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BYZANTIUM

Prog Related • United Kingdom


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Byzantium biography
The seeds of BYZANTIUM were sewn in 1970, with Jamie Rubenstein and Nico Ramsden (who wouldn't appear until the second album) as an acoustic duo. Some recording was done with the help of friend Robin Sylvester, but sales were at best disappointing. Soon they were joined by vocalist Beverly Baxter (who it seems, never actually followed them into the studio), and Robin Lamble on bass. After some success with live gigs, Steve Corduner (a former band mate of Nico and Robin) joined on drums. Now hey had a viable band assembled. However, Jamie had reservations about the whole thing, and left. Chaz Jankel came along to fill the void.

With this lineup, they were set for success. They scored a contract with A&M, and it seemed as if the rock and roll dreams were coming true. But, as in every good rock story, problems arose. Just as the debut album (on which Jamie does appear as a guest) was released, Nico left, citing "musical differences." During this time, Jamie had been playing with Mick Barakan (another friend from school). Back through the revolving door he went, with Mick in tow. This resulted in their second album, "Seasons Changing." This time the theme was group effort, as everyone contributed to writing. Chaz was not pleased with the new direction, and left the band (he would end up backing Ian Drury). A&M seemed to share Chaz's opinion, and dropped BYZANTIUM from the label.

They toiled on their own for a while, even pressing another album, that was unfortunately never available for sale. They toured, and continued to draw crowds. In 1975 they played their last show where they started, at the Roundhouse. After that, it was time to call it quits.

H.T. Riekels

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ByzantiumByzantium
Prog Temple 2014
Audio CD$11.42
$20.18 (used)
Seasons ChangingSeasons Changing
Prog Temple 2013
Audio CD$11.42
$16.79 (used)
Byzantium by Byzantium [Music CD]Byzantium by Byzantium [Music CD]
Prog Temple
Audio CD$40.57
Byzantium: Vermicelli OrchestraByzantium: Vermicelli Orchestra
Boheme 2001
Audio CD$9.98
$7.99 (used)
Live & StudioLive & Studio
2004
Audio CD$99.99 (used)
Live & Studio (Remastered)Live & Studio (Remastered)
Sunburst 2014
Audio CD$14.99
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Byzantium In Rome - 2 DISC SET - Cappella Romana (2007, CD New) USD $17.60 Buy It Now 11 days
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BYZANTIUM discography


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

2.50 | 4 ratings
Live & Studio
1972
2.52 | 11 ratings
Byzantium
1972
3.00 | 7 ratings
Seasons Changing
1973

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

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BYZANTIUM Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Byzantium by BYZANTIUM album cover Studio Album, 1972
2.52 | 11 ratings

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Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

2 stars The attempts of Byzantium on ''Live and studio'' had some impact, because propably a copy reached the offices of A&M Records, which eventually signed the band.Byzantium visited the Trident Studios in London with the line-up of Steve Corduner (drums), Chas Jankel (guitar, vocals), Robin Lamble (bass, vocals) and Nico Ramsden (guitar, keyboards, vocals), recording what was going to be their self-titled debut album, released in 1972.Jamie Rubinstein appears as a guest on acoustic guitar, but the list of guest musicians is longer, Derek Wadsworth plays brass instruments, Alan Skidmore is on sax, Frank Ricotti is on percussion.

For their biggest bet Byzantium appeared as a mediocre entry, having nothing really new to add to the emerging British Prog scene, moreover they sound much influenced by the 60's and the music of THE BEATLES, THE MOODY BLUES and PROCOL HARUM.While there is some sort of diversity and challenge in their music, they sound like struggling to move on from a more conservative style to a more intricate conformation.The principles of their music were still Psychedelic Rock and Orchestral Pop, making some CRESSIDA comparisons reasonable, but with so many sweet vocal harmonies and the addition of light jazzy and funky elements they confuse the listener about their true intention.Musically ''Byzantium'' is not bad at all, the decent melodies, some hard-edged guitar moves, s few acoustic textures and the big orchestral content with the brass and string sections in forefront offer a delicate, flexible sound with accesible songwriting values, but little left to imagination.Additional instruments such as the violin, the piano, the organ and the big brass sections help to a mature approach on Rock music, but the only track to really come out from the mass is the 10-min. farewell ''Why or maybe it's because''.A mix of dated Jazz Rock, symphonic music and Experimental Rock, where the sentimental multiple vocals come in evidence, but the arrangements are both complex and melodic with Classical-like variations and a strong rockin' content.

B-class Psych/Pop/Prog from UK.Definitely a nice buy for those retro fans, who like their music with harmonic and psychedelic overtones, but not a priority for a Prog fan.The closing suite is pretty cool and the best reason to search for this one...2,5 stars.

