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FM (Canada) - 1979 Surveillance

ARTIST: FM (Canada)
ALBUM: Surveillance
LABEL: Passport
YEAR: 1979


LINEUP: Cameron Hawkins - lead vocals, synthesizers, bass, piano * Ben Mink - electric violin, electric mandolin, vocals * Martin Deller - drums, percussion

TRACK LISTING: 01 Rocket Roll * 02 Orion * 03 Horizons * 04 Random Harvest * 05 Shapes Of Things * 06 Seventh Heaven * 07 Father Time * 08 Sofa Back * 09 Destruction


Perennial support band for Rush (rivaling Max Webster), Canada's FM tuned in to progressive rock gold with their 1977 album 'Black Noise', a cosmic excursion that stands with the very best of their British counterparts (Hawkwind and Yes) and a must have for any prog collection. Formed in 1975, the band were experimental using mandolin in place of electric guitar and featured the oddball forever incognito Nash The Slash on violin. Following the shadowy Slash's departure he was replaced by Ben Mink. 'Surveillance' is their third album released on the Passport label, a company who struggled financially and never really gave the band the promotion they deserved.

The Songs
Progressive rock is notorious for average and sometimes downright bad vocals, but not so with FM. Cameron Hawkins voice is really more in the pop school, similar at times to the lush background vocals of The Hollies giving the album a very 'airy' sound. The combination of violin and keyboards are more reminiscent of Eddie Jobson in UK than Kansas yet the opening cut 'Rocket Roll' does have some of their vibe although FM are never as bombastic as Topeka's favourite sons. Choppy keyboards dominate the instrumental 'Orion' which segues into 'Horizons', and beautifully done to me that moves along like a cosmic version of ELP. 'Shapes of Things' a cover of The Yardbirds classic single is decent, but it seems a bit out of place here and probably was included for radio airplay. Side two is the better of this platter and 'Seventh Heaven' recalls Starcastle at their very best and a reminder of where that band should have been musically in 1979. 'Father Time', again beautiful almost choir like vocals from Hawkins with a jazzy side from the band not heard before. A really nice piece, although I am not so sure about 'Sofa Chair' which is a way-out-there fusion workout a la Mahavishnu Orchestra. 'Destruction' closes out the album with a typical FM science fiction inspired theme, but seems a bit average considering the quality of the previous material, more of an excuse for the band to stretch out than anything else.

In Summary
Following 1980's 'City Of Fear' album Passport records would implode and for the next few years FM would continue to record, but really it's the first four FM albums that stand out as their best work. From what I have heard, the band have done their best to locate the masters for these albums but so far only 'Black Noise' has been reissued, the band fearing the Passport masters have been lost or destroyed. A recent appearance at progressive rock's Mecca 'Nearfest' is a good sign that the boys still have it them to make a great prog record. Let's hope..

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#1 | Nick C on November 09 2006 02:19:18
Have to agree that the first 4 albums are the best. The live Direct to Disc of Headroom is pretty astonishing and has a full sound considering they were a 3 piece. Although their earlier releases such as this and City of Fear are still not out on CD there are a couple of CD'S worth searching out that came out during the bands hiatus. The live Retrospectacle and also Lost in Space a collection of early demos/unreleased stuff.
Interesting that the review points out 'Cameron Hawkins voice is really more in the pop school' as later releases from Con-Test onward were more pop orientated and by the time of Tonight the prog edge had all but disappeared.
Good to see that Cam is still doing the F.M. thing though. Smile
#2 | Nick C on November 22 2006 16:59:49
Retrospectacle??? I meant RetroActive...sorry
#3 | rkbluez on May 29 2012 01:01:51
Great album...this one and City Of Fear need a proper CD release it's almost criminal that no ones put these two gems out yet?
#4 | Eric on May 29 2012 01:47:51
Agree, long overdue!

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