Saturday, 23 January 2016

Poll: Best Yes-related album of 2015, part 1

A small turnout for the latest poll, just 37 votes. Your favourite Yes-related album of the first half of 2015 was...

1. Steve Hackett: Wolflight (w/ Squire) - 22 votes (59%)
2. Mabel Greer's Toy Shop: New Way of Life (w/ Sherwood, Kaye; material by Squire, Anderson) - 9 votes (24%)
3. Trevor Rabin: Max (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - 5 votes (14%)
4.  Moraz Alban Project: MAP - 1 vote (3%)

There were no votes for The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Plays Prog Rock Classics (with Moraz) or Keep Calm and Salute The Beatles (with Sherwood).

So a clear win for Wolflight, Hackett's musical journey and the penultimate project featuring Squire before his death. At the other end, a disappointing result for Moraz.

A new poll is up on the front page, asking what you'd like to Anderson, Rabin & Wakeman play live.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Squire's legacy: what unreleased recordings may exist

With Chris Squire sadly no longer with us, attention has turned to what music he may have left behind, particularly with a report that Yes may be considering using some unfinished studio recordings for a new album. This raises the question of what recordings with Squire exist unreleased, and what could be done with these.

We should remember that we don't know what we don't know. Numerous releases continue to throw up recordings we never knew existed, with examples in 2015 including the wonderful extra tracks on the Panegyric Fragile and, of course, the Progeny box. I've heard whispers of future projects just as exciting. So I expect what we don't know about is probably more significant than what we do know about, but there is still much that we do know about.

Almost any time there is a studio recording, there is the potential for alternative versions, different takes and mixes, although these are often close to the released version and, presumably, the released version is meant to be the best. So I'm also taking it as read that there are alternative versions of everything from "Everydays" to "Cathedral of Love".

Those caveats aside, here's what we do know about:

Live Yes

For nearly all of Squire's career, his main live work was in Yes. I won't try to list every possible live Yes recording here. There are vast numbers of unofficial Yes recordings online. I am glad that Squire lived to see the success of the Progeny boxset and we know that band and label want to do more, although Brian Kehew warned that he doesn't think there is anything quite like the recordings that led to Progeny. One way or another, I expect to see more archival live Yes released over the coming years.

That said, I don't hold out hope that we will hear many songs not otherwise previously released. We know the very early band played numerous covers of which we have no record yet (including Fifth Dimension's "Paper Cup", Traffic's "Heaven is in Your Mind" and The Beatles' "I'm Only Sleeping"), but these were in their very early years and none has even emerged on boots. There is a bootlegged recording of the band doing "Eleanor Rigby", although the sound quality is so poor that it may preclude release.

Another mysterious early Yes piece that has never emerged is "Adventures", described as a Howe/Squire bass duet pre-dating The Yes Album but seemingly an early if very different version of "A Venture".

The Syn, Mabel Greer's Toyshop, Narsquijack etc.

Before Yes was The Syn and Mabel Greer's Toyshop. The Original Syn collection seemed to sweep up all the archival Syn and Selfs material there was to be released, while Pete Banks' Can I Play You Something? covered Mabel Greer's Toyshop. But is there more? Banks, before he passed, talked of some 1960s live Syn recordings that could be released, although I don't know what has happened to those.

Original Syn included two demos by Narsquijack, Nardelli, Squire and Jackman working together after The Syn split up, but the liner notes say there were seven recordings. What of the other five?

Mabel Greer's Toyshop had already talked about releasing their John Peel session from the time.

Yes in the studio: up to Tales

A long set of Yes studio recordings was bootlegged as 1969-1972 Studio Outtakes Collection, apparently material compiled for the Rhino expanded releases. Most of this consists of alternative versions of known songs that are not markedly different from officially released material. However, among all this, labelled "Unknown acoustic song fragment", is a demo seemingly recorded just by Squire, singing and playing guitar, seemingly around the time of Close to the Edge, of a song with the refrain "Can I Come Home with You Tonight?" I understand this was passed over for release as being too rough, but there is a full song mapped out here.

What about other earlier Yes studio recordings? We don't know of any further lost songs through to Tales from Topographic Oceans or other interesting lost recordings, but we didn't know about "All Fighters Past" until it was released. We could speculate whether The Yes Album writing sessions left anything else, or if there might be early Fragile demos, possibly from when Kaye was still in the band.

And there's the Coca-Cola advert, although uncertainty remains over whether this is (all of) Yes.

