Flashback Review: Yes Live in 2011

I wrote this review as a Facebook note in 2011 — my first online year of “too many concerts” (but not my last), when I heard Yellow Matter Custard, Yes, Bob Seger, Rush, Jeff Beck, Robin Trower, U2 and Paul McCartney live.  The following is unedited, except for a couple of cosmetic fixes (the occasional snark is still intact).  I think of it as an appropriate appetizer for my next Yes show, coming at the end of June! — Rick Krueger

Yes, The Orbit Room, Grand Rapids Michigan, March 20, 2011

Over the last few years, I’ve come to the conclusion that rockers should rock as long as they want to rock. Maybe it’s because I’m pushing 50, but I have fewer & fewer problems with icons from the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, etc. touring endlessly. In fact, my favorite moment on the Crossroads 2010 DVD is a shot of Hubert Sumlin (guitarist for Chicago blues legend Howlin’ Wolf) sitting in a chair, an oxygen tube in his nostrils, jamming away & happy as a clam. Let it rock, I say.

The opening of Yes’ show at the Orbit Room, however, was a severe test of that credo. When Chris Squire trundles onstage and has to strap his bass guitar higher than ever before so his stomach isn’t in the way; when Alan White stiffly totters onto his drum riser; when the first two songs (“Parallels” & “Tempus Fugit”) feature wildly fluctuating tempos, slowing down not just from section to section, but from riff to riff — well, you have to wonder, however briefly, if some reunions should be left undone. Add a new lead singer who specializes in slo-mo interpretive movement, jazz hands a-plenty, and Riverdance spins during instrumental sections (on top of a salt-and-pepper crew cut), and the night seemed even less promising.

Fortunately, the music prevailed and the players whipped themselves into shape by the third number, “Yours Is No Disgrace.” Squire & White pounded out a revivified backbeat, Steve Howe unleashed his patented Chuck Berry-meets-country-meets-psychedelia guitar magic, and Oliver Wakeman not only proved a nimble & able replacement for his dad on keyboards, but also won the “longest hair in the band” award. As for Benoit David, that new lead singer — despite a few shaky high notes at the start, he quickly proved able to navigate Jon Anderson’s stratospheric vocal lines with confidence & joy, soaring on his own & locking into tight harmonies with Squire and Howe.


From then on, the night was pretty much an unalloyed treat. “Soon” (from the album Relayer) was a gorgeous ballad interlude, with lush lap steel playing by Howe and David nailing the stirring vocal. “Close to the Edge” had the last attack of shaky tempos for the night, but also sported solid ensemble playing, Squire shaking the room with his bass pedals, and Wakeman rocking out on all eight on his keyboards. “I’ve Seen All Good People” shone despite a dead mike on Howe’s lute (!) at the beginning, culminating in David-led handclaps & audience vocals. Howe’s solo spot (featuring an unaccompanied version of “To Be Over,” another Relayer track) was mind-meltingly good, both technical & tasty. The heavy “Machine Messiah,” an extended piece from the Drama album, served as a slam-bang intro to Yes’ heavy hitters. “Owner of A Lonely Heart,” “Long Distance Runaround” (with the least extended bass solo I’ve ever heard from Squire), “Starship Trooper” and the inevitable encore “Roundabout” got the all-ages crowd dancing, rushing the stage, singing at the top of their lungs, and motivating Howe to thank everyone for “being such a rowdy, crazy, great audience.”

Have the mighty fallen? To think of Yes (who did their last US arena tour 7 years ago) playing a 1500 seat club is more than a little sad. On the other hand, if they can overcome the obstacles of age, lineup changes, indifferent disc sales, and unpredictable sound systems to play shows with this much intensity and fire, I’d say it’s a good trade-off!




Talk Talk’s MARK HOLLIS: 20 Years Later

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The cover of Mark Hollis’s 1998 album.  What the heck is it???

