Finding Sublime: Tim Bowness And The Things That Matter

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For such a uniquely talented vocalist and musician, Tim Bowness doesn’t need to fill the frame.  As his band Henry Fool hinted on 2013’s excellent and slyly-titled Men Singing (http://progarchy.com/2013/08/12/men-singing-by-henry-fool/), what a voice is and what it has to say is as elastic as what we’re willing to hear.  His long partnership with Steven Wilson in no-man likewise produces soundscapes that find a wholeness in laying back and cherry-picking essentials.  Getting to the heart of what matters and why is a recurring theme in Bowness’s work, and It is fitting that Bowness’s new album begins with a song titled “Electric Teenage Dream,” the video for which sets images of jurassic 1950s technology against words echoing our slippery grasp on the electronic toys that so demand our attention. 

Stupid Things That Mean The World is rich with rejoinders to a world running over with unfiltered shadowplay.  Teasing out the meaningful from the stupid things (sometimes finding they might be one and the same), trying to jump start a false life on found truths, to, as one song says, “press reset,” is a central struggle, and Bowness’s emotive, low-key delivery makes the struggle immediate, engaging, and deeply moving.

With a voice embedded in British folk and art rock but defining a space entirely his own, Bowness sings towards a quiet grandeur.  And yet while that stately-paced slow burn colors much of the record with the torch-driven songcraft common to his work (thinking particularly of no-man’s Returning Jesus), the album ignites under the heat Bowness brings to “Stupid Things That Mean The World,” “The Great Electric Teenage Dream,” and “Press Reset,” their detailed observations accompanied by taut arrangements moving from the apocalyptic to the pop.  The moods he summons join together seamlessly, so this is indeed an album rather than a collection of songs, a conjuring of Johnny Hartman entwined with Nick Drake and Radiohead and autumn leaves falling.  Jarrod Gosling’s artwork nails the vibe, with its feel of a classic EG Records album cover mirroring the hidden edges and complexities of the music within, and the credits are a who’s who of cross-generational art rock, including Bruce Soord, Peter Hammill, Phil Manzanera, Pat Mastelotto, Colin Edwin, Anna Phoebe, David Rhodes, Rhys Marsh, and members of the no-man live band  (Stephen Bennett, Michael Bearpark and Sanguine Hum’s Andrew Booker), with Andrew Keeling providing string arrangements.  It makes for a complete and satisfying experience, and again shows the kind of standard we’ve come to expect from the music Bowness creates.

Progarchy sat down with Tim via email to talk about the new album, his music and career, and what’s next for him.

The production on Stupid Things That Mean The World is immediate, it feels live, and you are upfront in the mix. What sort of decisions did you make to have this record sound the way it does?
I’d have offered opinions about mix/instrument levels, treatments and so on. Pretty much as I usually do on any project, except on my solo works no-one argues with me and I get rejected less! :-)

I have ideas about sounds and approaches to music and inevitably I pursue those (for better or worse). I quite like live and direct approaches to drum, strings and vocal production in particular, and I also like allowing quieter elements to dominate busy arrangements.

Tell us about the title of the record, and what brought you to the themes you explore, particularly in “Electric Teenage Dream,” “Press Reset,” and the title track?
The title song is about a relationship, but not necessarily a romantic one. It could be about a collapsed close friendship, or life in a band or a business with a sort of kindred spirit.

The title concerns the small and seemingly trivial things that make us who we are or help us through our lives. It could be an old toy, art/music, shared intimate language, a belief system, an annual holiday, the image or idea of someone you loved in your youth etc etc. I was also thinking of something like the significance of the seemingly insignificant Rosebud in Citizen Kane.

Press Reset and At The End Of The Holiday are my two favourite lyrics on the album and have more of a short story quality about them. The first is a depiction of someone desperate to escape the pressures of their life, while the second is about a temporary escape from domestic difficulties. Press Reset’s theme is something that has interested me for a long time – people consciously disappearing from their own lives and families – and something that in retrospect I realised had happened in my own family.

The lyric to The Great Electric Teenage Dream is part of a larger project called Third Monster On The Left, which is about what it’s like for musicians of a certain age to make music at this point in the 21st Century. A few tracks from it appeared on Abandoned Dancehall Dreams and I’m hoping to present it as a complete project at some point in the future.

Know That You Were Loved was the last song written for the album and it’s possibly the most emotional song on the album. To an extent, it deals with death bed reminiscences and has roots in the work I used to do with the elderly at old people’s homes in the 1980s.

Cheery!

