Peter Banks

Can I Play You Something?

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While he is most known as the first guitarist for Yes, Peter Banks passed through four other groups in the four years before he joined the band in August 1968. Much of this CD is devoted to odds and ends from those projects, yet the subtitle "The Pre-Yes Recordings from 1964-1968" is a little deceptive. In fact, only a little more than half of the 22 tracks are from that era. The others are mysterious undated bits and pieces, most functioning as unnecessary arty "link" tracks and sounding as if they were recorded several decades later than the 1960s, although "Peter Gunn" is a live 1980 performance by the Peter Banks Band. What this manages to do is annoyingly impede the flow of rarities, which would indeed have sounded much more organic if Banks (who assembled the disc himself) had just slapped everything on in chronological order. Getting past the structural flaws to the bulk of the CD itself, it bundles a couple of songs (probably unreleased, although it's not totally clear from the annotation) by his mid-'60s group the Devil's Disciples; some but not all of the cuts from the 1967 singles by his fine, obscure psychedelic band Syn (which also included future Yes-man Chris Squire on bass), as well as a demo of one of those singles, "Flowerman"; and a few numbers by his subsequent, even more obscure psychedelic group, Mabel Greer's Toyshop. Syn's "14 Hour Technicolour Dream" is one of the greatest British psychedelic flower-power singles, and their "Grounded" is an excellent straight mod rock number; the Mabel Greer's Toyshop cuts are okay but rather par-for-the-course British psychedelia, replete with the usual harmonies and slightly distorted guitar leads. The Devil's Disciples tunes are nothing more than ordinary covers of Arthur Alexander's "You Better Move On" and the Yardbirds' "For Your Love." Some of the Mabel Greer's Toyshop songs are labeled as "radio fun" or "what bass?" mixes, yet the liner notes do not go into meaningful detail as to whether these are different mixes done in the 1960s, different mixes done recently, or how they are different in a way that should make listeners care. Banks has provided detailed and entertaining liner notes about many of the tracks, and a family tree of his progress through various groups up to Yes, yet manages not to make it entirely clear what the sources for all the vintage cuts were. There's some good music here, but the unnecessarily obtuse packaging makes it hard to fully appreciate; in addition, the best cuts (by Syn) have long circulated on numerous collector-oriented British psychedelic rarity compilations.

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