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FM

Prog Related • Canada


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FM biography
This trio came from Toronto around the end of the 70's but got slightly over-shadowed by the profusion of bands exploding all over the album charts. I mean with RUSH, TRIUMPH, SAGA, MAX WEBSTER etc.. It is no wonder some could not get their share of sunlight, among which GODDO, MOXY, ZON, SANTERS and most certainly FM. Their first Lp full of a weird sort of hard rock with strange studio tampering alerted most potential fans that this was a very particular band with their lead violinist Nash The Slash playing as a mummy and Martin Deller at the drum seat as well as Cameron Hawkins on bass. Unfortunately, their crazy frontman opted for a fairly successful solo career (crazy videos on MuchMusic - the equivalent of MTV in the early 80's) and the remaining duo had to find Ben Mink as a replacement but they never managed to regain the magic of their first album. They will still manage another three albums.

: : : Hugues Chantraine, BELGIUM : : :

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Black Noise: DeluxeBlack Noise: Deluxe
Import
Imports 2014
Audio CD$11.38
$22.28 (used)
IndiscreetIndiscreet
Import · Remastered
ROCK CANDY 2012
Audio CD$9.85
$11.13 (used)
City of FearCity of Fear
Import · Remastered
Esoteric 2013
Audio CD$8.64
$8.49 (used)
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FM discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

FM top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.07 | 122 ratings
Black Noise
1977
3.79 | 76 ratings
Headroom: Direct to Disc
1978
3.36 | 53 ratings
Surveillance
1979
2.98 | 40 ratings
City of Fear
1980
2.45 | 18 ratings
Con-Test
1985
1.65 | 15 ratings
Tonight
1987
3.89 | 28 ratings
Transformation
2015

FM Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.30 | 8 ratings
Retroactive: FM Archives Volume 1
1995
4.15 | 7 ratings
Nearfest 2006
2014

FM Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

FM Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

FM Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

FM Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Headroom: Direct to Disc by FM album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.79 | 76 ratings

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Headroom: Direct to Disc
FM Prog Related

Review by Walkscore

3 stars This is the second album from this Toronto-based band, and one with a very interesting history. The album was originally called "Direct to Disc", and this is because it was recorded in one go, very literally direct to disc (or rather direct to special vinyl cutting machinery, producing the vinyl lacquer used to produce the metal stamps for stamping new vinyl albums. This limited the length to about 16 minutes per side, as that is the limit to how much room the lacquer had). The title "Headroom" was added later after MCA records threatened to sue their label because MCA had released the soundtrack to the film 'FM' and did not want this band's record to conflict with their sales strategy. So, 'Headroom: Direct to Disc' it became for later pressings and the international releases of this album. Even more interesting is that only 20,000-30,000 copies of the album could be made from each lacquer, because each lacquer could only make one metal stamp, and that wore out after printing/stamping that many copies. For this album, the limit came at 26,000 copies. After the record sold this many, the record company had to find another lacquer to print the albums. FM recorded their songs four times, creating four lacquers. The last one was consider the best take, and so the first 26,000 albums printed used that lacquer. However, once that limit had been reached, the record company had to use a different lacquer, and so went with the second-best takes. So, anyone who bought later pressings of the album was buying different versions of the songs than those who bought the first 26,000 copies!

The version I am reviewing is the remaster CD re-release on Esoteric Recordings. The sound quality is excellent, and this uses the original versions of the songs (from the first 26,000 pressings). The music is relatively sparse - because it was recorded in one go direct to disc, there are no overdubs, and no opportunities to tweak any errors. With only three musicians, the recording has a very airy and sparse feel to it. It also have a very 'live in your basement' feel (augmented, I think, from the excellent remastered sound quality). This is both the album's strength, and its weakness. Strength - it feels very present, sincere and authentic, the direct opposite to typical over-produced rock music. The music combines classic 1970s progressive rock feel with early electronica and is one of the few bands with an electric violin player. Furthermore, there are solos on this, and the band stretches out in places, which is quite nice. Weakness - in order to get the best out of the compositions, the music here I think could actually benefit from more intricate arrangements, and from more instrumentation (ie overdubs). On the second side there is a drum solo, which is very nice (and I wish there were more drum solos recorded on contemporary albums), but on this track makes it drag out a bit. Compositionally, the music seems a bit rushed, like they had to finish the compositions shortly before recording them, instead of taking them out on the road and refining them based on how they sound played live.

