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HEADROOM: DIRECT TO DISC

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FM Headroom: Direct to Disc album cover
4.08 | 43 ratings | 10 reviews | 26% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
rock music collection


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Studio Album, released in 1978

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Headroom:
a) Tyra
b) Reflections One
c) Reflections Two
d) Real Time
e) Scarberia
2. Border Crossing:
a) 1st Movement
b) 2nd Movement
c) 3rd Movement
d) 4th Movement
e) 5th Movement

Lyrics

Search FM Headroom: Direct to Disc lyrics

Music tabs (tablatures)

Search FM Headroom: Direct to Disc tabs

Line-up / Musicians

- Martin Deller / drums, percussion
- Cameron Hawkins / bass, synthesizers
- Ben Mink / electric violin, electric mandolin

Releases information

LP Labyrinth LBR 1001

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to NotAProghead for the last updates
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SurveillanceSurveillance
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Audio CD$15.17
$21.69 (used)
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FM Headroom: Direct to Disc ratings distribution


4.08
(43 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(26%)
26%
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(44%)
44%
Good, but non-essential (12%)
12%
Collectors/fans only (16%)
16%
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)
2%

FM Headroom: Direct to Disc reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by loserboy
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars After Canada's FM recorded their classic "Black Noise" in 1977, Nash The Slash left the band and was replaced by Ben Mink who is first featured on this 2 track classic gem from 1978. The unfortuate part of this story is that the master tape has been lost and it is unlikely this will be released on CD. This is just simply a killer album which is actually known for the wonderful percussive strokes of Martin Deller. Flowing all around the percussion is the synth and bass interplay of Cameron Hawkins and violin and mandolin of Ben Mink who get into some amazing playing. The overall music is slightly more jazzy I suppose than the later 2 classic FM albums ("Surveillance" and "City Of Fear"), but in many ways this is my favourite of them all. "Direct To Disc" is comprised of 2 side long instrumental tracks which seem to really be given the freedom and space to roam about and go off in some new directions. An essential album and a real highlight in the career of Canadian progressive rock.

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Send comments to loserboy (BETA) | Report this review (#31164) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Review by slipperman
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars With 'Direct To Disc', FM presented what would be their most experimental and ambitious recording. It's too bad they didn't exploit their more adventurous tendencies on successive albums, because this 2-song full-length is an impressive, sometimes astounding listen.

First track "Headroom" soars and volleys from symphonic part to symphonic part, with electric violin and keyboards sharing space in the foreground. The sounds are usually lush and airy, atmospheric and easy to sink into. It's fun to try and pick out which sound is being generated by Ben Mink's violin or Cameron Hawkins' synths. They melt together well, giving a unified focus to everything. Hawkins also doubles on bass guitar and hardly-there vocals (which are nice but seem like somewhat of an afterthought), while Mink also generates some unusual sounds with his 5-sting mandolin. Martin Deller's sensitive, tasteful drumming is fantastic throughout, though the solo in the middle of the song seems pointless (like most drum solos, no?). Second track, "Border Crossing", is even more interesting, far more experimental, a fascinating composition. It maintains a soundtrack-ish ambience at times, and a kinetic, jazzy attack other times. Mink's violin whines and cries with melancholic beauty, and while there's yet another drum solo, it's merely a short few bars that melt into Hawkins and Mink's melodic mastery, slowly, slowly working toward the song's wonderfully-layered climax.

The nature of this recording is also key to the album's listenability. Recorded live, with no overdubs, the spontaneous performances (the songs were composed beforehand) are laid down direct to the master disc. All in all, this excellent document of FM at its best remains compelling, listen after listen. Very nearly a mandatory prog classic, but unfortunately rather hard to find, and its chances of appearing on CD seem rather slim.

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Send comments to slipperman (BETA) | Report this review (#46108) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, September 09, 2005

Review by Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This was FM's second album released in 1978. Nash The Slash the violinist has left to go solo so enter Ben Mink. The band decided for this album to do a live in-studio recording. So they composed the music and practised the two long pieces which combine for about 31 minutes. They recorded many takes and kept the one they felt was best and there were no overdubs. This recording is highly valued for a couple of reasons. For one apparently the master tapes were lost so this has just been released on vinyl only, so it's rare. Also the way they recorded it, and the fact we get two long suites certainly will appeal to Prog fans out there.

"Headroom" kicks in right away with drums, bass and violin. A calm 1 1/2 minutes in with mournful violin. It then picks up with violin. Percussion, vocals and synths(moog) lead after 4 minutes then drums and violin join in. A calm 7 minutes in with synths. It starts to build 8 1/2 minutes in then we get another calm 12 minutes in, this time it's spacey. It kicks in again with drums, bass and violin. Vocal melodies join in late to end it.

"Border Crossing" is upbeat early with synths and drums standing out. I think that mandolin or maybe synths that sound like guitar. A spacey calm after 3 minutes. Moog before 6 minutes as the synths twitter. Violin before 6 1/2 minutes then percussion as it stays laid back. Vocals 7 minutes in as it picks up. Drum solo before 10 minutes. A calm with violin 11 1/2 minutes and this continues to the end.

