Yes offshoot Flash reforms for a new album

 

Flash

Flash consisted of (clockwise, from left), drummer Mike Hough, bassist Ray Bennett, guitarist Peter Banks and vocalist Colin Carter. Photo courtesy Ray Bennett.

By Howard Whitman

The “Reader’s Digest” condensed version of the Flash story
goes something like this: British
progressive rock band. Yes offshoot. Made three cool albums. Sexy covers.
Imploded in 1973. End of story.
 But the tale doesn’t end there!

Forty years after the release of the 
band’s classic eponymous debut LP,
 founding members Ray Bennett 
(guitar) and Colin Carter (vocals) 
have formed a new Flash. With a CD 
in the works and plans to tour, Flash 
is back in business, ready to embrace 
its legacy as pioneering prog-rockers
 for a new generation of fans.

Yet misconceptions linger, like 
the idea the band was a spinoff of Yes
 formed around its original guitarist,
 Peter Banks. Founding Yes keyboardist
 Tony Kaye also played on Flash’s 
debut, creating misguided theories
 about how— and why — Flash came 
together.

“The story’s always told wrong,”
 said Bennett, who played bass in
the original lineup. “It’s always told
that Peter Banks and Tony Kaye left
 Yes and formed a band. That’s not
 how it happened. The band happened
 because Colin saw an article 
in ‘Melody Maker’ saying that Peter
Banks was on the loose, he was out of
 Yes. He decided to go and find Peter
 and talk him into forming a band. …
 Colin instigated the whole thing. …
 At exactly the same time, I was living 
in America and called up Bill Bruford 
(the original Yes drummer was 
a former bandmate of Bennett’s) and
 said ‘I’m coming back to London …
 do you know anyone who’s putting a
good band together?’ He said, ‘That’s 
funny. Peter just hooked up with this 
singer.’ I arrived back in London about
two weeks later and I went down to
 see Pete. I said ‘I hear you’re putting 
a band together. I’m your bass 
player.’ I met Colin, and the three of
us got along great. The next step was
auditioning drummers and keyboard
players. Mike Hough was by far the
best drummer who showed up.”

The original four-piece Flash was
formed. But the band never did settle
 on a keyboard player. Flash brought 
in Kaye as guest keyboardist for 
the debut, but with a secret agenda: 
“Everyone thought once Tony was in 
the studio with us, ‘Let’s try to talk 
him into joining the band.’ He didn’t
 want to be in another band just like
 the one he left.”

Still, Kaye’s trademark Hammond 
organ, plus Banks’ distinctive guitar 
style, created a sound that was reminiscent
 of their former band — but not 
by design.

“It seemed so absurd that
 people were comparing us to Yes because 
we (had) the same guitar player.
 People accused me of copying Chris
 Squire … I didn’t even think about it. 
I happened to end up with the same
 bass, the blonde Rickenbacker.”

In keeping with the name (which, 
legend has it, was suggested by
 journalist Chris Welch because it
 was short and would fit easily on a
marquee) things happened fast for 
Flash. Following its formation in 
1971, Flash signed with Sovereign 
Records, a subsidiary of Capitol, and 
released a self-titled debut in 1972 — 
complete with a suggestive cover by
 Hipgnosis.

While Flash’s sexy graphics may
seem to be part of some master plan, 
Bennett said the opposite is true:
 “That was one of those sort of accidental things. … (Hipgnosis) came
up with four or five ideas … we were
 there for 15 minutes and we said, ‘Oh
 yeah, we’ll do that one.’” The cover 
for “In the Can” (1972) came as a
 surprise. “(That) was done by Capitol
 Records,” Bennett recalled. “They 
didn’t even tell us. We thought it was 
a tasteless knockoff … That’s how
 things happened back then.”

Hipgnosis
 returned to design the third, final 
LP, “Out of Our Hands” (1973).
 By the time of that album, tensions 
within the band had reached
 a boiling point, culminating in the
 band breaking up while on tour in
 Albuquerque, N.M.
 According to Bennett, the problems 
all came down to Banks: “He
 was almost entirely to blame for the early Flash breakup, and for a major 
amount of friction and unrest in our
 camp — and not just with the band
— almost everyone around us, too:
 manager, producer, Capitol Records
 and others. I’ve restrained myself
 from just saying it bluntly in the past,
 but Flash didn’t just ‘implode on the
 road. We’d had enough of Banks.”