3) What’s your favorite song on the new record?
For very different reasons, Know That You Were Loved, Press Reset and The Great Electric Teenage Dream are my favourite songs on the album. Partly because they either achieved or exceeded my ideas of what the songs could be and partly because they were developing all the time due to some really nice contributions from the guest musicians.

4) You’ve said that this record and Abandoned Dancehall Dreams constitute a new chapter for you. Why do you think that is?
Due to my input in terms of writing and production, ADD and Stupid Things feel more like ‘solo’ works than anything else I’ve done.

In both cases, there was a lot less co-writing than on most projects I’m involved with. Also, with both these albums everything had to begin and end with strong input from me. I assembled the collaborators, booked the studios, provided the material, suggested the sonic approach and so on.

While I might contribute a fair amount to no-man, Henry Fool or Bowness/Chilvers, my input is still being filtered through somebody else’s wishes, opinions and organisational ability, so they’re very much collaborations.

5) What’s your approach to arranging on your solo records as opposed to other projects like no-man?
I think my approach to arranging varies from project to project and song to song as arrangements have to work for the benefits of the song or the musicians involved in the recording.

A good example of differences between projects would be the piece Press Reset. If I’d have presented the song to no-man (for example), Steven would have most likely complicated the final section’s chords and not allowed through the more simplistic pummelling coda rhythm. Conversely, Steven may have simplified compositional aspects of Know That You Were Loved while suggesting a more dense arrangement. Basically, if I’d have presented Press Reset to no-man, Peter Chilvers, Henry Fool or Memories Of Machines, the finished result would have been different and in some cases radically different due to the involvement of other people.

6) You have a distinct, instantly recognizable style, and a signature delivery. What/who shaped your development as a singer?
Ultimately, as with the music, what comes out is instinctive and natural. It may sound corny, but my singing’s my emotional response to whatever music I’m singing over really.

When I started out, my singing inspirations would have been the likes of Kevin Godley, Peter Hammill, Peter Gabriel and David Bowie. Later on, I really liked Paddy McAloon, John Martyn, Nick Drake, David Crosby, Mark Eitzel and others, plus female singers such as Joni Mitchell, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone and Kate Bush.

I hope I’ve developed my own voice over time. It’s something I don’t think about much when I’m actually singing, so I’m not sure how much influence from others comes through.

7) How would you describe your writing process?
Anything that works basically.

Songs can come from me writing on acoustic guitar or playing on my synth or programming within GarageBand or Logic. I can either start with a strong sense of something I want to create, or an idea can naturally emerge out of the process of just playing.

Songs like Know That You Were Loved, I Fought Against The South and Everything You’re Not/Everything But You developed out of me playing on the guitar. The likes of Press Reset and Smiler At 52 came out of programming and then making the pieces more organic and loose with instrumental additions. The Warm-Up Man Forever came out of a combination of looping, playing keyboards and programming.

When I co-write, it can be in real time (generally me with a pianist or a live band) or retrospectively working from existing backing tracks.

8) Can you talk a little bit about Jarrod Gosling’s artwork for Stupid Things and Abandoned Dancehall Dreams?
I think Jarrod’s got a really distinctive style and I used him in order to distinguish the look of my work from the look of no-man’s, and also to reinforce the sense that the solo albums represented a new chapter for me.

Artwork is important to me. I started buying music in an era when the imagery of album covers was a significant part of the music experience and I’ve never lost that fascination with attention to detail or the evocative link between sounds and image.

Jarrod’s a lovely guy and very easy to work with. He listens to other people’s ideas without compromising his own singular style.

9) As someone who is not only an artist but also involved in the business of music, what’s your take on the way music is distributed today?
A big and complex issue!

The internet has been a blessing and a curse to musicians. It’s allowed Burning Shed to thrive internationally in a way that would have been difficult before, so the immediacy of access has mostly been a positive thing for the company. I’ve always felt that Burning Shed has pushed forward traditional ideas – elaborate packaging, physical product, conceptually intentional albums – via an innovative, contemporary medium.

On a personal level, I feel extremely lucky that I can still release music I believe in and that there’s still an interest in what I do. Also, the internet has allowed Burning Shed to thrive internationally in a way that would have been difficult before.

10) What are you reading? What’s a current favorite record, and why?
I tend to read several books at the same time, so at the moment I’m reading Chuck Palahniuk’s Haunted, Clive James’s Sentenced To Life, Kent Haruf’s Our Souls At Night and Pete Townshend’s Who I Am. I recently finished Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel which I enjoyed, but the best book I’ve read in recent years is E L Doctorow’s Homer & Langley. It’s a brilliantly written chronicle of obsession and retreat from the world.

