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Re-Entering the Universe

dennisleeaskew

Well, it has been exactly one year since I first joined Progarchy, and what a positive experience it has been. In celebration, I have decided to briefly give another shout out to my friend Dennis Lee Askew of the band Universe, one of my favorite American prog bands.  I very much enjoyed reviewing his first album in an earlier post.  Dennis recently issued a new album (pictured above) containing some songs from his first album and a few others previously unreleased. If you enjoy the sounds of psychedelia, space rock, acid rock, and prog, you will enjoy this album. It is a superb blend of Pink Floyd and The Moody Blues with some Yes added for good measure.  My two favorite songs on the album are I Am, which is keyboard driven and definitely has an early Pink Floyd vibe, and The Axiom, which features a cool synth opening and some great guitar work. You can support Dennis and his work by visiting his website and purchasing the album.

http://www.universemusic.us

Goodbye Thomas, Hello Billy: Behind the Scenes Drama with Yes

yes-with-baker

Steve Howe has revealed in a radio interview that Yes wasn’t getting what it needed from Roy Thomas Baker on the production of Heaven and Earth, so they had to turn to Billy Sherwood, who left his stamp especially on the vocal mix:

“We got into it, and it was OK,” Howe tells WMGK‘s Ray Koob. “You know, every producer’s got a certain style. Roy’s method was pretty much about the sound. It wasn’t so much about the construction of the songs, like Trevor [Horn, producer of 2011's Fly From Here], who worked very hard on that. So, Roy kind of let us do most of the music, and twiddled with a lot of knobs. But, I tell you, in the end we really did have to bring it back to Yes Central — because, in a way, I don’t think he was as familiar with our mixing style as say Billy Sherwood, who ended up doing that for us. Well, we did it with him; it was a collaboration. So, we had to kind of pull it back to Yes Central. It was all fair in love and war.”

When I saw Steve after the show in Vancouver, he remarked about his good memories of Vancouver because that was where The Ladder was recorded. Steve is really happy with the sound of The Ladder because of its unique “flavor.”

I think Jon Davison is fantastic and I have come to like Heaven and Earth very much, despite what initially struck me as weird about it — namely, the production! — and this news makes me wonder what the album could have been if Sherwood and not Baker had been involved for the entire process.

I hope they do another album with Davison soon, and with the right producer this time.

Yes — San Jose concert live on the Web tonight

yes-yahoo

YES – Live at San Jose Civic

On 19 August 2014 – Watch the YES live show from San Jose Civic CA – FREE – exclusively on Yahoo Screen.

Setlist: FRAGILE & CLOSE TO THE EDGE in their entireties plus 2 tracks from HEAVEN & EARTH plus more GREATEST HITS!

Showtime: 11:30pm ET / 8:30pm PT / 4:30am UK
Check the show time in your location here.

If you are in the USA you can watch the YES exclusive live concert for free on the Yahoo Screen App, available on iOS for iPhone, iPod & iPad and on Android.

If you miss the live event, don’t worry, the show will also be available to view afterwards on the same website.

Yes to Forever

Will Yes be the first band to transcend generations?

From an awesome new interview with the excellent Jon Davison:

But even with all the lineup changes, Yes’ music retains a dynamic, unmistakable identity that manages to end up being bigger than its individual players. 
That’s right, and it’s similar to the way classical music works. Long after those marvelous composers, like Chopin and Bach and all of them, passed, and the centuries moved forward, their music lives on. It’s not so much about the personality anymore. And people have a hard time seeing that now, because obviously the members [of Yes] are still alive, apart from [original guitarist] Peter Banks, who passed away last year. But it’s so easy to associate the music with the personality, and that causes a lot of conflict among fans. But ultimately, it’s about the music, and just taking the music forward. And there will always be a Yes. And I’m a lover of Jon Anderson as much as I’m a lover of Chris Squire, but you can’t fight it. And when something has that power to it, it’s beautiful, and beauty transcends all of that personality, and it’s always gonna belong, you just can’t put a cap on it and say, “Well, the original members aren’t doing this music anymore, so it’s over.” That can never be. It just can’t be.

