The Syn

Original Syn

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Confusingly, this two-CD set is an entirely different compilation than the similarly titled Original Syn 1965-2004 double CD that came out the following year, even though most of the tracks appear on both releases. This package is the better one by a slim margin, though it's aggravatingly vague about the dates and sources of some of the cuts. Certainly most of disc one does originate from '60s recordings, including both sides of their two singles, "Grounded"/"Created by Clive" and "14 Hour Technicolor Dream"/"Flowerman." Also present are two mid-'60s tracks (transferred from acetate) from the Selfs, the band in which bassist Chris Squire and keyboardist Andrew Jackman played before joining the Syn, and a lo-fi rehearsal tape of "The Gangster Opera" by the same lineup that played on the Syn singles.

Beyond that, it's hard to say when the material was recorded. "Mallard Way," a solo piano piece by Andrew Jackman, sounds like it was done long after the original Syn dissolved, and while "Illusion" (on disc two) does feature three members of the '60s Syn, it's obviously way too prog rock and slickly produced to be from the '60s themselves. "The Last Performance of the Royal Regimental, Very Victorious and Valiant Band," though written by the Syn's Steve Nardelli and Andrew Jackman and sounding very much like a fruity circa-1967 London pop production, is sung by one Denny Ward, with Jackman being the only musician from the Syn who plays on the track. "Mr. White's White Flying Machine" is credited to "Ayshea with the Syn" and is apparently the Syn backing a female singer on a psych pop tune. And "Cadillac Dreams" is a murky recording credited to "Nasquijack" (Nardelli, Squire, and Jackman) on which only vocals and a piano can be heard. At least "Merry-Go-Round" is definitely the '60s Syn taken from an acetate transfer, though of an early lineup predating Pete Banks' time in the band.

Focusing on the music, while "14 Hour Technicolor Dream" and "Grounded" are among the finest obscure '60s British psychedelic and mod singles, nothing else here comes close to being as interesting. "Merry-Go-Round" is okay soul-mod, and the two Selfs numbers include a generic early British Invasion-style original ("Love You") and a passable cover of the Who's "I Can't Explain." But on the whole, it's only for very serious '60s British rock/Yes fans looking to fill in some of the back story of a band that seemed to have great potential, but only came close to fulfilling it on those "14 Hour Technicolor Dream" and "Grounded" tracks. More of the back story is filled in by the 45-minute interview (conducted in 2004) about the Syn with Squire and Nardelli that takes up most of disc two, as well as the 20-page booklet of photos and liner booklets, all enclosed in a DVD-sized case. With so much effort invested in such handsome packaging, however, why not go to the trouble of providing more specific details about the actual tracks?

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