Saturday, 14 April 2012

Yesmen outside Yes: poll part 1

With so many people having been through Yes over so many years, it is no surprise that some of them have worked together outside Yes. There are numerous albums with two Yesmen together, including long-running acts like Asia and CIRCA:.

On rarer occasions, we've had three or even more Yesmen on an album. So many Yesmen together obviously attracts the attention of the Yes fan. The results of such collaborations can be like finding a lost Yes song, as with "Spring - Song of Innocence" on Alan White's solo album, Ramshackled, with Anderson and Howe guesting. They can give us something akin to a Yes from an alternate history, like with Chris Squire's Fish Out of Water. Sometimes, the interest is precisely because we hear the Yesmen in a very different context, as with Steve Howe's Portraits of Bob Dylan (both Anderson and Downes guest). And sometimes such albums are just curios, good answers to trivia questions. There are three Yesmen on Frankie Goes to Hollywood's Liverpool (Horn, Howe and Rabin), but I can't detect two of them!

So, which of these albums - albums with three or more Yesmen together outside Yes - are worth getting and which aren't? What do you think? Thus the topic of our latest poll on the Where Are They Now? front page. The poll is split into three. First up are the 1970s albums, most of which came about when the band members guested on each other's albums. We'll move on to part 2, the 1980s and 1990s soon.

What prompted this topic is that there are three forthcoming albums featuring three or more Yesmen each, all on Cleopatra Records.

Cleopatra Records have a business model for tribute albums: pick well-known songs by a well-known act, and record them using an array of guest stars. The result makes for good promo. Keep recording costs low and they sell enough copies to make a profit.

The problem is that the result is often less than the sum of the parts. There have been some good tracks on past Cleopatra tribute albums - I think of Keith Emerson doing Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog", in particular - but most of them have been a disappointment to my ears. For all the big guest star names, their input seems often to be through a quickly done session, with the heavy-lifting done by someone else.

That someone else is often Billy Sherwood, which is why many of these albums end up with multiple Yesmen guesting, including tributes to The Beatles (Abbey Road), Zeppelin (Led Box) and Pink Floyd (notably Back Against the Wall and Return to the Dark Side of the Moon).

But Brian Perrera, head honco at Cleopatra, has been experimenting with the formula. Instead of tribute albums by various guest stars, Cleopatra are now doing covers albums led by a particular artist or act, although still with multiple guest stars as well. Last year we had William Shatner (yes, as in Captain Kirk) doing a sci-fi covers album with Howe and Moraz guesting. Forthcoming is another covers album by Anglo-German prog band Nektar, with Howe, Wakeman and Downes guesting. (Moraz was also billed as to appear on the Nektar album, but isn't on the final track list.)

And now we've got The Prog Collective. Same array of guest stars on a base by Billy Sherwood, but instead of covers, we have original material by Sherwood. At the same time as Sherwood has been working on this, he's also been working on a Supertramp tribute album. Both albums have many of the same guests, with Squire, Wakeman, Kaye and Banks confirmed for both, and Downes on at least The Prog Collective.

We await release dates for all three, but Sherwood's two projects have been delivered to the label and the Nektar album also seems close. And beyond these, Dave Kerzner's Sonic Elements project is offering a very different approach to doing covers: first EP, XYZ—A Tribute to Rush, features Sherwood too, with further Yesmen lined up for later releases. Whether these will be successful experiments or not, time will tell, but it adds to an interesting year already including high-profile releases like Squackett's A Life Within a Day, Trevor Rabin's Jacaranda and Producers' Made in Basing Street.

1 comment:

  1. Criminal Record has got my vote, just short of Fish Out Of Water – if the question had been something else and CR and FOOW had been possible answers, Squire might have easily got my vote. Both are musically brilliant thematic albums. But in this context Rick Chris and Alan win. The album was recorded out of the same sessions as Going For The One, and is full of that energy and vibe. But whereas I find the production and mixing on GFTO a bit too trebble-ey, CR has a punch and power at the bassy end. The arrangement is clean and clear, and complex – you can hear each instrument and each instrument is doing something pretty interesting and hitting good notes. Alan is absolutely on fire!
    FOOW is an equal gem for many reasons, but for me particularly special as it’s the last record of Chris and Bill together (Bill on acoustic kit). I can easily listen to the album and just focus on the Bass/Drums interplay and that can hold my attention for the whole 45 minutes.