It reminds me of the music of Frank Zappa, who composed so much great material with many different lineups — and many different lineups have performed it.
Yeah, that’s exactly it. Art just transcends so much. And when there’s something beautiful and powerful, it’s going to thrive, and you can’t stop it. Each lineup of Yes reflects a new, fresh kind of flavor, if you will. In the grand scheme and topography of Yes. So I think that’s kept it going. I think that’s kept it really fresh. Even the later albums, with “Open Your Eyes,” and so on, those albums are less popular, perhaps, but there was always a nice freshness there, the music was alive, and I think that has to do so much with the unique lineups that keep evolving.

In a recent article, Yes bassist Chris Squire joked, but in a somewhat serious way, that Yes will be around in a hundred years.
For me, when I hear the classic Yes stuff, yeah, I definitely hear that this is a ’70s band — there’s a lot of aspects in it that reveal that. But at the same time, it’s futuristic music. It’s like this thing you can’t quite pinpoint. It’s, like, way ahead of its time. And I still think we haven’t arrived at the point where, OK, we’ve arrived to the full realization of what Yes is. No, it’s like it’s still in the future, and I think that’s why it goes over so many people’s heads.

It’s definitely rock and roll, but at the same time, it has this transcendental quality that you can’t quite pinpoint.

Love Will Find A Way: Revisiting Underrated Yes Albums @YesOfficial

It can happen to you …

… you can learn to love an underrated Yes album (e.g., Talk or Big Generator or Drama or Heaven & Earth) today.

Why?

Because love will find a way …

 

Yes — “The Calling”: Four Versions

Further to our vigorous discussion of Talk, a nice bit of trivia from the good old NFTE:

Greetings all.  Over the weekend before Talk came out, I picked up the promo
CD single for "The Calling" from my local rarites dealer.  It contains three
different edits of the song plus the original version.  Imagine my surprise
a few days later when I found that the original version of the song is not
on the album (not on the US release, anyway).  The four tracks are:

Radio Edit (5:58) The only version that I have heard on the radio.  An apt
   title, I suppose then.  Edited out are the funky guitar/keyboard break
   (occurs about 3:00 into the original version) and the long quiet part
   that immediately follows.

Single Edit (4:39) Like the radio edit, but with the harmonized vocal intro
   edited out (that is, the first verse starts where we would expect the
   harmonized intro to start), and an very early faded-out ending.

Album Edit (6:55) You guessed it, the same version that is on the album.  
   Like the original version, but with the long quiet part (for lack of a 
   better name) edited out.  Silly me, I was puzzled for a few days as to
   why they called this the "Album Edit", but now I know.

Original Version (8:06) This is the version some have heard on the radio, 
   and I believe it was played at the premiere party.  There is a soft quiet
   part right after the guitar/keyboard break.  To give those who haven't 
   heard it an idea of what it sounds like, I halfway expected Anderson
   to start singing "Awaken" during it.

The cover to the cardboard sleeve is exactly like that of the album (minus
the word "Talk", naturally).  Stranger still is the fact that the words "The
Calling" do not appear anywhere on the cover.  The spine reads "Yes - The 
First Track From Talk".  The back cover reads "The First Track From Talk",
and "Start TALK-ing now!" (duh).  Was there perhaps some indecision over
what the first single would be?  The number on the spine is CDP 1178, if
that helps anyone, and I paid $4 for it.

Alan White on the disputed Yes album Talk

Well, now that’s some perfect timing…

Alan White himself weighs in regarding our most recent Progarchist controversy over Talk:

Rock Cellar Magazine: Is there a Yes album that gets overlooked?

Alan WhiteDrama is an underrated album for me. It was one of my favorites because everyone in the band wrote everything on that. I wrote the main lick in Machine Messiah. There were musical contributions from everybody and I loved the album Drama.

The other one that I thought was really good was done in the Trevor Rabin era and that was the Talk album. That album doesn’t get looked at very much but it’s an absolutely superb album. There’s a track on that album called Endless Dream, which is absolutely stunning and features a lot of great playing from everybody.

And there you have it! “An absolutely superb album.”

‘Nuff said.

