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This is Prog. This is Love. This is Yes. PROGENY (2015)

A review of YES, PROGENY: SEVEN SHOWS FROM SEVENTY-TWO (Rhino, 2015).

PROGENY (Rhino, 2015)

PROGENY (Rhino, 2015)

As I’ve mentioned a number of times, I was born in the summer of love, 1967.  The youngest of three boys (eight years younger than the oldest and five years younger than the older), I inherited my music tastes at a very early age.  Our house always had music playing—whether classical, jazz, rock, or pop.  I especially loved the first three, though I could belt out most of the words to Three Dog Night with the best of three year olds.  Crazily, I was able to sneak out of the crab, crawl downstairs (duplex), and put my favorite records on the turntable at 3 in the morning.  No, I’m not exaggerating.  I wanted the entire house to listen!

My favorites, though, even as a little kid were the songs by Yes, the Moody Blues, and Jethro Tull.  Soon, of course, bands such as Kansas and Pink Floyd would join this august company.

Sometime in 1973, one of my brothers purchased YESSONGS on LP.  Three albums, complete with huge gatefold and lots of pictures (indeed, a really great book that came with it).  I loved every aspect of YESSONGS.  I loved the music, I loved the Roger Dean paintings, and I thought the pictures of the members of the band (including Eddie Offord) hilarious.

Yessongs 2

Not too many hippies hung out in central Kansas, so these guys looked really weird, mystical, and Tolkienesque to me.

Anyway, I spent a considerable amount of time as a small kid poring over the lyrics and the Dean images.  How did those islands float?  How did the deer get from one to the other.  Of course, it all had been written about in C.S. Lewis’s Perelandra, but I’d yet to encounter that brilliant novel.

I can state with certainty that the entire package of YESSONGS—from lyrics to music to image—shaped my own imagination fundamentally.

So, when I heard that Yes would be releasing a fourteen disk live set from 1972, PROGENY, I couldn’t resist.  I didn’t want the abbreviated version (the two disk highlights), I wanted the full thing.

Two things almost stopped me.  First, I’m no longer a huge Yes fan.  I was as a kid.  Obsessed for quite a while.  And, in college (1986-1990), too.  Admittedly, I’ve purchased every single album—live or studio—Yes has produced.  But over the last twenty some years, I’ve purchase the music out of habit more than out of love.  There’s no doubt that every Yes album has something good on it, but the goods—at least to my mind—have become increasingly sparse.  I don’t’ say this to ignite a flame war.  But, from my very subjective viewpoint, Yes just isn’t as good as it once was.  Some bands, such as Rush, get better and better.  Others simply fade, and still others merely linger.

Second, I’m generally rather skeptical about these kinds of packages.  If I’m shelling out over $50 for music, it better be amazingly good—music as well as art.  I have, however, spent lots and lots of money on Rush (R40) and Tears for Fears (the Steven Wilson box set of SONGS).   So why not for the work that really immersed me into prog.

“Dear God,” I thought as I hit the purchase button on amazon, “let PROGENY be worth the money.”

And, it is.  This is the mother lode.  This is the touchstone, the very source material, for YESSONGS.  It’s pure, it’s raw, it’s flawed, it’s genius.  At one point, during the beginning of a Wakeman solo, a local radio station playing Chuck Mangione, comes across the loudspeakers.  Oh, Spinal Tap, how wise you are.  Anderson makes a joke about it.  Anderson and Howe even get along, making jokes from time to time.

I mentioned on facebook that PROGENY is an “outrageous Yes overkill live package.”  It is.  And, I love it.  Pure over-the-top prog.  Seven concerts, fourteen disks, seven sleeves, a glorious booklet, a firm and tasteful box, and, of course, 10 hours/31 minutes/32 seconds of music.  Phew.

