Following the jump, the reissues and compilations from this past year that:
For one reason or another, I absolutely had to buy (whether I previously had a copy or not), and
That grabbed me on first listen and haven’t let go through repeated plays. Except for my Top Favorite at the end of the post, I haven’t ranked them — in my opinion, they’re all worth your time. But first, a graphic tease …
Review of Yes, FLY FROM HERE: RETURN TRIP (Pledgemusic, 2018). Tracks: Fly From Here, Parts 0-V; The Man You Always Wanted Me to Be; Life on a Film Set; Hour of Need; Solitaire; Don’t Take No For an Answer; and Into the Storm.
Standout tracks: Madman at the Screen; Into the Storm.
Sailor, sailor beware. There are storm clouds. You must take care.
When I first saw the notice that Yes would be re-releasing its 2011 album, FLY FROM HERE, with a remaster and remix by Trevor Horn and with all main vocals provided by the very same Trevor Horn, I was surprised and a bit skeptical. Fake news? Well, there seems to be a lot of that going around these days in the western world.
And, it turned out. . . it was real news. After I realized this thing was real, I immediately jumped onto Pledgemusic and, well, pledged.
Shed a tear for the hardcore prog collector — actually, don’t. This week has been absolutely crammed with articulate announcements looking to part fans from their hard-earned cash or pull them deeper into debt. And no, I’m not talking about the upcoming Derek Smalls solo album. Check out what’s coming our way as winter (hopefully) gives way to the spring of 2018:
Ever since it was announced that the progressive rock band YES was to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, rumors abound regarding a possible involvement with the members of Rush, who are all self-proclaimed YES fans.
In January, the news many fans were waiting for arrived – both Geddy Lee & Alex Lifeson would induct YES into the Hall. However as of that writing, there was no indication as to whether or not Geddy and/or Alex would actually perform during the evening’s festivities. Fast-forward a few weeks, and a huge story coming out of Billboard was published which all but confirmed that Geddy Lee would, in fact, be performing with YES. Less than a few hours after the story broke, Billboard posted a retraction indicating that Geddy Lee would NOT be performing.
I have been meaning to write in praise of Chris Squire’s solo album Fish Out of Water for some time now. In fact, I wanted to publish a review after his sudden passing last June, but I feared I would not do his album justice (or something to that effect). I suppose now would be as good a time as any to call attention to this somewhat obscure gem of an album. As I write this, I am listening to “Silently Falling”, a hauntingly beautiful, eleven minute masterpiece featuring dramatic and complex keyboards, a driving bass guitar, and the melodic vocals of Mr. Squire, whose voice lies somewhere between Jon Anderson’s and Peter Gabriel’s. The album also features the talents of Yes alums Bill Bruford and Patrick Moraz, King Crimson‘s Mel Collins, and a small orchestra conducted by Squire’s friend Andrew Jackman.
If you are not already familiar with this album, I suggest you give it a listen. Here are brief notes on each song:
“Hold Out Your Hand” – The album opener is driven by Moraz’s organ and Squire’s melodic Rickenbacker bass. It’s a relatively fast-paced tune, but it transitions smoothly to the softer…
“You by My Side” – A well-orchestrated piece that features a beautiful flute solo. The next song,
“Silently Falling” – I have already discussed, but I’ll mention the name again in case you forgot it! Squire then switches gears to the jazzier…
“Lucky Seven” – A tune which features the talented Mel Collins on alto sax. Squire shifts gears one more time before the grand finale…
“Safe (Canon Song)” – A majestic fifteen minute piece that deserves a spot among some of prog’s better epics.
Fish Out of Water is without question the finest solo album by a Yes member, and I would go so far to say it is one of the best prog albums of the early 1970s. Unlike the solo albums of other Yes members (Anderson and Howe, in particular), Fish Out of Water has a distinctive sound, and it has aged well. If you do not yet believe me, watch the promo video below:
Bass legend Chris Squire may be gone, but he is most definitely not forgotten. During the time we were lucky enough to have him in this life, Squire produced some of the most innovative and interesting bass work of any genre of music. Not content to simply keep time along with the drums, Squire put the bass guitar square in the center of the melodic discourse of Yes music, with a unique picked sound that was thick yet trebly.
Compiling a list like this is no easy task when you are dealing with the level of talent that Squire possessed. While there are a few in the list that I knew would be on here, paring it down to just ten was a difficult task. Of course, any list like this is going to be subjective and your mileage may vary. These, however, are my 10 favorite Squire performances.
I totally love all the tracks on the cool new album from The Syn (some more than others), all of them, that is, except for the title track: “Trustworks.”
Well, I guess I have good instincts. As it turns out, apparently not much “trust” has been in the “works” among The Syn’s band members. Go read about their recent history over at The Progressive Aspect, which is quite comprehensive in the historical review that it offers preceding its album review. I guess I rightly sensed “baloney” ever since I first rolled at my eyes at the song.
