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FM - Transformation CD (album) cover

TRANSFORMATION

FM

 

Prog Related

3.91 | 32 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

kenethlevine
Special Collaborator
Prog-Folk Team
4 stars After a few live reunions over the 1990s and 2000s, FM began making noises about new material. The sudden passing of Nash the Slash IN 2014 meant that any further reunion would fall short of the "original" billing, and, as "Transformation" took shape, Ben Mink and Martin Deller were missing as well. Hence only Cameron Hawkins remains from the old days, accompanied by acclaimed drummer Paul DeLong and not one but two string players.

Even in their heyday FM skirted the fringes of progressive rock, melding it with pop and conventional rock of the day with middling to superb results. Given that 2015 was 35 years distant from even the small p prog efforts of this band, what hope did we have? Luckily it appears that Cameron Hawkins was buoyed by the band's reception at NEARFest 2006 and the prospect of crafting a meaningful gift for those fans and perhaps for his more deeply felt convictions. With "Transformation", he has achieved both without retreating into the band's former glories.

While references to the long gone days are apparent in his still youthful voice, the optimistic tones, and the ubiquitous strings, this effort is also more reliant on acoustic violin, viola and mandolin than before, and its spirit is more adventurous while respecting the tenets of modern vocal oriented rock in the best way imaginable. I normally don't play this trump card let alone care about it, but I hear the time signatures are all over the map here, which makes the accessibility of the tunes all the more praiseworthy. I can only think of one other relatively recent reunion that succeeds in eclipsing most of the artists' original classics, that being the second album by the even more obscure "Fuchsia". It is noteworthy that both albums are characterized by prominent strings, but otherwise have little in common.

Really, "Transformation" is that good. From the opening notes of "Brave New Worlds", I am absorbed into its idealistic grooves, luminous auras, and radiant melodies. "Cosmic Blue" is not as catchy but with some expressive violin excursions, including a spacey interlude, and dissonant harmonies, "Reboot Reawaken" is slightly more poppy and actually reminds me of a fine 1990s group called "Ocean Blue". The ending part assumes the prog mantle again. "Safe and Sound" is the most chamber like of all the tracks, all the strings playing the lead role, in a manner of ALAN PARSONS at his best. I admit part of me is wary that Mr Hawkins has found Jesus, but "The Love Bomb's slightly cheesy lyrics are devoid of that form of devotion, although I am not a fan of its plodding pace and Yes-like falsettos. The closing piece "Heaven on Earth" marks a more authentic homage to that band, with pleasantries plucked by mandolin, and what sounds like incognito flute but is probably keys from Hawkins.

I'm not as taken with "Children of Eve" and "Soldiers of Life" but they are among the more audacious pieces here and are sure to find some fans among us; I just think FM works best in the more accessible realms and always has. Cameron Hawkins should be very proud of this achievement which has been quietly collecting kudos all over the web. "Transformation" reflects a bold resolution to flourish and freshen with age, while never forgetting one's roots. 3.5 stars rounded up.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |

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