Despite a similar playlist for each concert, each performance is unique.  For those of us who have listened to YESSONGS so very much it’s been grafted onto our very DNA, PROGENY is a brilliant revelation.  Mistakes as well as fascinating solos (long, short, punctuated) predominate.  While at this point in my listening, I couldn’t state the guitar solo on Roundabout is better at the Toronto show than it is at the Knoxville show, but I certainly hear every difference.  This is a young, confident, happy Yes.  This is a Yes that wants to change the world and do so through love, not through corporate dominance and lawsuits and bitter relations.

This is the Yes that taught me to love prog.

This is prog.  This is love.  This is Yes.

[Corrected two things: It’s Eddie Offord not Eddie Jobson (thanks, Duane Day); and I was off on time.]

Old Progger Reviews Yes/Progeny

[Old Progger’s review taken from amazon.com; which I hope is kosher!–BB]

By Old Progger

545488_YES_Progeny_LP_Jacket_Cover_13630.indd

My copy of the full 14 CD version of Progeny arrived three days before the official release date, so I’ve had time for a really thorough listen to these gigs in their entirety. There are, as you know, seven full length gigs here, but is there too much music to trawl through? Of course not. You’re a prog fan so you have an attention span, right? Right! The music on offer here is great stuff. There’s real zing on display here. The band play as a tight, well-disciplined unit and they’re coming at you with real committment and energy.

Before I splashed my cash I was a tad concerned that the restoration processes might detract from the ethereality and mystique which made Yessongs such a wonderful album. I needn’t have worried. The fog which obscured much of the detail has been lifted to reveal layers that we couldn’t have known were there. In particular, Wakeman’s keys have real atmospheric breadth and depth, and Anderson’s young voice is every bit as angelic as you always imagined.

The full contents of the booklet are posted on Yes’ website. This will help your decision to buy or not and they’ll also give a good indication of the level of attention to detail which has gone into the restoration of the original analogue tapes. They’re worth your attention, certainly convincing me that instead of sitting on the splinter-inducing fence marked ‘compromise’ and far from plunging lemming-like over the precipice marked ‘cynical cash-grab’ the producers have clung gecko-like to the sparsely populated and narrow ledge marked ‘integrity’. The tale of how Chris Squire’s bass sound was rescued is worth reading more than once!

Yes fans will immediately spot even subtle differences between the performances because, like me, they will know all the studio and live versions of everything like the backs of their hands. The more significant departures will jump out at them. For example, the Yessongs version of Yours Is No Disgrace is included here without the edits and you’ll easily spot where they were! The differences over 14 CDs are are otherwise too numerous to list. Importantly, this valuable material has not been robbed of it’s character by lazily pushing the whole thing through software to smooth out the wrinkles. All the buzzes, pops and crackles are there to be heard. We hear the band tuning up and even occasionally fluffing cues. Jon Anderson’s spoken introductions are all kept and all the instruments and voices exist in their own clear sense of space, instead of the muddines we’ve all complained about on Yessongs. If you buy this, what you will hold in your hand might be easily described as the best quality bootleg you ever owned!

Packaging is nice and sensible, not ‘shouty’ like some of rock’s gaudier boxsets which fit nowhere except on your coffee table, yelling “Look at me!” This robust little box will fit nicely, and with some class, in your regular collection. There is a distinct lack of the usual pointless and lazy montage of old photographs in the booklet. What you will find are genuinely useful and interesting sleevenotes and some very nice new Roger Dean artwork.

Sure, it costs money, but considering what you’re getting I really don’t think anyone’s being excessively greedy here. I will be returning to this collection again and again. It’s one of the best boxsets I own.

YES!

Holy schnikees.  I wasn’t expecting it to be this beautiful.  The Yes set has arrived.

Photo on 5-26-15 at 1.07 PM

All-Time Top Progarchy Posts

This coming October, progarchy will turn three years old.  Quite amazing, really.  If you’re interested, here are our most read posts since we began in the fall of 2012.  Looks like Rush and Neal Morse are pretty popular!

