The Miami-based Fantasy was active from 1967 through 1970. During that time they managed to record an interesting 1970 album for Liberty Records, before calling it quits.
After Fantasy broke up lead singer Lydia Jamene Miller was signed by Liberty as a solo act, but nothing came of it. She went on to record an album with the Florida band Power, but that project was also shelved. She worked as a backup singer and touring vocalist, including a stint with Stevie Wonder’s touring band and participated in a pair of one-shot Fantasy reunions, but by the early 1980s battling drug addiction and personal demons, had largely dropped out of the music scene. She passed away in September 2008 at the age of 55.
Without Miller, singer/lead guitarist Vincent James ‘Jim’ DeMeo Jr., drummer Gregory Kimple, keyboardist Mario Russo, and bassist David Robert Robbins soldiered on as Year One. Unable to attract the attention of a major label, in 1971 they released “Year One”. Released on their own Year One Records label. their debut was a double album, sixteen track studio set.
The album’s rare, but not impossible to score. That said, poking around the web I came up with about a dozen on-line references to the collection, but they were all extremely brief, essentially saying the same thing. In fact, the absence of any real detail made me wonder if anyone had actually listened to the whole album. I’ve never been able to figure out if “Year One” was intended as a concept piece. Based on the narrative embedded in the title track, I think it was, but the plot line was completely lost on my pedestrian ears. Also worth mentioning, while I wouldn’t go as far as labeling this a Christian album, there seemed to be a religious element embedded in several of the tunes ('Jubilation’ and 'True My Lord’). It wasn’t a blatant, you’re-going-to-hell kind of thing, but some folks might find it an irritant. Regardless, clocking in at over an hour, the sixteen original songs were quite diverse, including stabs at conventional rock ('As Much As I Know You’), jazz-rock fusion ('We Look Out At You’), progressive, and even pop moves. The result made it difficult to figure out how to label these guys. Tracks like 'E=MC2’, 'Juggle’ and the instrumental 'Flood’ were certainly more progressive than Fantasy. At the same time the band showed they were capable of penning material way more commercial that anything Fantasy did. Both 'Now You Are In The Puzzle’ (released as an obscure 45), and the breezy 'Morning Lights’ had radio play potential. In hindsight the set would have benefited from some judicious editing - there was clearly enough material here for a really good single LP. Far from perfect, but I’ll tell you I liked this one way better than the better known “Fantasy” album…..by…….RDTEN1 ………
This short-lived crew produced this one album and split, but what they created is an effective mix of hard rock, jazz, folk, and psychedelic elements. Overall, it’s an enjoyable album with quite a few rough patches. One of the lead vocalist sounds like a softer Derek Shulman; I might go so far as to say this album sounds like what I’d imagine it would be if early Uriah Heep got together with Gentle Giant and jammed with America a bit, but kept the instrumentation on the minimalistic side- a convoluted description perhaps, but the best I can come up with. “E=MC-2” The band uses a combination of saxophone and synthesizer to make up one half of this initially bouncy work, but abruptly a gentle acoustic guitar and sweet steel guitar with pleasant vocals takes over (sounding like a cross between “Soon” by Yes and “Ventura Highway” by America).
“Now You Are in the Puzzle” Easing up a bit, the group offers a peaceful acoustic guitar and piano accompanying pleasant vocals. The spunkiness soon returns though, bringing in a funky saxophone solo and lead guitar.
“Morning Lights” Beautiful acoustic guitar and harmonies make for a lovely, folk-like listening experience.
“Jubilation” A sparse song with only percussion to fill the void at first, this song becomes more akin to 1960s folk rock, but features some sizzling guitar work. Adding variety is a sprightly flute solo.
“Your Love, My Love” Again the acoustic guitar is the main instrument. The vocals range from calm passages to high-pitched shrieks (think Uriah Heep), but keeps things mostly tranquil thanks to the fluttering woodwind- a highlight performance.
“Juggle” A swampier feel is made by muffling the guitar and bass and adding some quivering keyboard. If there were a song on this album to really appeal to Gentle Giant fanatics, this would be it.
“Transitory River” Soft electric piano, working through mostly major and diminished chords make up this quieter piece. Even though it is soft, I find this to be one of the best tracks on the record, reminiscent of parts of the Gentle Giant album Three Friends.
“Flood” A gritty guitar riff kicks this one off, and lays the foundation for saxophone and bass solos, two instruments that almost seem to be competing with each other.
“Universal Love Song” Placid acoustic guitar, soft keyboards, and quavering vocals make up this docile tune. It becomes something of a Mediterranean waltz toward the end, though.
“Year One” The title track begins with classic guitar and meek singing. As it adopts a fuller sound, it also introduces a theatric, deep voice similar to “Genetic Control” from Genesis’s “Get 'Em Out by Friday.” The music ceases for a moment, and then brings in falsetto vocals and raunchy saxophone and guitar- not at all a smooth or enjoyable way to continue the piece.
“We Look Out at You” This uncomplicated rock song reminds me of The Who both in sound and structure, but adds texture with a distant organ. The guitar solo works over a steady bass pounding out the same note.
“As Much as I Know You” Here is even more variety for this album- a country song that sounds just like The Eagles would have done early on in their career.
“Rock 'N’ Roll Nights” As the name might suggest, this is a rock and roll boogie- as progressive as one of ELP’s “comic relief” tracks, but almost as good as an early Blue Oyster Cult number.
“Above You” Electric piano and acoustic guitar make up the bulk of this short song, but it includes America-like harmonies and some southern rock grit.
“True My Lord” A simple acoustic rock song, this sounds a great deal like Neil Young.
“Champion” The band doesn’t put away their acoustic guitars- on the contrary, they bring out more, and keep things in the style country-inspired folk rock. A few times through there is a shift towards more Van Morrison-like jazz…..by Epignosis ……….
Line-up / Musicians - Bob Robbins / bass, vocals - Jim DeMeo / guitar, vocals - Mario Russo / keyboards, vocals - Greg Kimple / drums, vocals
Tracklist A1 E=MC² A2 Now You’re In The Puzzle A3 Morning Lights A4 Jubilation B1 Your Love, My Love B2 Juggler B3 Transitory River B4 Flood C1 Universal Love Song C2 Year One C3 We Look Out At You C4 As Much As I Know You D1 Rock 'N Roll Nights D2 Above You D3 True My Lord D4 Champion