The opening moments always remind me of Tales From Topographic Oceans, which may sound like high praise to some, but I felt that work didn’t walk in beauty so much as meander in it. Two Sides of Peter Banks meanders something awful, as if the guitarist never got around to finishing it. In its defense, there are some brilliant prog passages on the first side that anticipate the work of Anthony Phillips and Steve Hackett. Other bands that come to mind are Camel, ELP and, of course, Flash. All of which should be enough to pique the curiosity of most classic prog fans, and with good reason. Solo albums are a surprisingly good source of music sometimes: Olias of Sunhillow, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Voyage of the Acolyte, The Geese and The Ghost, etc. Classic works in their own right, and Two Sides holds their company about half of the time. The other half of the time, Banks is busy unraveling the tapestry he’s created. The nadir to Knights’ zenith is the aptly titled “Stop That!,” thirteen-plus minutes of aimless playing that makes the jam side of George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass seem inspired. However, Yes fans in particular are likely to pay close attention to Banks’ every move because his sound is so similar to Steve Howe. That’s where the Topographic comparison holds the most: Two Sides sounds like classic Yes a lot of the time. It wilts under closer inspection as weakly strung together, but there’s no denying it’s inspired in spots. If you believe the magic of Yes is undermined (and I do, in spite of Starcastle), then Two Sides of Peter Banks is a diamond in the rough. Unfortunately, One Way didn’t bother to polish it for the CD reissue, resulting in still-audible tape hiss and uninspired repackaging.
Maybe you’ve never heard of Gary Husband before, so the cover wisely advertises an impressive guest list: John McLaughlin, Steve Hackett, Allan Holdsworth, Jan Hammer, Jerry Goldman. You’ve heard of these guys, maybe even carried a torch for a couple of them (in which case, you may already have met Mr. H on sundry Holdsworth or Level 42 albums). So Husband gets in on their graces, this despite the lackluster title and low-key packaging, and before you know it your fusion buttons are getting pushed in all the right places. Gary Husband, it turns out, is no mere jazz drummer but a double threat (drums/keyboards) and a solid composer to boot. Now, in this world there is no shortage of unremarkable jazz players making remarkable music, which is where I expected to file this album. But Dirty & Beautiful Volume 1 is so much better than that, better than a lot of the fusion that still slips out into the 21st century fringes. I probably don’t need to tell you that the tracks with Holdsworth (actually a holdover from his recent live shows), McLaughlin and Hackett deliver the goods. And we can all agree that a one-minute track with Robin Trower in a Hendrix-styled power trio setting is a cruel tease. What surprised me is that those names on the righthand side that drew me in here aren’t the real draw; it’s Husband himself. Tracks like “Ternberg Jam” (dalek acid chatter, I wrote in my original notes), “Swell” and “Afterglow” are winners, despite featuring only Husband and (on Ternberg) bassist Jimmy Johnson. The remaining tracks are equally interesting, from the weirdly wound groove of Steve Topping’s “The Maverick” to an old Hammer song (“Between The Sheets of Music”) featuring Jerry Goodman on electric violin. Given the different players involved, Dirty & Beautiful is an eclectic offering, which reveals Husband to be not only multi-talented but multi-faceted. Honestly, I enjoyed this disc more than a lot of latter-day efforts from the masters, since at this stage you pretty much know what to expect from a Holdsworth, McLaughlin, Corea, Cobham, etc. With all the different pairings, this disc smartly samples Husband’s journey through jazz fusion and is richer for the fact that Husband has never been a one band man.