly conventional pop ballad ...   However at the two minute  mark the song went off on a frenetic detour, before coming back to the basic melody.  Pretty vocal from Laine.     


(side 2)
Modane Train - 4:17.   rating: **** stars

Well I'm a sucker for a good wah-wah performance so 'Modane Train' caught my attention from the get-go. In spite of the obscure subject matter, this was probably the album's most conventional rocker.  No idea how Laine came up with the inspiration but the tune was apparently inspired by a historical event -  in December 1917 a troop carrying French troops back from the Italian front derailed near the entrance to the Mount Cenis tunnel in Modane, France.  Some 700 soldiers and civilian passengers were killed in the crash.  Hum, almost an Alan Parsons Project styled subject matter ..

2.) Times Run Short - 2:46  rating: *** stars

:Times Run Short' offered up a slice of Ambrosia styled commercial pop-progressive moves ...  David Pack and company would have been happy to record this one.  

3.) Days (instrumental) - 4:58   rating: ** stars

Nice rock instrumental that was ultimately spoiled by the silly speeded up la-la-la vocals and the needless John Lowery drum solo.   

4.) Summer Rain - 2:54   rating: ** stars

Pretty, fairly commercial ballad that  sounds a bit to MOR-ish for my ears and should appall the band's progressive fans.   The rainstorm sound effects were a hoot.

5.) How Do You Stand - 4:58  rating: *** stars

The rocker 'How Do You Stand; served as a nice example of Laine's use of guitar synthesizers, though today the technology sounds a bit limited and outdated.    



Opening for a wide array of name acts (ranging from Chuck Berry, to Rush, to The Village People), Laine and the band toured in support of the album, but it did little to support sales.   


A&M agreed to finance a follow-up album, but pressured Laine to record a disco-oriented effort.  Laine refused; found some financial backers, recruited a new backing band and recorded the follow-up "SS II" in 1978.   He then returned to Canada where he formed his own Lady Records label and released the LP.


I've never tracked down a copy, but here's also a 2005 on the French Muesa label album entitled "Her Fire".  



For anyone interested, Laine has an interesting website at: