Flash was an English symphonic/hard-rock band on Capitol’s Sovereign imprint that released three albums: Flash, In the Can (both 1972), and Out of Our Hands (1973). Guitarist Peter Banks was a co-founder of Yes, appearing on the albums Yes (1969) and Time and a Word (1970).
Members: Colin Carter (lead vocals), Ray Bennett (bass, guitar, vocals), Peter Banks (lead guitar, 1971-73), Mike Hough (drums, 1971-73), Tony Kaye (keyboards, 1972)
Peter Banks (1947–2013) formed Flash after his departure from symphonic-rockers Yes in 1970. For his new band, he teamed with bassist Ray Bennett, drummer Mike Hough, and singer Colin Carter.
Banks was a seven-year veteran, having played in a sequence of beat groups (The Nighthawks, The Devil’s Disciples, The Syndicats) and psych outfits (The Syn, The Neat Change, Mabel Greer’s Toyshop).
With bassist Chris Squire, Banks formed The Syn, a key act on London’s psychedelic underground with the 1967 side “14 Hour Technicolour Dream.” The following year, the two formed Mabel Greer’s Toyshop, which morphed into Yes and released two albums on Atlantic: Yes (1969) and Time and a Word (1970).
Banks felt marginalized during sessions for that second album and left Yes in early 1970. After a two-month stint with Blodwyn Pig, he teamed with Carter, Bennett, and Hough.
Carter was the singer and songwriter of Coconut Mushroom, a psych-rock band that recorded multiple originals but never made it to vinyl. Bennett hailed from an unrecorded band called The Breed, which also featured a young Bill Bruford.
Flash recorded their first album in late 1971, by which time Kaye had also left Yes. He was invited to join Flash but declined, despite playing on their first album. They considered other keyboardists, including Ian McDonald (ex-King Crimson, McDonald and Giles) and Mainhorse member Patrick Moraz (later Refugee, Yes), before stabilizing as a four-piece.
Flash (first album)
Flash released their self-titled debut album in May 1972 on Sovereign (UK, Europe, North America, Oceania) and Odeon (Japan). It features three epics — Bennett’s “Children of the Universe” (8:55) and the Banks/Carter co-writes “Small Beginnings” (9:23) and “Dreams of Heaven” (12:57) — where melodramatic vocal sections cut for lengthy, intricate instrumental passages. Bennett’s brisk, acoustic “Morning Haze” contrasts the intensity of side one. The album winds down with “The Time It Takes,” a slow, serene Banks/Carter credit.
Banks’ guitar work alternates Townshend-style power chords with Akkerman-like legato runs, exemplified on the scaly chromatic slides of “Children of the Universe” and the thunderous strikes of “Dreams of Heaven,” which morphs from hard-rock anthem to jazz break and back. When interlocked with Kaye’s raw Hammond, their abandon stands in contrast to the filigree-laden classicism of their respective replacements in Yes: Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman.
Flash was produced by Derek Lawrence (Deep Purple, Wishbone Ash) at De Lane Lea Studios with engineer Martin Birch (Faces, Stray). Banks plays electric, acoustic, and Spanish guitar, plus ARP synthesizer and “hooter” horn. Bennett plays acoustic guitar on “Morning Haze.” Kaye, who plays organ and ARP, is listed as a member despite his fifth-wheel status. (He surfaced the following year in Badger with guitarist Brian Parrish).
Hipgnosis designed the gatefold cover with tinting by graphic artist Maurice Tate. The inner-spread shows an assortment of b&w member pics taped to a curtain.
Sovereign issued an edited version of “Small Beginnings” (3:06) as a single, backed with “Morning Haze.” It reached #29 on the Billboard Hot 100. The a-side appears on the 1972 K-Tel comps 22 Explosive Hits – Volume Two (with April Wine, Isley Brothers, James Brown, and Olivia Newton-John) and Flash-Back Greats of the 60’s (with Ides of March, Lighthouse, Sly & the Family Stone, and The Who).
