Direct to Disc (FM album)

Last updated
Direct to Disc
FM Direct to Disc.jpg
Studio album by FM
Released May 1978
Recorded 1977
Studio Phase One Recording Studios, Toronto
Genre Progressive rock
Label Labyrinth
Producer Paul A. Gross
FM chronology
Black Noise
Direct to Disc

Direct to Disc is the second album by FM, a progressive rock group from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, recorded late 1977 and released May 1978. It was also issued under the title Head Room. It was the first FM album to feature Ben Mink, who replaced founding member Nash the Slash on electric violin and electric mandolin, instruments which Nash also played.

FM (Canadian band) Canadian progressive rock music group

FM is a Canadian progressive rock music group formed in 1976 in Toronto. The band existed from 1976 to 1996, with a brief return in 2006, although they had a period of inactivity between 1989 and 1994. Their music has been categorized as space rock, and lyrics are dominated by science fiction themes. In November 2011, Cameron Hawkins reformed the band with two new players.

Progressive rock is a broad genre of rock music that developed in the United Kingdom and United States throughout the mid to late 1960s. Initially termed "progressive pop", the style was an outgrowth of psychedelic bands who abandoned standard pop traditions in favour of instrumentation and compositional techniques more frequently associated with jazz, folk, or classical music. Additional elements contributed to its "progressive" label: lyrics were more poetic, technology was harnessed for new sounds, music approached the condition of "art", and the studio, rather than the stage, became the focus of musical activity, which often involved creating music for listening, not dancing.

Toronto Provincial capital city in Ontario, Canada

Toronto is the provincial capital of Ontario and the most populous city in Canada, with a population of 2,731,571 in 2016. Current to 2016, the Toronto census metropolitan area (CMA), of which the majority is within the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), held a population of 5,928,040, making it Canada's most populous CMA. Toronto is the anchor of an urban agglomeration, known as the Golden Horseshoe in Southern Ontario, located on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. A global city, Toronto is a centre of business, finance, arts, and culture, and is recognized as one of the most multicultural and cosmopolitan cities in the world.


It has been re-released for the first time in CD format on Esoteric Records in February 2013.


The album was made using the direct to disc recording method, in which recording tape is not used. This method requires that the group perform two 15-minute sides live in the studio with no overdubs. The recording is mixed live and transcribed to the master disc as it is being performed. This was a briefly popular format in the 1970s, and like all albums made this way, it was a limited edition, because only so many copies can be pressed from the master disc.

The album was mostly instrumental, consisted of one piece on each side, and was issued on a small label called Labyrinth Records, catalogue number LBR-1001, which suggests it was likely the label's first (and possibly only) release. It was well received by critics who compared the first side to a blend of Yes, King Crimson, and Lighthouse, while the second side took on a jazz feel, concluding with the sound of an unusual instrument: an alpha wave brain monitor plugged into a synthesizer, translating drummer Martin Deller's live brainwaves into a throbbing hum.

Yes (band) English rock band

Yes are an English progressive rock band formed in London in 1968 by singer Jon Anderson, bassist Chris Squire, guitarist Peter Banks, keyboardist Tony Kaye, and drummer Bill Bruford. The band has undergone numerous formations throughout its history; nineteen musicians have been full-time members. Since June 2015, it has consisted of guitarist Steve Howe, drummer Alan White, keyboardist Geoff Downes, singer Jon Davison, and bassist Billy Sherwood, with no remaining founding members. Yes have explored several musical styles over the years, and are most notably regarded as progressive rock pioneers.

King Crimson British art rock band

King Crimson are an English progressive rock band formed in London in 1968. King Crimson have been influential both on the early 1970s progressive rock movement and numerous contemporary artists. The band has undergone numerous formations throughout its history, in the course of which 22 musicians have been members; since October 2017 it has consisted of Robert Fripp, Jakko Jakszyk, Tony Levin, Mel Collins, Pat Mastelotto, Gavin Harrison, Jeremy Stacey and Bill Rieflin. Fripp is the only consistent member of the group and is considered the band's leader and driving force. The band has earned a large cult following. They were ranked No. 87 on VH1's 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock. Although considered to be a seminal progressive rock band, they have often distanced themselves from the genre: as well as influencing several generations of progressive and psychedelic rock bands, they have also been an influence on subsequent alternative metal, hardcore and experimental/noise musicians.

