A Fish Out of Water That Swims On

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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:

 

 

 

Relayer: A Brief Retrospective

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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.templar

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.

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.