Yes in the studio: the Moraz period

Could there be early demos for Relayer? The recent Panegyric release didn't throw up anything. However, Moraz's tenure in the band may yield more. Moraz has pointed towards extensive jam sessions when they were developing material. Are there also earlier demos for Going for the One with Moraz? The exact provenance of "Turn of the Century (rehearsal)" (on the Rhino Going for the One) and "Everybody's Song" (an early "Does It Really Happen?" on the Rhino Tormato) are unclear, but both seem actually to date from when Moraz was in the band. So what might else might there be?

Yes in the studio: the late '70s

The Rhino Tormato and Drama releases produced a bunch of songs with the Anderson/Squire/Howe/Wakeman/White line-up. Does that mean that well is now exhausted, or does that mean this is a rich seam and there's more not yet released? "Rail 14", a 1978 track, a sort of early version of "Arriving UFO", is one piece known from boots but not yet officially available.

It is reported that Anderson/Squire/Howe/White were working on material in late January 1980 (after the Paris sessions): could any recordings emerge from that?

Yes and others in the studio: Drama to 90125

Most of the Drama-era recordings seem now to have surfaced. Several have been released and there are some additional alternative versions on bootlegs. There's a much longer version of "Satellite" notably including the bass riff that later became "I'm Running".

After Drama was XYZ, long the Holy Grail. Four songs eventually surfaced on boots, but there may have been other recordings. Other song ideas seem to date to this period than can be heard on the four bootlegged tracks, including possibly "Run with the Fox". Page was talking about releasing the XYZ sessions before Squire passed.

I once heard a rumour that there was more material from the Squire & White sessions that saw "Run with the Fox" recorded.

After Drama, Squire and White met Rabin and the trio began working on XYZ ideas and a set of demos for Rabin. Having briefly considered the idea of having Horn on lead vocals, the band evolved into Cinema with Kaye on keys and Horn stuck to producing. An album by the quartet was more or less completed before the idea came to have Anderson join.

There was a lot of time spent working on this album and Horn was all about trying out multiple ideas. It seems likely there is a wealth of material here in terms of alternate versions of known songs. We've had some of those released (the Cinema version of "It Can Happen" on YesYears and an extended remix of "Owner" on the Rhino 90125, as well numerous remixes as contemporary b-sides), plus a few songs that didn't make it to the album ("Make It Easy" on YesYears and "It's Over" on the Rhino 90125). We know more exists. The 2:08 instrumental "Cinema" is actually just the introduction to a piece entitled "Time" of around 20 minutes length. We know, because Art of Noise sampled it, of a piece entitled "Red Light, Green Light". There's what seems to be an early set of Cinema sessions that has been bootlegged, including pieces like "You Know Something I Don't Know", "Open the Door", "Sorry", "Baby" (riff recycled into "Our Song") and "Telephone Lines" (an XYZ leftover). Why all this wasn't packaged up for a multi-disc 30th anniversary release of 90125, I don't know, but plenty here that could be used in one way or another.

Yes in the studio: Big Generator to 2008

The Big Generator sessions don't appear to have produced any additional songs, but we've heard boots of alternative versions of what's on the album.

The remaining YesWest quarter, with and without Sherwood, were working on ideas before Union, although most of these appear to have been used.

Likewise, pickings appear poor in terms of unreleased material for subsequent Yes albums through to The Ladder, with the exception of a song considered for Keys to Ascension 2, "Axis of Love" (which we can date back to an Anderson demo for ABWH, now released on Watching the Flags that Fly), although whether anything was recorded, we don't know.

Howe has talked about presenting a version of Magnification without the orchestra.

Anderson appears to have presented a number of ideas to the band for The Ultimate Yes bonus disc and then in 2007/8 when he was going to re-join the band (e.g. "Many", developed with Tom Curiano), but it doesn't appear as if the others developed these any.

Yes in the studio: since 2008

The band made two albums with Squire since re-emerging in 2008, Fly from Here and Heaven & Earth. We know there are leftovers from both of these.

The band began Fly from Here with Oliver Wakeman on keys and Tim Weidner mostly producing recording sessions in Oct/Nov 2010. Part way through, they changed course, Horn came in to produce everything and Downes replaced Wakeman for sessions Jan/Feb 2011. These later sessions then brought in more material written by Horn/Downes many years before.

The sessions with Horn were then longer than planned. Shortly before recording final overdubs for the album, BenoƮt David was interviewed by Progression magazine, saying, "At the end of the day we recorded so many tracks that we could do almost two albums. So the tracks are there, we just need to see what Trevor puts on the final disc." It is unclear whether David means "tracks" in the sense of songs, or in the sense of multiple takes of the same basic material. But could there be additional material worked on with Horn?