Lighthouse is a Canadian rock band formed in 1968 in Toronto, Ontario. Their sound included horns, string instruments, and vibraphone; their music reflected elements of rock music, jazz, classical music, and swing. They won Juno Awards for Best Canadian Group of the Year in 1972, 1973, and 1974.


The fantasy cover art by Paul Till shows a warrior (possibly from the distant past, or the distant future, and possibly female) gazing into a portal and seeing a green glowing vacuum tube in the foreground, superimposed over the warrior's face. The concept references the album's use of older, but not obsolete, and (arguably) superior recording technologies: tube amplifiers, and the direct to disc recording process.

Vacuum tube Device that controls electric current between electrodes in an evacuated container

In electronics, a vacuum tube, an electron tube, or valve or, colloquially, a tube, is a device that controls electric current flow in a high vacuum between electrodes to which an electric potential difference has been applied.

A valve audio amplifier (UK) or vacuum tube audio amplifier is a valve amplifier used for sound reinforcement, sound recording and reproduction.

Editions and Head Room reissue

During the recording session, six takes were recorded for each side. The original edition uses take four on each side. The take number is determined by checking the side number suffix in the matrix numbers inscribed next to the run-out groove. Suffixes A4 and B4 indicate take four. This version was a limited edition of 20,000 copies. [1]

Some time after the original edition's release (possibly in 1980), several reissues appeared. One still has the original Direct to Disc title, but it has a different company name on the label: Kiras Music Works. Another edition changes the album title to Head Room, or perhaps Headroom. The title, which is also the title of the piece covering side one, is spelled as one word on the main track list printed on the inner gatefold cover, but as two words in the engineering credits and on the first edition's cream coloured label. (The Kiras edition's label is also cream coloured.) Conversely, it is spelled as two words on the front cover of the later edition, but as one word on its black label, which has no label name. [1] All editions continue to use the Labyrinth Records name and original catalogue number on the cover.

These later editions use different takes of the track for side two. Takes one and two (marked B1 and B2 in the matrix area) are known to exist. In an interview, Martin Deller suggested the later editions were not known to the band at the time:

"As far as the Direct to Disc goes there was a limited pressing of 20,000 copies and it sold out. However a local fan has collected a couple of copies of the album and I understand that they have different versions of each take (side 1, side 2) on them! I have yet to check this out but if so there may be more (than the 20K) available."

– Martin Deller, January 2004 [1]

The claim that alternate takes of side one exist has not been confirmed, but the quote suggests Deller was uncertain of the details.

A remastered edition of Direct to Disc was released by Esoteric Records (ECLECM2377) on February 25, 2013.

Track listing

Descriptions are taken from the track list on the album cover. Timings are taken from the first edition's label, which uses take four of each side. Later editions have alternate takes of side two, and timings are not shown on the labels. [1]

Side one

  1. "Headroom" (Cameron Hawkins) – 15:36
    • "Tyra" – An introduction of the three musicians with bass guitar, bass pedals, drums and electric violin.
    • "Reflections One" – A violin piece with light percussion, congas, bass guitar chording and bass pedals.
    • "Reflections Two" – The same themes as "One", presented over a background of sequences, string synthesizer, and drums with violin, vocal, and synthesizer melodies.
    • "Real Time" – A space out.
    • "Scarberia" – The drum solo emerges into an improvised synthesized drum, violin, bass guitar bridge. The piece concludes with a rock and roll song in 14/8.

Side two

  1. "Border Crossing" (Martin Deller) – 15:24 – A composition drawing from rock, jazz, and classical influences.
    • "The First Movement" – was inspired by Japanese haiku; a three line verse having a rhythmic cadence of 5/7/5.
    • "The Second Movement" – is free of metre and tonal centre, and contrasts the first movement with a lack of structure.
    • "The Third Movement" – is introduced by an ostinato sequencer bass line. An improvisation by all players over this pattern follows.
    • "The Fourth Movement" – is in traditional song form with drums, violin, bass guitar and bass pedals. The piece concludes with added synthesizer environments of modulated noise and alpha brain wave control of an ARP 2500.


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