Yes at 50 – Live at 20 Monroe Live, Grand Rapids, MI – 6/29/18

Yes, Live at 20 Monroe Live, Grand Rapids, Michigan, June 29, 2018

Setlist:
Set 1
Intro: The Firebird Suite
Close To The Edge
Nine Voices (Longwalker)
Parallels
Mood For A Day
Leaves Of Green
Fly From Here, Part 1: We Can Fly
Sweet Dreams
Heart Of The Sunrise

Set 2
Perpetual Change
Does It Really Happen?
Soon
Awaken (featuring Alan White)

Encore (featuring Alan White and Tony Kaye)
Yours Is No Disgrace
Roundabout
Starship Trooper

Players: Steve Howe (guitars), Geoff Downes (keyboards), Jon Davison (vocals, assorted instruments), Billy Sherwood (bass, backing vocals), Alan White (drums), Jay Schellen (drums), and special guest, Tony Kaye (keyboards)

Last night was my first time seeing Yes, and I got to see them with fellow Progarchist Rick Krueger and a couple of his friends. In the grand scheme of things, I’m a newcomer to Yes’ outstanding music, having started listening to them about five or six years ago. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to see Chris Squire live. Steve Howe was near the top of my list of people I wanted to see live, and I’m happy I had that opportunity last night. The show was amazing. The band was tight, and it was  difficult to tell the difference between their live performance and the albums. The biggest difference was the bass actually boomed, unlike on the original recordings. Just looking at the setlist, you can tell this was a very long show. It started at 7:30pm and ended a few minutes shy of 10:30pm, with a 20 minute intermission. We got our money’s worth, to say the least.

Continue reading “Yes at 50 – Live at 20 Monroe Live, Grand Rapids, MI – 6/29/18”

Trevor Horn’s Glorious Re-Emergence in Yes: FLY FROM HERE: RETURN TRIP

Yes fly from here return trip
Trevor Horn brings, as always, love and excellence to this rerelease.

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.

Continue reading “Trevor Horn’s Glorious Re-Emergence in Yes: FLY FROM HERE: RETURN TRIP”

Life shouldn’t be about the Drama

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Yes: Topographic Drama – Live Across America

Now does the world really need another Yes album? The past few years have seen the current incarnation of the band tour, bringing to life full album shows, and the albums that have been played in their entirety have been Fragile, Close to the Edge, The Yes Album, Going for the One and on their latest jaunt Drama and excerpts from Tales from Topographic Oceans, and with the shows have come several double disc sets Likie it is Bristol Colston hall & Like it is at the Meza Arts Centre.

I have to admit some bias here, as I saw this incarnation of Yes (The Howe, White, Downes, Davison, Sherwood) at Colston Hall on their UK leg, where they played Drama in it’s entirety on stage and thoroughly enjoyed it.

So, before I get into the nitty gritty and I certainly don’t want to stir up a hornets nest but…..I will broker no arguments as to whether or not this is Yes, it says Yes on the tin, it has Steve Howe and Alan White who have been mainstays longer than they haven’t, Geoff Downes credentials are beyond reproach, and Billy Sherwood and Yes have had intertwining careers for over 20 years, and he was handpicked by Chris Squire to stand in (and sadly replace) him in Yes, with Jon Davison fitting in perfectly, this to me is Yes in spirit, and even though there’s no original members left, does that matter? No, no it doesn’t. I am sure some people miss Jon Anderson, but as he’s concurrently touring with Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman, then brilliant news. Two bands playing Yes music, fantastic for the fans and it means different songs get an airing.

The music is spiritually uplifting and moving, (and Yes have a special place in my heart being the first prog band I really got into) and so I don’t really think that we should sully the music and the memories by getting into petty discussions as to whether a band is a band or not. This is Yes, and that’s my final word on that subject.

Now this album is a game of two halves for me, containing as it does my favourite Yes album, and one of my least favourite of the 70’s Yes albums.

Drama, is the definitive Yes album for me, it is so sharp, so crisp, everything is so right about this record, that hearing it live is a dream come true for a Yes fan.

From the opening Machine Messiah, the brilliant Man in a White Car, the pounding Does it Really Happen with the thundering bass of Billy Sherwood more than deftly stepping into the great mans shows, and with Into the Lens and the stunning Tempur Fugit, this line up Yes (3/5ths of the band that made Drama BTW) have picked up where it left off and given it the rebirth and reinvigoration it needs. Geoff Downes is all over those keyboard sounds, whilst Steve Howe plays like a man half his age, Alan White is still the mainstay on the drums. Drama is like a neglected jewel in the attic, and this line up have polished it and brought it back to where it should be, at the heart of the bands set.