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Steve Howe — Anthology

The release of the excellent new Steve Howe Anthology happens today (March 10, 2015):

All told, Anthology takes in 36 years of music and 16 albums and is assembled, for the most part, in chronological fashion.  Rhino promises that Howe’s six-string prowess is on display via songs like “Pennants,” “The Collector,” “Maiden Voyage” (one of many featuring his son Dylan on drums), “Curls & Swirls,” and “King’s Ransom” from his most recent proper solo effort, 2011’s Time.  Anthology also features two Bob Dylan covers (“Just Like A Woman” and “Buckets Of Rain”) that might come as a surprise to those who only know Howe for his majestic progressive work. Also included are several tracks off Motif – Volume 1 , the 2008 collection of re-recorded highlights from the Howe discography such as “Devon Blue” and “Diary Of A Man Who Vanished,” a song that first appeared on The Steve Howe Album.

While culled primarily from Howe’s solo albums, Anthology goes back as far as 1967 with the psychedelic “So Bad” and also represents a pair of compilations.  “Sharp On Attack” has been pulled from 1988’s Guitar Speak, a now-out-of-print release which found Howe contributing a track alongside other hard-rocking guitar greats like Rick Derringer, Phil Manzanera, Leslie West and Ronnie Montrose.  A rendition of Yes’ “Mood for a Day” has been taken from 1993’s Symphonic Music of Yes, with Howe playing alongside the English Chamber Orchestra. …

Steve Howe, Anthology (Rhino, 2015) …

CD 1

  1. “So Bad”
  2. “Lost Symphony”
  3. “Pleasure Stole The Night”
  4. “Pennants”
  5. “Look Over Your Shoulder”
  6. “Surface Tension”
  7. “Sensitive Chaos”
  8. “Running The Human Race”
  9. “Desire Comes First”
  10. “Luck Of The Draw”
  11. “Maiden Voyage”
  12. “Walk Don’t Run”
  13. “Momenta”
  14. “The Collector”
  15. “Just Like A Woman”
  16. “Buckets of Rain”

CD 2

  1. “Distant Seas”
  2. “Curls & Swirls”
  3. “Meridian Strings”
  4. “Simplication”
  5. “Rising Sun”
  6. “Westwinds”
  7. “Ultra Definition”
  8. “Ebb And Flow”
  9. “Dorothy”
  10. “Sketches In The Sun”
  11. “Diary Of A Man Who Vanished”
  12. “Devon Blue”
  13. “King’s Ransom”
  14. “Bachians Brasileiras No. 5 (Aria)”
  15. “Beginnings”
  16. “Mood For A Day” – with The English Chamber Orchestra
  17. “Sharp On Attack”

CD 1, Track 1 included on Mothballs, RPM Records, 1994
CD 1, Tracks 2-3 from Beginnings, Atlantic SD 18154, 1975
CD 1, Tracks 4-6 from The Steve Howe Album, Atlantic SD 19243, 1979
CD 1, Tracks 7-8 from Turbulence, Relativity ZK 90885, 1991
CD 1, Tracks 9-11 from The Grand Scheme of Things, Relativity 88561-1163-2, 1993
CD 1, Tracks 12-14 from Quantum Guitar, Resurgence RES130CD, 1998
CD 1, Tracks 15-16 from Portrait of Bob Dylan, Eagle EAGCD087, 1999
CD 2, Tracks 1-2 from Natural Timbre, Eagle EAGCD166, 2001
CD 2, Tracks 3-4 from Skyline, Inside Out IOMCD113, 2002
CD 2, Tracks 5-6 from Elements, Inside Out, 2003
CD 2, Tracks 7-8 from Spectrum, Inside Out IOMCD215, 2005
CD 2, Tracks 9-12 from Motif,Vol. 1, HoweSound, 2008
CD 2, Tracks 13-14 from Time, 2011
CD 2, Track 15 TBD
CD 2, Track 16 from The Symphonic Music of Yes, RCA Victor CD  09026 61938 2, 1993
CD 2, Track 17 from Guitar Speak, IRS CD IRS-42240, 1998

7 Shows from ’72 (“something of a holy grail”): The “source code” for Yessongs on Yes’ 14xCD Progeny

Ever wonder what happened to the missing Yessongs source reels?