Yes- Talk WAY Too Much

Erik’s review of Talk got me all nostalgic for the good old “Notes From the Edge” days. The site is currently inaccessible via the front door, but the ASCII pages are still up on the Internet, so you can get in via a back door if you type in a numerical URL. While poking around this way, and stirring up old memories, I came across this hilarious “parody review” (i.e., “IT’S A JOKE, GUYS!!”) of Talk written by “Jeremy” a.k.a. “Captain Apathy” (and dated “March 22, 1994″) — which I think makes a nice addition to our most recent Progarchist controversy over Talk:

Yes- Talk WAY Too Much

After two years of arguments and lawsuits, the band
Yes-We're-That-Pretentious has finally whittled their membership down to a
slim 5, minus members: Rick Wake- Up-and-Smell-the-Coffee-Man, Steve
Howitzer, and Bill Brooford.  The band is now the same line-up as on
'90125.71243..." and "Big Degenerative", and have just released their newest
album: "Talk WAY Too Much."  Using state of the art technology, the band
recorded and mixed the album completely through a Radio Shack Tandy computer.
 But now, let's talk to the band members.

Jon Andersony: "What the band has done in the past I've really enjoyed...
what I remember of it.  But this album I'm extrememly proud of.  We have
pushed the band to the limits... of human decency."

Trevor Rabin-McEntyre: "The last album ("Onion Soup Mix") was horrible. It
was so bad that I didn't even play on it; I got my good friend Yngwie
Malmsteen to do the guitar work; it was just horrible.  But now with the
computer, we can get rid of those horrible tape recorders... of course we
stored all the computer information on tape recorders, but what the heck."

Tony Casey Kasem: "Actually, I kind of liked that last album. But I'm just
happy Rick's gone.  It gives me a chance to strut my little toy piano!"

Alan Whitehead: "I've been with the band through and thick and thin, and I
think this is the best work we've done... of course, I'm getting paid to say
that."

Chris Drinks-Like-A-Fish: "Where am I?  Someone get me a drink!"

But, let's get to the album, shall we?  The tracks (in no specific order):

1) I've Been Waiting (For A Girl Like You)
As a homage to their past, the band produced this timeless cover of the
Foreigner tune, lengthening the song to 3 times its original length.  
Jon: "It worked with America, so why not now?"

2) The Call-Waiting
Trevor: "I love this phone feature, it's cool!  I can have a three-way
conversation now!"  The band hopes to have the song used in an upcoming MCI
commercial...

3) Really Expensive Love
Chris: "I think Trevor wrote this song about a prostitute girlfriend or
something... where's my Scotch?"

4) State Of Play-Acting
Tony: "Actually, the song is 5 minutes of Trevor air-guitaring... we hope to
get it into video-form, or no one will understand the song."

5) Malls
Surprisingly, this tune was written with the help of Roger Hodgepodge of the
70s band Superdupertramp.  Why was he asked to help write the song?
Trevor: "Because the Village People were unavailable."

6) Where Will I Be?
Jon: "The song is actually about one of my favorite books... Where's Waldo? 
I just love those things.  I sit for hours and hours and try to find him...
it's just wonderful!"

7) Endless Song
For the first time since "Going For The Other One", the band has released a
song of epic proportions.  In fact, the song is so long it fills up a second,
third, fourth and fifth CD.  
Alan: "You see, it would have only been one, but Trevor's solo was just so
long!"
a) Silent Thing 
Trevor: "I think Robert Fripp-Wilson would have approved of this one... over
four minutes of silence!  It's just... awesome!"
Jon: "Actually, Trevor forgot to turn the mike on."
b) Some Talking
Jon: "I just had so much more to say lyric-wise, that we put this on... I
mean, this is the beginning of the past... or is it the future?  Anyway,
other alien galaxies will know what I'm talking about when they hear the
song."
Chris: "Right, what he said... where's that martini?"
c) Endless Song
Tony: "This is the best part of the album.  There's one point where I got to
take my Hammond Organ and really tear it apart!  Just like Keith Emerson!"
Trevor: "Actually, we had to cut that out, Tony, to put more of my guitar
solo in."
Tony: "What?!  Why you little..."

Let's hope we'll hear more from this talented band!

Yes — Talk (1994) ★★★★★

Yes - Talk

Let me write from experience about what it is to be a Yes fan. Sometimes, “Yes Derangement Syndrome” (YDS) can take hold.

