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SYMPHONIC SLAM

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Symphonic Slam biography
Symphonic Slam was mainly about Timo Laine (born in Finland, and moved to America as a child), and his polyphonic guitar synthesizer. The rest of the band was filled out by drummer John Lowery, and keyboardist David Stone.

Timo had been playing the club circuit for a while, but it wasn't until he relocated to Canada that things began to happen. It was there that Symphonic Slam was discovered by A&M Records. What set them apart was the $10,000 360 systems guitar synthesizer prototype. This led to the release of their 1976 self-titled album.

They toured, and played gigs with some of the big names of the time (Rush, The Rolling Stones, and the Village People). Soon they were asked to go to L.A. to work on a new album. Not being interested in this tack, Stone took the opportunity to defect to Rainbow.

After the album was completed, A&M wasn't pleased (they wanted disco). Timo took it to Canada, and created his own label on which to release it. It had some modest success, but Laine wasn't interested in going back to L.A. to fight disco once again.

Musea's 2001 re-release of the first album inspired Timo to get back on the horse. Apparently he had been working on another album for many years. "Her Fire" is supposed to be released some time in the future. He is also working on an instrumental solo project.

You can hear some influences of Styx, Kansas, Wakeman, Emerson, a bit of E.L.O., and even some funk. However, this is not like most of what we consider to be the classic '70s progressive sound. Some of those qualities are woven in, and there are some lovely moments. But make no mistake, this is mid 70's rock and roll at the core.

The main point of interest here is really the fact that Laine basically pioneered the synth guitar. It was a very new thing at the time.

H.T. Riekels (bhikkhu)

Symphonic Slam official website

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Musea 1976
Audio CD$15.69
$20.55 (used)
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3.74 | 36 ratings
Symphonic Slam
1976
3.00 | 1 ratings
Timo SS II
1978
3.00 | 1 ratings
Her Fire
2005

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SYMPHONIC SLAM Reviews


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 Symphonic Slam   by SYMPHONIC SLAM album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.74 | 36 ratings

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Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

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.

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 Timo SS II by SYMPHONIC SLAM album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Review by Windhawk
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

— First review of this album —
3 stars SYMPHONIC SLAM was a Canadian band based around Finnish composer and instrumentalist Timo LAINE, which issued two full length productions prior to disbanding. "SSII" is their second and last album and was initially released in 1978. This latest reissue comes courtesy of Musea Records, and saw the light of day in 2011.

"SSII" is a curious album that basically consists of material recorded by three different band entities, each with their own particular traits and stylistic expressions, with Laine's vocals the element that gives the original nine features compositions a common identity marker. The symphonic and space rock tinged pieces that cover the initial 20 minutes of this disc are the main reason for investigating this production to my ears, but this is also an interesting disc from a defined historical perspective: an album that documents what the end results often could be when the artists and their labels didn't see eye to eye in regards to creative freedom and stylistic expression.

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 Symphonic Slam   by SYMPHONIC SLAM album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.74 | 36 ratings

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Review by Boluf

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!

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 Symphonic Slam   by SYMPHONIC SLAM album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.74 | 36 ratings

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Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator 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, marvelling 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" and "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.

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 Symphonic Slam   by SYMPHONIC SLAM album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.74 | 36 ratings

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Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator 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.

peace

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 Symphonic Slam   by SYMPHONIC SLAM album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.74 | 36 ratings

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Review by Gatot
Special Collaborator 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

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 Symphonic Slam   by SYMPHONIC SLAM album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.74 | 36 ratings

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Review by greeb

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 .

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 Symphonic Slam   by SYMPHONIC SLAM album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.74 | 36 ratings

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Review by Legoman

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.

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 Symphonic Slam   by SYMPHONIC SLAM album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.74 | 36 ratings

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Review by hatsongs

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.

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 Symphonic Slam   by SYMPHONIC SLAM album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.74 | 36 ratings

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Review by xlr854

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!!!!!!!!!!

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