If there ever was an ensemble in need of closure, it’s EMPIRE. Formed in 1973 by Peter Banks, when the guitarist had left behind both YES and FLASH, and Sidonie Jordan, who performed under nom de guerre Sydney Foxx, this group were in permanent search of perfection, laying down new versions of their previously recorded tracks to develop them and find fresh contexts, yet the three albums this collective recorded before the decade was over, remained on the shelf until the mid-’90s. Still, even after the recent box set "The Complete Recordings" offered a full picture of what could be there, an air of unreleased potential remained strong, so another band arose from that enterprise’s ashes.
Named, rather logically, THE NEW EMPIRE, its ranks include the old combo’s last drummer, Mark Murdock, a Banks über-fan Fernando Perdomo and singer Marisol Koss – all with the blessing of Ms Foxx’s who appears on “Foundation” – one of the pieces on their forthcoming album. “Second Lifetime” – another logical title – is scheduled for release on October 9th and features a few original numbers alongside new takes on tracks from EMPIRE and FLASH and Peter’s first solo LP as well as “Looking Around” from YES’ debut. But it’s not a one-off homage to the late artist; it’s the beginning of a new journey.
When asked about it, the two key figures of EMPIRE had a few things to share with their future fellow travelers.
“The phoenix has risen from the ashes after 42 years of the the original EMPIRE featuring Peter Banks and Sydney Foxx,” says Mark Murdock. “Fernando Perdomo and I met at the NAMM Show a few years ago and have been collaborating on songs which naturally led to redoing some of the EMPIRE catalog with the grace of Sydney, who also sang on ‘Foundation,’ a song which was originally released on Mark lll as an instrumental. Marisol Koss and other players in Tokyo helped bring the project to life. There are also a lot of new original songs that breath new life into the project. I think we captured the essence of EMPIRE and discovered something new along the way. It certainly is a goal of THE NEW EMPIRE to perform live when conditions permit.”
“It is always flattering when someone performs music that you have helped to create or records songs that you have written,” adds Sidonie Jordan. “THE NEW EMPIRE project gave me the opportunity to finish one of my favorite EMPIRE tracks that Peter and I were working on at the end of our third band incarnation. The song ‘Foundation’ has only been released before as an instrumental, so finishing the lyrics and recording a finished vocal was a really cathartic experience for me. I wrote the lyrics about Peter which fits in well with the ‘Tribute to Peter Banks’ aspect of NEW EMPIRE. He would have liked it. He dug deep with his music and I do as well. He taught me to reach beyond what I ‘think’ I can do and, in doing so, achieve more than I thought I could. Peter always kept evolving and he shared the secret with me. Music today is as meaningful as it was when I started at age 15. I will always be grateful to him. He was the only mentor I ever had in the music Industry. I think ‘Foundation’ and the new empire are a fitting tribute to him.”
As for the entire tracklisting, it runs like this (read the review):
1. The New Empire Overture
2. Lost In Time
3. Knights Of The New Empire
4. Slow Burn Rising
5. The Journey Of Mankind
6. Life After Life
7. Better Not To
8. Out Of Our Hands
10. Sky At Night
11. Looking Around
12. Another Lifetime
13. This Is Not A Dream
14. Faraway Friend (A Tribute To Peter Banks)