Saturday, 18 February 2012

DPRP Poll 2011

The popular Dutch Progressive Rock Page website hold an annual poll; 581 voted in the latest. After a strong performance in the Prog poll, Yes have done well again. Fly from Here is 4th in Best Album, behind Steven Wilson's Grace for Drowning, Dream Theater's A Dramatic Turn of Events and Opeth's Heritage. Steve Hackett's Beyond the Shrouded Horizon (on which Chris Squire guests) came 8th.

Blackfield's Welcome to My DNA, with a track produced by Trevor Horn, was 16th. Cor Cordium, the latest album from Glass Hammer, with Jon Davison on vocals, was 17th. The next appearance by a Yes man is Mars Hollow's The World in Front of Me, produced by Billy Sherwood, at 57th, with nothing else Yes-related in the top 100.

DPRP have a category for Best Individual Track. "Fly from Here" came 4th after Dream Theater's "Breaking All Illusions", Steven Wilson's "Raider II" and Pendragon's "This Green and Pleasant Land". "Fly from Here Pt. 2 - Sad Night at the Airfield" then, on its own, came 23rd. Steve Hackett's "Turn This Island Earth", co-credited to Steve Howe and with Squire on bass, was 38th equal. No other Yes connections in the top 50. Amalgamating over multiple tracks, Yes was the 5th best performing in this category; with Steve Wilson top.

Fly from Here also won Best Artwork, with Cor Cordium 6th and Beyond the Shrouded Horizon, 13th. "Union Live" was 7th Best DVD; Rush's "Time Machine - Live in Cleveland 2011" won. For these categories and everything below, I'm listing anything Yes-related in the top 20, and there was nothing Yes-related in the top 20 Best Concerts. Levin Torn White were 9th equal in the Best Newcomer category.

Mirroring what happened in the Prog poll, Yes and the release of Fly from Here won both Best Happening and Biggest Disappointment. Also in the Biggest Disappointment category were Welcome to My DNA at 4th, and, in 11th equal, Anderson and/or R. Wakeman not rejoining Yes, and poor live performances by Yes.

In terms of individual performances (which had to be based on material released in 2011), Dream Theater were the clear winners, with John Petrucci Favourite Guitarist, Jordan Rudess Favourite Keyboard Player and Mike Mangini Favourite Drummer. Howe was 5th Favourite Guitarist, with Hackett 2nd. Downes was 10th equal for Favourite Keyboard Player, but not a single vote for Rick Wakeman! Alan White was equal 14th for Favourite Drummer.

As in the Prog poll, Benoît David beat Jon Anderson in the Favourite Vocalist category: David was 5th, new Yes vocalist Jon Davison was 14th equal, while Anderson was just 41st equal. Steven Wilson won. Chris Squire was 2nd for Favourite Bass Player, behind Karmakanic's Jones Reingold. Tony Levin was 12th equal in the category for his work on Levin Torn White, and then 17th equal for his work on A Scarcity of Miracles (by Jakszyk, Fripp & Collins).

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Poll: What are we looking forward to in 2012?

Last year was a dramatic one for the band with a line-up change and their first new album in a decade. There were highs - Fly from Here sold well, shows at the beginning of the European tour leg saw the band energised and enjoying playing their new material - but there were lows - the joint tour with Styx was not the band at its best, and the European leg ended prematurely with David suffering health problems.

2012 looked as though it would be much calmer: roughly, work on the new Asia album in the first quarter of the year, some sort of touring by Yes (broadly playing the same set as in Europe) in Q2 and Q3, before Asia then tours and celebrates their 30th anniversary in Q4. That may still be the broad outline of the year, but the rollercoaster has started again with Jon Davison coming in as new vocalist, replacing Benoît David.

Mostly held before the Davison news, our latest poll asked what you were most looking forward to in 2012. We had 171 votes and the results are:

Squackett: 49 (27%)
Yes continuing to tour: 37 (21%)
New Anderson/Wakeman: 23 (13%)
Trevor Rabin's Jacaranda: 18 (10%)
New Mystery album: 11 (6%)
Next Jon Anderson solo project: 10 (6%)
Asia 30th anniversary: 8 (4%)
The Buggles return: 6 (3%)
Producers/The Path of Sydney Arthur: 4 (2%)
Journey to the Centre of the Earth live: 3 (2%)
New Billy Sherwood projects: 2 (1%)
Oliver Wakeman's Cultural Vandals: 0 ( 0%)
Other: 8 (4%)
   ... of which, Anderson/Wakeman/Rabin: 5 (3%)