This happens when a new Yes album comes out and it’s like your beloved spouse coming home with a wildly different pair of glasses, or a radically different hairdo, or a crazily different wardrobe theme. Your first reaction is you know you don’t like it. But this reaction is way more emotional than rational, and it’s almost entirely subjective in that it is mostly founded on very deep mental patterns of subjectively-cultivated habituation. You have created a vast mental universe of inner love, and suddenly reality is asking you to consider radically new data.

It’s been really interesting to read about the reactions of Brad and Erik, both today and back in the day, to Yes’ Talk. For me this is one of my Top Ten Yes Albums, but it took me a long time to assign it that five-star ranking.

Incidentally, I challenge all Progarchists to list their Top Ten Yes Albums, an exercise like the Top Ten Rush ranking we did recently. Yes has 20 studio albums (I am counting Keystudio as one), or 21 if you want to include Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe (ABWH) — as I do. So, it’s an interesting mental exercise to divide the oeuvre into two playlists: a Top Ten and a Bottom Ten.

However that may be, let me tell you about my three cases of YDS.

The first was Talk. I remember when I first bought this CD. I listened to it once, found myself hating everything except “The Calling,” and then used the excuse that its bundled software didn’t work on my Windows PC (anybody remember that?) as the way for me to return it to the record store and to get my money back! Yep, I got my money back. Only years later, upon hearing “The Calling” again (an overwhelming nostalgic experience which instantly melted my heart), did I break down and buy the whole album once again. After many listens, I now really love everything about it and rank it in the upper echelon. But note my initial crazy reaction. I mean, how many albums have you ever tried to return to the record store in your life?! And, how many did you succeed in getting your money back for?!?! I marched this one back without even making a cassette recording of it. Crazy! YDS, indeed.

The second case of YDS was when ABWH came out. After three listens, I launched into a vicious diatribe against it that melted the ears of my Yes-loving best friend. I still remember his face. He was visibly wincing at my hatred for the album. Then, weeks later, I had completely reversed my opinion about the album, and I endlessly praised it to him. To the skies. He looked at me like I was a crazy person; I remember that look too. Sound familiar? Yes, fans, we may call it YDS. Thank God there was no bundled software on this CD, otherwise the record store may have seen me arguing on a technicality again.

“We don’t accept returns of opened products.”

“But I haven’t been able to open it. The software won’t launch properly on my PC. So, virtually, it hasn’t been opened.”

The third case of YDS is with the new Heaven & Earth. We know what that looks like, and it ain’t pretty. I had an extreme critical reaction to this disc, but over time I have to admit that it is steadily ascending in my mental universe. So far it’s gone from one star to four stars in my hidden mind drive. Who knows where it will stop? More on that later. But the point is this: I have learned from my previous two cases of YDS. And I have wisely resolved not to repeat it a third time.

So, back to Talk. There is much to love about this album, infused as it is with so much Rabin-era goodness. Like all the best Yes, it is magically positive and spiritually uplifting. The opening track is pure awesomeness, and I love how Erik describes it as a perfect meld of 90125 and the 70s.

But I don’t want to go over every track in detail right now, because I think it is more important to answer the five YDS-tinged complaints from Brad. Let me conclude with my rejoinders to his all-too-familiar YDS insanity:

1. The title is brilliant. 90125 is inarguably one of the stupidest titles ever, but Talk is most definitely wonderful. Like the band’s name, it is one syllable. Perfect. Further, it subtly references a subsection of the epic track “Endless Dream.” So, it pulls the listener into acquiring a deeper familiarity with, and appreciation of, the hidden dimensions of the album. It invites the prospective listener into the magical depths of prog. And what will the listener find in this magical place? Only one of Jon’s most beautiful Yes melodies ever. So, I refute this first point by directing you to the epic “Endless Dream,” beginning at 3:48 with all its titular glory.

2. I love the colors on the cover. It’s a beautiful spectrum, symbolic of the dazzling musical palette of the inimitable Yes. The point that it looks like emergent writing seems to be lost on the haters who liken it to a child’s scrawl. Obviously, that is the entirely deliberate point of the art design. It depicts the beginning stages of the acquisition of linguistic communication. The emergence of the Word is pregnant with all the possibilities of communicative color. The album title is thus iconically represented in this picture and it all ties in perfectly with the first words of the album:

Feel the calling of a miracle

In the presence of the word

The awakening of communication in a child’s word and in the non-verbal space of music is invoked by the album image. So, I slay the objection by replying with the opening lines of “The Calling.”