On the whole, this experimental album has an important and unique, if somewhat minor, place in progressive rock history. It is good, but not brilliant. It makes very interesting first, and maybe second, listens, but I doubt one will want to put it on after that. I always listen to an album multiple times before I review it, as albums usually reveal their musicality over subsequent listens, and the best ones get better with each additional listen. This one started becoming boring after the third listen for me. I give this 6.9 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to 3 PA stars.

 Tonight  by FM album cover Studio Album, 1987
1.65 | 15 ratings

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Tonight
FM Prog Related

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

1 stars One of the Beach Boys strapped to the snowy Canadian landscape?

One decade after FM's debut album they put out Tonight, which was to be their last album (until 2015's Transformation). Together with the previous Con-Test from 1985, Tonight is FM at their worst. This album is very much of its time and that is not a good thing when the time in question is the mid-1980's! All traces of progressive Rock are eradicated and the band's trademarks are pretty much completely gone. FM are close to New Wave territory here with the music found on Tonight often reminding me of The Cars. The melodies are slightly more catchy than on the dull Con-Test, but in the end these albums are no more than barely listenable.

They pull off a lame cover of The Beach Boys Good Vibrations which is as cold as the snowy landscape on the cover image. At first I didn't notice the snow covered human body in the middle of the picture, oddly strapped to the ground preventing it from floating off! Actually, the cover art is the best thing about this album.

Not recommended unless you are a FM completionist.

 Retroactive: FM Archives Volume 1 by FM album cover Live, 1995
3.30 | 8 ratings

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Retroactive: FM Archives Volume 1
FM Prog Related

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars Hideaway

Retroactive is a live album from the mid 1990's capturing FM in concert in their native Canada. The set list includes two originals from each of the band's albums Black Noise (1977), Surveillance (1979), and City Of Fear (1980), plus two covers in The Who's Baba O'Riley and Yardbirds' Shapes Of Things (FM's version of the latter was also included on their Surveillance album). The remaining two songs of Retroactive - Hideaway and This Lonely World - I'm not sure from where they originate, and given that I hadn't heard these before in any form they are among the most interesting tracks here. Overall, the set list offers a very nice cross- section of songs from the band's early career as well as a nod to their influences.

The quality of the performance as well as the recording is very high, and this is a thoroughly enjoyable live record. Comparing to the more recent NEARFest 2006 live album and video, Retroactive falls somewhat behind, but it is still a good album in its own right and a valuable companion. Some of the tracks appear on both of these live releases, and having heard NEARFest 2006 before the present album, it is those tracks that were not included on the NEARFest album that are for me the most interesting ones. This includes the aforementioned Hideaway and This Lonely World, but also Horizons from Surveillance and the title track from City Of Fear.

A strong live release, outshining most of the band's studio albums!

 Nearfest 2006 by FM album cover Live, 2014
4.15 | 7 ratings

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Nearfest 2006
FM Prog Related

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

4 stars 7th heaven

This CD and DVD features an excellent live performance by the Canadian band FM, filmed and recorded at NEARFest in 2006. The line-up features Cameron Hawkins on vocals, keyboards, and bass, Martin Deller on drums, and Claudio Vena on violin, mandolin, and more. The band is on fire and they sound energetic and play with great passion and skill throughout. This is true progressive Rock and not merely Prog related.

The set list draws heavily from the band's classic 1977 debut album Black Noise, almost the whole of which is included here and mainly concentrated to the first half of the show. A few numbers are taken from 1979's Surveillance and one (Surface to Air) comes from 1980's City Of Fear, the latter functions as the encore and is extended to about twice its original album length. The set list also contains two brand new numbers which are not included on any of the band's studio albums. These are Planet Vega and Trial By Fire, both of which are excellent and fit in well among the older material. The low point of the concert is Shapes Of Things, which is a cover. I don't think they needed to include a cover as they have enough of their own material.

This concert is now ten years old, but the band still exists in a slightly different configuration and they released an excellent new studio album last year. I very much hope that we will see more from FM in the future and I would love to see another live release featuring songs from they new album Transformation.

