48. FM, 'Black Noise' (1977)
Superficially, Toronto-based FM had a lot working against them: Aside from Rush, Canada was never a prog hotbed, and the band released its debut album in 1977, as many of the genre's originators were fading. Still, Black Noise was one of late-era prog’s most original albums – a hypnotic blend of symphonic synthesizer effects and glossy New Wave melodies, plus an exotic whirl of electric mandolin and violin from Nash the Slash, a.k.a. Jeff Plewman, who performed onstage with his face entirely obscured by surgical bandages. Opener "Phasors on Stun" became a minor AM radio hit, driven by a yearning hook from frontman-bassist-keyboardist Cameron Hawkins, and the band has released several more albums over the years, but FM never managed to reach their debut’s deep-cosmos magic. "There is a timeless quality about that record," Hawkins told The Music Express in 2014. R.R.