So the voting was very spread, but a clear favourite in the long-awaited Chris Squire/Steve Hackett collaboration. Unlike some Yesmen, releases by Squire (outside Yes) are uncommon and perhaps that's why they attract more interest. Steve Hackett, of course, is well known in his own right, and now has an impressive tally of Yesmen collaborations: obviously with Bill Bruford in Genesis and Steve Howe in GTR, but also Geoff Downes, Trevor Horn, Rick Wakeman, Billy Sherwood and Tony Levin. Squire's guest appearances on Hackett's last two solo albums have whetted the appetite for Squackett.

Yes continuing to tour are second. Further Anderson/Wakeman work is your third choice. 5 people voted for the Anderson/Wakeman/Rabin project, and I presume many more would have had I explicitly included it as an option in the poll. However, the latest reports suggest the project is delayed again and we won't see any activity until 2013, and plenty are sceptical we'll ever see it.

However, Rabin's new album, Jacaranda, is finished and now expected May on Varèse Sarabande. Fifth choice, and above Anderson's next solo project, is the new Mystery album, largely finished, but awaiting a release date. So some Yes fans have clearly taken Benoît David to heart.

Anderson's next solo project gets 10 votes. The two Horn projects expected this year (although details remain unclear) get 10 together: 6 for The Buggles, 4 for Producers.

The Asia anniversary is only in seventh. I was also surprised to see Rick Wakeman's next live extravaganza, this time for Journey to the Centre of the Earth, so far down given the excitement there was around The Six Wives of Henry VIII a couple of years ago.

Since the poll, we've also had news of a possible Rick Wakeman/Tony Levin/Ian Paice project; more details of Billy Sherwood's plans, including guest appearances by Wakeman and Levin on a Supertramp tribute album; and there's the forthcoming Nektar covers album with Howe, Downes, Wakeman and Moraz all guesting.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Benoît beats Jon

Day 5 of the latest Yes line-up change, and the twists and turns have continued. Anderson has said he wasn't asked back and denies any regular communication with Squire: not good news for those hoping for a reunion.

But I want to break away from the David/Davison transition for a moment, because the latest issue of Classic Rock Presents... Prog is out, with the results of their readers' poll. And Yes have done very well: 3rd in Best Band (behind Opeth and Dream Theater, but above the likes of Rush); and 2nd in Best Album (behind Steven Wilson's Grace for Drowning, but above Opeth's Heritage, or albums from Dream Theater and Van der Graaf Generator). However, showing how Yes divides opinion, they also win the Non-Event category.

Perhaps the most notable result in the poll, and the one that will enrage many, is that Benoît David came higher than Jon Anderson in the Best Male Vocalist category. David was 8th, Anderson, 9th and ex-Rick Wakeman vocalist Damian Wilson, 10th. Opeth's Mikael Åkerfeldt won, followed by Pain of Salvation's Daniel Gildenlöw, Steven Wilson and Peter Gabriel.

Anne-Marie Helder, who recently sang on Geoff Downes' Electronica, won Best Female Vocalist. Steve Howe was 3rd in Best Guitarist, after John Petrucci and Steve Hackett. No close Yes connections in the Best Drummer category, won by Gavin Harrison over Mike Portnoy. Squire was 2nd in Best Bassist after Geddy Lee, with Tony Levin coming 8th. Rick Wakeman was 2nd in Best Keyboard Player after Jordan Rudess; Downes came 8th.

The "Union Live" DVD was 9th in Best DVD; Rush's "The Time Machine" won. The King Crimson remasters were 4th in the Best Reissue category. Pink Floyd's Wish You were Here won.

Steven Wilson unsurprisingly won Prog Icon 2011, followed by Gabriel, Portnoy, Neal Morse and then Hackett. Jon Anderson was 10th.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Permanent change

Day 3 of the new line-up. Noise11, who are supporting Yes's Australian tour, carried an interview with Squire this morning. In it, Squire confirms that the change from David to Davison is permanent (or as permanent as anything in the world of Yes).

Davison was only confirmed shortly before the news was announced. That announcement came first via the Japanese promoter, but was on YesWorld's Facebook account in hours, and now this further clarification from Squire. This is all much, much faster than past line-up changes: think back to when Sherwood or Khoroshev left. Yes have entered the information age. And yet some fans are still complaining that we haven't been told enough, and we haven't been told quick enough!