Musically, I go through phases of listening to back catalogues by artists (currently David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Bill Nelson/Be Bop Deluxe and The Who) and new things. Of late, I’ve liked albums by Sanguine Hum, Keaton Henson and Troyka (a really interesting contemporary UK band who are carrying on the Progressive tradition of 1970s Rock influenced Jazz).

What’s next for you?
Immediately, a new Bowness/Chilvers album. We’ve completed 90% of a follow-up to California, Norfolk and it really feels like a progression from that album. Lyrically it’s more dense and musically it really shows how Peter’s work has evolved since he’s been working with Brian Eno and Karl Hyde. I’m looking forward to hear how it develops.

Tim Bowness, Stupid Things That Mean The World (Burning Shed/Inside Out Music, available July 17, 2015: https://www.burningshed.com/store/timbowness/product/71/6640/).

Big Big Train News Update

This, fresh off this morning’s pony. . . .

*****

Hi

Here’s a quick round-up of news ahead of the BBT London shows next month:

* Wassail (the song) has been nominated in the Anthem category of the 2015 Progressive Music Awards. Listeners can vote for their favourites here: http://awards.prog.teamrock.com/

* Wassail (the EP) has been flying high in Amazon’s folk(!) charts for over a month. The CD version of the EP is available at Burning Shed: http://www.burningshed.com/store/progressive/collection/506/ and the download and streaming versions are available from the usual sources.

* Wassail t-shirts are available from The Merch Desk: http://themerchdesk.com/shop/index.php?route=product/product&path=87_115&product_id=504

* An interview with David and Greg appears in the July issue of Prog magazine which is on sale now.

* David performed Spectral Mornings with Magenta at two gigs in June.

* For those coming to the BBT gigs at Kings Place, London, next month, please be aware of the gig timings:

Fri 14th & Sat 15th Aug:
Band on stage: 7.30pm
Finish: 10.25pm

Sun 16th Aug:
Band on stage: 2.00pm
Finish: 5.00pm

* The “Stone & Steel” DVD, featuring “live in the the studio” performances recorded last year at Real World Studios, is due for release in time for Christmas this year.

* After the gigs in August, we will be returning to the studio to finish work on the next album which will be called “Folklore” and is due for release early in 2016.

Best wishes

Andy, Danny, Dave, David, Greg, Nick, Rachel and Rikard

Corvus Stone II – A Belated Review

Corvus Stone, Corvus Stone II (Melodic Revolution Records)

Tracks: 1. The Simple Life (2:00), 2. Early Morning Call (3:52), 3. Boots For Hire (8:59), 4. Sneaky Entrance in to Lisa (0:30), 5. Purple Stone (3:22), 6. A Stoned Crow Meets the Rusty Wolff Rat (7:38), 7. Lisa Has a Cigar (0:47), 8. Mr. Cha Cha (4:50), 9. Dark Tower (1:49), 10. Scandinavians in Mexico (5:06), 11. Mystery Man (6:37), 12. Camelus Bactrianus (Tuolla Tuonnempana) (8:42), 13. Uncle Schunkle (4:38), 14. Eternal Universe (3:53), 15. Moaning Lisa (14:08), 16. Campfire (Tulen Luona) (2:17)

On the dawn of the release of Corvus Stone’s upcoming third album, I bring you an overdue review of their last album, “Corvus Stone II.” The band has 4 permanent members, but they are beautifully complemented by a variety of guest artists. The four permanent members:

Colin Tench – guitars

Pasi Koivu – keyboards

Petri Lemmy Lindström – bass

Robert Wolff – drums

Rather than list all of the amazing guests on this album, check out this handy page on Corvus Stone’s website. They add a lot of fantastic talent to the album, and most have collaborated with Colin Tench and other members of Corvus Stone in the past, most notably in Andy John Bradford’s Oceans 5.  Oceans 5 was actually how I first heard of Colin Tench and Corvus Stone, and I must say, the people involved with the creation of all of this music have been incredibly friendly, as well as extremely talented. (Check out my review of Oceans 5’s “Return to Mingulay.“) For me, it always makes a difference when I know that the musicians aren’t… well, jerks. It probably shouldn’t make a difference, but I appreciate it when artists are approachable and appreciate their fans. Corvus Stone and their related musicians understand that well.

