Monday, 12 September 2011

Poll: Best Yes-related album of the first half of 2011

74 votes in total for our latest poll.

1. Jon Anderson: Survival & Other Stories - 46 (62%)
2. Asia: Live at the London Forum (w/ Howe, Downes) - 9 (12%)
3= Blackfield: Welcome to My DNA (w/ Horn) - 6 (8%)
3= Trevor Rabin: I am Number Four - 6 (8%)
5= Mars Hollow: World in Front of Me (w/ Sherwood) - 3 (4%)
5= any of various King Crimson archival releases (w/ Bruford) - 3 (4%)
7. Jonathan Elias: Prayer Cycle 2: Path to Zero (w/ Anderson) - 1 (1%)
8= David Mark Pearce: StrangeAng3ls (w/ O. Wakeman) - 0
8= dB-Infusion: Muso & Proud (w/ Banks) - 0
8= Ant-Bee: Electronic Church Muzik (w/ Banks) - 0

I nearly didn't include Survival & Other Stories in this poll as it first had a limited release last year (and, indeed, came second in the poll for the second half of 2010). This general release through Gonzo was trailed as having additional tracks and being remixed, but in the end, seems to have been identical to the prior version. Still, with nearly 2/3 of the total vote, it comprehensively trounced the alternatives.

A distant second place was another of Asia's beat-the-boot-like live releases. I was at the show in question, notable because the shows before and after had to be cancelled because Howe had a back problem, not that you can tell from the great performance.

I'd like to say that some of the lower scoring albums here are very good and well worth getting. I discussed Muso & Proud and Electronic Church Muzik in a recent blog post. Prayer Cycle 2: Path to Zero is another strong release from Jonathan Elias, which I think successfully charts a midway between the more accessible and political American River and the more ethereal first The Prayer Cycle album. The album I voted for, however, was Mars Hollow's The World in Front of Me, produced by Billy Sherwood, a great new prog album that recalls the likes of Yes and ELP, but very much has its own style too.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Current Yesmen all busy

It's now clear that Yes have discussed, at least in general terms, recording a follow-up album to Fly from Here, but it is also clear that any new album is unlikely before 2013. However, that doesn't mean they are resting on their laurels. Quite the contrary, all of the current band have significant projects in the pipeline.

We know the Chris Squire/Steve Hackett, or 'Squackett', album is in the can, although we await release details. Meanwhile, Squire guests on Hackett's next solo album, Beyond the Shrouded Horizon, due at the end of September. Squire is on three tracks of the regular CD, including a 12 minute piece, and two more tracks on a limited edition bonus CD.

Steve Howe has been trailing a major solo project for later this year, although he's been tight-lipped on details. One report has him signed to Warner Classics. With a major label involved, expect some significant promo in due course.

Most imminently, due next week (as I type), is the Levin - Torn - White instrumental album. Samples released so far are intriguing as to what this power trio can deliver.

Benoît David, meanwhile, is finishing up [beginning] recording on the next Mystery release. A release in early 2012 now looks most likely. Lead composer, Michel St-Père, has trailed a possible 19 minute epic on the album.

Geoff Downes does not appear to have a new release quite as soon as bandmates, but there are plans for the 30th anniversary of Asia's debut album next year, and he's also involved with Trevor Horn's The Producers project (possibly now re-titled Us).

So, that could be 7 major releases over the next 12 months, enough to keep us busy until Yes return to the studio.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

2 new guest appearances by Peter Banks

We don't hear enough from Peter Banks. It's been a while since we've had a significant project from him. Plans for a tour with Ambrosia were, unfortunately, put on indefinite hold as Banks has some health problems. However, this year has seen two releases with guest appearances by Banks, so good vibes to Pete and let me tell you about Muso & Proud and Electronic Church Muzik.

The more recent was the dB-Infusion album, Muso & Proud. Banks provides a tasteful solo on one track, "Midnight Blues", although I think the track as a whole is surpassed by several others on this great fusion album. The band is headed by Daniel Berdichevsky and also features keyboardist Gonzalo Carrera, formerly of Karnataka. Also guesting on the album is Soft Machine's John Etheridge, of whom Banks himself is a huge fan. I saw both Banks and Etheridge guesting live with the band a few years ago, and Pete was full of praise for Etheridge's work. Further guests include Hugh McDowell, formerly of ELO and who's been working with Asia and iCon, and Steve Hackett's brother John on flute. (John appears on Steve's Beyond the Shrouded Horizon, due later this month and with Chris Squire guesting.) Muso & Proud can be ordered online here and can also heard there on streaming audio.

You may have seen a lot of Jon Anderson interviews recently. Well, that's because he's got a new promoter, Billy James, who's been doing a great job organising them. Billy's also now doing promo for CIRCA: and Jeff Berlin. You may remember the name in connection with Peter Banks because Billy co-wrote Pete's autobiography "Beyond & Before". Well, Billy also performs himself under the name Ant-Bee and, earlier in the year, released Electronic Church Muzik, with Banks appearing on two pieces. Billy kindly sent me a copy of the album and I can recommend it.

There are plenty of further guests on the album, including Daevid Allen and Jan Akkerman (formerly of Focus and appeared on The Two Sides of Peter Banks back in 1973), but most notable are the multiple former members of Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention, namely Napoleon Murphy Brock, Don Preston, Bunk & Buzz Gardner, James 'Motorhead' Sherwood and the late Jimmy Carl Black. Zappa is a good starting point for describing this album: Ant-Bee has a similar mix of avant-garde music and humour, but what makes him distinct is a collage approach with multiple short tracks glueing together the album and connecting together longer pieces (Banks used a not dissimilar approach on his Can I Play You Something? release). The many guests are often given free reign on these longer tracks, as is the case with "Endless Journey", a spacey piece of around 6 minutes by Banks recalling his 1990s solo work to an extent. His other appearance is "The Guff", a short piece also with Gong's Gilli Smyth.

Not connected, but another album I'd like to mention while I'm here is The Winter Tree, the debut album from this new band that emerged out of Magus. Andrew Laitres of the band sent me a copy of the album and it's a nice affair, comparable to Camel in style, perhaps.