The 2010 sessions involved recording "We Can Fly" with Horn and (at least) "Into the Storm", "The Man You Always Wanted Me to Be" and "Hour of Need" with Weidner. The 2011 sessions then involved doing some songs from scratch, implying at least alternative recordings exist. We also know that the pieces making up the "Fly from Here" suite were tried out in standalone form, so again some alternative versions done with Horn must exist. But alternative versions are not as exciting as songs not used.

We know that a song entitled "Corner of the World" was being worked on in 2011; it appears this evolved into "In a Word of Our Own". And it appears there were other songs left over from the 2011 sessions.

But in switching to work with Horn/Downes, there were also songs left over from either the 2010 recording sessions with Weidner, or preparatory work for the album in 2010 and 2009. Oliver Wakeman has talked about re-using material he wrote for the album elsewhere and one song he wrote during the 2010 recording sessions, "From the Turn of a Card", got included on his album with Gordon Giltrap, Ravens & Lullabies, although one report suggested that the band were not interested in the piece, so no band recording with Squire may exist. Wakeman wrote a nice piece on his website after Squire's death, which contained the following about Fly from Here:

"I remember picking up Chris and Scotty on a trip they made down to Devon to Steve Howe's house where we discussed all the plans for the new album we wanted to write (it didn't happen in it's intended form - the album eventually become the Fly From Here album).

"Anyway - another piece we were working on was a Yes reworking of a classical piece - I forget which now - but it was a great idea and would have been a lot of fun. We also listened to a few of Chris' pieces which I really enjoyed and spent quite a bit of time working on arrangements with him. [...]

"We had lots of great material which never saw the light of day - some of which I have here with Chris's parts on. One particular track we co-wrote which I was very proud of is called Gift of Love and I've just found it in my library and it's currently playing. I'd forgotten about how good that one was - and I've just found a completely different arrangement of The Man You See in Me which we recorded in Pheonix during the writing sessions and a few of the other demo sessions we recorded which were never used."

"Gift of Love" was based on the same Chris Squire/Gerard Johnson demo as "The Game", but is very different otherwise.

A 2012 Facebook exchange had more, with Wakeman saying: "There were a few tracks [that he co-wrote] that started to get recorded in the studio. Others that were written in preparation of the album and others written whilst staying in LA. A few have ended up on the forthcoming Cultural Vandals album [still to appear] and a couple will be on the album I'm writing with Gordon Giltrap [although that appears to have gone down to just one]. Nothing goes to waste! None of them will feature the Yes guys performances though."

And on 2 January 2016, Wakeman tweeted: "Just found a recording of another track I wrote for the unfinished '09 @yesofficial cd with Steve, Alan, Benoit & Chris (on acoustic bass!)"

One 2009/10 piece, possibly called "Lines on a Page", evolved into "To Ascend".

There were various rumours of material being worked on in the run-up to Heaven & Earth. Quite how reliable these all were and quite how they all relate to each other, I don't know, but we do know of at least some ideas that were not used. Rumours from mid-2012 talked of 8 songs under development: the 5 songs written by Squire/Davison or Squire/Davison/White, a group composition, a piece from Howe, and another piece from Squire originating in the 2006/7 writing sessions with Johnson. The last of those presumably was "The Game" and the Howe song was probably "It was All We Knew", but what about the rest? "In a World of Our Own" would fit as a Squire/Davison song and those 5 songs might have included "To Ascend" (Davison/White) and "Light of the Ages" (Davison), but nothing obviously fits the other two Squire/Davison(/White) songs or a group composition, although maybe the former includes "Believe Again" (credited Davison/Howe, but mostly Davison's) and the latter ended up as "Subway Walls"? We would still be short one Squire/Davison(/White) song, but we do know of a song seemingly by Squire/Davison called "Breaking Down on Easy Street" that was not used.

Famously, Davison has talked about another long piece he was working on with Downes that wasn't used on Heaven & Earth that began in pre-album sessions with Squire and White in Phoenix, possibly called "Horizons" and reportedly around 18 minutes in length.

Reports point to further songs not used on Heaven & Earth: "From the Moment" or "To the Moment" (possibly by Howe); "Midnight" (possibly originally from Squire/White); "Don't Take No for an Answer"; a Howe/Davison piece possibly called "Zenith"; and another Squire/Downes/Davison piece (unless that's "Horizons"). Squire, Davison and possibly White reputedly met in Squire's studio in March 2015 to go through ideas for a next Yes album.