The scandalous, yet marvelous cover art by Sonia Mota. Nothing was Photoshopped. It was created using Windows Paint, and she is also an excellent artist with real paint as well.

The scandalous, yet marvelous cover art by Sonia Mota. Nothing was Photoshopped. It was created using Windows Paint, and she is an excellent artist with real paint as well.

In an email to Colin from last fall, I told him that I loved Corvus Stone’s combination of prog, jazz, rock, and “whateverthehellallofthismixedtogetheris.” I firmly stand by that description. While mainly instrumental, the 80 minute “Corvus Stone II” covers all that and more. The music is incredibly layered, with exquisite guitar work (very similar to Colin’s guitars with Oceans 5), multi-layered keyboards, driving bass, and guiding drums. The added guest vocalists act as another instrument, with their particular vocals fitting in nicely with the theme of their respective songs. Initially, I didn’t like the gruff vocals on “Boots for Hire,” but after repeated listens, I think it fits quite well with the theme of the song, and the heavy bass matches perfectly with the voice.

Overall, the music has a very bright, uplifting tone, with Colin’s amazing guitars featured front and center. The guitars are clear, undistorted, and arranged beautifully. Fans of guitar driven rock will certainly find Corvus Stone of interest. (I’m not just saying that because I know Colin will be reading this. I honestly think his guitar work is outstanding!) Pasi Koivu’s layered synths compliment the guitars nicely. Sonically, the album flows very well, through all 80 minutes of it. One of my favorite songs from the album is the short “Purple Stone,” which would be perfect to play while cruising down the highway in a convertible (too bad I can’t test that theory, since it has rained here in Chicago basically every day for the past 2 weeks). The song even begins with a car starting and zooming off down the road. The singer reminds me of Damon Fox from Bigelf.

Throughout the album, Corvus Stone demonstrate their collective sense of humor, which can be seen in the cover artwork and is shining through in what I suspect is the sexual innuendo in the names of some of the songs. Interestingly, the lyrics never really seem to go in that direction. Despite what the album cover might imply, the music is safe for the kiddies. The band also gets a bit weird with the song “Camelus Bactrianus (Tuolla Tuonnempana),” which I think is being sung in Hawaiian, but I really have no idea. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that this song is about Bactrian camels, but again, I have no clue. It is weird, but it is fun. In fact, that would be a good description for the band: weird, but fun.

Although there are several songs with vocals, it is important to remember that Corvus Stone are primarily an instrumental band. Indeed, their strengths lie in their musicianship. At times it sounds like jazz, other times like classic progressive rock, and others a blend of Lord knows what. However, it is always interesting and never boring. I can’t really compare it to anything else, because I’ve never heard anything quite like Corvus Stone. They are an independent bunch, and it is clear that they play music that makes them happy. That happiness is evident in the music.

An interesting facet of Corvus Stone is the integration of Sonia Mota’s artwork. From her work with Oceans 5 to the art I have seen her create with Corvus Stone, she has a talent of developing beautiful pieces that add depth and humor to the music. Without her work, the band would be completely different. The band utilizes her art to the fullest extent, with it also decorating their website.

Corvus Stone’s music cannot really be pigeonholed to any one genre, and I think that is exactly what the band wants. Their musical influences are likely too numerous to number, and yet the listener can still find elements of some of their favorite music throughout “Corvus Stone II.” Plus, at 80 minutes long, Corvus Stone really give the listener a lot for their money. With the release of another album this year, within the next few days/weeks, the band surprised their fans with an unexpected treasure trove of more Corvus Stone sonic adventures.

http://www.corvusstone.com

A Farewell To The Fish

And so another giant of the genre passes.

I’ve found it difficult to put into words how I truly feel about this. When someone you’ve regarded as a musical hero for 35 years of your life is suddenly gone, there is bound to be shock and numbness, but I’ve been trying to reach beyond that and think about what Chris meant to me and how he fits into the pantheon of rock’s greatest musicians.

The thing that always struck me on the sadly relatively few occasions that I saw Yes live was just how imposing a presence Chris Squire was. Partly, this was physical; he was a big guy, after all, and he prowled the stage like he owned it, in a manner befitting his stature. Of course, the other part of it was entirely down to how he handled a bass guitar.