A visually stunning album cover. Profound and thought-provoking lyrics. Epic instrumentation and vocals. I could be describing almost any progressive rock album of note, but I am specifically referring to the underrated Yes album Relayer in this case. I say underrated because this album, featuring only three songs, all of which are worthy of the designation “progressive,” ended up wedged in between the controversial Tales from Topographic Oceans and the (relatively) lackluster Yes albums of the late 1970s/early 1980s.
First a brief comment on the sleeve design. Roger Dean is an integral part of Yes’ image, and his design for Relayer only bolsters the importance of his role. Inspired by images of war and the Knights Templar, Dean draws the viewer in to a world of fantastical images and drama, as the knights on horseback arrive to do battle with the twin snakes. Before one even listens to the album, he can already grasp its focus and themes: war and peace, victory and hope. Dean can capture in an image what Anderson, Squire, and Howe can capture in music.
The three songs are not only well-written, but they are also well-performed. This may seem like an understatement in regards to Yes, but this cannot be said about every song they released. The epic opener Gates of Delirium, inspired by Tolstoy’s even longer epic War and Peace, and featuring superb work on keys and synths from Patrick Moraz on his only Yes album, was best described by Jon Anderson: it is a “war song,” but not one that seeks to explain or denounce war, but rather a song that explores war’s aspects: there is a “prelude, a charge, a victory tune, and peace at the end, with hope for the future.” Sound Chaser, a frenetically paced tune featuring a true guitar solo from Steve Howe, solid drumming courtesy of Alan White, and a sizzling performance on bass guitar from the late, great Chris Squire, allows Yes to explore their jazzier side. The final tune, To Be Over, moves at a more relaxed pace, anchored by Howe’s electric sitar. It is a beautifully straightforward song, and it provides the perfect final touch on a visually and acoustically stunning album.
In sum, Relayer may not be the most renowned album in Yes’ extensive catalogue, but in this reviewer’s humble opinion, it is one of their finest works overall, and one that deserves more attention and respect.
Remember YesYears? It was one of the first really nice box sets to come out, back in the day when the only nice box set was that Bruce Springsteen one that had come out in the late 1980s?
YesYears came out on August 6, 1991. Union had come out at the very end of April that same year. Unless you were really connected to the internet (not that easy in 1991), Yes fans just had to guess as to what was going on that summer with the band. Was Yes really an eight-person band? And, how long would that last? YesYears seemed to present the eight as living in harmony with one another. After all, while the four discs did not include anything from Anderson Bruford Wakeman and Howe, it did list them as a part of the really nice fold-out sleeve, tracing every aspect of Yes history from “The Warriors” to Yes incarnation #9.
Whether real or not, the packaging of YesYears certainly makes a coherent narrative of the band and everyone of its members from Alpha to. . . well, certainly not Omega! Yes was alive! Or, so it seemed.
At the time that YesYears came out, I was very poor (a second-year graduate student) and still listening to cassette tapes. Despite the expense of the YesYears box set, I purchased the four-cassette package. And, yes, it made a deep cut in my savings account. Those were years when I would skimp on lunch (usually not even eating one) to spend the money on music or books.
And as far as I remember, I never regretted having bought that box set. Sadly, though, the cassettes that came with it were not of the best quality, and I wore my copies out rather quickly.
Jump forward two decades. Today, in the mail, all the way from an Ebay seller in New Jersey, arrived a mint condition 4-cd box set of YesYears.
Wow, it is a thing of beauty.
I know that many of the songs that had not been readily available in 1991–such as Abilene, Vevey, Run with the Fox–are now very easily available. Still, the 1991 box set is really, really gorgeous. I actually paid less for this mint condition version (including postage) than I did for the cassette version 25 years ago.
Just as in 1991, I have no regrets. The sun is out, my kids are laughing somewhere in the house, and I’m listening to disk three of YesYears.
Still amazingly beautiful. . . even a full quarter century later.
Funny how certain moments leave profound impressions. The winter months always make me think of Yes’s 90125. I very well remember purchasing the album on its release, November 7, 1983. For months, every night, I listened to it on my headphones, after dinner and in the dark, sometimes two or three times.
I’d been a good Yes fan since first hearing Yessongs in 1973. As I’ve mentioned before on progarchy, I fell in love with every aspect of Yessongs–the art and music.
Of course, I knew 90125 represented a huge break with the past, but it seemed like a rather brilliant break.
I’ve never stopped loving 90125. It’s pretty much been in constant rotation since I first heard it at the age of 16.
I wish I had something profound to write about it at the moment. I don’t. Except, thank you Trevor, Chris, Trevor, Alan, Tony, Eddie, and Jon.