Ark 2 is the sole full length recording from Flaming Youth and over the years it has endured the most dreadful reputation. Is it really that bad? Given the context of the time in which it was released, not really. But it is exceedingly outdated. Perhaps some listeners are expecting an early progressive rock gem due to the involvement of one Phil Collins on drums or because the band prominently feature orchestra, choir and organ in their music. Originally issued in 1969, the album has been reissued for fresh ears some 35 years later by Mason Records.
Ark 2 actually begins promisingly with a trio of whimsical psychedelic ditties: "Guide Me, Orion", "Earthglow" and the kitschy instrumental "Weightless" all call to mind a more pop oriented take on bands like Traffic, Family and Procol Harum. There are also some nice Moody Blues inspired harmonies on compositions like "Changes" and "Pulsar".
Unfortunately, when Flaming Youth attempt to be ambitious, they get into trouble: "The Planets" is an insipid 12 minute rock opera pastiche that weakly imitates The Who's "A Quick One While He's Away". Incorporating elements of surf, rock, pop and psychedelia as well as a limp string arrangement, the piece resembles Gustav Holt's "Planets Suite" in name only. Elsewhere we have the embarrassing acid folk rock of "Spacechild" and the truly cringe worthy closer "From Now On (Immortal Invisible)" which features a gospel choir arrangement incredibly more portentous than the song title would suggest. A pair of decent bonus tracks round out the CD. The liner notes do not indicate whether or not they were single releases or album outtakes but I'm guessing the former.
Though its flaws are many, Ark 2 exudes a likeable dopey charm. Had Phil Collins not jumped ship a year later to join Genesis, who knows where Flaming Youth might have gone? But the album sank without a trace and the band quickly fell apart. Genesis completists and collectors of underground British rock may like this, but I cannot recommend it to the perfectly sane. File under: guilty pleasure.
*****A diligent search on the Internet failed to generate an "official" Flaming Youth or Mason Records website. Instead, I have linked the review to the Official Phil Collins Home Page.*****
- Guide Me, Orion (3:16)
- Earthglow (2:52)
- Weightless (instrumental) (2:37)
- The Planets (12:47)
- Changes (5:48)
- Pulsar (3:05)
- Spacechild (5:10)
- In the Light of Love (3:26)
- From Now On (Immortal Invisible) (4:19)
- Man, Woman and Child (bonus track) (3:14)
- Drifting (bonus track) (3:52)