Saturday, 7 March 2015

Poll: Best Yes-related album of 1976

The best Yes-related album of 1975 poll was a foregone conclusion, won by Fish Out of Water with a 62% lead over its nearest rival. The 1976 poll is a similar story, with an even greater, 69% lead. Out of 69 votes:

1. Jon Anderson: Olias of Sunhillow: 56 votes (81%)
2. Patrick Moraz: The Story of i: 8 votes (12%)
3. Rick Wakeman: No Earthly Connection: 4 votes (6%)

There was 1 vote for Fish Out of Water, but that was released the previous year. And no votes for any of Alan White's much underrated Ramshackled (w/ Anderson, Howe), Absolute Elsewhere's obscure In Search of Ancient Gods (w/ Bruford), Pavlov's Dog's At the Sound of the Bell (also w/ Bruford) or any of the hard-to-find albums with Trevor Rabin, i.e. Mike Makhalemele & Winston Mankunku Ngozi's The Lion and the Bull, You and Me's Come With Me or Margaret Singana's Where is the Love.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Trevor Horn Band, 5 March 2015: initial thoughts

I'm just back from the Shepherd's Bush Empire and the Trevor Horn Band show. Some initial thoughts...

Support was from Will Heard, a young man on vocals and electric guitar. Clearly rather nervous, he played 4 or so songs. Good voice, OK material, including an interesting if not entirely successful electric/punk version of The Carpenters' "Close to You".

The main set began with an exhilarating "Welcome to the Pleasuredome" (originally by Frankie Goes to Hollywood), appropriate as the band would go on to play twice as many numbers from the album of the same name as any other. Then they were straight into The Buggles' "Living in the Plastic Age".

A fine beginning... and then Seal walked on stage and the audience cheered, but sadly Seal was only there to explain that, for only the second time in a 26-year career, he has had to withdraw from the performance due to a recent bout of flu. After effusive praise for Horn, he was off and it was on with the show. Kate Westall came to the front of the stage for a sultry "Slave to the Rhythm" (originally by Grace Jones). Then with Lol Crème joking about tartan skirts, Westall and Kirsten Joy did a rousing "All the Things She Said" (originally by t.A.T.u.), followed by Crème singing 10cc's "Rubber Bullets".

Horn then introduced Gabrielle Aplin, who did her version of Frankie's "The Power of Love". This arrangement was mostly just Aplin on vocals and (synth) piano, with the band joining in later on to boost the power of the song. Aplin stayed to sing Annie Lennox's "Why", originally produced by Stephen Lipson. A great vocal performance from Aplin.

More Frankie with the band's instrumental version of "Two Tribes". Horn then announced a Yes song would be next, but that he wouldn't be singing it. He jokingly explained that we needed to summon the spirit of Jon Anderson, which led to a few bars of "Soon", sung by Westall, as an intro to "Owner of a Lonely Heart", sung by Jamie Squire (no relation). As in the band's Japanese TV performance, the guitar solo was replaced by a keyboard solo, although Downes was mixed too low, at least where I was standing, to hear this well.

Horn next explained how his partner, Mel, had played him this song and he had fallen in love with it. Mr Probz, the song's performer, was, if I heard right, now working on Seal's album and had come over from the Netherlands to sing "Waves". Then we had another guest, an uptempo, bravura performance by Ella Eyre of "Gravity" (originally by DJ Fresh feat. Eyre).

With jokes about his piano playing, Crème came forward to play keys for "I'm Not in Love", with Squire on lead vocals. Horn explained that they had then planned to perform a set of Seal songs, but without Seal, they just did "Prayer for the Dying", with Squire again on lead vocals.

The main set finished with a great performance of "Video Killed the Radio Star" (including a short insert using the rap from and Nicki Minaj's "Check It Out", which sample "Video..."), complete with big finale, then into "Relax", again with Squire singing.

The band encored with "Leave Right Now" (originally by Will Young and produced by Lipson) with Squire on lead vocals.

The band were... from stage right at the back: Kirsten Joy (lead & backing vocals), Kate Westall (lead & backing vocals), Jamie Squire (lead & backing vocals, percussion), Ash Soan (drums) and Luis Jardim (percussion), with 18-year old Simon Bloor (keys, guitar) behind Jardim. At the front, from stage right, was Geoff Downes (keys), Lol Crème (guitar, backing vocals, keys), Trevor Horn (bass), Stephen Lipson (guitar), Julian Hinton (keys) and Phil Palmer (electric & acoustic guitar).

I'm blessed, I saw a lot of the early Producers shows in Camden, so some of this set is becoming very familiar. I'd like to hear some different 10cc songs and I could lose "Two Tribes", but the other Welcome to the Pleasuredome songs were great. The band suffered the late loss of Seal, but Squire did a good job. Aplin and Eyre shone as guests. Soan was fantastic on drums, particularly good on "Owner of a Lonely Heart". The band was quite large, with four guitar players at times. I've no idea what Bloor was doing and Palmer seemed superfluous.