Mark Hollis, MARK HOLLIS (Polydor, 1998).  Tracks: The Colour of Spring; Watershed, Inside Looking Out, The Gift; A Life; Westward Bound; The Daily Planet; and A New Jerusalem.

If Mark Hollis wanted to show that he was no longer a member of Talk Talk, nothing could be quite so revealing as the album design of his first and only solo album, MARK HOLLIS.  Gone was anything resembling James Marsh’s lush psychedelic landscapes, aching with sacramental if surreal beauty.  Gone, too, were the hand written lyrics.  Instead, if you find it attractive, the minimalist cover looks like something Apple might design as a part of its product line.  If, however, you find it not so attractive, it looks like the label of some kind of generic grocery store product from the late 1970s: “Beer.”  The white background supports a bizarre black and white photo.  I’ve stared at this photo many times, and I still don’t have a clue what it is.  Frankly, it looks a bit like roadkill on display in a museum.  The label on the cd booklet merely states “Mark Hollis” in a plain font.  On the actual jewel case, there are two stickers.  One states “Made in the U.K.”  The other states “Formerly of Talk Talk.  537 688-2.”  I presume the latter stick refers to Hollis, not to the U.K.

As with LAUGHING STOCK, MARK HOLLIS came out on Polydor.  When Hollis had originally signed to the label, the agreement was for four albums total.  Considering that MARK HOLLIS came out in 1998, twenty years ago exactly, the chance of Polydor getting two more out of him seems more and more remote.  As to what Polydor thinks of Hollis, it’s impossible to state.  Clearly, the label knew what it was getting after SPIRIT OF EDEN.  If they didn’t, they were fools, and I’m guessing they’re not fools.

Continue reading “Talk Talk’s MARK HOLLIS: 20 Years Later”

Ancient Empire: Eternal Soldier release date announced (July 27)


Stormspell Records has teased a look at the Eternal Soldier album art as they announced the release date for Ancient Empire’s next album on Facebook. I am predicting that it will be an album to be reckoned with. So, as we wait, below are the album covers from the band’s preceding metal trilogy. Perhaps my favorite is the art on the cover of When Empires Fall, which matches the album’s lyric contents perfectly. By the way, what distinguishes Ancient Empire from other metal bands is their meticulous attention to lyrical excellence. Every song is carefully crafted, with the utmost intelligence given to the crafting of compelling lyrics.





Black Stone Cherry (Mascot)

It was my ubercool English friend, Steve Dalton of the Black Vines, who originally introduced me to Black Stone Cherry–a band that makes me realize that rock is not only not dead, but it’s breathing like mad!  And, I’m quite partial to Mascot, too!

Exclusive ‘Kentucky’ CD+DVD with alternate cover
Available from the MLG US store!

We got a hold on the last few copies of the limited edition CD+DVD of Black Stone Cherry’s 2016 album “Kentucky”. This version, with an alternate rusty brown cover, was previously only available at Best Buy stores.

It can be yours for the incredible low price of $9.99 (plus shipping). We have BSC’s other Mascot Records albums in stock as well, so why not treat yourself to a truckload of Black Stone Cherry!

Kentucky (CD/DVD) – Alternate cover


Buy Now
Family Tree

Available on CD and vinyl

Buy Now
Black To Blues EP

Available on CD and vinyl

Buy Now
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Seven Sacraments to Song: Talk Talk’s LAUGHING STOCK (1991)

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Talk Talk’s final album, 1991’s LAUGHING STOCK.

Even for those die-hard Talk Talk fans among us, the band’s final album, LAUGHING STOCK, gets only a rating as “SPIRIT OF EDEN II.”  It’s not that folks don’t absolutely love it.  They do.  But, when it comes to the history of Talk Talk and the history of rock, 1988’s SPIRIT OF EDEN is better remembered as the innovating album, the heroic but not so polite one in and on which Hollis told EMI and the commercial world where to go and what to do when they got there.

