Who was/is Byzantium ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more
From the smouldering ashes of Ora, Robin Sylvester's thirst for further folk-inspired manipulations lay conscious amidst the aftermath of Tangerine's rushed release of the band's demo material in 1969. However, Ora's brief existence would have significant repercussions reaching far beyond the complex histories of a good number of their contemporaries namely in London hopefuls, Byzantium. Guitarists Jamie Rubinstein (Ora's linchpin member) and school friend Mark Barakan would eventually find themselves back alongside Robin Sylvester in Trident studios recording with Byzantium for their second album Season's Changing in 1973. Rubinstein had originally appeared in the early stages of the band composing four of the songs, but appearing on only one recording (Come Fair One) for the debut LP before quitting during recording sessions.
This left Chaz Janke', Nico Ramsden, Stephen Corduner and Robin Lamble to
carry the torch. A&M manager Joe Smith would encourage Rubinstein's return to the fold with Mark Barakan replacing Ramsden signalling an expanded, creative aspect to the band. UK and European tours followed the 1973 release of Season's Changing, but internal differences once again erupted resulting in Jankel's eventual decision to quit. The energy of American manager Joe Smith (and Gaff management) would eventually expire with a lack of positive sales forcing a split between label and band in 1974. Naturally, a despondent air loomed immediately after A&M's decision although the band felt convicted enough through Rubinstein's enthusiasm alone, booking themselves into the studio to help gain a new contract. On 16th April 1974, the band performed three songs for their Radio One session with John Peel. With Tony Wilson producing, the band recorded an extended version of I'll Just Take My Time along with Halfway There and Small World making their only known recorded appearances.
Live and Studio is a collection of demos recorded over their entire existence from 1971 to 1974 and allows a generous perspective of their work. Flashing Silver Hope, Oh Darling and Move With The Time were originally performed in the embryonic stages of the band's recording sessions for their debut LP with A&M. Another demo entitled Susie Bumpkin's Griddled Fiddle recorded in 1972 failed to make the privately-pressed album along with several alternate takes of material from Season's Changing, with demo versions of all three songs that make up the trilogy Something You Said serving as an example. Performed versions of Flashing Silver Hope, Cowboy Song and Feel It are taken from appearances at The Nightingale, Borehamwood and Harlow Community Centre respectively.
Ramsden would join Boys Don't Cry with Brian Chatton (Flaming Youth/Eclection) before emerging once again with Mike Oldfield. Robin Lamble joined Al Stewart whilst Steve Corduner enjoyed a brief spell in Nasty Pop before recording alongside Steve Naïve, Elvis Costello and Jimmy Edwards in Twist in 1979. Mark Barakan became better known as Shane Fontayne following Robin Sylvester (later of The Movies) across the Atlantic to back Dana Gillespie on her USA tour. Bakaran then replaced the E Street band to back Bruce Springsteen. Remaining UCS schoolboy and original driving force behind Ora and Byzantium, Jamie Rubinstein seems to have disappeared from the music scene altogether post-1975 having contributed most earnestly to the rich tapestry of British rock.
However, the story of Byzantium would not be complete without mentioning Robin Sylvester who, from the early days with Ora whilst serving as an apprentice engineer at Tangerine studios, would experience the birth of progressive rock producing a rich variety of late sixties acts such as Black Cat Bones, East of Eden, Caravan, Marsupilami, Aynsley Dunbar, Rory Gallagher and a host of other hopefuls from the Deram, Transatlantic, Dawn and Dandelion stables. Although Sylvester was not actually a fully-fledged member of the band, his input in both music and production, was essential and steered Byzantium's course through the murky waters of progressive rock.
From the smouldering ashes of Ora, Robin Sylvester's thirst for further folk-inspired manipulations lay conscious amidst the aftermath of
Tangerine's rushed release of the band's demo material in 1969. However, Ora's brief existence would have significant repercussions
reaching far beyond the complex histories of a good number of their contemporaries namely in London hopefuls, Byzantium. Aside from their two albums for A&M in 1972 and 1973, their BBC session for John Peel from April 1974 also stands as official testament to their work. However, their legacy also exists in the band's self-financed Live and Studio LP, a collection of demos and live recordings that span their entire existence from 1971 to 1974 allowing the listener a generous perspective of their work. Prog Temple's retrospective viewpoint reveals the complete story of Byzantium and their relationship with iconic names such as Rory Gallagher, Bruce Springsteen and Ian Dury.
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