Saturday, 28 April 2012

Yesmen outside Yes: poll part 2

The previous poll on the Where Are They Now? front page covered non-Yes albums featuring 3+ Yesmen from the 1970s. Part II of the poll is now up covering the 1980s and 1990s.

The Part I results are in and the winner, as could be expected, is Fish Out of Water, Chris Squire's first solo album, with Bill Bruford on drums and Patrick Moraz on some of the keyboards. A perennial favourite; a classic album. The full results are...

1. Chris Squire: Fish Out of Water - 71 (47%)
2= Rick Wakeman: The Six Wives of Henry VIII - 26 (17%)
2= Rick Wakeman: Criminal Record - 26 (17%)
4. Steve Howe: The Steve Howe Album - 16 (11%)
5. Steve Howe: Beginnings - 5 (3%)
6= Johnny Harris: All to Bring You Morning - 1 (1%)
6= Eddie Harris: E.H. in the U.K. - 1 (1%)
8. Alan White: Ramshackled - 0

There were 4 other votes: 2 for albums with 3+ Yesmen not from the 1970s, and 2 for '70s albums with only 1 Yesman each.

So, a dead heat for second place between the two Wakeman albums. "Catherine of Aragon", the opening track of 6 Wives, was originally recorded with most of the Fragile band (everyone except Anderson) because it was originally to have been Wakeman's solo spot on Fragile, before contractual problems meant it couldn't be used. Bruford and Alan White then appear on further tracks. One side of Criminal Record features Squire and White: Wakeman gave them free rein to record rhythm tracks and then added to the results; shades of Levin Torn White! Nearly all the remaining votes then went to the two Steve Howe albums.

The other three contenders received two votes between them. While they may not be the best and are overshadowed by Fish and Wives, I hope there is still some love for all three.

On paper, Johnny Harris's All to Bring You Morning has everything going for it. I believe it was the first album to feature 3 Yesmen together outside Yes (just ahead of Wives). It was recorded around the same time as Close to the Edge with the involvement of Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Alan White and Eddie Offord (although Offord is on the 2 tracks Howe and White aren't). Yet far from being some lost prog masterpiece, most of All to Bring You Morning is a throwback to the '60s: easy listening, orchestral covers of well known pieces. It's the 14 minute, original, title track -- with vocals and lyrics by Anderson, guitar by Howe, drums by White -- that stands out if you're a Yes fan.

All to Bring You Morning also features guitarist Pete Kirtley, bassist Colin Gibson and Steve Gregory on flute/sax. All three also appear on Ramshackled. Ramshackled is another of the 1975/6 albums along with Fish and Beginnings. However, to call it an Alan White solo album is perhaps misleading. White wrote none of the music. What he did was re-assemble a former band he'd be in. White, Kirtley and organist Kenny Craddock had worked together backing Alan Price in the 1960s, before becoming Happy Magazine. With the addition of Gibson, they formed Griffin, but the band only ever released one single in 1969 before disbanding. But the band members continued to work together in various arrangements before the opportunity arose to do Ramshackled.

Ramshackled reflects that late '60s/early '70s rock sound. It's not very prog, it's not very Yes-like, but, as with All to Bring You Morning, one track stands out for the Yes fan: "Spring—Song of Innocence", a setting of a William Blake song, with guitar by Howe and sung by Anderson.

Eddie Harris (no relation to Jonny) was an American jazz saxophonist. For E.H. in the U.K., he recorded in London with a selection of British musicians, including Albert Lee, Jeff Beck, Steve Winwood, Ian Paice and three Yesmen. Kaye, Squire and White are together on the final two tracks. (I believe this is the first time White and Kaye worked together.) Instrumental jazz, lots of improvising and jamming, this is a context in which you might expect to find Bill Bruford, but not Squire, White and Kaye. And at times they seem uncomfortable, but there's some interesting playing along the way in the 16-minute "Conversations of Everything and Nothing", including the closest I think Squire has ever come to a King Crimson vibe.

Part II of the poll covers the 1980s/90s: you can vote now. There will be a part III subsequently and then the top albums in each poll will go forward to a final! Many of the qualifying albums in the 1980s/90s feel like they're only in on technicalities: e.g. Squire's mysterious minor credit on Adventures in Modern Recording; Horn's only role on Esquire is co-mixing one track; Rick Wakeman is on Jabberwocky but as a narrator, not on keyboards. We also see the first tribute albums, what would become a very fertile territory for multi-Yesmen projects. I'm also surprised that 4 out of the 11 albums involve Peter Banks, not someone we always think of as having as large a discography as other Yes alumni.

1 comment:

  1. Poll 2 is easy.... none of those! Why, oh why, didn't Bill and Patrick get Jon to rattle his tambourine in the foresight that a few decades later some guy might run a poll.....