Some further observations on the fan reaction online... Many have asked why the band didn't just cancel dates in April. I don't think most people appreciate the very considerable costs in cancelling a tour at this time. Journalist Jon Kirkman summed it up well on

"Take it from me having worked in the industry for more than 35 years you just cannot blow out a whole period of touring without massive problems. The tickets for this tour will have been on sale since the dates were announced and more importantly the deposits will have been paid to the band. Many bands need these deposits to set the tour up etc so short of death and even the Who toured following the death of John Entwistle then the tour will go ahead. Touring at this level just can't be postponed like a pub gig. There is a lot at stake"

What does all this tell us about Yes? The main conclusion that I draw from events is that Howe, Squire and White aren't going to stop. They are the core of the band and they will keep going, come what may. We've seen other bands, like Journey and Starship, which have gone through multiple vocalists. Yes may now find stability with Davison, but if something happens to Davison, they will find someone else.

So, farewell Benoît David. He was in the band for longer than Oliver Wakeman, Igor Khoroshev, Patrick Moraz, Peter Banks or, so far, Geoff Downes (adding his two periods together). (Tell me if I've got my maths wrong on any of those!) However, Moraz and O. Wakeman are the only ones who have appeared on as few or fewer studio albums (and even Moraz had his 1975/6 solo album appearances). I look forward to the new Mystery album, currently being mixed and expected this year, and hopefully many more after that.

Monday, 6 February 2012

A different Jon: Yes change lead singer again

Surprise news arrived this morning from the promoter for Yes's Japanese dates in April. The announcement is only available in Japanese, but says that, due to prolonged medical treatment, Jon Davison will be taking the lead vocal role in Yes for the band's April tour leg instead of Benoît David. An extension of that tour beyond Japan is also announced, with the band to play Jakarta, Indonesia, and then a final show in Hawaii at the end of the month. This will be the band's first visit to Indonesia and, indeed, I believe only the second time they've played an Asian show outside Japan (Singapore in 2003 being the other time).

I'm sure more details will emerge over time, but my tentative understanding at this time is that the band had been planning to tour with David, but a problem emerged very recently (late January, at a guess) and Davison was brought in quickly to allow the April tour dates to go ahead. This seems to have been a change forced upon Yes rather than one they wanted to take.

I have no further details on David's medical problems, but wish him a prompt recovery. The obvious question is what happens after April. I don't know. It seems quite possible that, right now, the band don't know either. The Japanese promoter's announcement isn't clear... at least not after it's been through Google Translate... although one might read into it an implication that Davison is merely filling in for this tour leg, implying David will be back later in the year. The band have been looking at summer dates in Europe and North America, although nothing has been announced yet. What happens with those plans is also unknown.

For those of you who don't know him, Jon Davison was born in California and was a childhood friend and bandmate of Taylor Hawkins, now drummer in the Foo Fighters. Davison moved to Seattle and played bass in psychedelic band Sky Cries Mary. He later joined Yes tribute band Roundabout on vocals. He more recently joined Glass Hammer around 2010, appearing on their two most recent albums, If and Cor Cordium.

14:43 edit: The official Yes Facebook account has now confirmed the news with similar text to the earlier Japanese announcement. It describes David as having still not recovered from his illness at the end of the 2011 European leg, which led to three shows being cancelled. The announcement talks of Davison "joining [...] for this leg of the tour", so the implication still seems to be that David should be back in due course.

The surrealism of someone whose name appears to be a cross between Jon Anderson and Benoît David joining the band has not been lost on fans. Jon Anderson has previously guested with Glass Hammer (just before Davison joined), a band many feel are quite Yes-ish, and Davison also performs along side CIRCA:'s Johnny Bruhns in Yes tribute band Roundabout.

22:29 edit: I am amazed at how quickly information emerges these days. It wasn't like this when Wakeman left in 1997, or Sherwood left in 2000. Anyway, I expect there's plenty more to emerge, but what do we currently know... It seems David walked in January, leaving the band uncertain whether they could make dates booked for April. An approach was made to Jon Anderson, who said no, although we don't know what terms he was offered, of course. Very recently, Davison was booked.

David's situation is unclear, but the evidence now appears to be pointing to his being gone permanently. It occurs to me that Yes may be in no rush to confirm whether Davison is staying for the long haul. After all, they may want to see how they get on with Davison before rushing to confirm any permanent status.