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Symphonic Slam

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4 stars Timo Laine and his family emigrated from Finland to America in the 50's. He began playing guitar at the age of 12 and became a guitar teacher at a local music store during his late high school years. He worked with new guitar synthesised technology and was therefor a pioneer in this genre. After quitting college he began performing in the club scene where his band was discovered by A&M Records. They released the self-titled album "SYMPHONIC SLAM" in 1976, which contained 10 magnificent and diverse songs, ranging from jazz-rock to symphonic & progressive rock. When Timo was asked to record a follow-up, the record label wanted a disco album. This was of course a humiliation for Timo, he said no, and since then he has been doing film music and albums. As far as I can remember, this is the earliest album I've heard containing guitar- synthesizer. This is an interesting historical musical moment captured on vinyl/CD. I don't know which dignity and impact this album has had on guitarist who play guitar-synthesizers. I hadn't heard about Timo Laine and SYMPHONIC SLAM until I heard this album in 2001, but it's however a real masterpiece, and it's a shame that it hasn't been re-released until now.
Report this review (#18435)
Posted Thursday, January 15, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars I spent years searching this album out after someone nicked it. It's SO good! If you enjoy ProgRock, you owe it to yourself to buy this CD. The music is very atmospheric with a multitude of styles and palettes, and it's even got art work by the late great Abdul Mati Klarwein. A gem.
Report this review (#18436)
Posted Thursday, February 12, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars SYMPHONIC SLAM were another talent-rich band that never got a break. This pioneering Canadian prog band featured the talents of Timo Laine who created a real specialized talent with his use of a new gizmo... the 360 systems polyphonic guitar synthesizer. Essentially 'SLAM' deliver a rich keyboard based sophisticated poly synthetic nodes with support from John Lowery's drums and David Stone's keyboards. Musically this album covers a lot of ground with progressive rock standing out as the clear line with Jazz, AOR, Pop, 70's Classic Rock and Blues. A few years later after the break-up of SYMPHONIC SLAM, David Stone would join Ritchie BLACKMORE's "Rainbow". "Symphonic Slam" debut album contains some pretty eclectic material which reminds very at times very much of "Mirage" era CAMEL , FM (Canada) and with a degree of "Windchase" tossed in for good measure.
Report this review (#18438)
Posted Saturday, March 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars As a longtime signed and seasoned pro recording artist who will remain anonymous for this review, I must say that Symphonic Slam is one of the great albums of all time- PERIOD. It's too bad some people just don't get it. Then again, great music is never understood by the masses, and it just goes to show that sophisticated music is only for sophisticated minds. This is exactly the case here, as Symphonic Slam was WAY ahead of its time, in too many ways to list here. A great album- PERIOD.
Report this review (#18439)
Posted Saturday, June 12, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Great band !!! I saw them play in Toronto back in 77 or so Fantastic live Awesome trippin' music in those daze So good I can't even part with my two 8-track tape copies One almost worn out and the second never opened Two Lp's and I wish I'd bought more All the Prog heads I play it for love these tunes Too bad more albums were not to be I'm suprized by the response to this album as most people usually go whaat? when I mention this band. Being from T.O. myself the band was not that well known in the 70's. But the joint was packed that night and everybody loved it!!!
Report this review (#18440)
Posted Saturday, January 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars As a high school student in '76, any music I really wanted to listen to was done through headphones. Many an hour was spent playing Symphonic Slam, making an indelible impression. Unfortunately, I hadn't heard from Timo Laine since.... With the advent of Kazaa (and others), the proliferation of downloading etc., I was pleasantly surprised to find Symphonic Slam again. I checked it out for nostalgic reasons if nothing else. Having listened to many times since on my (much) better stereo system, it is still is an amazing way to spend time. Like most prog-rock, it is best enjoyed without conversation - not really the ideal album (oops) CD to put on at a party but, incredibly rewarding if you spend the time to actually listen. The blur of genres and changes between songs ensure a great journey each listen. Most of the songs make you feel (something/anything) deeply as you listen. Kick ass musicianship & a great intro to prog- rock music. As someone who already enjoyed Yes, ELP, Genesis (remember them when...), this album had me searching for new sounds by others on a similar (but unique) journey. Phil Manzanera, Eno (801...) and others were only discovered because of what Symphonic Slam awakened. This to me makes this album an essential addition to anyone looking to appreciate how great prog-rock can be.

btw.... I believe this album won a (Canadian) Juno award

Report this review (#18441)
Posted Friday, February 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Well, this was obviously the very first record featuring guitar-synthesizer and alone for this fact supposed to be a rather eponymous one and actually it starts very much promising with the first two tracks being really great symphonic ones with a very much space rocking sound. But after those ones there are a couple of very much mediocre songs with some symphonic or sometimes jazzy touch (like #7) which are quite rocking, but as well rather pop-ish. Nothing really special. Track #8 which is an instrumental one apart of some short wordless vocal parts features a quite impressive drum solo, but apart of this it's not a really great one as well. Then there is still a more mellow song and another quite rocking one which is not that bad but as well not a real highlight.