Well, now you can have ’em, thanks to Yes’ Progeny!

Cool details over at YesWorld.com:

These fall ’72 recordings—the “source code” for Yessongs—miraculously survived, but went missing for decades. Then via a series of happy accidents, relentlessly obsessional fans, clever restoration techniques, and the dedication of the team at Warner Music, the journey from rediscovery to release began… …

Much of The Word Is Live was sourced from Steve Howe’s private collection (the best and most likely source of any further archive projects, so be nice to Steve), radio shows, and what precious little was usable from the Atlantic Records vaults.

This was a frustrating mystery — what about the tapes used for Yessongs? Where were the “hundreds of hours” (according to Yes biographer Dan Hedges) of tapes that Chris Squire reviewed and used to compile Yesshows? The short answer: gone. Lost, misplaced, mislabeled, accidentally erased, destroyed, thrown away, immolated in the 1978 Atlantic Records vault fire… no one really knows. Keep in mind that in the 1970s all of this chronology and documentation was done by hand—there wasn’t an app for that! Regardless of how this came to be or why, the end result was the same… The Word Is Live was limited by usable source material.

Still, as I reviewed the spreadsheets, my eye was drawn to a handful of reel-to-reel tapes from 1972… could these be the missing Yessongs source reels? When I inquired about these tapes in the context of The Word Is Live, I was informed that these reels were off limits for the purposes of the project. It was unclear what was on them, whether they were complete, and of what quality, and whether the tapes themselves were even playable. The cost of repairing/restoring them and then transferring them to a workable digital medium was huge and time consuming. Plus, for all anyone knew, the boxes were labeled “Yes” but the tapes were Donna Summer. Or time and money would be spent only to find out that the recordings sounded horrible, or that the middle eight minutes of Close To The Edge were missing. Any number of hurdles prevented forward motion, and so the tapes were left on the shelf.

Fast forward eight years, and a rejuvenated Yes—touring three of their classic albums, including Close To The Edge—is out there wowing audiences old and new. At the same time, the Yes catalog is receiving its first true remix program, helmed by esteemed prog rock visionary Steven Wilson. This remix effort sent our Rhino heroes back into the vaults spelunking for original multitracks and bonus content. Lurking in the shadows was this collection of open reel tapes, and closer examination revealed eight complete multitrack shows from the fall 1972 Close To The Edge tour—the “source code” of Yessongs. The collection you hold in your hand is something of a holy grail.

Each night is its own journey. You can hear the band progressing, taking different chances, and experimenting with different sounds. There are moments unique to each show—solos, banter, and improv change each night. Even cooler is something that happens at every show—you hear it clearly before each performance of “Close To The Edge”—an audible gasp from the audience as the spotlight hits a large mirrored disc just as the song begins. That moment where sound and vision mesh and the musical journey begins is a hallmark of the live Yes experience, and these recordings put you right in the front row. Despite identical setlists, every song from every show is worthy of repeat listens and scrutiny. There’s something notable in each and every one. …

Patrick Moraz — “Time for a Change”

Patrick Moraz relates a nice little piece of Yes history:

“We had decided to do some writing — starting in 1975, when I was also helping Chris and Steve to record some music,” Patrick Moraz tells us. “We had started to compose and to co-compose and to gather material for what was going to be the album Going for the One, and I was very much involved in the composing of ‘Awaken’ at the time. I even recorded one or two tracks in the very, very beginning — in the early stages of sessions in 1976. I recorded some basic tracks for what was going to become ‘Awaken,’ and other tracks for Going for the One. Unfortunately, those were taken out, to allow Rick to come back to the band.”

