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Byzantium - Seasons Changing CD (album) cover




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3.22 | 18 ratings

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2 stars The final album from Byzantium is a real eclectic mix of sounds, more of a sampler of the various members’ backgrounds and stylistic experiences than any kind of cohesive band effort.

And that’s okay for the most part; the tracks here are all very well arranged, and the production is mostly good. The bass and drums seem to wash out from time to time, but that’s not really all that unusual for heavy rock/prog bands of that time period.

Nico Ramsden had moved on to a career of solo and session work by the time this album was released, replaced by guitarists Jamie Rubenstein and Mike Barakan. Both these guys also contribute vocals throughout, as do the rest of the members except drummer Stephen Corduner.

Their first album is impossible to find, but I’ve heard the second several times and have noted in reviews that it sounds a bit like a cross between Uriah Heep and Wishbone Ash. That’s not quite true of this, the band’s third and final album. The first track maybe, but with a little bit of Edgar Winter prog-blues keyboards thrown in for good measure. The group also shows a definite tendency toward commercial-sounding riffs mixed in with some excellent extended guitar jamming. So the roots of proglike music is here, but these guys were all journeymen musicians looking to make their careers in the business, so they weren’t going to shy away from sounds that might either sell, or at least gain the ear of a record executive. In fact, at least three of these guys left good old England and landed in the Los Angeles music scene after Byzantium’s breakup.

“My Season's changing with the Sun” is a short but interesting three-part vocal harmony number with a simple rhythm and a little syncopated percussion, just the kind of thing that reinforces my opinion that these guys were working out a sound that would gain them a big swing in the popular music business. “Show Me the Way” and “I’ll Always be your Friend” on the other hand sound like a different type of commercial play; specifically, very Jeff Lynne-sounding compositions with lively piano, pop vocals, and a simple beat. “October Andy” is a pleasant enough tune but the production is rather flat on the lower end and it ends up sounding pretty muddled.

The album closes with about twenty minutes of ”Something You Said”, a three-part meandering work that moves from soft blues to early seventies pop to a sort of jazzy slow-tempo section to and extended guitar jam. Very cool, very laid-back, very early seventies. Kind of borders on some of the stuff Santana was doing around the same time, and makes for a great close to an otherwise average album.

A few interesting trivia bits on this lineup: guitarist Mike Barakan would resurface a few years later in Los Angeles as the lead guitarist for the band Lone Justice (how’s that for a descriptive genre label?). But by then he was (and still is) going by the name Shane Fontayne. I’m not sure which is his real name. Lone Justice of course was a completely Hollywood fabrication compiled around a flurry of hype and promotion, and would have been rather dull were it not for the stellar vocals of a young Maria McKee, sister of Love founder Bryan MacLean. Shortly after Barakan/Fontayne made his westward migration, McKee abandoned Lone Justice and reversed his path, ending up in Ireland and then Germany for a time. To the best of my knowledge she’s still there.

This is not essential prog music, and an argument could be made it isn’t prog at all. But it is an interesting album, probably mostly to real hard-core modern music collectors. As such it is almost by definition a two star album. Not particularly recommended especially since it’s kind of hard to find and not really worth the effort. Enjoy it if you run across it, but don’t try too hard to add it to your collection.


ClemofNazareth | 2/5 |


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