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FM Surveillance album cover
3.34 | 71 ratings | 13 reviews | 10% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1979

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Rocket roll (3:29)
2. Orion (1:33)
3. Horizons (4:21)
4. Random harvest (4:36)
5. Shapes of things (3:07)
6. Seventh Heaven (5:39)
7. Father time (4:23)
8. Sofa back (3:01)
9. Destruction (6:00)

Total Time: 36:09

Line-up / Musicians

- Cameron Hawkins / lead vocals, synth, bass, piano
- Ben Mink / 5-string electric violin, electric mandolin, backing vocals
- Martin Deller / drums, percussion

- Larry Fast / programming

Releases information

Artwork: Murray Brenman with Paul Till (photo)

LP Passport Records ‎- PB 2001 (1979, Canada)

CD Esoteric Recordings ‎- ECLEC2382 (2013, UK) 24-bit remaster by Ben Wiseman

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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FM Surveillance ratings distribution

(71 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(10%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(38%)
Good, but non-essential (39%)
Collectors/fans only (13%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

FM Surveillance reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by loserboy
3 stars FM's surveillance although still a very solid album does begin to steer towards a more streamlined sound and really fuses Pop and Prog genres. Prog fans will still love this album though with some stellar moments on the album, particularly the 2 instrumental tracks "Orion" and "Sofa Back". Their overall sound on Surveillance is reminiscent for me of RUSH at times. The line up was Cameron Hawkins (keys and vox), Ben Mink (electirc violin, mandolin and vocals) and Martin Deller (drums and percussion). When I was a young man I do remember playing this album to death and have always held the track "Horizons" in my fav category. A great little album for sure...!
Review by Sean Trane
2 stars add another half star to it. Definitely a let down compared to the debut , this is stiil having moments where the average proghead will find joy, notably Orion ( Be it too short though). The difficulty is to find a replacement to the driving force of Nash , having left after Black Noise to make a very strange solo carreer. Not that Ben Mink is bad , on the contrary , but my feeling is that on this album , he is still trying to find his space. The following album will be better. Destruction and Seventh Heaven are the better numbers with orion and Sofa but those would have a hard time to make the cut in the previous album.
Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is the third album of FM. We still have a very good Canadian progressive rock album here. FM started when the progressive rock was declining, and undoubtedly it is a dominant prog band in the late 70's. Their style is unique, still here consisting in excellent electric violin parts, outstanding lead & backing vocals, and a very pleasant and unique mix of futuristic rythmic keyboards (sometimes new wave) and guitars. Unlike prog band UK, FM still keep a modern rythmic & melodic rock tendency, while UK used to explore fusion and jazz domains. I think the strength of FM is this omnipresent catchy, pleasant & accessible melodies based seconded by solid rythm constructions. The ensemble is very structured and unique. Violinist Ben Mink, who replaces NASH THE SLASH, is more present on side 2. Recall that Ben Mink plays the violin on the wonderful "Losing it" track (from RUSH - "Signals") Let's say it sounds just a little bit like an older version of prog band EGDON HEATH.
Review by Heptade
4 stars FM's third release is unfortunately not available on CD, but it is a very good album that should be. FM played a unique brand of space/symphonic rock, notable for a lack of guitar. All the distorted solos you hear are either played on an electric mandolin or a violin. On this album, those were played by Ben Mink, who had replaced the legendary Nash the Slash after "Black Noise", the band's acknowledged classic. Though a trio like Rush, FM was definitely not a "power trio", preferring lush textures to riffs. They did share with Rush, however, an interest in sci fi lyrics, big philosophical themes and also possessed a powerhouse drummer in Martin Deller, who was (and may still be) the equal of Neil Peart in talent and inventiveness. Also of note is Cameron Hawkins' voice, which is certainly one of the prettiest tenors in prog. The album starts unpromisingly with a commercial sounding rocker in "Rocket Roll", but the band soon gets down to the business of what they do best. "Horizons" may be the band's best tune ever, a thoughtful song lifted by an incredible soaring chorus. The environmental warning "Random Harvest" follows, then a decent but not too memorable cover of "Shapes of Things". "Seventh Heaven" and "Father Time" are two more mid tempo philosophical songs about the nature of time and the future, and the album ends with the dramatic "Destruction", in which humanity is tried in galactic court for the crimes of our stupidity! This is an album bursting with great melodies, sweeping synths and earnest vocals that would appeal to fans of the late 70s works of acts like BJH, Camel, Hawkwind and many more. Both this and "Black Noise" are essential albums for me. Now if they'd only reissue this on CD like they said they would...
Review by Gooner
4 stars FM's _Surveillance_ is very much on par with their first album _Black Noise_. Only one exception, though. The opening track ROCKET ROLL is very twee with hokey lyrics such as (sci-fi rock...rocket roll!). Admittedly, it is a fun track but more along the lines of something The Buggles would write. I like it, but most would shun its new wavishness a-la Ultravox! The rest of the album is nothing like the opener. What the rest of the album does sound like is a good 35 minutes of _Losing It_-like Rush tracks(from Rush's Signals). People who enjoy the band U.K. would also enjoy the band FM. _Surveillance_ to FM is to U.K.'s _Danger Money_. What separates the two bands is that you get to hear the unique sounds of a distorted electric mandolin instead Alan Holdsworth's guitar. Both bands came out around the same time, but FM precedes U.K. by a good 2 years. Stellar drumming from Martin Deller sounding somewhere in between Gary McCracken of Max Webster and Neil Peart of Rush. Cameron Hawkins has voice very similar to Greg Lake, but it's not a clone by any means. Cameron sounds like Cameron. Distorted electric violin is played on every track. This album contains the best cover version of the Yardbirds' _Shapes Of Things_ I've ever heard(even better than the original, IMHO). Great chemistry between the band here as they are very tight throughout. Another highlight is the instrumental _Sofa Back_ with some bizarre lyrics muttering something like _Moe & Larry cheese_. Yep, you heard that right. The track _Father Time_ has a bit of a Canterbury bent to it in the vocal department with female vocals not unlike The Northettes from Hatfield & The North or the wordless vocals on Camel's THE SNOW GOOSE. FM - Surveillance is finally available on CD from the Tachika label out of Japan in a mini-LP/CD format; and the sound is excellent! The production and sound is very reminiscent of the German band S.F.F.(Schicke, Fuhrs & Frohling), especially akin to the S.F.F. album _Sunburst_ from 1976. As far as the english-Canadian prog.rock scene goes, this is a minor classic in this genre and stands tall alongside anything by Saga, Max Webster, Terraced Garden & Rush.
Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars This was the first FM album I owned, buying it on a whim at a used record store, not long after it was released. Nash The Slash was replaced on this album by the capable Ben Mink. The album is a little more mainstream than the early ones, but also more cohesive.