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 Seasons Changing by BYZANTIUM album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.00 | 7 ratings

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Review by gr8dane

3 stars I really enjoy this album.It is not a complicated album to get into,rather light fare,which suits me just fine. Side one is quite different from side 2.Side 1 is sort of a cross between ,less arty 10CC and less bombastic City Boy( in my ears).Side one is a *** stars affair. Side 2 is where everything falls into place and is a wonderful 20 minute 3 part suite.Clem describes it nicely,though I would say that there are parts CSN&Y Wooden Ships and Guess Who's Talisman plus some light Pink Floyd touches here and there. Instrumentation is quite professional and nice harmonies in the singing department.Love this piece and have no problem giving side 2 ****. I think Chas Jankel ended up working with Ian Dury,that was not mentioned in the other reviews I believe. So all around a nice solid 3*** affair.

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 Byzantium by BYZANTIUM album cover Studio Album, 1972
2.52 | 11 ratings

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Review by Tarcisio Moura
Prog Reviewer

2 stars I was curious about this group. But when I found this LP by pure chance I was not very pleased. I was a bit disappointed because I heard they had some Gentle Giant influences, but aside from the first cut intro I found nothing here even close to what GG had done in their entire career. Not that Byzantium is bad group: you can see those musicians were very good and the arrangements are quite interesting and promising. The arrangements are, in fact, the highlights of the album: some odd time signatures, some jazzy parts, impressive vocal hamonies and things like that.

Unfortunatly they are not as skilled at the songwriting department. Their songs are very simple, derivative affairs. Nothing original and/or very convincing. No song here sticks on you r mind once you finish listen to them. Pehaps they could have improved if they soldiered on, but that was noty meant to be. As it is, you´ll find some average heavy prog stuff like the Wishbone Ash influenced Come Fair One or even some C,S,N&Y rip off (Trade Wind). The most prog tune is the last track, the 10 minute Why Or Maybe It´s Because (the title pretty much sums up the whole disc), with its BIG Moody Blues feeling. Still the song is just a poor copy of MB and the last part is just too tedious.

Small wonder there was no CD re-release of this album. Even if the band had some terrific musicians it cannot hide the fact they did not have the songs to make a good, outstanding work. The lack of focus and personality certainly didn´t help either. This is only for collectors and historians. 2 stars.

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 Byzantium by BYZANTIUM album cover Studio Album, 1972
2.52 | 11 ratings

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Review by The Runaway

3 stars This album is an unknown album, but not good enough for me to call it gem. Byzantium is a very Gentle Giant influenced band, but there's something about them that does not give me the feel that I am listening to a treat. I have to admit there are some nice songs on this album though...

What is Happening made me literally wonder, what is happening? It's a very weird song with around 3-4 layers of guitar riffs and lines, a barely audible hammond organ in the background, and vocal harmonies. The chord progression on this one is very weird, and all the harmonies and overdubs make it seem a bit forced and unoriginal. The problem with the guitar overdubs is that they are not harmonies, or even overdubs of the same thing, they are just one on top of another.

I Am A Stranger To My Life starts with a bass/guitar/mellotron opening, with drums entering shortly afterwards. The song is one of those slow tempoed, acoustic progressive rock songs which are somehow addictive and good. The instrumentation on this one is fantastic, and the vocals are very good, but there is a vocal harmony part which sounds like bands like Styx and all those "prog pop/rock" bands, so I'm not satisfied with that part. This song is sort of an abstract song, even the mellotron parts. It's very jazzy on certain parts, so it may fit to fans of the bands that use many jazz influences in them. This song is good, but not great, or amazing, or even slightly great.

Come Fair One, oh well, not my favorite song. Starts with a chorus-effected rhythm guitar part and vocal harmonies, which don't seem to be going nowhere, until the drums and bass join, but the style of the song doesn't really change. Again, like the previous track, there's a jazz part, but this time it's shorter. It goes back to the song, then to a pretty good instrumental part, sounding like Any Colour You Like by Pink Floyd, which marks the return of the leslie guitar. Average song, not my style at all...

Baby I Can Hear You Calling Me is sort of poppy but in a good way. Similar to artists like Pilot, with funky drum playing and disco-like vocal harmonies in some parts, this song is actually better than the previous songs. There is a great guitar solo in this song played by guitarist Nico Ramden, around the start of the song, and another one around the middle. The guitarists in this band are great and talented, and this song showcases it. Near the end the song speeds up and then just comes to an abrupt end.

Trade Wind is a song which is back to the bad part of Byzantium, with the annoying rhythm guitar and okay vocal harmonies. This is a short song, so it has nowhere to go, and leaves it as it is, an acoustic song. The vocal harmonies aren't sung band here, they just aren't good in general.

Into the Country is more of a lead vocal track, which is rather good. The drums here are played excellently, with a great feel on a slow tempoed track. The verse is catchy, and the chord sequence is good, and then starts a more sped-up part, which is like a chorus, and it's very good. Then there's a twin lead part with one slide guitar and one non-slide guitar.

