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.


  1. The last 6 weeks must have been very stressful in the Yes camp. It's not too much to guess that life in Yes can from time to time become stressful. And from time to time life in Yes can become rewarding.

    This reminded me of recent comments made by Robert Fripp in his online diary. To quote "Working with others in a group (any kind of group) provides mixed joys. Michael Giles observed (1967) that there were 3 factors involved in keeping a (music) group together and, if any two of them were present and active, the group would stay together. Michael's 3 factors were these: music, friendship, and money.

    The group may not articulate its common aim/s, but continue functioning despite mixed aims & mixed capacities on the basis of:

    Music & friendship.

    Music & money.

    Friendship & money.

    Where there is music, money & friendship, the group is likely to succeed. But if the success reaches a point where a manager & major label get involved, musical & social processes become mediated by commerce, then problems appear. Friendships fail, the music is undermined."

    I also note the comment from Chris Squire in the most recent interview. " "I have never closed the door on working with Jon again," he said. "He has left the band before and come back and left it again and come back. It is an unusual situation.

    "We will work together in the future but right now we are promoting the Fly From Here album which is our first studio album in 10 years."".

    The last sentence is clearly expressed. To me it seems like a clear expression of intent. Things can change, we know that, and things can be said, misheard and said with flippance, but I think this is a clear as it can get at this time.

  2. Henry I am going to side step the Anderson element and focus on what has happened. A singer who fronted a tribute band and an original band, with its own style of music, with one or two minor echoes of the original progressive rock bands has been replaced by a singer who fronted a tribute band and an original band who are highly derivative right down to the cover of their last CD of Yes.

    My concern here is that whilst he may be more robust and consistant in live performance(does he have a track record for six week tours) he is to my mind even more of a clone and the band he fronts to. Now some Yes fans would love the iron butterly influenced chops with the unison stabs from keys and drums battering away and the 1977 Moog Synthesiser but I think thats what Trevor Horn for one was trying to avoid in the autumn of 2010.

    I hope the OZ and NZ and Pacific Rim get wonderful shows but I reckon the UK is 18 months away from activity studio or live and I am not going to hold my breath speculating further on what this new line might achieve.

    On a personal note this will be the first time a member joins whose previous work I do not like. I find Jon's voice thin and weedy and a good male counter tenor never sound like a woman singer and he sure sounds very close on the GM stuff. A male counter tenor sounds clean and fresh his voice has a kind of over sweet quality to it.

    Like you I am excited about the next Mystery Cd. Benoit has certainly always delivered in the studio in the past.

  3. An interesting post, Michelle, as always. You make the comparison between David in Mystery ("an original band, with its own style of music, with one or two minor echoes of the original progressive rock bands") and Davison in Glass Hammer ("an original band who are highly derivative right down to the cover of their last CD of Yes"). Leaving aside whether one agrees with those descriptions, I think the counter-argument on that point is that neither David nor Davison are the creative leads in those bands. Mystery is Michel St-Pere's band, with David only joining latterly; Glass Hammer is basically Babb and Schendel's band, with Davison only joining latterly. So, blaming Davison for Glass Hammer's output or praising David for Mystery's, or the other way around, is perhaps misleading. In fact, while I don't know Glass Hammer well, I understand Davison is responsible for some of the less Yes-like elements on their recent albums.

  4. I'm far more partial to Davison's other band, Sky Cries Mary, than I am to either Mystery or Glass Hammer. SCM is sort of goth/psychedelic/dream pop with a hint of prog and maybe a hint of the Stone Roses. It was a pleasant surprise to find out that the new singer is SCM's bassist, which I didn't realize because he goes by Juano in SCM. I don't know what he could bring to Yes or what he would be allowed to bring, but I think he does have decent amount of musician cred, which is a key area where I found Benoit lacking. Davison apparently also writes songs and plays guitar. Of course, before he gets to do anything else he is going to have to get up onstage and sing. Listening to clips of Roundabout and Glass Hammer it seems to me that the Anderson material falls more comfortably within Davison's range which means he might be able to sound good on a more consistent basis and he also sounds more trained, which can be a double edged sword in rock music, but which could mean he knows how to safeguard his voice better. He also has a more stoic and restrained stage manner than Benoit, whose dancing and antics I personally found to be irritating, embarrassing and sometimes flat out bizarre. On paper I think Davison represents an upgrade. We will see if he ends up long term or as a stopgap, but I'm feeling positive about this move and what it means for the live performances.