So as a summary this album has a few great moments like the first two songs and maybe the drum solo in track #8 but else fails to offer me much interesting or attractive I've to say. Still good enough to give 3 stars!

Report this review (#18442)
Posted Saturday, February 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
4 stars Many years ago I gave this album a try because of the wonderful painted album sleeve, in the vein of the usual progrock albums featuring a surrealistic/magical-realistic painting to dream away with. My first session caused mixed feelings because of the poppy atmosphere on some tracks. But gradually the music grew and grew and eventually I was delighted about the exciting mix of pop and symphonic: at some moments I trace hints from The Tubes, at other moments the music is more in the vein of "Utopia"-era Todd Rundgren. The strong point on this album is the tension in the music (from pop or art-rock to bombastic prog or electronics) and the use of fat sounding Oberheim synthesizers and a polyphonic guitar synthesizer, culminating in a very spectacular sound that often blows me away. THIS IS UNIQUE PROGRESSIVE POPROCK!!
Report this review (#39273)
Posted Tuesday, July 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I own this album. I bought it immediately after seeing them perform at a bar In sarnia , ontario called hughies junkyard. I found the music to be Excellent & still enjoy it very much to this day!! First band i have ever seen That used a guitar synth. I found the songs to be unlike anything out there On the rock scene. The music was very refreshing at the time. The Musicianship was extraordinary & they had a big sound for just having 3 Members! I've played it at parties i've had & everyone would ask --who is this? This band is great! I wish they would reunite & tour the bars as i would Definately love to see them again! I find alot of todays newer bands kind of Boring----nothing new & exciting , they pretty much all sound the same. Maybe if symphonic slam got together -even for just one more time , it might Ignite some fire in an up & coming band or two! I own the album & have Transfered it to cd. Now when i have friends in the car i let them give it a Listen. I get alot of positive feedback about the music . They love the energy This band has. I'm 51 & when i'm alone at home i crank this band up & still feel Like i did when i first seen them in 76 , 77. It makes me feel damn good. Ahead Of they're time----yes , & i can't help but wonder what they would be playing If they were together today. I'm sure it would be ahead of they're time & just As good as it was back then. I,m sure they would pack a club just like they Did when i first seen them & i know alot of musicians that would show up , Young and old to see this band!! Sometimes i wish i could go back in time just To see them again!!!!!!!!!!
Report this review (#46655)
Posted Thursday, September 15, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars They used to rehearse for hours on end in a little 2-bedroom house in Fresno, CA (Yes, I know - that sounds like Ted Knight's intro for his "Ted Baxter" character on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Ha!) that I ended up renting that summer from one of the ORIGINAL two "sidemen", (drums + keys, guitar) who were both good friends of mine. Clearly, it was "Timo's band", and he was very exacting about how he wanted things to sound. And the "Guitorgan", odd as it was, was no doubt the primary instrument and focus of the group. Though my "landlord" (friend) did have one of the few Chamberlin (i.e., basically, an advanced Mellotron) keyboards in the US at the time, and that classic string sound was also an intrinsic part of the original repertoire.

But the trek from California to Canada that summer to play the clubs and develop the act further was not done with the players who performed on the record. I was told by my friends upon their sudden return, that "before the ink had even dried on the contract with A&M", they were basically shown the door and their "replacements" were ushered in by the label. It seemed to me that they had invested quite a bit of themselves in the belief that their "bandleader" would honor their commitment and take them with him to their first major recording contract. This was evidently not to be. Of course there's always "2 sides to every story" and this is not exactly a review of the CD, but I recall the music I heard as being very progressive for its' day and witnessed much effort to see it polished enough to land a (coveted then, as now) "major label recording contract". So next time they tell you "Don't try this at home." - don't believe 'em.

Report this review (#65027)
Posted Tuesday, January 17, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars What in the world!? Why doesn't the archieves have a more detailed description of this band!? A band that seemingly came out of no where and produced only one album that is either on par or beating some of the most acclaimed Symphonic Prog albums! Jesus! Seriously... I was never a huge fan of Close to the Edge and after hearing this album I see exactly where Yes went wrong in some parts of their "Masterpiece." Also, I would really have to say that I hear some parts that were probably inspired by Uriah Heep. So if you are a Heep fan, you'll especially dig this. This album is a must listen to of any member of this site, and especially if Symphonic is your favorite genre because this album has everything. Jazz elements, synth guitar and drums that will blow your mind.