Well i'm not as impressed as others seem to be. It isn't nearly as good as the debut "Black Noise" in my opinion. I'm giving it a low 4 stars, not for my enjoyment factor but because of the Prog spirit they showed here and certainly a lot of talent went into this recording as well.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#769644) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Post Rock Team
4 stars FM were/are a trio from Toronto, I think they still tour but haven't released any new music in ages. This is their second album. They are only on PA as 'prog related' but their first two albums are 100% prog IMO. The debut album Black Noise was one of the first to be recorded digitally. It only had a limited release originally, so Headroom was actually more widely available than the debut for awhile. However, this one never got a CD release. It was mixed live with no overdubs and recorded, as the title says, direct to disc. Original violinist/mandolinist Nash The Slash left after the debut to start a fairly successful solo career. One of the reasons he left was because he didn't like working with a drummer; he preferred the early days of FM when it was him, bassist/keyboardist Cameron Hawkins and a drum machine.

Nash's replacement here is Ben Mink (who like Nash also plays electric mandolin). He has worked with some other Canadian musicians such as Rush and k.d. lang. Despite the one member change this album sounds like the same group who made Black Noise. Although this is actually more 'proggy' and fusion-y. Only two side-long tracks are included. This is mostly instrumental music but there is a little bit of vocals. Drummer Martin Deller does some of the synth duties. In fact, on the second track he uses an alpha wave brain monitor plugged into a synthesizer so you can hear his brainwaves. No, seriously.

"Headroom" starts the album off as some kind of countrified fusion. Later the drums die out with just a little bit of percussion and the violin does a low-key solo. Some great synth sounds follow before the full trio comes back and there is some singing. It gets more experimental sounding towards the end before finishing on a blues-rock jam. "Border Crossing" begins as great maple-syrup covered fusion. Love the bass and mandolin tones here. It really sounds like a guitar but as far as I know they didn't use one. The synths sound great as well. Gets atmospheric and ambient sounding for awhile. Then it gets trippy and spacey.

A sequencer repeats a hypnotic pattern along with some percussion as some singing begins, one or two syllables at a time. While this is going on the drumkit comes back. A drum solo for awhile. Later a laid-back groove with some emotional violin soloing. Gets more jazzy as it goes along. Other than tracking down one of the original vinyl copies, I don't think you would have much luck finding this album. I'm not sure if it's available as a paid download anywhere. A real shame because the music here is great. After Headroom FM start to become way more commercial sounding. This is worth hearing if you get a chance. 4 stars.

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Send comments to zravkapt (BETA) | Report this review (#833982) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, October 06, 2012

Review by Neu!mann
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I guess there was room in the late 1970s for only one superstar Prog Rock trio from Canada, and FM wasn't it. Their reputation never extended very far below the 49th parallel, maybe because the band employed a violin / mandolin ace instead of an electric guitarist, and played (at least on this album) a style of jazzy but accessible Space Rock that didn't lend itself to the increasingly narrow radio format referenced in their own name.

It's unfortunate too that the band's best album remains their least heard. The studio master disc was apparently lost, leaving only a limited handful of now very rare vinyl LPs to represent FM at its creative zenith (my own digital copy is a secondhand dupe, only recently re-acquired after stupidly purging the record from my music library long ago).

But the album was a unique achievement for the group, and well worth the detective work needed to find it today. The lack of magnetic tape in the original recording process provided a state-of-the-art clarity rarely heard in the pre-digital dark ages, but more than that the technique liberated their music in a way the band would never recapture. The performances, and the music itself, was looser here than anywhere else in their sporadic discography, and at the same time tighter than ever, presenting two LP-sides of spontaneous yet well-rehearsed jams, miles away from the more commercial, song-based output of other FM albums.

The authoritative punch of the opening bass lines (imagine Geddy Lee auditioning for a spot in the Mahavishnu Orchestra) paces off an introductory duel between keyboard / bass guitar player Cameron Hawkins and new violinist Ben Mink, replacing Nash the Slash after the latter defected to pursue a solo career. Each suite flows smoothly from one (mostly instrumental) movement to the next, seamlessly blending rockier synth and violin workouts with episodes of cybernetic, free-form Space Rock, showing none of the clichés (musical or lyrical) of the band's earlier "Black Noise" album.

It's hard to believe the entire thing was performed live in the studio, and even harder to reconcile the exciting results with the relative sellout of "Surveillance", released by the same line-up the following year. Call it what you want: bad timing; marketplace pressure; a lack of confidence in their own abilities...for whatever reason, it's a two-fold pity that a) the sound of the album was never developed further, and b) the original disc was misplaced. This kind of negative karma never happened to that other Canadian Prog trio.