Outside Yes

Away from Yes, Squire was involved in other projects. The most notable in recent years was his Conspiracy collaboration with Sherwood. But it appears there aren't any Squire/Sherwood ideas unused, according to Sherwood:

anything Squire/Sherwood was formulated and released, so ‘Conspiracy One’, ‘Conspiracy Two’, ‘The Unknown’, that’s where you’ll find all that stuff. There are no tracks lying around that I did with Chris that we have not found a home for. 

Either they ended up on a YES album as was the case with ‘The More We Live’ being on ‘Union’ and as was the case with ‘Love Conquers All’ being on the ‘Yesyears’ Box Set.

And then all the music that we wrote from that point forward kind of sat in a can for a long time and then we decided “OK, let’s put this out as the first Conspiracy record” and so there you have the first Conspiracy record and then the second one and that’s all the music. There’s no hidden music anywhere. Chris and I, everything we wrote, we put somewhere on a record and so it’s all out there to be had. You’ve just got to find it.

That said, we've never had a live release from the initial Chris Squire Experiment tour, which had some notably different arrangements.

One piece on Conspiracy had a rather different origin. "Violet Purple Rose" began in a session with Squire, Steve Stevens on guitar and Michael Bland on drums. Sherwood then overdubbed this to create the released piece. But we don't know whether those Squire/Stevens/Bland sessions produced anything else.

The 2006/7 Squire/Johnson writing sessions seem to have been mostly used one way or another (mostly on the Squackett album), but there may be more.

In an August 2014 interview, Davison revealed that Squire and Taylor Hawkins had "done some demo work. Chris has played bass on some of Taylor's stuff [...] And Chris has done some stuff that actually hasn't been released." He went on to say, "we always talk about the three of us, plus another member, doing some kind of side project."

Going further back, there's the mysterious Royal Family project. While without Jon Anderosn, YesWest invited Roger Hodgson to join the band. While he said no to that, Hodgson/Rabin/Squire/White/Kaye did work together and it appears an album was more or less completed, but the only thing definitely to have emerged from this was "Walls" getting re-done for Talk. Hodgson's solo album Open the Door also included one track with Rabin, but early reports of that album also talked of Squire appearing, which is presumably related.

Who knows what else is out there? For example, Squire told an anecdote about writing a song with Thin Lizzy's bassit Phil Lynott (who died in 1986), but said he'd long lost the tape.

Any additions to that list, let me know in comments or by email.

What can you do with all this material?

There are three basic approaches.

1. You can release it as is (or with just minor fixes). That's what happens with live recordings and I expect we will get more of those.

Some studio work may be finished enough that it can simply be released in this form. Plenty of unifnished Yes material has come out that way, if often as bonus tracks where consumer expectations are reduced. There is certainly some demo work that could be released in the same way.

2. Use the existing recording, chop it up, overdub and build something around it, a part-new, part-old hybrid. A number of acts have taken this approach: like The Beatles with "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love", built around late 1970s Lennon solo demos; and The Doors' American Prayer, where the remaining band members put music to some Jim Morrison poetry readings.

One of the most successful attempts was Queen's Made in Heaven, where the band built an album around a variety of recordings of Freddie Mercury. Some of these were piano and vocal tracks recorded by Mercury in his final months knowing he might not see the album be completed. Others, however, where recordings by Mercury not intended for this purpose but from a variety of sources.

It seems likely that there is Squire material that could be used in this manner. Any studio recordings of individual bass or vocal tracks would be more readily used and these probably exist in some cases (as with recordings not used on 90125 or Fly from Here). However, something can still be done with single track mixed recordings.

Indeed, we can already note "Violet Purple Rose" as an example of where one recording session was used as the base to construct something more.

3. The band could use the ideas rather than specific recordings. If Squire had an idea for a composition, but any existing recordings are not suitable for the Made in Heaven approach, one could still use the composition or the riff. This is done less frequently in rock, although the classical music world is full of examples of unfinished symphonies getting finished.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Poll: Best Yes-related album of 1979

At one point before Xmas, this poll was a threeway tie between The Steve Howe Album, One of a Kind and The Age of Plastic, but the field opened out later on. After 70 votes:

1. Steve Howe: The Steve Howe Album (w/ Bruford, Moraz, White), 36% (25 votes)
2. Bruford: One of a Kind, 31% (22 votes)
3. The Buggles: The Age of Plastic (w/ Horn, Downes), 23% (16 votes)
4. Rick Wakeman: Rhapsodies, 7% (5 votes)
5. Vangelis: Opera Sauvage (w/ Anderson), 3% (2 votes)

There were no votes for The Bruford Tapes or Gary Wright's Headin' Home (w/ White).

