Monday, 13 January 2020

The Yes year: looking back to 2019 and forward to 2020

If there's been a race between Yes featuring Anderson Rabin Wakeman and the Yes with Howe, White and Downes to release a new album -- and it's certainly been a marathon rather than a sprint -- then the unexpected winner this year was the Oliver Wakeman/BenoƮt David line-up. From a Page came out of the blue to positive reviews. A delightful surprise and my highlight of the Yes year.

While From a Page made the biggest splash in Yes fan circles, we should remember that the albums that sell well are often not the ones Yes fans pay attention to. From a Page did do well in sales, particularly given its limited release. It made #23 in the UK Rock chart, but selling better was Rick Wakeman's Christmas Portraits, which made #82 in the main UK top 100. Better than both of those were two Trevor Horn productions (he performs on both too). Renato Zero's Zero il Folle made #1 in Italy and was the 31st best-selling album of the year in the country. But the biggest Yes-related release of the year was You're in My Heart by Rod Stewart with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, which went #1 in the UK and Ireland, and made the top 40 in Australia, Germany, New Zealand and Portugal too. It was the 10th best-selling album of the year in the UK.

I can't decide my personal favourite album of the year, but I can tell you my favourite Yes-related song. That's “Scavengers” from the first In Continuum album. A great riff, great tune, provocative lyrics and fantastic drumming by Marco Minnemann. Davison guests providing some beautiful backing vocals.

Looking ahead, there is much excitement, and more than a little trepidation, about Yes playing all of Relayer in 2020. There are also indications that the band will record a new album, although there have been similar indications for some years and we're still waiting. ARW were inactive in 2019. While Wakeman talked of touring resuming in 2020, and maybe a new album, that talk has ended and the band appears to be on hold, at best. Finished, at worst.

From a Page brought attention to Wakeman junior's work. If you've enjoyed his work, 2020 begins well as he appears on two albums out shortly: John Holden's sophomore release Rise and Fall; and the David Cross & Peter Banks album Crossover. I've heard previews of both and they're both good. The latter is (sadly) the last album of new material by Peter Banks from his estate, based on an improv session in 2010 by former King Crimson violinist David Cross and Pete on guitar, augmented subsequently by a multitude of Yes (O Wakeman, Sherwood, Kaye, Downes, Schellen, Raine-Reusch) and King Crimson (Mastelotto, Stacey) names.

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