This was basically the same band with much the same set as when they were called Producers. Is the name change just about increasing sales? Despite Horn's name being out front, the other principals were still well represented: we had 5 songs associated with Horn (2 Buggles, 1 t.A.T.u., 1 Seal; although we would have had more Seal), 5 associated with Horn and Lipson (4 Frankie, 1 Grace Jones), 2 associated with Lipson, 2 10cc numbers for Crème, and 2 covers.

Highlights: "Welcome to the Pleasuredome", "All the Things She Said", "The Power of Love", "Gravity", "Video Killed the Radio Star"
Disappointing: "Waves", "Prayer for the Dying", "Rubber Bullets"

Sunday, 1 March 2015

2014 polls: bad news for Heaven & Earth, but better news for other Yes releases

The results for two big fan-voted polls of progressive rock in 2014 are now in, and there's a fair amount of Yes-related interest. First the bad news: in the DPRP Annual Poll (374 responses), Heaven & Earth won Biggest Disappointment, by a large margin over Pink Floyd's The Endless River. Prog magazine's Readers' Poll has a similar category, Non-Event of the Year, with Heaven & Earth 4th (behind No High Voltage Festival; the Sum of the Parts Genesis documentary; and Kate Bush only playing London).

Other categories had better news for the band. Yes were 1st (Relayer) and 6th (The Yes Album) in Prog's Reissue of the Year category, and 8th in the magazine's Multimedia of the Year for Like It Is (won by Transatlantic's KaLIVEoscope). Likewise, Like It Is was 7th in DPRP's Best DVD section (again won by KaLIVEoscope).

Prog's Event of the Year was won by Kate Bush's live shows, but Rick Wakeman (who writes a regular column for the magazine) came 3rd for his Journey to the Centre of the Earth 40th anniversary tour, while King Crimson's return was 4th and Cruise to the Edge, 6th. DPRP's Prog Happening of the Year category was won by the return of Pink Floyd, with King Crimson's return now 2nd and prog cruises in general, 3rd. (Wakeman's Journey shows received only 2 votes with DPRP, making them 17th equal.)

DPRP has a separate Best Concerts category. King Crimson came 5th equal for their 13 Sep 2014 show, although in a large field, 3 votes was all you needed for 5th equal. The category was won by Transatlantic's 14 Mar 2014 show in Amsterdam; with the "D" in DPRP being Dutch, the Amsterdam shows tend to do well.

The two polls differed somewhat on individual players. Wakeman topped the keyboardist category for Prog, but he only got a single vote in the DPRP poll, where Geoff Downes came 7th equal. Wakeman was also 3rd in Prog's Man of the Year category, which was won by Steven Wilson. Steve Howe made 7th in Prog's guitar list, but also only got a single vote with DPRP. (Steve Rothery won both best guitarist votes.) Similarly, Tony Levin came 3rd in Prog's bassist poll (won by Nick Beggs), but had a single vote with DPRP (won by Pete Trewavas).

Not much happening in the best vocalist categories. Jon Davison's 2 votes for his performance on Heaven & Earth got him 22nd equal with DPRP (won by Peter Nicholls). He also got 1 vote for his performance on Glass Hammer's Ode to Echo, but there were no votes for any other Yes vocalists. (Prog only gave top tens, but there were no Yes men in Prog's male vocalist category, won by Joe Payne, while their female section was won by Lee Douglas.) Alan White and Dylan Howe both got 1 vote for DPRP's Best Drummer (won by Mike Portnoy). (Again no-one in Prog's top ten, also won by Portnoy.)

Prog's Album of the Year was Opeth's Pale Communion (3rd with DPRP), with the only Yes-related entry being Dave Kerzner's New World, on which Billy Sherwood guests, coming in 10th. Kerzner was also 4th in the Tip for 2015 section with Prog, won by iamthemorning, and 3rd Best Newcomer with DPRP, won by Synaesthesia.

DPRP's Best Album was IQ's The Road of Bones (3rd with Prog), with the highest Yes-related entry being United Progressive Fraternity's Fall in Love with the World 14th, on which Jon Anderson guests, with New World coming next at 24. Ode to Echo (with Jon Davison) was 42nd and Heaven & Earth was 50th.

DPRP also has a Best Tracks category, won by IQ's "The Road of Bones". The top Yes-related entry here was "Subway Walls" at 35th equal. The only others in the top 100 were "Believe Again" and Glass Hammer's "The Garden of Hedon" (if Davison appears on that track) tied at 89.

Finally, Heaven & Earth managed 8th equal for Best Artwork at DPRP.