Playing Fragile’s The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus) for the very first time was, for me, an ear-opening, revelatory experience, as I’m sure it was for many other fans of the band. That multi-layered sound was simply astonishing. And he made that Rickenbacker growl and scream, made it do things that few other rock bassists had dared to try. Back then, when I began my exploration of progressive music as a wide-eyed lad of thirteen, I had a complacent attitude to the instrument, content to think of it as something in the background, lending structure and texture to the overall sound but not being of particular importance melodically. Chris Squire was one of two people who changed that view irrevocably. The other, you’ll be unsurprised to learn, was Geddy Lee. But of the two, I think it was Chris who affected my view the most profoundly.

In a band with a complex and convoluted history of line-up changes, Chris was the singular fixed point: the axis about which The Roundabout turned. The Yes family will miss him sorely, and Yes, whatever form it might take in future, will be a very different beast without him.

Evergrey – Interview – “It’s a completely different band now”

Originally posted on The Blog of Much Metal:

Pic: Patric Ullaeus Pic: Patric Ullaeus

Seeing as the very excellent Evergrey were making the effort to travel to the UK in support of the magnificent new album, ‘Hymns For The Broken’, I felt it would be rude not to make an appearance to support my favourite band and hopefully say ‘hi’ to my Swedish buddies.

I arrive in Camden and, within a few minutes, I’m spotted by vocalist/guitarist Tom Englund and greeted with hugs from the big man as well as keyboardist Rikard Zander and bassist Johan Niemann. ‘What are you doing here?’ Tom smirks, ‘come with us, we’re going to soundcheck’. Almost immediately, my decision to make the 150 mile round trip is thoroughly vindicated.

A little later, once the band are happy with their sound in the underground den of iniquity that’s The Underworld, I’m running through the pouring rain towards the tour bus upon which I sit with Johan…

View original 2,422 more words

Metal Mondays: Next to None’s Debut Album

3655066_origTeenage prog metalers, Next to None, released their debut album, “A Light in the Dark,” today. Made up of Max Portnoy (son of Mike Portnoy) on drums, Ryland Holland on guitar, Kris Rank on bass, and Thomas Cucé on keyboards and vocals, this group of young men brilliantly traverse the world of progressive metal.  I had the opportunity to see them open for Haken at the first show of their tour, and they were outstanding.  Mike Portnoy has stated that these guys are doing things that he didn’t do as a musician until he was in his late 20s to early 30s. These guys are in high school! They really are outstanding.

Keep on the lookout for a Progarchy exclusive interview with the band in the coming weeks, as well as a review of the album.

The album is available through Inside Out Music, and it can be purchased on Amazon and iTunes.

http://www.nexttonone.net

High The Memory Carry On – a personal tribute to Chris Squire

There is nothing like the passing of a musical hero to put your own life and mortality into some greater perspective.

First, it was Freddie Mercury, whose passing on 24 November 1991 was not unexpected as I had received an early tip-off that he was HIV positive.

However, the suddenness of Chris Squire’s untimely death yesterday aged 67, just a month after the news was released that he had developed a rare form of leukaemia for which he was receiving treatment, is a shattering, unbearable blow. Again, this horrible disease has claimed another high profile victim.

At the moment, while still recoiling from this hideous news, I feel a huge hole has been torn out of my musical, cultural and spiritual fabric.

Apart from family and friends, musicians have always been my closest “allies” and with the demise of Chris Squire, it has suddenly become almost too personal.

Let me explain.  I can still remember way back to 1971 and the first time I ever heard Yes.  A male school friend very kindly loaned me a copy of Fragile to listen to; and at the tender age of 13, my life effectively changed forever.

The opening track Roundabout always has been and will be “my” song.

As I tried to articulate in a group review for DPRP in 2013, my impressions of this timeless song were:

“Nothing could prepare you for what happened next. What happened was Roundabout. That sustained keyboard chord followed by a sharp acoustic guitar note and a delicate melody, repeated and built upon as the keyboard swelled up again. Suddenly, there it was, that gorgeous jazzy melody line with Steve Howe’s elegant guitar and Chris Squire’s bass thundering along like a giant juggernaut. Jon Anderson’s voice arrived, soaring upwards into the ethers, singing lyrics touching on romance, nostalgia, the elementals and emotion.

“Forty-two years after its release, this mini-masterpiece is still possibly the best prog opener ever, as well as being a landmark song. Constructed in several short movements, it is a chance for each band member to shine, from Anderson’s clear, pure voice, to Wakeman’s sonorous keyboards, Howe’s mannered guitar flourishes, Bill Bruford’s impeccable rhythms and of course, Squire’s earth-moving bass patterns.”