Moraz ultimately repurposed the work he had done on “Awaken” into a solo song called “Time for a Change,” released in 1977. “When I had to exit Yes at the end of ’76, I started a new album of mine — and I decided call the album Out in the Sun,” Moraz adds. “Maybe I should have called it Time for a Change! It’s a long track; it’s the last track. There were two or three movements that were part of ‘Time for a Change.’ The very beginning of it, the first minute and half or so, reflect what I had actually co-composed for the song ‘Awaken’ itself. It’s a very beautiful kind of piece, which I used as an introduction. What ended up on the record, which is being played by Rick, is completely different than what I would have written.

You can download the entire track “Time for a Change” (9:10) for only $0.99 from iTunes.

“Gravitas”: A mediocre Asia album, but a decent John Wetton solo album

As an Asia album: 6/10asia_gravitas
As a John Wetton album: 8/10

Earlier this year I posted about the (then) upcoming, new Asia album, “Gravitas,” and wrote the following about the first single, “Valkyrie”:

The positives: Wetton sounds great; his vocals are impressively strong and clear at the age of 64. The song itself is quite decent, with the distinctive Asia “sound”: soaring keyboards, big chorus, and lyrics tinged with semi-mythical elements. The negatives: the video is rather (very!) low budget, the song sounds quite a bit like most Asia songs of the past couple of decades, and young Coulson seems underused. What strikes me odd, as I’ve read about this new album, is that while the band members talk about Coulson bringing a harder, even more metal-ish, sound with him, it doesn’t show up in the first single or in the clips of the other eight tunes. And, of course, none of them really sound prog-gy at all. Come to think of it, when did Asia last really incorporate anything obviously proggy in its albums?

Having now listened to the entire album a dozen times or more, I confess to being a bit conflicted. The positives are pretty much as described above. Wetton, who is 65, sounds exceptional; his vocals are strong, clear, and with plenty of nuance and bite, as evidenced on the title track. If anything, my appreciation for Wetton as a vocalist expanded in listening to this new release, especially for the various colorings and emotional nuances he brings to the table. The production, handled by Wetton and keyboardist guru Geoff Downes, is mostly excellent (see below for the negative), featuring lush soundscapes and impeccably crafted waves of vocal harmonies, a classic Asia staple.

In short, the top end—lead vocals, vocal harmonies, and keyboards—sound great.

Unfortunately, the rhythm section and guitar ranges from occasionally agreeable to rather boring. There are times, frankly, when I wondered, “Carl Palmer still plays drums, right? Where, oh where, is the bass?!” Yes, there are a few moments that rise above average (“Nyctophobia”, for example), but overall the drums are so far back in the mix and so generic sounding, it may as well have been Session Drummer Bob Smith behind the kit. The same could be said for much of the bass guitar, with a couple of exceptions, such as a nifty solo-ish section in “Russian Dolls”. Simply put, the bass and drums are often quite pedestrian, especially for players of this caliber; they might as well have been mailed in via Pony Express and then told, “Sit down way back there and play quietly!”

As for the harder guitar sound, I’ve heard heard more rockin’, “in your face” guitar on Michael Jackson albums. Sam Coulson might be the next Joe Satriani, but he rarely gets a chance to show what he brings to the table, and his solos are short, safe, and sadly generic. There is more guitar in, say, “Sole Survivor” or “The Heat Goes On,” than on the entire “Gravitas” album.

Having listened to “Gravitas” several times, I went back and listened to “Asia” and “Alpha”, which established, for me, the benchmark for subsequent Asia albums. Two things stand out: first, the early Asia songs were far more interesting, especially musically, with a remarkable amount of “proggy” elements for such commercially successful albums (of course, the early ’80s were far kinder in that regard, as also evidenced by Yes’s “90125”); secondly, the early Asia sounded like a band that wrote songs as a band and wanted to be a band. The input and influence of Steve Howe and Palmer are readily evident, even if Wetton and Downes were the primary songwriters. And so the songs were far more diverse, ranging from “Heat of the Moment”, with its upfront guitar lick, to the dramatic push-and-pull of “True Colors”, to the deeply longing, semi-epic “Open Your Eyes” (a personal favorite). To sum it up, the songs on “Gravitas” lack variety, suffering from sameness and, in places, some overly long and repetitious choruses and outros.