  5. Henry you are of course quite right, what I should have said is that they sing in original bands where the creative pulse of one Mystery is more of itself whereas JD has associated himself with an enviroment which in my view is almost entirely a pastiche. Last night I listened to two pieces from Cor Cordium (a lonely tower/nothing box) their 14 th CD !!. I found them overwhelming derivative of Gryphon/Whalley/Greenslade/Genesis era Hackett and of course Yes. As regards the vocal performance. Whilst the over weening sweet tone was much less in evidence and the american accent toned down, The vocal performance weak/lacked engagement/had a poor sense of rhythmic dance/had no sense of focus almost avoiding the key melodic moments and left them to the instruments. Most of all I was not drawn in to the narrative I could not tell you one memorable line he sang. The music had some sense of cohesion towards the end of nothing box. He may not be the key driver but he surely has a responcibility in the outcome. Indeed as a singer he has a responcibility to "own" the song whereas to me he sounds like a passanger. This has an overwhelming sense of prog by numbers (clever playing for its own sake) and his performance adds to that sense.

    Its ironic, Jon maybe able to hold the notes better and more consistantly in a live setting, I certainly hope so for his sake, but he is all the things that his predecessor, was in my view unjustly criticised for, a mere copiest without passion, soul or a sense of ownership of the vocal narrative.

  6. Michelle covers pretty well the issues I have with a lot of modern prog. If old school Yes, Genesis, Crimson etc. are like whitewater rafting then Glass Hammer and so forth are the log ride at Disney World. Some of the superficial thrills might be similar, but only one has a genuine element of danger and unpredictability. Give me Radiohead, Bjork, Sigur Ros etc.. While I was Googling Davison I found an interview with the two main Glass Hammer guys who write most of their stuff and one of them, when asked what music he plays in the car, mentioned that he just listens to Glass Hammer music and talk radio when he drives. I think that encapsulates why his project seems bereft of anything especially new, unique or interesting to say.

  7. Chris its good to read your thoughtful contributions! I to have a sense that Jon Davison is better equiped (range, musicianship)for the role. Simply because I do not enjoy Glasshammer does not mean within the context of Yes I may not enjoy him.

    Equally going forward when you look at Geoff and Chris as well as Steve's compositions and possibly T Horn there is no reason to assume another Yes CD would be a pastiche of a pastiche!

    Thats along way off,in Yes terms. In the meantime this "Yes year" is more about the long awaited Squackett and Asia and Mystery's next offerings and possibly more from J A whose Open I continue to listen to and enjoy.

  8. Wow! Benoit says in his statement that he didn't know he was leaving the band and found out through a band member's interview - presumably Squire. Well, I suppose as long as the wage cheque clears then the business side of things is done. Maybe Davison should ask for an advance.

  9. Permanent change it maybe but I am getting a sense that as regards Jon Davison that the band really want to see how it comes together on the Far Eastern tour.

    When Benoit and Oliver joined they rehearsed for many weeks in the US( with stand ins some of the time)before the In The Present tour started.

    They are travelling the furthest geographical distances one can for this tour and I have not heard of intensive rehearsals getting atarted I suspect this tour is going to test the professionalism of all partcularly Jon to the full. I continue to listen to Glasshammer and remain genuinely puzzled by the enthusiasm for pieces like the 24 minute track on If. However that does not preclude Jon from creditably performing the Yes repetoire

  10. When David and O. Wakeman joined, they rehearsed for a period, yes, but was it "many" weeks? They had one stand in (now CIRCA: guitarist Bruhns) for one day. Yes hadn't toured at that point for four years and they had two new members.

    Now, four of the band are a pretty tight unit, as was clear on the European tour. Howe/Squire/White have had 3 years touring together. Downes has now done 2 tours with the band. Inducting one new guy now is going to be easier than it was in 2008 when everyone was rusty and there were two newbies. They've got nearly 4 weeks before the tour begins, so it seems to me like there's time still for plenty of rehearsing.

    Whether or how they'll use it, I don't know. It's Davison who has the difficult job. I hope and presume he's busy learning the material now.

    As for the band's commitment to Davison beyond the western Pacific tour, I think what's significant there is that they appear to be arranging a summer tour now with him.

  11. Henry my recollection is they were rehearsing six weeks before the In The Present tour. Given GD tweets he will be in LA for two weeks before the Auckland show. They may have judged thats long enough or that is all that is available.

    I am glad to hear they are actively organising the summer tour that is certainly a vote of confidence in the change.

    I for one will be most interested to hear the result. I have reservations, leaving aside personal taste on accent, the main one being the "thinness or timbre" of his voice but I hope it works and this current line up is not derailed by the change.

  12. Anderson is quoted as saying “We’ll see what happens in the future. I’d never say no, if it happens with good will and honesty and Rick’s there, I’d love to do it. I bumped into a good friend who says he’d love to produce it. And I said ‘Well, good luck!’ We’ll all keep our fingers crossed.”. I wonder whether Squire went to see Anderson's solo show, irrespective of Anderson getting him an 'on the door' ticket?

    But it is moving forward, the scene is being set for Anderson's official nice swansong with the band.