Then, to end one of the most momentous albums of my entire life, there came Heart of the Sunrise:

“So far, side two had not quite caught alight the way side one had erupted…until now. As Squire’s bass goes full throttle punctuated by Wakeman’s spacey keys, we have arrived at Heart of the Sunrise, which rivals Roundabout for having one of the best Yes intros of all time. The floorboards quake and the room begins to spin as the song starts unwinding until it reaches a quiet plateau when Anderson’s voice at its most angelic comes in with “Love comes to you and you follow”.

“The whole piece paints a series of aural pictures, dense, complex and dramatic, that twist and turn like the wind with “so many around me”. It is a multi-faceted piece about alienation and trying to find your place in the world, armed with just your dreams. It catches you unawares when it goes from smooth to frenzied, Wakeman’s slightly schizoid keyboards coming to the fore and then Anderson changes vocal tempo for the fast “Straight light” passage. It builds and builds to a heart-rending climax, Anderson stretching his voice to hit the magical last notes on “city” before the whirlwind intro is revisited for the sudden ending.”

I shall quit here because I could talk at length about the magnificent albums that followed in quick succession but somehow, that would dilute the message as Fragile, with its gorgeous Roger Dean artwork and accompanying booklet providing pen portraits of all the band, was the gold standard so far as I was concerned.

For my part, the zeitgeist of the early 70s, musically, culturally and sartorially, was all about Yes.  As a young teenage girl, it also had a lot to do with these five extraordinarily beautiful, long haired guys in their early 20s, attired in the obligatory cheesecloth shirts and loon pants, that left its indelible mark.

Then came an appearance on Top of the Pops performing Yours Is No Disgrace on the show’s album slot, Jon Anderson in shades and Squire, as I recall, shod in a pair of “poodle” boots, which signed, sealed and delivered it for me.

It is these early days which will stay with me forever, especially when by dint of my then tender age, I was not allowed to see them perform at Bournemouth Winter Gardens on the Tales From Topographic Oceans tour.

Instead, it was at the Gaumont Theatre in Southampton on the Relayer tour where I had my first live encounter with Yes, with another eight or nine times to follow afterwards. There would have been more, especially the Union tour, but you know how it is when life gets in the way.

But Union was incredibly important in other ways. It was The More We Live – Let Go,  a Squire/Billy Sherwood song on the album, released in 1991, which practically saved my life. Back then, I was trapped in psychologically damaging marriage to a man purporting to be “spiritual”, but in fact, he was insidiously destroying my life and there was no obvious way out.

However, when I listened to the album, especially this song, on my car cassette player, the truth was revealed through lines like: “The spirit of imagination can lead us through the dark; The more we see, the more we try, the more we show.”

I cried the first few times after I heard it because through the profundity of the lyrics and the unbelievably beautiful melody, I had discovered a way out from being close to the edge of the abyss.

It is not just from a personal perspective either. His body of work and the influence he has had on so many of the current crop of bassists cannot be underestimated. I can think of at least a dozen bass players of my acquaintance who would cite Squire as being the main reason why they took up this most unfashionable of instruments.

We so desperately need more musical role models like him, because simply put, Squire made the bass guitar sexy. Previously, it was there primarily to anchor the harmonies and establish the beat. But in the hands of the extravagantly creative and theatrically extrovert Squire, it became a musical kaleidoscope for previously unheard of or un-thought about melody lines and sonic seismic shifts. The Rickenbacker 4001 bass in his huge hands became as iconic and seductive as a Stratocaster.

However, I must fast forward the story again and recall one of the most memorable of all their gigs. This was the 35th anniversary tour in 2004 when I caught up with the classic Yes line-up at Wembley Arena. This was the night they went semi-acoustic with a heart-stopping rendition of South Side of the Sky and an amazing bluesy version of Roundabout.

To my mind, that was the defining moment that Yes finally came of age in terms of their maturity and ability to reinvent their music almost on a whim.

The hiatus in 2008,  resulting from Anderson’s near death experience, following respiratory failure, was a difficult one to understand. That  Benoȋt David then Jon Davison stepped in to fill the vocalist slot did render me somewhat perplexed and confused at the time, but with hindsight, the show had to go on. It has to be said though the last two albums, Fly From Here and Heaven And Earth. have left me somewhat nonplussed to put it mildly.

But no matter: the memory now lingers on as we revisit Birmingham Symphony Hall on Sunday 4 May last year when they brought us The Yes Album, Close To The Edge and Going For The One in one glorious sitting.

It was an event to remember. The band augmented by singer Davison was palpably on fire as they delivered the soundtrack of the lives of most people attendant that night. It was as if the decades had rolled back and here we were again, wide-eyed innocent teenagers listening  through our mega headphones in state of the art stereo to Starship Trooper, Siberian Khatru or Awaken once more.