Rocket Roll is pure arena pop, an energetic tune with lame sci-fi lyrics. Orion is an electronic fusion song. It would be much better if it was longer. Horizons brings in a more traditional prog sound. While it's not terribly complex, it does have good keyboard sounds and solos. Random Harvest has a Rush-like feel in the bass and drums (without that Geddy Lee flair), and works as a crossover prog piece. Side 1 ends with a synth- pop version of Shapes Of Things.

Usually, FM gets accused of copying Rush, but Seventh Heaven predates Subdivisions by three years. There is a striking similarity between the two songs. Father Time is a fusiony prog piece, with some very good violin work by Ben Mink, that gives the song a Kansas-ish feel. Sofa Back is a tribute to the Three Stooges. This is another fusion song, and the best song on the LP. Destruction finishes the album on a strong note. Melodically and rhythmically, this song compares favorably to classic Kansas.

For crerating such a strong prog album in the time when the industry was trying to kill the genre, I'd have to rate this album four stars.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars 3.5 stars. FM's third release sees the band going into more of a commercial direction so it's hit and miss for me. Still it has that warm and uplifting vibe that I so love about this band. I think it's the vocals and synths that give off that flavour i'm talking about. Ben Mink who many will remember for his guest appearance on RUSH's future "Signals" album offers up some killer electric violin and mandolin solos.

"Rocket Roll" is by far my least favourite as it seems like the band was trying to write a hit single and it just didn't turn out very well. I do like the bass though. "Orion" is excellent with prominant drums as the mandolin solos over top. It blends into "Horizons" where it turns spacey with vocals. Nice. You know i'd swear there is guitar on here but it's either distorted violin or the electric mandolin. And this goes for several of the tracks where it's difficult to tell what i'm hearing. "Random Harvest" has some nice chunky bass as the vocals join in. The violin or mandolin is lighting it up then the vocals return. "Shapes Of Things" is a YARDBIRDS cover and one that I heard often on the radio up where I live North of Toronto back in the day. It's an excellent cover, it makes me feel good.

"Seventh Heaven" is one of my favourites with those synths and a beat as the vocals join in. So good. "Father Time" puts the focus on the vocals until we get an instrumental interlude half way through. "Sofa Back" is a good instrumental with synths that remind me of RUSH. This was before RUSH was using synths though. "Destruction" ends it and I like when it picks up after 3 1/2 minutes. Good song.

There's so much that I do like about this record, especially the mood but this is a mixed bag.