If you are a fan of FM, this live CD/DVD package is absolutely essential, and for everyone else it is an excellent addition to your collection.

Highly recommended!

 Black Noise by FM album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.07 | 122 ratings

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Black Noise
FM Prog Related

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I was under the impression that FM were one of those obscure crossover prog bands who enjoyed mild success and then disappeared. I was in no hurry to buy an album until I read two things: they are a Canadian band and Nash the Slash was a founding member. I actually don't know any music by Nash, but a friend of mine liked him back in the mid-eighties and that's how I know of him. Canadian prog from the seventies, however, is something that piques my interest because I am Canadian and I'm always interested in making new discoveries of Canadian talent, especially from the seventies.

Without listening to a single note, I ordered the album and was more that pleasantly surprised. This is quite a decent piece of work! Now being of the year 1977 one has to expect certain sounds and production techniques were employed. Indeed, this sounds like a late seventies album: Saga, Klaatu, Eloy, Happy the Man, and even Tormato Yes. However, FM does not sound like any of those bands. They did very well to create and capture their own sonic palette.

Perhaps the remarkable point of this album is that the only guitar to appear here is Cameron Hawkins' bass guitar. Other stringed instruments were Nash's electric violin and mandolin. Add Martin Deller's drums and lots of synthesizer and some electronic effects and glockenspiel and you get a uniquely sounding band that combines progressive compositions with atypical organic instrumentation and a penchant for experimentation with electronic instruments.

But isn't that a delayed guitar effect at the beginning of "Phasors on Stun"? Nope. Mandolin. Then surely that's an electric guitar in "Journey"? The liner notes don't credit any electric guitar other than the bass. Very well achieved indeed.

So this threesome (Why were so many Canadian bands trios? Small population? Too many musicians in Lighthouse?) created a tight album of vibrant and vigorous music with lots of instrumental breaks and some instrumentals, ripping solos on synthesizer, violin, mandolin, and even an appreciably short but strapping drum solo. The vocals and song melodies are very accessible without undermining the exceptional instrumental work. Though a big fan of heavy guitar riffs or beautiful acoustic guitar and piano, I really enjoy this album, which has neither guitar nor piano.

It's difficult for me not to be biased about this album for the aspect of nationality, but if not worthy of five stars then four seems barely adequate. Four and a half would be a more suitable rating, I feel. It's not just the music; it's the spirit of creativity and expanding horizons that makes this an outstanding piece of progressive rock from the latter half of the 1970's. When the bar of prog was being gradually lowered, FM couldn't limbo so low and tried to bump it up again. It's not to hard to imagine many bands in the early eighties taking some cues from "Black Noise". Visionary work indeed.

 Headroom: Direct to Disc by FM album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.79 | 76 ratings

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Headroom: Direct to Disc
FM Prog Related

Review by fudgenuts64

5 stars What an underrated gem of progressive rock - from Canada no less. Ben Mink filled the role of violinist with flying colors. The album is separated into two 15 minute tracks - not unlike Berlin School albums of the 70s. Not only is the structure similar, but the electronic presence is obvious throughout. Fans of progressive electronic music would easily dig this record. With that said, it's very jazz influenced, with multiple drum solos and incredibly intricate bass playing by Cameron Hawkins. It goes through moments of very understated violin playing, synth work and sequencer loops by Cameron, and a few scant vocals that enhance the record. With everything said, the album stays melodic enough to keep it away from being a pure ambient work, and occasionally rocks even without the presence of electric guitar the electric violin can do magical things. In closing, if you want a criminally overlooked progressive rock album from a year with a lot less to go around, get this. Fans of electronic music and jazz fusion alike will love this. Five stars, this album alone makes me wonder how these guys are only Prog Related as that sounds like an insult listening to this.
 Transformation by FM album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.89 | 28 ratings

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Transformation
FM Prog Related

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

4 stars I originally started listening to this band in the late 70's, when I found "Surveillance", and then "Black Noise" at used record stores. I later found "City Of Fear", but then, as I liked this band, but wasn't blown away by them, I missed their later releases.

Listening to the 4 tracks the latest edition of FM posted this year on ProgStreaming, I was intrigued enough to purchase the CD.

