As much as I've been a fan of all things Yes for many years, somehow I never paid much attention to Flash, the band that original Yes guitarist Peter Banks created after leaving to give way to Steve Howe. I think I'm going to have to revisit Flash after thoroughly enjoying In Public, a newly released live album (by former Flash tour staff member George Mizer) recorded on January 21, 1973 at Kansas City's Cowtown Ballroom for the Lee Jeans & Cotton concert series. Featuring the original Flash line-up of Banks (guitars, keyboards, vocals), Ray Bennett (bass, acoustic guitar, vocals), Colin Carter (vocals, percussion), and Mike Hough (drums, percussion), this show was recorded in the same year the band released their third and final album Out of Our Hands, but the songs on display are all from their first two records.
Don't expect the airy, majestic progressive rock of Yes here, as Banks took Flash in a totally different direction, his heavy guitar riffs and scorching solos upfront and center over frantic rhythms from Bennett & Hough. This is heavy prog for sure, probably closer to hard rock actually, but there are little subtleties here and there as well as complex passages that keep it in the prog spectrum for the most part. "Small Beginnings" and "Black and White" both are pretty damn rocking, with Banks' guitar work quite savage, as he delivers some menacing riffs and scorching solos. Carter for his part delivers some pretty solid vocals, and he has a very British sounding voice but it fits the music perfectly. "Stop That Banging" is a rousing drum solo from Hough, and "There No More" sees the band dive right back in with a rumbling, intricate workout that wouldn't have sounded out of place on a mid-period King Crimson album. Banks' guitar work on this one is off the charts, trading licks with Hough in spots, giving way to gorgeous vocal harmonies from everyone before lurching back into the mix with savage intent. This segues right into the metallic "Children of the Universe", another crushing example of acrobatic guitar, bass, and drum patterns that also has some Yes styled vocal sections, but the arrangement is way heavier than anything that band ever attempted. Speaking of heavy, the set closes with the near 25-minute "Dreams of Heaven", a noisy, extended romp of Banks noodling on the guitar and what sounds like an echoplex, as well as full band participation in what ultimately is a monolithic heavy space rock affair.
You almost have to stop and imagine sometimes what Yes would have sounded like had Banks not left, as he certainly was a talented guitar player, though with a much different style than Howe. Flash certainly were onto some cool ideas and delivered exciting heavy progressive rock, but it's a shame their flame died out very quickly after recording three albums in the span of about a year. This is an essential live document of the band, and is pretty timely seeing as Banks passed away earlier this year. Sound quality is decent considering the age of the source material, and there's a pretty informative booklet included with quotes from many of Peter's contemporaries.
1) Small Beginnings 8:36
2) Black And White 12:23
3) Stop That Banging 4:10
4) There No More 8:45
5) Children Of The Universe 8:43
6) Dreams Of Heaven 24.54