That night, the Great Man was at the height of his powers, firing out salvo after salvo of thunderous basslines, one of the overriding definers of the Yes music – in stark contrast, it has to be said, to the high vibration vocal frequencies of the original singer and his two successors.

I never met Squire unfortunately: however, following the release of his delightful co-project, Squackett’s A Life Within A Day with Steve Hackett in 2012, I did conduct a joyous telephone interview with him for DPRP.

In typical Squire fashion, he misjudged the time difference between his home in Phoenix, Arizona and Winchester, United Kingdom, and called an hour late, only adding my already frazzled state. Then, when he did call, it took me ten minutes to steady my pen-holding, shorthand-taking hand!

But he was charming, affable and chuckled a lot, especially when I asked him about some of his sartorial successes and failures – with particular reference to the amazing “doctor’s outfit” he wore on the 90125 tour.

There is so very much more I could say about him but these are the initial thoughts which come under my personal “High the memory carry on, while the moments start to linger” file.

This is all about The Remembering of Chris Squire and his place not just at the zenith of the prog pantheon, but also in a very much wider musical context.

Our lives are now much darker places because of his passing, but this colossus of a musical lighthouse shone brightly for the best part of nearly 50 years for which we should be eternally thankful. We shall never see his like again, but his immortality is guaranteed.

My thoughts go out to his family, band members from all the Yes incarnations and the huge global community of Yes fans.

Acoustic Roundabout: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=riE2xHDgODg

The More We Live – Let Go: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ajxABx3Zn8

Squackett interview for DPRP – http://www.dprp.net/wp/interviews/?page_id=2587

Amazing Bass – Chris Squire, 1948-2015

Shortly after getting up this Sunday June 28, I received some bad news. You see, the most recent launch of the Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9 was a failure, with the rocket exploding about two minutes into its flight. Being a space geek and an unabashed fan of Musk’s vision to create a spacefaring civilization (not to mention, his putting his money where his mouth is to make it happen), this was definitely a disappointment for me. If only that could have been the worst news of the day.Chris+Squire+YesChrisSquire

Not long after that, I heard about the passing of Chris Squire. Now that was a real punch to the gut. Rockets are replaceable. Chris Squire is not. It seems like it has only been a few months since we were informed that he was undergoing cancer treatments (leukemia, specifically). You would have thought he would have had longer, and maybe even had a chance for full recovery. And while age 67 is not usually associated with the term “spring chicken”, it seems way too young for someone to be dying.

While Squire has influenced countless other musicians, one did not need to have any musical skill whatsoever to realize how incredibly talented he was. It was blatantly obvious to anyone who even remotely paid attention. It certainly wasn’t lost on me on that fateful night in 1979 when Squire and his band mates converted me into a lifetime prog fan and Yes fan. Before that, I had always thought of a bass player as just somebody sort of in the background, there to “thicken up” the music a little bit. On that night, Squire taught me that the bass could be so much more, a melodic instrument, a lead instrument, a driver of musical innovation.

And good God, what a body of work. Go listen to The Yes Album … phenomenal bass work, from the subterranean driving bass on Yours Is No Disgrace to the counterpoint on Perpetual Change. Then there is, on Fragile, the “snake eating itself” bass line of Roundabout. There is also The Fish, built on multiple bass parts of which each, by themselves, are a testament to his skill. Together, they make up a singularly unique piece of music (it’s also the first song my son could identify by name, although he at two years old referred to it just as “Fish Song”). And who, pray tell, ever played bass the way Squire did on The Gates of Delirium, especially in the “battle” section? Nobody, that’s who. There are so many other wonderful pieces of Yes music that feature Squire at his best that I could go on for much longer than you could continue reading.

To be sure, Squire wasn’t the first virtuoso bassist in rock. I’m thinking of guys like Paul McCartney and John Entwistle. But Squire took bass virtuosity to a whole new level. He turned it up to 11. And for the decade of the 1970’s, I have no problem calling him the best bassist of that era. While others, such as Geddy Lee, may have passed him up in the 1980’s, in the 70’s, Squire was the king of the bassists. I can think of many other good ones of that era, but I can think of few that I would even put in the same league as him, and none that I would put even, much less above him. That’s not a slight on the others. That’s just a testament to a monumental talent. In the 1970’s, Chris Squire was to the bass guitar what Steve Jobs was to the personal computer, and later to the smart phone.