Bruford's Feels Good to Me came second to Wakeman's Criminal Record in the 1977 poll, while Howe's debut came third in the 1975 poll, behind Wakeman's King Arthur and Squire's Fish Out of Water. So a turnaround with Wakeman now back in fourth.

Yes albums after 90125 - how do they rate?

There was a recent thread on ProgressiveEars.com about the later Yes albums and I thought it would be interesting to summarise the views therein. I found 36 posts where I could derive someone's rank ordering of albums. I then used sequential STV to produce an overall result. And the final top 5 are...

1. Big Generator
2. Keys to Ascension 2
3. Magnification
4. Fly from Here
5. Keys to Ascension

Which I thought was rather interesting. The period after 90125 has so many varieties of Yes: there was YesWest vs. ABWH plus the hybrid Union. Then came the classic line-up of reunion of the late 1990s, with and then without Wakeman. Finally there's the post-Anderson era.

And each of those very different Yeses gets into the top 4: Big Generator for YesWest, Keys 2 for the classic reunion, Magnification for the classic line-up minus Wakeman and experimenting with an orchestra, and Fly from Here to represent the Yes after 2008. If you include Billy Sherwood's role on Keys 2, you've got most of the people who've been in later Yes included (no Davison yet, no Khoroshev). You've got more pop-oriented music, retro prog and attempts at something new.

What's made later Yes work hasn't been some simple line-up combination or particular direction. Later Yes has blossomed in unexpected ways.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Poll: What are you most looking forward to in the rest of 2015?

I asked what you were most looking forward to in the rest of 2015 and 105 of you obligingly replied:

1. Panegyric/Steven Wilson remix of Fragile: 25
2. Anderson Ponty Band tour: 23
3. Billy Sherwood's Citizen: 18
4. Downes Braide Association's Suburban Ghosts: 12
5. New Steve Howe Trio album: 11
6. King Crimson's THRAK BOX: 8
7. Cruise to the Edge: 6
8. Other: 2
9. Seal's 7 (prod. by Horn): 0

Most of these have now happened (1, 3, 4, 6, 9) or are currently happening (2, 7, 8), so let me know in the comments what you think of them. Opinion was fairly equally divided, although no-one picked Seal's latest album, 7. Well, you're all wrong about that because it's a great album.

Both using the write-in option chose Yes getting into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame. That is, of course, up to the Hall's voting panel once nominations have been chosen. But you can still vote on the nominations here: Yes are in second place, but only just ahead of The Cars, so keep voting. The system allows you to vote several times per day (per device). The nominations are not solely determined by this public vote, but it appears to carry some weight in the process.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Poll: Best Yes-related album of 1978

Well, that was even more conclusive than Fish Out of Water's win in the 1975 poll or Olias of Sunhillow's in the 1976 poll. There were 67 votes (I could have left the poll open longer, but what was the point?):

1. UK: UK (w/ Bruford): 57 votes (85%)
2. Patrick Moraz: Patrick Moraz III: 5 votes (7%)
3. Trevor Rabin: Trevor Rabin [a.k.a. Beginnings]: 4 votes (6%)
4. Annette Peacock: X-Dreams (w/ Bruford): 1 votes (1%)

There were no votes for Lonnie Donegan's Puttin' on the Style (with Banks), Chromium's Star to Star (The Buggles before The Buggles) or three long out-of-print albums with Rabin, Disco Rock Machine's Time to Love, The Tee Cee's Disco Love Bite or Forbidden Fruit by Hot R.S.

UK fans may be interested in Eddie Jobson's crowdsourced deluxe re-issue plans: see here on the news page.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Poll: Best Yes-related album of 1977

93 of you voted on the question of the best Yes-related album of 1977:

1. Rick Wakeman: Criminal Record (w/ Squire, White): 32 (34%)
2. Bill Bruford: Feels Good to Me: 30 (32%)
3. Genesis: Seconds Out (w/ Bruford): 24 (26%)
4. Rick Wakeman: White Rock: 3 (3%)
5= Patrick Moraz: Out in the Sun: 2 (2%)
5= Rabbitt: A Croak and a Grunt in the Night (w/ Rabin): 2 (2%)

There were no votes for the two Detective albums with Kaye, nor for two other albums with Rabin, Rabbitt's Rock Rabbitt and House of the Rising Sun, released under the name Hot R.S.

Criminal Record, perhaps Wakeman's last really successful album, led throughout, although the result was close in the end with Bruford's first solo album challenging, and Bruford's turn with Genesis not far behind. (Thus Bruford appearances overall outpolled Wakeman appearances.) Nothing else got any serious attention.