Yes's calendar for the year is becoming clear. They're currently working on the new album, with a release in the second quarter expected (German magazine Eclipsed is saying April). After finishing the album, there's time off for other projects, including Asia touring in April/May, before Yes repeat their recent pattern of a summer North American tour with another act – Styx is reported to be the partner this year. [3 Feb: YesWorld have just announced some March dates for the US, so looks like Yes are squeezing an extra leg before Asia tour.]
Touring in South America may follow, before already confirmed Europe dates in the winter. Towards the end of the year, Asia may gather for studio sessions further to their next album being released in 2012, the 30th anniversary of the band's debut album.
But the current Yes line-up aren't the only game in town. Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman and Trevor Rabin are working on a band project, which Wakeman says will happen this year, although Anderson recently said it would be this or next year. So, will 2011 be like 1989 all over, with two rival bands in competition? Unlike 1989, we may even have rival albums within months of each other, and rival tours at the same time. Fandom has already been polarised by the schism in Yes and Anderson's and R. Wakeman's continued absence. Will the online arguments heat up, or will the discussions calm down when there's actual output from both sides to compare? Some are already looking to the Anderson Wakeman Rabin project as the rightful Yes, and they stack up well against Squire, White and Howe:
Anderson v. Squire: Squire has been on every album released under the Yes name, but he wasn't on ABWH. Anderson has been on every album save Drama, but as the frontman and the main composer/lyricist, that could be round 1 to AWR.
Wakeman v. White: White has been on many more Yes albums than the in-again-out-again Wakeman, and he's contributed more to the songwriting, yet Wakeman is perhaps the best-known Yes member. Round 2 to AWR as well?
Rabin v. Howe: Rabin's three and a bit albums + "Owner of a Lonely Heart" against Howe's thirteen and a bit albums + "Roundabout"? Round 3 to HSW.
The current Yes do also have another former Yesman on board with Trevor Horn producing + Roger Dean doing the art + control of the name, but then Anderson Wakeman Rabin have yet to finalise the rest of their band. For me, the possible Achilles heel for Anderson Wakeman Rabin is that the three of them were never together in Yes (barring on the Union tour), which curtails the nostalgia factor. Anderson has hinted at a set list focusing on the YesWest period, but how does Wakeman being along fit in with that? (See previous blog post.)
To complicate matters further, Anderson and Wakeman as just a duo are also touring in 2011, while Anderson and Rabin (without Wakeman) appear to have done some film score work together.
And if the current Yes and Anderson/Wakeman/Rabin isn't enough for you, there's already a third 2011 project featuring three Yesmen. This is John Wetton's forthcoming new solo album, Raised in Captivity, produced, co-written and co-performed by Billy Sherwood, with guest appearances by Geoff Downes, Tony Kaye, very brief Yes member Eddie Jobson and others, including Steve Hackett. Expect release in the first half of the year.
Speaking of Hackett, another much anticipated release for 2011 is his album with Chris Squire. Now complete, we await release details, but again first half of the year seems likely. The album is already generating a buzz among those who have heard it.
Billy Sherwood, as ever, remains busy with plenty of other projects. A new CIRCA: album is expected, and he's been progressing with his own next solo album. A duo tour with Tony Kaye of Japan for April has been announced. New US prog band Mars Hollow made something of a splash with their debut album in 2010, produced by Ronan Chris Murphy, and they return in 2011 with a second album produced by Sherwood.
Other potential highlights of the year? We're still waiting for the Trevor Horn/The Producers concept album and for Trevor Rabin's new solo album. Jon Anderson's latest, Survival and Other Stories, is expected to get general release after having been available only on the Anderson Wakeman Project 360 tour in 2010. Rick Wakeman has floated possible projects with Keith Emerson and with Jon Lord, making his a busy year.
And there's still a few more Yesmen team-ups on the cards, with Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn back writing together and intriguing reports of a David Torn/Tony Levin/Alan White project (Alan there stepping into Bill Bruford's shoes).
What are you looking forward to most this year? Leave a comment below!