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Send comments to Neu!mann (BETA) | Report this review (#852615) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Review by b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars FM from Canada were a quite promissing band in late 70s opening concerts for Rush, Saga, etc and releasing a handfull of albums untill disbanding in 1988 as far as I know. Direct to disc was the second offer from this discret band issued in 1978 on vinyl and only this year 2013 the album saw the re issue on CD on Esoteric. Here we have only 2 pieces clocking around 32 min both, one piece for each side, and they are like a long jam session where each musician done a fairly decent job. To me FM sounds ike a combination of Jean Luc Ponty, because of Ben Mink violin giving a jazzier atmosphere, some spacey moments with intresting keyboards and all melted with prog rock ingredients, the result is intresting for sure. Specially the second track Border crossing is more close to my taste, but aswell the first is ok for sure. I like it, maybe as much as their next one Surveillance even they almost gone Saga in that period. 3.5 stars to this one, quite underrated band .

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Posted Saturday, March 16, 2013

Review by Gooner
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Run! Do not walk to pick this up. It has now been officially released on CD on the great Esoteric Recordings label. 2 long tracks of prog rock greatness from the underrated year of 1978. It has all the hallmarks that fans of King Crimson, SFF, UK, mid-period Hawkwind and jazz rock have come to enjoy. If you relished FM's "Black Noise"...this one really kicked the door down for what FM was capable of. Tight, super-human drumming from Martin Deller, stratospheric vocals/spaced out keyboards from Cameron Hawkins and the warm yet at times rustic sounding electric violin of Ben Mink taking it over the top (yeah...THAT Ben Mink! The guy on Rush's "Losing It" from Signals). A little on the improv. side at the times but nothing too crazy like the crash and bang of Henry Cow. This is all "space". A soundtrack for riding the rings of Saturn. Recorded live directly to a lacquer in the studio with no overdubs. This is the real deal. Definitely a Canadian prog rock classic.

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Posted Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Review by Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk
4 stars Despite having lost their original (and very original) frontman Nash The Slash, FM managed to find some kind of deal that had them enter a studio and engrave directly a disc. This DTD process had become quite rare by the late 70's and was sometimes still used for demo acetates. This process implies that the direct engraving forbids any kind of mixing and production work, even down to overdubs, etc? So whatever was played in the take was final. Sure the band actually took four takes of each tracks of this "EP", and chose the better one. As you can guess, the "untouchable" results can be relatively raw and even have a jam feel at times, but fear not the overall results is astounding: difficult to be more demanding, and while not improvised, the music takes a slight JR/F slant at times, to counter (or complement) the space rock; the latter still being their main influence.

Just two lengthy instrumental tracks over this EP (lasting just about a half-hour), but both of them are divided in four or five movements. Opening on Headroom (giving the album's other name), the trio embarks on a breakneck speed movement, where Billy Cobham would not disown Deller's drumming. Yes, the feeling is very much JR/F during the Tyra movement, but as soon as the composition calms down the Reflections movements, the mood goes spacey (but not cosmic), but once the tempo picks up, it gets jam-like, notably in the closing movement Scarberia (a nickname for the eastern-county Scarborough, extending the Toronto city limits way out east). On the flipside, Border Crossing also reaches towards JR/F sonics, Mink almost pulling a Santana-like solo around 2:30. More spacey effects (sometimes dissonant) are happening during the second movement, The only time vocals are to be heard, they're muffled in deeply in the mix at the start of the third movement, but this doesn't mean that the track comes back to a sense of normalcy. Indeed, when FM crossed that border, there was no turning back, but the trio almost loses itself two thirds of the way into their cosmic expedition. Once they finally find their way, it's a slow jazzy violin (between Ponty and Lockwood) return to base.

This limited-number release DTD album had become quite rare (I lost my vinyl copy somewhere crossing the pond), because it had never seen, a reissue, beit in vinyl or on CD, until early 2013, when Esoteric finally released it, along with the splendid Black Noise and the band's following two albums (also never released legit), still with Ben Mink. Personally, if DTD/HR is absolutely essential, I find that both Surveillance (79) and City Of Fear (80) fail to maintain the level of their first two albums, so unlike this essential album, they're quite expandable, partly because they hold shorter AOR-formatted songs. In the meantime, despite the change of violin/guitarist (always a big gamble), DTD is definitely worthy of the excellent debut Black Noise.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#961863) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, May 18, 2013

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4 stars Even when this album first came out it was hard to find. For the longest time I thought FM's second album was 'Surveillance'. I had never heard of this one. Then I eventually heard about it but coudn't find it. This is much more a prog rock album than any of their other efforts. There is no ... (read more)

Report this review (#175567) | Posted by digdug | Saturday, June 28, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is an amazing record, the first recording with the very talented Ben Mink on electric violin and mandolin. Two long jams where the trio showcases lots of interesting ideas full of melody and complexity. What I particularly appreciate on this album is that the band is absolutely focused thro ... (read more)

Report this review (#162579) | Posted by Prosciutto | Sunday, February 24, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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