3. YDS can fixate on entire albums, or it can suddenly scapegoat a single song. There’s no arguing with such craziness. I can only say that I really love the two tracks Brad excoriates. They are excellent and I can’t comprehend the haters, except to say that I have been there once too. I even got my money back! But now, I have seen the light.

For what it’s worth, if I had to scapegoat a least favorite track on Talk, it would be the loopy “Where Will You Be.” However, I would rather choose to view it in context instead, as a refreshing pause before the epic finale track.

4. The album integration is cohesive as it is, pace YDS. The favorite fantasy that a Yes fan can indulge in is: “How I could make this awesome album even more awesome.” (Another guitar lick in this empty space here. A little more cowbell there. And so on.) It’s crazy! Give it up! In this case, the YDS fantasy is simply fueled by Yes’ own auto-suggestion in the third line of the opening track, “The Calling”:

Now we hold the right to rearrange

Yeah, sure you do. And you have the right to return your album too. Whatever! Let it be, my friend.

5. Create your own playlist if you want to monkey with track order. Or do a remix or mashup with 90125 if you are serious about the fevered suggestions you make. But the album is awesome as it stands, no matter how many imaginary universes we can conceive of where it qualitatively “goes to 11″ and is “just that much” better.

Talk begins with all guns blazing (“The Calling”) and ends with an epic assault of sonic awesomeness (“Endless Dream”). A strong beginning and a strong ending! Totally brilliant — and a contrast with 90125, I would opine, which I always thought kind of peters out with its last two or three tracks. (“Two Hearts”? If you want to be a hater, throw your “sap” and “boredom” here! But then you may as well as give up on Jon Anderson entirely.)

Hey, these are my favorite kinds of arguments. Arguments reserved for we few, we happy few, we band of brothers. He that wigs out today on Yes with me shall be my brother, be his criticism n’er so vile!

The Other Bookend – Talk and the end of the Yes-West Era

Earlier today, Brad had an excellent post on Talk, the final album of the Yes-West era, as it is sometimes called. After submitting a comment on the post, I was invited to expand on it with a full post of my own. I am only too happy to oblige, so let’s go.

Talk is a difficult album to analyze, at least for me. The context for my own evaluation of this album pre-dates its release by some three years, with another big event in Yes history – the Union era. I’m not a big fan of the album itself (and prefer the Trevor Rabin-penned Lift Me Up and Miracle of Life over all other songs on that record), but I am ever thankful for the eventual tour it spawned. My first Yes concert (discussed here) was in 1979. After that there was turmoil, break-up, re-unification, more break-up, and re-re-unification. I had had two near misses with Yes concerts, one in 1984 and the other in 1988. And after Jon Anderson departed for ABWH, my thoughts were that I would not get another chance to see them live. So when I became aware of the Union Tour, I was very happy, and I was elated when their show at the then-named Walnut Creek Amphitheater in Raleigh, NC was announced. Tickets were purchased as soon as they were available, and on July 10, 1991, I finally caught up with my favorite band again. After thinking I’d never get another chance to see them, being there that night was very emotional for me. It was the best of both worlds, the classic Yes lineup and the Yes-West lineup, all in one. And it was an utterly fantastic show, the best of the six Yes concerts I’ve had the good fortune to attend.

In the wake of the Union-era, I had hoped that something more permanent would come out of it. Surely they could find some way to work together as a band, couldn’t they? With that in mind, the revelation that Talk would mark a return to just the Yes-West lineup, I was a bit disappointed. That disappointment was made more acute when I became aware of rumors that Rick Wakeman wanted to work on the album, and the band itself wanted the same. But apparently, lawyers and record companies got in the way, or so I am told. If so, a pox on their houses, as one of my unfulfilled Yes fantasies is that Rabin and Wakemen never worked on a Yes album together. It was pretty clear during the Union show I attended that they had some real chemistry together, particularly when Rabin would jaunt onto the stage during Wakeman’s keyboard solo and the two would trade licks. And Wakeman was one ex-Yes member who had great respect for what the band had accomplished with 90125.

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