FM - Nearfest 2006

(2014 CD/DVD, 79:25/ 70 min, Esoteric Antenna EANTCD 21038)

The tracks:
  1- Planet Vega
  2- Phasors On Stun
  3- One O'Clock Tomorrow
  4- Journey
  5- Slaughter In Robot Village
  6- Aldebaran
  7- Shapes Of Things
  8- 7th Heaven
  9- Sofa Back
10- Trial By Fire
11- Black Noise
12- Surface To Air

Website      Esoteric Recordings

FM is a Canadian progressive rock band formed in 1976 in Toronto. The band existed from 1976 to 1996, with a brief return in 2006, although they had a period of inactivity between 1989 and 1994. Their members featured Cameron Hawkins (vocals, bass and keyboards), Nash The Slash (violin, viola and mandolin), Ben Mink (violin, viola and mandolin) and Martin Deller (drums). Their most known albums were Black Noise (1977), Surveillance (1979) and City Of Fear (1980). One of their comeback shows was at the NEARfest Festival in 2006. At the time the whole show was recorded for a possible release on CD and DVD. However it took another eight years before everybody who missed this performance could witness it on audio and video.

In 2014 fans of the band could finally see and hear onNearfest 2006 how the trio Cameron Hawkins (vocals, keyboards and bass), Martin Deller (drums) and Claudio Vena (viola, backing vocals and mandolin) had presented the music of FM at this legendary festival, which unfortunately isn't around anymore. The audio and video discs that are available when you buy this release show an honest and-most of all-strong performing band. The twelve tracks presented feature two brand new pieces and tracks taken from the albums mentioned earlier. The opening piece of the show Planet Vega is the first new one. It is a strong instrumental written by Vena. FM's newest member at the time was born in Italy and is now living in Canada. Claudio is an internationally well known conductor, composer and recording artist. Claudio's exceptional performance skills on viola and mandolin add a new dimension to the FM sound as you can hear right from the start. He did a good job replacing former band members Nash The Slash and Ben Mink, who both in certain moments in the history of the band also played on the viola, violin and mandolin. Throughout the entire concert, Claudio's musical skills can be enjoyed playing next to the other two older members of the band, very confident in his parts. It was nice to see Hawkins standing behind his new keyboard gear playing and singing the classic FM tunes. Although his computer monitor looked a bit old and out dated it still helped him to get all the sequencer parts working well for the songs that were written in the seventies and eighties. Occasionally he walked, while playing on his bass guitar, to Vena for some interaction between them. Unfortunately it was one of the spare movements on which could be witnessed some activity among the musicians on the stage. I guess the music was too complex to make their show one big party. The same could be said about the serious work Deller made out of his playing behind his drum kit. His typical style of playing on the toms was still intact and many times together with the synthesizer, sequencer, mandolin and viola intros it was easy to recognise the songs from the past. Songs such as Phasors On Stun, Slaughter In Robot Village, Black Noise or the Yardbirds cover Shapes Of Things could already be recognised by listening to the intro. Therefore they were welcomed several times with an applause coming from their fans in front of the stage and they got a standing ovation when they ended their entire set with the encore Surface To Air.

They had made the crowd in front of them a very happy one, just like they made me smile while watching their entire performance. Maybe it wasn't as spectacular as you can see on most of the releases which are out nowadays but it was truly a magical trip down memory lane brought by a band in great shape. They played their back catalogue and two new pieces very honestly and most of all very pure and energetic.

Since 2011, Cameron Hawkins reformed the band and has worked on new material which will see the light of day on a new studio album set to be released April 2015. It Transformation will hopefully contain the same high quality prog tunes as the 2006 lineup presented during their excellent performance at NEARfest.

**** Henri Strik (edited by Robert James Pashman)

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