In the Can
Six months after their debut, Flash put out their second album, In the Can, in November 1972. It too features three epics and two shorter numbers. Side one barely exceeds 15 minutes with Carter’s “Lifetime” (10:05) and Bennett’s “Monday Morning Eyes” (5:03). Side two exceeds 25 minutes with the Banks/Bennett “Black and White” (12:04) and Bennett’s “There No More” (11:35), bisected by Hough’s percussive interlude “Stop That Banging.”
Sessions took place at De Lane with Lawrence and engineers John Acock (Mouse, Renaissance, Steve Hackett) and Louie Austin (Catapilla, Jerusalem, Queen). Capitol art director John Hoernle designed the gatefold to In the Can: a tan female bust obscured with long blond hair. The inner-spread, credited to Hipgnosis, shows a b&w live upshot of Flash.
In the Can, appeared on Sovereign in the same territories apart from Italy, where the album was issued by Regal Zonophone with alternate gatefold that shows Flash inside the red/white checkered interior of De Lane’s recently furbished Wembley location.
Sovereign issued an edit of “Lifeline” (2:58) as a single, backed with a 3:20 edit of the prior album’s “Children of the Universe.”
Flash promoted In the Can with a US tour that included a double-bill at Detroit’s Ford Auditorium with Blue Oyster Cult.
Out of Our Hands
In February 1973, Flash issued the non-album a-side “Watch Your Step,” a group-written riff rocker with pounding drums and crisp, trebly bass.
Their third album, Out of Our Hands, appeared in August 1973 on Odeon (Japan), Regal Zonophone (Italy), Harvest (Brazil), and Sovereign (everywhere else). Side one mostly consists of four Bennett numbers, subtitled “King,” “Pawn,” “Knight,” and “Queen.” Side two contains Bennett’s “Bishop,” the Banks/Bennett “Psychosync” (a 4:50 three-part suit), and two Carter numbers: “Manhattan Morning (Christmas ’72)” and “Shadows (It’s You).” The full album clocks in at just under 34 minutes.
Flash self-produced Out of Our Hands at Advision Studios with engineers Geoff Young (A Story Ended, Octopus, Brain Salad Surgery), Mike Dunne (Close to the Edge, Darryl Way’s Wolf, Mott the Hoople), and assistant Paul Northfield, who later worked with Cado Belle, David Essex, Locust, and National Health. Further sessions took place at Morgan Studios with engineer Mike Butcher (T2, Egg, Gnidrolog).
Bennett plays a large keyboard arsenal (Mellotron, Clavinet, ARP, piano) in addition to bass and acoustic guitar. Banks, aside from guitar, plays banjo, ARP, and Moog.
The Hipgnosis gatefold, tinted by Phil Crennell (Trilogy), shows the back-view of a blue nude in the slope of a hill formed by the curves of giant horizontal nudes. The inner-spread shows the four band members peeking out over the scenery.
Stateside, Capitol released the album under the name Flash Featuring England’s Peter Banks. This was to help promote his concurrent solo album, Two Sides of Peter Banks, recorded with Jan Akkerman (Focus) and members of Flash and Genesis.
Flash fractured on their fourth US tour during a November 1973 stop in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where tensions between Banks and the other members came to a head. Despite Capitol’s wish for them to continue with a new guitarist, Flash called it a day.
Banks formed Empire with his new partner, Sidonie Jordan (aka Sydney Foxx). They recorded one album in London and two in Los Angeles but never secured a record deal. Between 1979 and 1986, Banks surfaced occasionally on albums by Jakob Magnusson and Tonio K. During the ’90s, he issued instrumental discs on HTD and One Way Records, which un-vaulted the three Empire albums.
Bennett and Carter teamed with ex-Flaming Youth guitarist Gordon Smith in Blaze, which settled in Manhattan but failed to land a deal. Carter then formed Storm with keyboardist Al Greenwood, who was soon drafted by ex-Spooky Tooth guitarist Mick Jones for a new band, Foreigner, which also invited Bennett, who declined the offer.
A reunion attempt in the early ’80s failed to take flight. In 2008, Bennett and Carter reteamed for studio and live work under the Flash moniker. Their first album in 40 years, Flash Featuring Ray Bennett & Colin Carter, appeared on Cleopatra Records just two month’s after Banks’ death in March 2013.
- Flash (1972)
- In the Can (1972)
- Out of Our Hands (1973)
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