Lady Friend is a big-band like song, and the band plays it excellently. The composition and writing on this song, are not too good though. The vocal harmonies here fit and are performed very well, but are sort of buried in the mix. There is a great tenor saxophone solo in this song played by Alan Skidmore. The song then ends with the chorus and a guitar/saxophone solo which is rather amazing. This song is great!

Now comes the final track of the album, Who Or Maybe It's Because. It's a mini-epic, starting with a great piano part and lead vocals. The band comes in and a great section starts. Harmonied guitar licks are all around and the mellotrons part is just plain great. Stephen Corduner's drumming is being showcased here, but only partially. Then starts this jazzy song ending which isn't actually the song's ending, which fades out into a piano/mellotron part, until the guitar enters in a jazzy solo based on jazzy chords, and then the bass comes in, the song speeds up for a second, with the drums, and then goes into the first band part, and again, is played excellently. Then it fades into a piano part with the band syncopating on it until everyone comes in for the final part, which is a guitar solo, with only 4 chords backing it up. The instrumentation is so good you don't care how long it's gonna last, you just want it to keep going. After a couple of minutes, it just ends.

Cheesy lyrics, and average composition are the things that can be said about the first seven songs, but the eighth song, is something else. To shorten everything I said about it, it is played wonderfully, written wonderfully, and composed wonderfully. 3/5, because only a couple songs are "good", and the only great song here is the final one.

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 Seasons Changing by BYZANTIUM album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.00 | 7 ratings

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Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

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 proto-alt.country 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.

peace

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 Byzantium by BYZANTIUM album cover Studio Album, 1972
2.52 | 11 ratings

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Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars These Byzantium albums are so hard to find today, and have never been issued on CD that I know of. If someone knows how to get any of them (especially the first) on CD please post to ProgArchives.com as I’m sure there are some progheads who would be glad to get their hands on them. This one isn’t quite as rare as the first since it was released on A&M, but their first is just impossible to find.

These guys are more of a heavy rock band with some progressive tendencies, not really a full-fledged prog band. Think Uriah Heep with a little Wishbone Ash sprinkled on the top and you get the idea. They started out as an acoustic band and there’s plenty of acoustic guitar on this release, but also electric guitar, keyboards and brass (mostly saxophone). The tracks range from fairly heavy to nearly ballad-like, with pretty much all of the songs heavy with three-part harmony vocals from bassist Robin Lamble, guitarist/keyboardist Chaz Jankel, and guitarist Nico Ramsden.

A few songs stand out. “Trade Wind” is very Wishbone Ash-sounding with great vocal harmonies and those early seventies partly mystic/partly hippy lyrics. “Into the Country” is one of those early seventies ‘let’s all frolic in the meadow’ kind of songs with a bit of a dark edge to it. “Lady Friend” has a pleasant rolling rhythm wrapped in a love song with romantic saxophone, a nice tune but out of character with the rest of the album.

But the marquee track is the sometimes experimental and tempo-shifting eleven minute mini-epic “Why or maybe it's Because”, full of synthesized strings, staccato piano, and more ‘For my Lady’ type lyrics. This is the kind of tune that would have played very well live back then (and probably today for the right audience), although the repetitive and extended closing riff does get a bit tedious after several minutes.

The members of the band all seem to have been journeymen, with most of them going on to fruitful music careers. Following the band’s breakup a year later Jankel would begin a long relationship with Ian Drury’s various lineups, and earned himself a nice nest egg by penning “Ai No Corrida” in 1979, which became a major R&B hit for Quincy Jones on his 1980 ‘The Dude’ release. One of my favorite Quincy Jones tunes and his best album, by the way. Lamble returned to Al Stewart’s camp for several albums; and Nico Ramsden would appear on Mike Oldfield’s ‘Platinum’ release as well as appear with Gong and Rick Wakeman in the latter seventies.

In all this is a solid album, but certainly not essential. Three stars is an accurate rating, but it would be interesting to hear this album with a decent remastering treatment and CD reissue. Recommended to early seventies heavy prog fans.

peace

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 Seasons Changing by BYZANTIUM album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.00 | 7 ratings

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Byzantium Prog Related

Review by agroover

5 stars Did once own this wonderfull album and played it a lot in 74/5 alongside Early Morning Onwards, Sassafras Gong and Zep... it always stood up through very good sound production and its melencholic feel,, Did see this lot once in a 1000 capacity sit on floor gig and they where brilliant, and remember liking them more than say Beggers Opra or Caravan who wher similar but without the "scary side" Tthis was a "green attitude " fueled lament on modern war toys and industrial growth and its pollution, and sounded like was played in the middle of the night mostly as well as quite eirie. TX paul J

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