Review by b_olariu
3 stars Third album of FM named Surveillance from 1979 is equaly loved by me as previous one. This time they gone almost Saga in manner of composing in places with more AOR atmosphere on some pieces with more mainstrema sound, but overall is more then ok , really, no bad moments at all. Still plenty to enjoy here, for prog listners like short Orion, Sofa back both excellent instrumental pieces showing that they are still in bussines. Also I like the vocal arrangements, nice smooth vocal parts, warm tone providing by Cameron Hawkins specially on Random harvest, really nice tune. Closing track Destruction is another highlit for me, strong one, intelligent instrumental parts. Seventh heaven has some great synthesizers, a nice one. All in all I like it, to me is same succesfuly as Direct to disc even as a clear mainstream direction. 3 stars rouned to 3.5.
Review by SouthSideoftheSky
2 stars Random harvest

After the more experimental second album Headroom, FM produced a more conventional album with this third effort. Surveillance is a more worthy successor to the debut Black Noise, but it is nowhere near that album in overall quality. Its main problem is its unevenness. The album opener Rocket Roll is a downright embarrassment which does not bode well for the rest of the album, but Orion/Horizons is a fine piece of progressive Rock not unlike late 70's Camel in sound. It would have been much better to open the album with Orion and just leave Rocket Roll off the album, or at least relegate it to a less conspicuous position in the running order.

Shapes Of Things is a Yardbirds cover. While not bad as such, I find it a bit lame to include a cover song. But things are picked up again with Seventh Heaven, another strong number. Sofa Back reminds me of some of Steve Hackett's dark and intense instrumental solo numbers. Both Seventh Heaven and Sofa Back were played live and can be heard in live versions on the excellent live disc NEARFest 2006.

Overall, a decent album with several very good moments and some not so good moments dragging it down a bit.

Review by kenethlevine
3 stars In the contrivance of memories, accuracy be damned, "Surveillance" was FM's follow up to the classic "Black Noise" release. For almost 40 years I paid it no mind, for I had seen the band around the time of its release and was appalled by the foul sci fi pop of "Rocket Roll" as well as the cover of "Things to Come", while probably not being quite ready for the esoteric pieces they may have performed from this album. The gulf between the exhilarating "Phasors on Stun" and "Rocket Roll" is as wide as any I can think of between opening numbers of "successive" releases.

That major misstep aside, this is actually far superior than I could have imagined. The vibe is pretty consistently upbeat, and cool enough to compensate for the seriousness of the lyrics. On the basis of the lightheartedness of this fare, it's hard to believe it's the same group that produced the foreboding epic "Black Noise" but, even more so, the relentlessly dark album "City of Fear" that followed. The best two tracks here occur back to back. "Seventh Heaven" is a thoroughly enjoyable self referential goodbye to the 1970s and look ahead to the 1980s. It also seems to have inspirited the entire early catalogue of Bahraini prog band OSIRIS who, if anything, improved on the blueprint. "Father Time" is a vivacious slightly jazzy number that is enriched by Hawkins' vocalizations in the break.

Several instrumentals amply manifest that the proggy FM is still around if truncated. "Horizons" and "Random Harvest" are a bit too similar but with plenty of oblique angles demarcated throughout to keep them fresh. "Destruction" is more complex, robust on the outside and tender within. Even "Shapes of things" is not as dire as my younger petulant self might have hastily decreed.

The main weaknesses of the album are that it lacks absolutely brilliant tracks that both "Black Noise" and "City of Fear" possessed in the plural, and that it might be a tad more keyboard dominated than an album by a band with an electric mandolinist has any right to be. It makes up for these by perhaps being the most consistent FM album of the early years, and, as such, "Surveillance" merits your scrutiny.

Latest members reviews

4 stars 3.5 stars really. This album is similar in style to the debut 'Black Noise'. It is a blend of pop and prog that does not contain a guitar anywhere. There are strong keyboards, interesting vocals, drums, and also electric violins and mandolins. Although not quite as strong as 'Black Noise', ... (read more)

Report this review (#175662) | Posted by digdug | Saturday, June 28, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is one of my favorite albums. Random Harvest really hit me hard when I was growing up. The lyrics are so intense and I just don't hear songs written with such feeling much anymore. The only song I wasn't that thrilled with was the rehash of Shapes of Things. I realy need to get this much ... (read more)

Report this review (#69167) | Posted by | Sunday, February 12, 2006 | Review Permanlink

3 stars FM were one of the best 'unknown' acts. Comprised of Martin Deller (one of the best drummers to ever sit behind a drum set) Cameron Hawkins on bass and keyboards and Nash The Slash (who dressed up on stage like a mummy meets the invisable man) on electric mandolin and violin. Nash left FM aft ... (read more)

Report this review (#63684) | Posted by | Saturday, January 7, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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