Synanthesia was an English folk-psych trio from London that released a self-titled album on RCA Victor in 1969. It has since become a high-priced collectors item, regarded along similar lines to Fuchsia, Fresh Maggots, and Tea and Symphony.

Members: Dennis Homes (vibraphone, guitar, vocals), Jim Fraser (alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, oboe, alto flute, nose flute, concert flute), Leslie Cook (guitar, bongos, violin, mandolin, vocals, 1968-70)


Synanthesia formed in late 1968 when multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Dennis Homes placed a detailed ad in the Musician’s Wanted section of Melody Maker. He formed a trio with two respondents: budding musician Leslie Cook and multi-reedist Jim Fraser.

Homes started on guitar as a teen but switched to bass when he joined his first band, beatsters The Ricochets, at age 17 in 1964. After playing covers on the London club circuit for three years, he jumped ship to soul-rockers The Inhibition. During 1967, he was struck by the onslaught of psych-rock (Pink Floyd) and psych-folk (Incredible String Band) on the UK scene.

In early 1968, The Inhibition cut the blues-rock single “Tonopah” (b/w “Anytime”), released on Island under the foisted band names Santos Morados and Henri and his Hobo Amigos. Immediately thereafter, Homes left the band and switched from bass to acoustic guitar. In the months ahead, he taught himself vibraphone.

Cook, then an 18-year-old fellow resident of London’s East End, was just learning guitar. As the band took shape, he ventured onto violin, mandolin, and bongos. Fraser had just arrived in London after playing in jazz bands in the north of England.

The trio named itself Synanthesia, an alteration of the title “Syn-Anthesia,” a Yusef Lateef composition performed by the Cannonball Adderley Sextet on their 1962 Riverside release In New York. Synanthesia is an alternate spelling of the word synaesthesia, which means the ability to translate one sense through another, such as relating the sound of music to the sight of color.

They hit the London club and college circuit just ahead of the acid-folk wave. Chrysalis offered an agency contract, which led to more bookings and the chance to record.

The Album

Synanthesia entered Sound Techniques studio in Chelsea, London, with producer Sandy Roberton (Harold McNair Quartet, Liverpool Scene) and recorded the 11 songs for their album over a two-day period. After they shopped the album to several labels, it got released on RCA Victor in November 1969.

Synanthesia contains six Homes originals and five contributions from Cook. Most of Homes’ titles (“Minerva,” “Morpheus,” “Vesta,” “Mnemoysne”) draw from Greek and Roman mythology. Cook co-wrote two songs (“Trafalgar Square,” “Rolling and Tumbling”) with school chum Richard Carlton, who taught him how to read music. The cover shows the band peaking from behind a dendroid object with the title in red, period typeface. It was photographed by Terence Ibbott, who also did visuals for The Moody Blues, Fleetwood Mac, Chicken Shack, Savoy Brown, Ashkan, and Martha Velez.

Synanthesia recorded a followup track, Homes’ “Shifting Sands,” intended for release as a single. It features string arrangements by David Palmer, who orchestrated contemporary recordings by Jethro Tull, Jody Grind, Sallyangie, and The Humblebums. Soon thereafter, Cook opted to concentrate on journalism and the band folded. Though no 7″ materialized, the track appeared on the 1970 RCA compilation 49 Greek Street with cuts by Al Jones, Andy Roberts, and Keith Christmas. It has since been added as a 12th track on Sunbeam CD reissues of Synanthesia.

The members lost contact for many decades but reconnected as interest in 1969–71 “acid folk” spread on the internet during the 2000s. In 2017, Homes issued Sunset to Song Rise on his own Kestrel Music label; his first release of new material in 48 years. As of May 2021, original vinyl copies of Synanthesia sell online for a median price of $449.31.

Contrary to rumors, Synanthesia did not back David Bowie at the time of his 1969 release Man of Words / Man of Music.

  • Synanthesia (1969)


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