This new album, with only Cameron Hawkins from the early albums (Martin Deller had performed with the band as late as 2006), does not veer much from their original sound, but does seem to qualify, to my ears, as a fully qualified prog album. Their use of odd time signatures is quite adept, and often so smooth that the listener may easily overlook that they are not hearing 4/4.

There is still a similarity to Rush in the composition of the songs, but the performance is markedly lighter than their country mates. Also helping the sound to become more original are the strings of Edward Bernard and Aaron Solomon. Their dueling violin/viola create some of the best moments on the album.

The absolute best song here is "Children Of Eve". It is the darkest track of the album, with syncopated verse sections, and a delightfully odd blues-related chorus.

The biggest problem of the album is production. You can discern all of the individual instruments, but the mix has an overly compressed sound, and even on my best stereo, the very lows and highs just have no punch.

All-in-all, this is a good album, and just barely earns a 4 star rating from me. Hopefully they will continue in this vein.

 Headroom: Direct to Disc by FM album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.79 | 76 ratings

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Headroom: Direct to Disc
FM Prog Related

Review by Progfan97402

4 stars This is no doubt the hardest to find FM album outside of the very earliest pressing of Black Noise on CBC (which features a totally different cover from the far more familiar version released on Visa in the US and Passport in Canada). This album did receive a second pressing, and it's the second pressing that bears the Headroom title, the original is called Direct-to-Disc, released on Discwasher Group, apparently the company famous for record cleaners (I understand Discwasher made great record cleaners back in the 1970s before they were bought out by RCA) had a record label, and it was Labyrinth Records that was their distributor in Canada.

This album brought in American-born Ben Mink (originally from Detroit), and Nash the Slash embarked on a solo career on Ralph Records (label most notorious for The Residents). Mink later became a k.d. lang collaborator. While the band later became commercial in the 1980s, there was always that leaning right from the start, but for the most part, Black Noise and Surveillence are very good crossover prog albums. Direct-to-Disc aka Headroom finds them more in the eclectic prog territory, and also by far their least commercial, most experimental album. Direct-to-Disc seemed to be a brief fad in the late '70s where artists would record a bunch of material, and then have their choice material pressed directly to disc, with no master tapes, so if you're wishing Headroom was reissued on CD, sadly that is unlikely to happen. That's what FM does here, these are one-takes with no overdubs. There were other takes, but they felt whatever wasn't included on this LP wasn't worthy of inclusion. So these are two side-length cuts, largely instrumental, at times reminding me of a more hi-tech UK. The fact like UK, FM too had a violin player (Ben Mink, who also played electric mandolin that sounds more like a guitar), and a synth player Cameron Hawkins, who has his own hi-tech style compared to Eddie Jobson, and then drummer Martin Deller (of course the big thing separating UK from FM is UK's keyboardist was also the violin player). Fusion elements are more dominant, but there are some strange experimental spacy passages too, where Martin Deller experiments with biofeedback machine hooked to an ARP 2500 (not the ARP 2600, the larger 2500). Had FM started a few years earlier, like 1974, they'd probably would have done more experimental albums like this one, but the band was obviously seeing the trends of the late '70s, luckily these first three albums were progressive, which were dropped in 1980 with City of Fear. It's been a while since I heard Direct-to-Disc, but it was quite a bit different from the albums that sandwiched it (Black Noise, Surveillance). Great stuff I can highly recommend, that is, if you can find a copy.

 Headroom: Direct to Disc by FM album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.79 | 76 ratings

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Headroom: Direct to Disc
FM Prog Related

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

2 stars Crossing the border into improvisation

FM followed-up their excellent debut album Black Noise with this experimental live-in-the-studio effort. It was unique of its kind as the band apparently recorded it "direct to disc". How much of it that was rehearsed beforehand and how much is improvisation is hard to say exactly, but the results are mixed at best. The musical styles are towards Jazz-Rock/Fusion and electronic sounds. There are hardly any vocals and what little there are sound very weak in comparison with other FM albums.

Progressive Rock fans are bound to be interested in an album with two 15 minute plus tracks, but even though Headroom has its moments the overall impression is that it is too thin with ideas and lacking in direction. I find it mostly listenable, occasionally enjoyable, but not particularly memorable in the end.

 Surveillance  by FM album cover Studio Album, 1979
3.36 | 53 ratings

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Surveillance
FM Prog Related

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

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.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to progaeopteryx for the last updates

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