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Monday, January 26, 2009

Flash and the Pan - Lights in the Night

Name: Flash and The Pan
Album: Lights in the Night
Year: 1980
Style: Prog, New Wave, Musical
Similar Bands: Dire Straits, ZZ Top, Styx, Brand X, Thomas Dolby, Genesis
"One Word" Review: Spaceopera-synth-prog
Based Out Of: Australia
Label: Epic, CBS
Lights in the Night - Cover & Liner Notes
Lights in the Night - Back & Liner Notes
Lights in the Night - Record

Lights in the Night (1980)

  1. Media Man 5:55
  2. Headhunter 5:50
  3. Restless 3:34
  4. Welcome to the Universe 8:40/
  5. Make Your Own Cross 5:27
  6. Lights in the Night 4:30
  7. Captains Beware 4:30
  8. Atlantis Calling 6:00
Album Rating (1-10): 6.5

Members & Other Bands:
Harry Vanda - producer, guitar, vocals (Easybeats, Vanda & Young)
George Young - producer, synthesizer, lead vocals (Easybeats, Vanda & Young)
Les Karski - Bass
Ray Arnott - Drums
Jack Skinner - Mastering
Colin Freeman - Mixing Engineer
Warren Morgan - Piano
Gene Grief - Cover Concept & Design
Janet Perr - Cover Concept & Design

Unknownness: I’ve never heard of this band. Dated 1980, and minimal artwork featuring slash marks on the cover & back led me to think of it as something relating to metal or something heavy. The cartoon sticker looks amateurish and is confusing juxtaposed with the black & slashes. I really have no idea what the music will sound like. I did read about them being the next progressive step from the Easybeats, who I do like a lot. So from that, hopefully they’ll have some good pop sense, perhaps updated to new wave production.

Album Review: “Media Man” starts things off, and is the first single. It starts with a huge prog blast of organ synth and mysterious guitars. It then catches a new wave, lesser prog groove. It reminds me of the Dire Straits or the Tubes: not quite singing in the verse, and a catchy chorus that feels like ZZ top to me. The instrumental break takes us back to prog for a short time before the chorus picks back up. Apparently, the song was shortened for a single version, cutting over 2 minutes out of the song. The song kinda stalls as it ends with the repetitive chorus being chanted between various spoken words and phrases all relating to “Media Man.” “Headhunter” follows up, starting as a slow ballady prog-synth song. The vocals again are spoken, sounding like they are being transmitted from a spaceship orbiting the earth. It evokes a very grand and dawning sensation, like something spawned clashing of Kubrick films (clockwork & 2010). It barely follows conventional song structure. “Restless” starts up with a slightly evil prog-synth style. It is a driving song, featuring the same spoken isolated & detached vocals. But it is a dancey, near-disco song, with the soaring slightly eastern European synth and the dance-drum beat. “Welcome to the Universe” ends the side with a long (again shortened for the single) nearly nine minute epic prog journey. It eases awake for 2 minutes with sound effects, somewhat carnivalish, and creepy. Then the pure prog/show-tune melody picks up. The spoken vocals still dominate the song, with a smooth vocal choir for the catchy Rocky Horror / Tommy /Queen type chorus. The pace quickens and it becomes a very fun song. The single version might just be the best song if it were on the album. The melody is slowed down and sped up using it in a variety of ways, making the epic song carry with it a full range of emotions. It slows down as it finishes, like an overly dramatic Shakespearian actor reciting a long eulogy as he dies, knowingly.

“Make Your Own Cross” starts with a synth bass line/hook, and the same spoken vocals and some hints of disco. The chorus features the only sung lyrics, which is also the title. There is a message in the lyrics of standing up for your own battles. For the short musical breakdown and the ending, there are chanting vocals, creating a religious atmosphere. The song fades out with a held organ note creating more dread. The song bleeds into the next song “Lights in the Night” which shows no signs of diversity. Slow minimal music background to the rhythmic spoken vocals. This song parallels headhunter with its simple production, atmosphere setting and placement on the album. “Captains Beware” zooms in with electric charges and then a dancey new wave beat (kinda of like Hail Social a little) The spoken vocals are trying to be more melodic but they sound like they are trying too much. The chorus is very bold and theatrical. It totally sounds like a musical. I don’t completely buy the combination of vocal styles…they sound to distinctly different to mesh cohesively. “Atlantis Calling” starts with a children’s music box sounding introduction, with the storyteller vocals uttering the story. It then picks up with piano and synth. It is somewhat devious and dark, with the string production, but it also walks the fine line around disco. The grandness of the music reminds me of Thomas Dolby too. Throughout the album, the vocals give off the feeling of an all-knowing story teller guiding us though the prog space dream. The song has many parts and sections that are all in their own right very catch. But when put together for each song, individually, they sound like mini rock operas.

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