The only real weak part of this album, or so I can see, is in the song Modane Train. Not that it is a bad song but it is a little too poppy and seems a little off from the rest of the album. And maybe some people might have a hard time admitting that this is Symphonic Prog because of the fact that no 20 minute epics exist in this album... but I don't feel that that is even necissary. Not that big of a dent put on the album if you ask me.

It's true that a lot of people might not agree with my rating of 5 stars on this album, but seriously, after you take into consideration that it was Symphonic Slam's only album and then they were basically never heard from again... it raises a little attention. Good, better, bestest than I expect out of any one hit wonder. I love it.

Report this review (#68544)
Posted Monday, February 6, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars I listened more and more the Musea re-release of this one but really apart some Stev Hillage moments highly interestant the Cd confuse me to the point i never liked it really in full unless some parts was really great. But sorry for the cd in full , no it's was not so interestant in is whole. 3 is the best i can do .
Report this review (#68545)
Posted Monday, February 6, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars It's a memorable album which colored my school days .

Symphonic Slam reminds me to the period when I bought the cassette of Pink Floyd "Animals" whereby the B side leftover was filled up with a band "unknown" and unfamiliar to my ears . Symphonic Slam! The name itself scared me because at the time I was not aware of anything called "symphonic". I thought it would be something that would sound like a a symphonic orchestra. But it was not because what I heard was a bunch of shows on electronic equipment with state of the art technology. As this was leftover, I only played after I played Pink Floyd "Animals". I got no idea at all about the "band". Only couple of years ago (I think sometime in 2001) I purchased the CD version and I came to know the band - a bit.

It's basically a Canadian with Norwegian origins Timo LAINE who was recognized as the true pioneer of synthesizer-guitar. After 40 years of guitar playing, Timo has seen the road and eras of music. "I've played on stage with everybody, from Dick Dale, to the Stones, Chuck Berry, BB King, Cher, Tina Turner, and Rush" and the list could go on! He's spent twenty years playing clubs and concerts plus a few record deals in between. Timo Laine has been referred to as the "Father of Guitar Synthesizer". He pioneered its technology during its infancy by performing and recording the first major guitar synthesizer record known: Symphonic Slam.

"Universe" is of course very memorable for me not because I was so familiar when I was at school age but its melody is really catchy. This kind of track suits the definition of what so called at the time as Heavy Slow Rock - a sub genre that we, at our country, created as category for songs with slow tempo / mellow with tight composition. "Universe" definitely fits into the definition. On top of great melody it has nice combination between guitar and synthesizer. "Everytime" lends its bed from the first track with similar style and nice melody with synthesizer-drenched music. "Fold Back" brings the music much more dynamic with powerful drumming and pulsating synthesizer in a rocker style. "I Won't Grow" shows much more aggressive synthesizer work which make the vocal a bit go to drain swept by the synthesizer sounds.

"Let It Grow" as well as "Universe" were quite well known in my country for some people by the time it was released. Again it shares great melody as "Universe" that's why it's memorable. "Let it grow .. my love". "How Do You Stand" concludes the album with an upbeat tempo music and straight forward structure. It's a classic and it's recommended. Keep on proggin' ..!

PS - Whenever I listen to this CD, the reaction to me is so emotional and the best thing to describe the situation is with my locality language as mbrebes mili. It's so touchy and so memorable for me .. personally ...

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#75723)
Posted Friday, April 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars A one-shot not quite wonder that is supposedly the first album to feature a synth guitar, played by founder and nearly one-man-band Timo Laine. Dave Stone (later of Rainbow) provides bass but played on keyboards, and John Lowery (who I’ve never heard of before or since) plays drums. There was another album titled “Her Fire” issued on Laine’s own label, but I’ve never seen or heard it and imagine considering it was released at the height of both punk and disco that it didn’t get much distribution.

This one is a bit uneven, but when everything clicks it is excellent. Tracks like “I Won't Cry” with a mundane blues rhythm and borderline cheese-laden lushness from the synth- guitar, and the almost nondescript “Modane Train” are distractions.

But the rest of the album is quite an adventure in brash synthesized sound with a decidedly progressive bent at a time when such albums were in short supply at your local record store. A few times the band wanders backwards to Rare Bird, Cactus, Ramatam-like territory such as on the dated-sounding nature retrospective “Times Run Short”, or on the faux new-age ballad “Summer Rain”.

But for a good portion of the album Laine’s guitar licks (if they can be called that) are tight, lush, and well coordinated with the keyboard tracks. There are a lot of unusual synthetic sounds on this album that are clearly experimental, but Laine and Stone seem to do a good job of resisting the temptation to go hog-wild in entertaining themselves, and show restraint in a way that contemporaries like Edgar Winter or Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen could not. The opening “Universe”, closing “How do you Stand (Before the Lord)”, and the majestic and spacey “Everytime” are highlights.

This is a decent, but not great album. It hasn’t aged particularly well, but has enough of an experimental edge to it that it can still yield a few surprisingly interesting moments for those hearing it for the first time.

