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FM - Direct To Disc [Aka: Head Room] CD (album) cover




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3.60 | 95 ratings

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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.

Progfan97402 | 4/5 |


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