Begin obsessed with Talk Talk since 1986’s THE COLOUR OF SPRING, I, too, am guilty of ranking LAUGHING STOCK somewhere in the band’s top three, but never number one.  Of course, I’ve always loved LAUGHING STOCK.  No question there.  What’s not to love?  Yet, it’s always been—at least in my mind—a kind of final moment, a release, an innovative remake of SPIRIT OF EDEN, featuring the core that made the 1988 album so successful: Hollis; Friese-Green; and Brown.

I first purchased the CD of LAUGHING STOCK (even before I owned a CD player) at Waterloo records in Austin on the day it came out.  Craig Breaden (also of Progarchist infamy) and I were attending a history conference there, and Waterloo was across the river from our hotel.  Stunningly, when it came to the band, I actually knew far more than Craig.  Believe me, this is important, as no one knows the history of rock from the early 60s to the early 90s better than does Craig.

Continue reading “Seven Sacraments to Song: Talk Talk’s LAUGHING STOCK (1991)”

Detailed review of deluxe edition of Chris Squire’s “Fish Out Of Water”

squire_fishoutofwater_deluxe.jpgI came very late to Squire’s 1975 solo album, but once I really listened to it, I gained an entirely new appreciation for his musical genius: the album is melodic, soaring, sometimes surprising, often lush yet constantly energetic, and filled with monster—but always deeply musical—bass playing.

Originally released by Atlantic, Esoteric Recordings’ new deluxe edition is, well, deluxe:

The highlight of this limited edition deluxe boxed set is a stunning new 5.1 Surround Sound mix (exclusive to this set on an NTSC / Region Free DVD), along with a new stereo mix, from the original multi-track master tapes by JAKKO JAKSZYK and a new re-master of the original 1975 mix by Paschal Byrne. FISH OUT OF WATER also includes four bonus tracks of the single edits of ‘Lucky Seven’ and ‘Silently Falling’, along with both sides of the 1981 single by CHRIS SQUIRE and ALAN WHITE; ‘Run With the Fox’ and Return of the Fox (appearing on CD for the first time).

The boxed set also includes a replica 180 gram gatefold LP with poster of FISH PUT OF WATER (mastered and cut from the original tapes at Abbey Road studios), along with two seven inch singles of ‘Lucky Seven’ b/w ‘Silently Falling’ and ‘Run With the Fox’ b/w ‘Return of the Fox’, both in picture sleeves. To complete the content is a visual DVD (NTSC / Region Free) featuring the 1975 FISH OUT OF WATER promotional film featuring the songs Hold Out Your Hand and ‘You By My Side’, along with a 2006 interview with Chris Squire conducted by Jon Kirkman and a 2006 audio commentary by Chris Squire. Finally, the set also contains a 36-page book with an essay by Sid Smith featuring exclusive interviews with BILL BRUFORD, PATRICK MORAZ, GREGG JACKMAN and JAKKO JAKSZYK.

The prolific John Kelman, who has written several exceptional reviews of prog albums for AllAboutJazz.com (and who has authored liner notes for many jazz and prog albums) has a very informative review of the new set. Here’s a taste:  Continue reading “Detailed review of deluxe edition of Chris Squire’s “Fish Out Of Water””

Burning Shed News (6-14-2018)

My apologies for being several days late with this.  I’ve been out of town and without any serious access to the internet.  Now, though, I’m back!  And, with always great news from Burning Shed. 


Fly From Here – Return Trip (cd pre-order)

The classic Drama line-up reunited on a 2018 version of 2011’s Fly From Here, featuring all new vocals from Trevor Horn, alongside a more organic mix highlighting Chris Squire‘s unique voice and bass contributions plus additional parts from Steve Howe and Geoff Downes.

Includes the six part title track, the full version of Hour Of Need, and album outtake Don’t Take No For An Answer.

CD in Media Book with new artwork by Roger Dean. One of the best Yes albums of the last three decades just got better!

Pre-order for 6th July shipping.

Continue reading “Burning Shed News (6-14-2018)”