Recommended to most Art Rock fans, as well as those who cut their musical teeth in the early eighties. Both groups should appreciate the artificial but tastefully produced licks on this album, and won’t likely be put off by the occasional tendency to reveal the fact the album was recorded in the late seventies. Three stars.


Report this review (#127052)
Posted Thursday, June 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
3 stars Coming back to this a few times in the last 20 years has been like meeting up with the old college friend. Part of me wishes we would have kept in regular touch, marveling as forgotten or unnoticed character traits become apparent, yet also realizing how much was not special and why we lost touch in the first place.

Contrary to what you might read, there isn't a whole lot that is terribly distinctive about the guitar synthesizer, and if I am hearing it correctly, the sound is basically like a processed electric guitar. Timo Laine does a decent job on vocals, and some of the majestic tracks, like "Universe", "Time Runs Short" and "Let it Grow" really befit the moniker of "Symphonic Slam", with a helping of space thrown in. In the meantime,"Summer Rain" omits the slam and sound delightful in the process, and most of the rest of the material is utterly the antithesis of symphonic. A little too much eclecticism for its own good, in the end Symphonic Slam exposes some decidedly middle of the road rock roots, which makes tracks like "Modane Train" pretty much interest-free.

I don't know if you can be considered a pioneer if you adopt something that few follow and, although this album is no slam dunk, it contains some pretty elegant material and is worth looking into if the price and availability coincide. 2.5 stars.

Report this review (#151242)
Posted Friday, November 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars A great album that deserves more attention! There is a intensity and glow to this album that make it stand out. SYMPHONIC SLAM is not breaking ground, although the use of the guitar-synth gives this album a unique sound, but they play there songs with conviction and guts.

I couldn't say which other progressive band to compare SYMPHONIC SLAM with... One reviewer mentioned Uriah Heep and I agree a bit with that but what dominates the sound of this album is the guitar-synth and the only thing that comes up in my mind is the Recycled album of NEKTAR where Larry Fast was on the keyboards. There are lots of fat synthesizer sounds on this album but it doesn't sound like TANGERINE DREAM or EL&P at all. Musically it has some jazzy and funky influences but overall it's very rocky. On Days I hear a FRANK ZAPPA influence with the speeded la-la-la-voices and a jolly melody-line.

There are no long epic songs for proglovers here but there are a lot of changes within every tune and most of the songs doesn't follow the verse-chorus-bridge pattern, which IMO is enough to make it interesting although the songs are short.

This completely unknown Timo Laine shows to be a rather talented guitarist and his fellow musicians on drums and keyboards make a good job too, especially the drummer vibrates with energy and I find his drumming innovative and tasteful. Singing is not Timo Laines greatest talent but he knows it and doesn't try to sing things he couldn't manage. His yell on the last chorus of How Do You Stand is still very effective and the guitar solo that ends this album isn't pioneering but ardent and soulful.

Four stars - and a little bit more!

Report this review (#171247)
Posted Saturday, May 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Symphonic Slam was an idea of Finnish musician Timo Laine, who moved from Finland to California, U.S.A., at the age of 6.He participated in a couple of local bands, before trying to experiment with the guitar synthesizer around 1973, while his listenings became more eclectic.He recorded some demos for Epic Records, before the producer was fired, and Laine had to move to Toronto for a better luck.There he formed Symphonic Slam with drummer John Lowery and keyboardist David Stone.He had previously secured a contract with A&M Records, which eventually released the band's self-titled debut in 1976.

The first few tracks give hope for a good proggy release.The keyboards of Stone and the unique guitar synth of Laine produce a dramatic sound with a very pompous style, based on shifting moods and changing climates as well as Laine's vocal distortions.The style is grandiose Art Rock with symphonic references, but the following tracks are not that succesful.For example ''I Won't Cry'' has a very commercial and cheap GENTLE GIANT-esque, funky approach, ''Modane Train'' is a groovy rocker, where the synths sound childish, ''Times Run Short'' sounds like a worse version of STYX'es commercial albums, even having Soul influences and ''Days'' is a flat instrumental with an excessive drum solo (despite its nice keyboard parts).''Summer Rain'' is a melancholic ballad with a very PROCOL HARUM-like atmosphere, while ''How Do You Stand'' is a bit better with a more bombastic and orchestral sound due to the fiery keyboards, though a dated PROCOL HARUM influence is still quite obvious.

The experiment was not quite succesful.The nice opening ideas of Laine are followed by sterile and close to forgettable compositions, where the inspiration of using the guitar synthesizer is lost in the chosen process.Better stick with the better bands of the style like STYX, SUPERTRAMP or AMBROSIA...2.5 stars.

Report this review (#918522)
Posted Sunday, February 24, 2013 | Review Permalink

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