“Gravitas” is, as an Asia album, rather mediocre; it has some good moments, but is lacking. Those good moments are due mostly to Wetton’s singing and Downe’s keyboards. Lyrically, there is a singer/songwriter quality here that also suggest this is more of a Wetton vehicle than a real band effort. There’s nothing wrong with that, I suppose, but I miss the interplay and band-oriented sound of earlier Asia.

Battle Sounds on the Definitive Edition of Relayer

The mystery of the missing battle sounds!

Definitive edition, or not?

You decide…

relayer-battle

Shakira reviews the new Steven Wilson mix of Yes’ Relayer

shakira-cropped

Shakira signals her approval of the new Steven Wilson mix of Yes’ Relayer by wearing the appropriate T-shirt.

I’m still waiting for my copy to arrive. But here’s what’s in both the CD/DVD-A and CD/Blu-Ray versions:

CD (both versions):
NEW 2014 STEREO MIXES by Steven Wilson from the original multi-track tapes
1. The Gates Of Delirium
2. Sound Chaser
3. To Be Over
Bonus tracks (Mixed & produced by YES and Eddie Offord):
4. Soon (single edit)
5. Sound Chaser (single edit)

DVD and BLU-RAY:
NEW 2014 STEREO MIXES: LPCM Stereo 24/96
1. The Gates Of Delirium
2. Sound Chaser
3. To Be Over
NEW 2014 5.1 SURROUND MIXES: 24/96 MLP Lossless/dts 96/24
1. The Gates Of Delirium
2. Sound Chaser
3. To Be Over
ORIGINAL STEREO MIXES: Flat Transfer from original master LPCM Stereo 24/192
1. The Gates Of Delirium
2. Sound Chaser
3. To Be Over
THE “ALTERNATE” ALBUM: LPCM Stereo 24/96
1. The Gates Of Delirium (studio run through)
2. Sound Chaser (studio run through)
3. To Be Over (studio run through)

BLU-RAY ONLY CONTENT:
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL:
1. Soon (single edit)
2. Sound Chaser (single edit)
3. The Gates Of Delirium (Studio run through)
BLU-RAY EXCLUSIVE BONUS: LPCM Stereo 24/96
1. Sound Chaser (Live from Cobo Hall 1976)
2. Sound Chaser (demo version)
ARCHIVAL MASTER: LPCM Stereo 24/96
1. The Gates Of Delirium
2. Sound Chaser
3. To Be Over
2014 STEREO INSTRUMENTAL MIXES: LPCM Stereo 24/96
1. The Gates Of Delirium
2. Sound Chaser
3. To Be Over
NEEDLE-DROP 1: Original UK vinyl transfer: LPCM Stereo 24/96
1. The Gates Of Delirium
2. Sound Chaser
3. To Be Over
NEEDLE-DROP 2: US promo album vinyl transfer: LPCM Stereo 24/96
1. The Gates Of Delirium (Part I)
2. The Gates Of Delirium (Part II)
3. The Gates Of Delirium (Part III)
4. Sound Chaser (Part I)
5. Sound Chaser (Part II)
From the “Official Site”:
BLU-RAY: NTSC, all regions, LPCM playable in all Blu-ray players & Blu-ray drives
DVD: NTSC Region 0 hybrid DVD-A, compatible with all DVD players & DVD-rom drives
Both sets are presented in a mini vinyl replica gatefold card sleeve (with protective inner sleeves) with the original artwork expanded, restored and approved by Roger Dean. The booklet features new sleeve notes by Sid Smith along with rare photos and archive material.

relayer relayer-wilson

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