Topographic Oceans meanwhile, left me under whelmed when I first heard it, and sadly nothing has changed, the band do their best, and there is nothing at all wrong with the bands performance and again Billy Sherwood comes in for huge praise as to how he steps into the band, his bass rumbling and thundering, you get distracted and listen and think it’s the great man himself. (Having seen him live Billy really does own the stage, and seems genuinely overwhelmed by the positive reaction his performance gets).

I enjoyed it enough to listen to once, but then, that’s why there are skip buttons on the CD player.

The additional tracks from other albums including a rousing Heart of the Sunrise, a brilliant Roundabout and then, the old warhorse itself Starship Trooper, dusted off and brought out for its umpteenth live release.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the song, I think this version is as good as any of the other live ones, I just think maybe they could throw something into the mix from albums like The Ladder, Fly From Here or Subway Walls from Heaven and Earth to truly reflect the bands history. I especially think anything from Fly From Here would be perfect due to its close relationship with the Drama material.

In other words, to answer my original question, does the world need another Yes live album? As it’s got Drama on, performed in it’s entirety, or course it does, you’d be mad not to want to listen to Drama live.

 

soundstreamsunday #91: “Clap/Starship Trooper” by Yes

howeFor every Charley Patton putting songs to record in the South in the early decades of the last century, there were dozens who influenced the course of music without ever seeing a recording studio or microphone.  One such country blues guitarist was Arnold Schultz, whose dynamic, syncopated thumb/index picking made an impact on musicians in western Kentucky, particularly Kennedy Jones, Mose Rager, Ike Everly, and Merle Travis.  This Muhlenberg County sound, along with Maybelle Carter’s “scratch,” recast country music guitar playing, giving it a slick swing, a jazz potential, and directly shaped the music of Chet Atkins.  As country music hit its sophisticated stride in the 1950s and 60s, Atkins was behind much of its transformation, his instrumental prowess, coupled with his skills as a producer, advancing an ethic of musicianship in country music that continues to hold sway.  To this day much of the world’s guitar talent resides in Nashville.

And in England…

When Steve Howe joined Yes in 1970, he was able to up their game by bringing to it a music — channeling Travis and Atkins — that went deep to the roots of blues and country.  He connected the dots with some hints of irony, for how could such classical posturing of the kind Yes exhibited (successfully) live tooth-by-jowl with such self-styled provincialism? That it works so well is one of the primary reasons Yes was Yes, and why Steve Howe is such a special guitarist.  Like John Fahey, Howe was essentially a classical guitarist with a passion for the complex picking styles emerging from the American South decades prior.  And ultimately this is what made progressive rock’s first wave what it was and gave it a freedom that could roam stylistically, because it could do justice to the styles that in their own rights were already a musical gumbo.  Prog rock was and is about musicianship and musical literacy but, more importantly, it’s about creative synthesis, world music back to the source, and putting together the puzzle pieces in ways that make sense and that rock.  And nothing, NOTHING, rocks like the kind of right hand action Merle Travis and Chet Atkins could bring to country swing.

Howe’s impact on Yes is is up front on 1971’s The Yes Album (his first with the group).  The band was impressed enough with their new guitarist that they tucked a live instrumental, Howe’s “Clap,” in the middle of the first side of the album, setting up the “Disillusion” sequence in the next track, the prog epic “Starship Trooper.”  In retrospect this was a radical move, and pushed Cream’s blues homages (“Spoonful,” “Sitting on Top of the World,” etc.), and Zeppelin’s folk tributes (thinking their reading of “Black Mountainside” and “Gallows Pole”) into new terrain.  Put them in the cosmos, a space pastoral, conjuring the kind of world suggesting the LP covers Roger Dean would soon be painting for the group.  Set the controls for the heart of the Delta.

soundstreamsunday presents one song or live set by an artist each week, and in theory wants to be an infinite linear mix tape where the songs relate and progress as a whole. For the complete playlist, go here: soundstreamsunday archive and playlist, or check related articles by clicking on”soundstreamsunday” in the tags section.

Relayer: A Brief Retrospective

relayer

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.

YesYears: Twenty-Five Years Later

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?

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YesYears–a Nice Fiction that Every Member of Yes Loved One Another, Beginning to Present

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.

Yes+Yes+Years+350639bAnd 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.