Despite this friction, Flash did
enjoy some success in its brief career;
 “Small Beginnings” from the debut hit 
No. 29 on the Billboard chart and got
radio airplay. And the ex-members
continued to work together. “From
1973 to 1983, Pete and I worked
together maybe four or fi ve times,”
Bennett stated. “Me and
Colin worked together
on some things. Mike,
 Colin and I worked on
some things.

”
This continued
interaction, plus Flash’s
growing cult following,
led to an attempt to reunite
the original band
in 2002. It didn’t work 
out. Bennett and Carter
 wanted to explore new 
approaches — such as 
the two of them playing 
guitar on some songs.
 Banks was adamant that
 the band stick to the
 original format. And 
the personality conflicts 
reared their heads again.

“We went through these
 various stages,” Bennett
said, “Pete was going to 
be in, and then he kept us hanging for a while, 
and I could tell he wasn’t 
really serious about it. Mike Hough,
 same thing. And eventually it came
 down to just me and Colin.”

It was a two-piece, semi-acoustic
 Flash that played at the 2005 Baja
 Prog Festival in Mexico. Then the
 duo set out to rebuild the band.

Small Beginnings

Now based in Las Vegas (with Carter
 living in Oregon), Bennett tapped his
 town’s local talent, adding drummer Mark Pardy, bassist Wayne Carver 
and — for the first time in any Flash
 lineup — a permanent keyboardist,
 Rick Daugherty. Bennett went full time 
on lead guitar.
 Expectedly, there was concern
 among fans that Flash without Banks
 would have no … well, flash. But,
 when the lineup played its first major gig (following some warm-up club
 dates) last September at Prog Day
 in Chapel Hill, N.C., response was 
overwhelmingly positive.

“A lot of people said ‘I’d really like 
to see this band, but I’m not sure 
how it’s going to be without all of the
 original guys, without Peter,’” Bennett
said. “It was 100-percent unanimous
 that it sounded great … it went very, 
very well. We got a standing ovation.”

With a solid lineup in place, it was
 time to take the next logical step: A 
new CD, a mere 40 years after the
 band recorded its debut.

“It was done in two segments,”
Bennett said. “The first three songs 
were done a year ago.”

The band considered 
putting out an EP of those
 tunes, but instead opted to do a full 
album and wrote new material.
 For Bennett and Carter, it was 
like old times, as they did most of
 the songwriting for the original band
 (in fact, Bennett wrote most of “Out
 of Our Hands” solo). Flash did live 
tracking at a Vegas studio owned
 by Thad Corea (son of jazz legend
 Chick), adding overdubs at the home
 studio of Bennett, who’s producing
 the CD.
 The album was almost done by the
 end of 2010 when the band decided to
 add one more track — a cover (a Flash
 first) of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt.”

“It’s a
 great song,” Bennett stated. “It could 
get us some attention.”

Once that’s “in the can,” and Bennett’s
 completed mixing, there are a
 few decisions left to make: Choosing 
a title, finalizing the cover and deciding
 how the CD will be released.

“There’s been a bunch of titles
 kicked around,” Bennett said. “One
of the titles that popped into my 
head was Flash 4, to draw attention 
to the fact that Flash has three other
albums.”

As for the cover, don’t count on 
another sexy design.

“I was thinking 
of taking The Beatles approach
and having a graphically stripped-down
, black-and-white (design) for a
 change,” Bennett commented.

The band has talked to a few labels, but is considering releasing it themselves. “An independent release is such an easy reality now,” Bennett commented. Bennett said Flash is considering an East Coast tour in spring, as well as more prog festivals: “This band is so good, it would really be a crime if (we) weren’t seen.”

For Bennett, this is the culmination of a dream:

“The thing that Colin and I talked about when we started working together again was that both of us felt the same way that Flash was really unfinished business. We felt that the old band had such potential that was not even really tapped. … So we’re back, hard at work.”

 

4 thoughts on “Yes offshoot Flash reforms for a new album

  1. I’ve been waiting for this album for a long time. It sounds like it might happen. I hope so. I have many fond memories of listening to Flash in the seventies.

  2. The new Flash CD, “Flash Featuring Ray Bennett & Colin Carter” was released May 21, 2013 on Cleopatra Records. Getting great reviews and airplay around the world on prog shows.

    You can find links to hear music and get up to date on their new Flash facebook page.

    Order the CD

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