Thursday, December 4, 2014

CD Review: Dylan Howe Revisits Bowie's "Berlin" Era, While The Peter Banks Empire Discovers "Mars"

British guitarist Peter Banks was one of the original members of the progressive rock bands Yes and Flash. His musicianship helped define the genre, before being replaced in Yes by Steve Howe. Following his dismissal from the band, he decided to form Flash as another outlet for his music. After only three albums, Banks moved on to other projects, one of them being Empire. The band released three albums, but this time, his band was fronted by female singer Sydney Foxx and also featured Genesis' Phil Collins on a number of songs. Empire entered Mars Studios in the summer of 1979 to record songs for the band's next album. The sessions have sat in the vault for 35 years until its recent release through Gonzo Multimedia. The new 2CD set entitled "The Mars Tapes" features songs that have been released on some of the band's earlier albums, as well as some songs that have not appeared on any Empire album. The set opens and closes with a couple of songs from the band's first album, "Mark 1." While "Out Of Our Hands" feels like a sixties psychedelic rocker, "Sky At Night" is a slow-building, gentle flight that features Phil Collins on drums. Sandwiched between these two tracks are ten epic pieces of music, including the 18-minute "Medley" and the unreleased 17-minute instrumental version "Something's Coming" from West Side Story. The band really excels during the masterful nine-minute instrumental performance of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow Bar And Grill," while "Dancing Man" shows disco's influence in rock music. The short instrumentals "The Fall Of The Empire" and "When The Banks Overflow" sound like music pieces of a bigger project that never happened. The album was released in October. To find out more about "The Mars Tapes," please visit

English drummer Dylan Howe has had a steady, but quiet music career. He began his career in 1989, performing regularly at clubs, before his big break in 1997 when he joined Ian Dury & The Blockheads. Following Dury's death in 2000, Howe joined his father, Steve Howe on his solo albums and played drums in the Wilko Johnson Band. Howe also lead his own jazz band, the Dylan Howe Quintet and in 2007, he formed Dylan Howe and the Subterraneans which performed David Bowie music in a jazz format. His latest album entitled "Subterranean" has Howe performing jazz renditions of Bowie's "Berlin" era. The new nine-song release begins with the slow, subtle build-up of the title song as Ross Stanley's piano weaves in and out of the smooth tenor sax highlights. Dylan Howe finally makes his presence known in the latter half of "Weeping Wall," before diving into the quick pace of the eleven-minute "All Saints." The deep dark depressing tone of "Warszawa" is handled perfectly with the almost playfulness between the piano and drums. The album closes with the gentle, magical feeling of Bowie's "Moss Garden." Dylan Howe just wrapped up a European tour of the album in October, but has a few dates scheduled in 2015. To find out more about his new album "Subterranean," please visit

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