Trevor Rabin: “As long as it’s good and well-played, all music is worth listening to.”

Once again, the AllAboutJazz.com site has another great piece about a prog musician: “Trevor Rabin: All Colors Considered”, by Ian Patterson. The focus is on Rabin’s outstanding new solo album, Jacaranda  (one of my favorites of 2012), which is Rabin’s first solo excursion since his exceptional 1989 album, Don’t Look Away, which I played incessantly back in the day and revisit on occasion. Patterson begins by putting Rabin’s impressive career in perspective:

Whether taking a stance against apartheid in the early ’70s in his native South Africa or turning down the opportunity to play in super group Asia for artistic reasons, Rabin has always done things his own way and stuck to his principles at every step. Rabin is perhaps best known around the world for the mega-hit “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and his 12-year stint with progressive rock giant Yes, but there are a surprising number of strings to the musician’s bow.

While it would have been easy to carry on touring and recording with the legendary British group, Rabin felt that after a dozen years a new challenge was needed, and he said no to Yes. So it was in the mid-1990s that Rabin embarked upon another career as a composer of film soundtracks. In a little over 15 years, Rabin has recorded 40 film soundtracks of varying genres, winning numerous awards in the process.

Just when it seemed as though Rabin’s music would only be heard in cinema houses around the world, he’s back with another surprise in the form of his sixth solo album, Jacaranda (Varese Fontana, 2012). It’s his first solo album of original material since Can’t Look Away (Elektra, 1989), and it’s an inspired collection of guitar- based instrumental compositions.

It certainly is a tremendous album, filled with several surprises. For instance, did you know that Rabin—who is a guitar god—is a classically trained pianist? He shows off that chops quite beautifully on the cut, “Killarney 1 & 2,” which shows (if there is any doubt) how good Rabin is as a composer. (Rabin plays nearly everything on the album: “acoustic and electric guitars, banjo, Dobro, acoustic bass, bass guitar and piano.”) Patterson’s piece has a number of great nuggets, including the fact that Rabin and Rick Wakeman are “very, very good friends”; that Jack Bruce played on Rabin’s 1980 album, “Wolf”; that Rabin, when he listens to others’ music, listens almost exclusively to classical music. And then there is some good stuff about his time with Yes:

Though Rabin remains on good terms with his former Yes band mates, the beginning of the story wasn’t quite the way Rabin had envisaged it. “When I joined the band, the intention wasn’t for it to be Yes. All the songs on 90125 (Atco, 1983) were basically songs I had written for a solo album, but I was dropped by the label before I could do the solo album, and I eventually ended up with these guys [bassist Chris Squire and drummer Alan White], and it was called Cinema. But then [Yes vocalist] Jon Anderson heard it, liked it very much and came on board. I didn’t know whether to be sad for being fired as the singer or just to be excited for what Jon brought to it.” …

Rabin moved from his London base to L.A., but things didn’t go according to either man’s plan. “It didn’t work out,” says Rabin, “ironically, because he wanted me to join a band and surround myself with big-name musicians to do this music. That was his vision, and I didn’t want to do that. He said if we didn’t see eye to eye, he would drop me, so he dropped me,” Rabin says, laughing.

The big-name musicians Geffen had in mind were former King Crimson/Family bassist John Wetton, former ELP drummer Carl Palmer, former Buggles/Yes keyboard player Geoff Downes and former Yes guitarist Steve Howe. The band would become Asia. It’s difficult to escape the irony in Rabin joining Yes as its long-standing guitarist joined Asia. “It was a very funny scenario,” observes Rabin.

Rabin provided the guts of the music for 90125, with Anderson adding lyrics. The album was an enormous commercial success, with the single “Owner of a Lonely Heart” going to number one in the American charts. In spite of the huge success and Rabin’s assured place in Yes folklore, he was always ambivalent as to whether he would have preferred to present his music under the name of Cinema, without the established fan base that went with Yes. Time and distance have hardened his viewpoint. “I’ve come to the conclusion that I am disappointed,” he states. “I would have preferred it if it had been called Cinema.”

The piece concludes with Rabin saying that is working on an—wait for it!—electric guitar concerto: “I have an electric-guitar concerto. I’m calling it that, which might sound a bit posh, but it’s just a classical electric guitar. What I have sketched out is for full orchestra and electric guitar. I’ve also included four bagpipes, which just sounded so great. It’s a great combination, these very legato, almost sitar-ish guitars and the drone of the bagpipes, which is an extraordinary sound. I really want to come to terms with this guitar concerto…” Yes, please!

4 thoughts on “Trevor Rabin: “As long as it’s good and well-played, all music is worth listening to.”

    1. carleolson

      If you’ve never heard “Don’t Look Away” (1989), I think you’ll enjoy it. That album, I should have noted, features singing; the new album is almost all instrumental, with female vocals on one track. One of my favorite Rabin/Yes tracks is “I Am Waiting”, also from the “Talk” album. Big!

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      1. Carl, fantastic. I love the new album. And you must mean “Can’t Look Away”; I’m downloading it now… woo hoo! This is fun. And good call on “I Am Waiting”; I agree!

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  1. carleolson

    Chris: You can’t look away and you don’t want to look away! Heh. Great album. I played it a bazillion times in the fall of 1989, during my first semester at Briercrest Bible College. Very strong memories come with that album, especially the songs “Etoile Noir/Eyes Of Love” and “Sorrow (Your Heart).” Whew! Same thing, a bit later, with Paul Simon’s “Rhythm of the Saints”.

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