Origin: Vancouver, British Columbia
Formed in Vancouver in 1976, their original name was Stanley Screamer. Consisting of singer Ron Tabak, guitarists Tom Lavin and Lyndsey Mitchell, Ab Bryant on bass and drummer Rodney Higgs (Jim Vallance, Bryan Adams' songwriting partner, under a pseudonym) , the group developed a tight friendly pop sound while doing the bar circuit in BC and the western provinces. After adding keyboardist John Hall and changing their name to Prism later that year, they were signed to the now dead and buried GRT Records.
The group's self-titled debut came out in the spring of '77 and the instant reaction given to "Spaceship Superstar", "Open Soul Surgery" and "Take Me To The Kaptin" let Canada know this was a tightly knit group of musicians capable of clever pop/rock as well as the well thought-out political commentary of "Vladivastok". "It's Over" also displayed their ability to cross over and deliver the stinging power ballad. The record also marked a four-album relationship with producer Bruce Fairbairn, (who'd later go on to produce such meaga-acts as Heart, Aerosmith and the VERY disappointing new Kiss disc).
Now on Capitol Records, their second effort came in '78 in the form of SEE FOREVER EYES. The record featured new drummer Rocket Norton and Alan Harlow on bass, following Bryant's leaving to join the Headpins. Harlow's impact on the writing was instantly felt by contributing on four of the ten tracks. The title track was the lead off single and was certified gold (50,000 copies) in Canada. With a supporting cast of anything but filler "Take Me Away", "Nickels and Dimes" and "Hello", SFE again showed great dexterity, covering all spectrums of the rock prism (... pun INTENDED), including horns arrangements which also featured Fairbairn..
ARMAGEDDON was next on the list and was certified gold almost immediately upon its release in '79. "Night To Remember" remains one of the most powerful "I love you - the sky is blue" ballads ever written and is a staple at weddings to this day. The band now had more room to stretch his arms on stage as Lavin was gone, leaving the guitar chores solely to Mitchell. Backed by the single "Virginia", the record featured a slightly harder-edged sound, punching out songs that didn't straddle the rock fence as much as in the first two records. "Jealousy", the title-track and "You Walked Away Again" come to mind when I say that. A string of regional tours across Canada and into the States followed.
They followed it up inearly 1980 with YOUNG AND RESTLESS. A blatant attempt at cashing in Canadian gold for the American dollar was evident in the new sound, starting out with the lead-off single "American Music". Though still Prism, the new record possessed a slicker feel to it, with the title track and "Satellite" helping pushing it gold at home, but failing to make much of an impression south of the Coutts/Sweetgrass border.
Radio stations were playing the new single "Cover Girl" to death when ALL THE BEST FROM PRISM was released that same year. Really nothing particularly mesmerizing, it also contained a good assortment of material from the group's first four albums. Ron Tabak succumbed to a brain hemhorrage following a motorcycle accident shortly thereafter and the group found themselves in a state of hiatus until Henry Small filled the void the next spring.
SMALL CHANGE was released in '81 and the group was caught still trying to meld their new singer's style into an already established sound. Despite two singles, "Rain" and "Don't Let Him Know", the record was their first not to go gold. Prism released BEAT STREET nearly two years later but the downward slide was already well in progress. Without proper support from management, the record failed to even produce a single. Internal conflicts with where the band was headed caused a breakup in early '84.
Capitol released a compilation in their OVER SIXTY MINUTES series in 1988. Though a collection of greatest hits, cheesy marketing ploys also included the 'new classic'"Good To Be Back".
The group wasn't heard from again until 1993, when they released JERICHO. Though not the worst album you could spend your money on, record execs failed to properly support the newly-revamped Prism, and again they faded into the background. Renaissance Records in the States released a modified version of OVER SIXTY MINUTES WITH PRISM in '98, along with FROM THE VAULTS. Interesting about FTV is the choice of outtakes from the BEAT STREET and SMALL CHANGES albums.
Though Prism never did really crack the American market, they took full advantage of Canadian radio's "Canadian content" regulations. Their sound was crisp and sharp ... moving and stirring ... ballsy and brazen. The advent of the classic rock radio format has spawned enough interest in Prism for the group to reform and do the smaller venues and the outdoor summer festivals again. Theyve delighted crowds pretty much coast to coast when they've toured and you always found yourselves turning up the volume when you heard them on the air. They were Prism.