In our current era, we have a number of supremely talented bassists, such as Steve Babb of Glass Hammer and Mariusz Duda of Riverside, among others. I’m sure if you ask any of them, they will all say that Squire was a huge influence. While Squire may have been taken from us way too soon, his influence will be felt for generations – not only in the way he played bass, but in the example he set for other bass players in expanding its possibilities. In fact, the latter part may be where the most lasting impact resides.

As I sign off from this post, I’m going to leave as one last tribute to this most amazing musician, Squire’s own rendition of Amazing Grace. I assume it was performed on his trademark Rickenbacker. Listen to the whole thing and see if you can keep your eyes dry throughout. I, for one, failed.

Rest in Peace, Chris.

The Sun Shines on Brilliant Italian Prog

ROMANTIC LOMBARDY PROG

La Coscienza Di Zeno: La Notte Anche Di Giorno

Fading Records, 2015

 La Notte Anche Di Giorno

Alessio Calandriello: Vocals

Luca Scherani: All keyboards

Gabriele Guidi Colombi: Bass

Andrea Orlando: Drums & Percussion

Davide Serpico: Guitars

Stefano Agnini: Mini Moog, Organ

La Coscienza Di Zeno (The Consciousness of Zeno) is an Italian progressive band from Milan, Italy. Their January 2015 release, La Notte Anche Di Giorno (The Night in the Daytime, or The Sun Also Shines At Night) is a tour de force of melodic beauty.

Italian is such a beautiful language that is so suited to this type of cinematic key driven love music that I wish I understood it. But the language barrier notwithstanding the emotions of joy, longing, and hope still resonate and saturate the listener.

All ten tracks are buoyant and expectant. This is serious music with gravitas but also with sunshine and smiles infused throughout. Not only is this a disc that would make an excellent soundtrack but it is music to create to. That’s not to say this is inconsequential background noise (I DO like Brian Eno’s ambient stuff that is meant to be palliative sonic wallpaper) but simply a wash that one could paint, write, read, and dream to. Each track segues into the next giving this disc a Pete Barden/Camel Snow Goose vibe—and that’s GOOD!

With an album that is so heavily keyboard and synth driven, think Morricone meets the ultimate Italian Genesis cover band by way of Nektar, Triumvirat and a dash of European power metal balladry (maybe Rhapsody of Fire).

While the rhythm section and electric guitar serve the songs it is the incredible keyboards (Grand Piano, Hammond, Moog, and Mellotron) of Luca Scherani along with the gorgeous tenor of Alessio Calandriello that make this disc so compelling.

Calandriello’s voice is crystal clear, emotive, uplifting and warm. Again, think of Howard Shores great scores mixed with the aching beauty of the best of Riz Ortolani or Stelvio Cipriani. This is orchestral adult contemporary tone-poem rock prog at its finest. I don’t have a favorite track because the whole is truly greater than the sum of the parts. All right, my favorite song is track 6, Lenta Discesa all’Averno (Slow Descent to Avereno?) with the beautiful backing vocals of soprano Simona Angioloni. Top notch accompaniment by flutist Joanne Roan, violinist, Domencio Ingenito, and cellist, Melissa Del Lucchese add an ethereal depth to this serious music that does not diminish the melancholy joy.

Do yourself a favor and become acquainted with this young band. They deserve to become a household name amongst prog lovers.

La Cosciena

https://altrockproductions.bandcamp.com/album/la-notte-anche-di-giorno

https://www.facebook.com/pages/La-Coscienza-di-Zeno-CDZ/145847225475623#!/pages/La-Coscienza-di-Zeno-CDZ/145847225475623

 

Steve Hogarth on Brilliance and Success

Promo for Vol II of THE INVISIBLE MAN DIARIES.

Promo for Vol II of THE INVISIBLE MAN DIARIES.

“I’m reminded once again that it’s not enough to be brilliant.  You need that lucky break that crosses you over to the mainstream punters.  And a shed load of marketing money. . . It happened to Marillion before I met them and we’ve managed to maintain a hard-core big enough to make it possible for us to function at a certain level.  It’s like getting an enormous rock to roll.  Once it’s rolling you can keep it going easier than the effort it took to get it started.  So rockn’rolls’s not such a bad name for it.  But it could have been called ‘momentum’ instead.  Doesn’t have the same ring about it though. . . (and anything derived from Latin is very unrock n’roll.)”

–Steve Hogarth, THE INVISIBLE MAN DIARIES, vol. II, pg. 129

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