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6 Degrees Entertainment

Title - ‘The Mars Tapes’ (Gonzo Multimedia)
Artist - Peter Banks Empire

Prog fans everywhere, and I truly mean everywhere, most likely all have their gleeful, sweaty lil’ hands on this incredible 2CD release. For not only is this two discs of recordings from the man best known for his work with Yes and Flash, but each and every one of the 12 tracks are rare ones, at that. Originally recorded back in Los Angeles in 1979 at the Mars Studios, the Peter Banks Empire had actually been encamped there for over six months. Rehearsing, tinkering, showcasing their music, much of which has still to this day been unheard - until today - what you get here now is the actual rare soundboard recordings.

The late Peter Banks (2013) co-founded the Peter Banks Empire in the early 70’s alongside Sidone Jordan, a woman whose powerful, stand alone vocals could have you entranced within seconds. Indeed, Banks might well have been the lead name behind the project, but Jordan not only co-wrote much of the tracks the band released, but she stood alongside Banks the whole time.

Jordan, who has an extensive list of music credentials to her name, and who has recorded with en masse of other record labels throughout her incredible career, brings a depth to this wondrous double album that wouldn’t exist without her. Tracks like the three-part ‘Medley,’ ‘Do What You Want,’ ‘The Fall Of the Empire,’ and especially the opening track, ‘Out Of Our Hands’ showcase Jordan and bring each and every track to 3D life.

Featuring a whole host of tracks recorded live at the Mars Studios back in the summer of 1979, The Mars Tapes even includes a few tracks that never even appeared on any Empire albums Peter Banks put out. Called the ‘Architect of Progressive Rock,” the Peter Banks Empire incorporated numerous themes of the time period in which the band existed whilst playing songs from the early Empire catalog. And yes, if you’ll pardon the pun, we even get a Yes version of ‘Something’s Coming’ (West Side Story)’ from Leonard Bernstein. Banks’ arrangement is simply divine, but it’s the bonus track on the second disc, the final track on the double album, that really embodies what this release is all about. Featuring the irrepressible drumming qualities of Genesis legend, Phil Collins, ’Sky At Night’ is, quite possibly, a track like no other.

Reviewed by: Russell A. Trunk