Friday, 16 July 2021
Thursday, 24 June 2021
Another historical poll, this time of the best Yes-related album of 1991. Union had been released, the 8-piece band went on tour, but what else were the band members doing that year... and was their music outside the band any good? 78 of you voted and the results were:
1. Steve Howe: Turbulence (w/ Bruford): 37%, 29 votes
2. Queen: Innuendo (w/ Howe): 22%, 17 votes
3. Jon & Vangelis: Page of Life (w/ Anderson): 14%, 11 votes
4. Bill Bruford's Earthworks: All Heaven Broke Loose: 12%, 9 votes
5. Seal: Seal (w/ Horn, Rabin): 4%, 3 votes
6= Rick Wakeman: 2000 A.D. Into the Future: 3%, 2 votes
6= Asia: Live Mockba 09-X1-90 (w/ Downes): 3%, 2 votes
7= Rick Wakeman: The Classical Connection: 1%, 1 vote
7= The Moody Blues: Keys of the Kingdom (w/ Moraz): 1%, 1 vote
7= Marc Almond: Tenement Symphony (w/ Horn): 1%, 1 vote
There were 2 votes for 'other', but not specified as to what. There were no votes for Terry Reid's The Driver (w/ Horn, White) or for several Rick Wakeman albums (African Bach, Soft Sword, Aspirant Sunshadows, Aspirant Sunset, The Private Collection). Wakeman released a lot of albums that year...
A clear win, then, for Turbulence. Howe had recorded the album some years before, but it had got indefinitely delayed, which is why Howe brought some of the ideas in the album to ABWH for what eventually became Union. Then, unexpectedly, Turbulence re-appeared, putting Howe in the unexpected position of having two albums with common compositions in the same year.
Howe also nabs second place for his guest appearance on the title track of Queen's Innuendo, their last release while Freddie Mercury was alive. The album was huge in most of the world (if less so in the US), going Platinum in the UK, Germany, France, Spain etc. Indeed, I think the track "Innuendo" is the most widely heard thing Howe has ever played on. It was later included on Queen's Greatest Hits II, an album that has gone 13 times Platinum in the UK, 8 times Platinum in Australia, 5 times Platinum in Spain, Diamond in France, and so on.
Monday, 21 June 2021
There's been a flurry of reports about a new Yes album. It appears this has been completed and we're looking at a release later this year. However, very little about it has been confirmed. In this vacuum of announcements, various rumours and misunderstandings have spread. I wanted to tackle some of these in this post. If there are any others that need combating or just where you are unsure what's going on, let me know in the comments!
The latest news I have about the new album is here.
We haven’t heard any music from the album yet
There is a video on YouTube and widely shared on Facebook with pictures from the Yes sessions over a piece of music. This is just an unofficial video done by a fan. The music played is not from the new Yes album. It’s "Love Is", the title track of Howe’s 2020 solo album. That album did also have input from Jon Davison and engineer/mixer Curtis Schwartz, who have worked on the new Yes album, which is I presume why it was chosen.
The photos, however, are from sessions for the new Yes album, as posted by Schwartz on his Facebook page.
Eddie Offord is not involved
Someone posted a rumour online, with no source given, claiming Eddie Offord was producing the album and that it included an 18 minute track. Sherwood has explicitly denied the report of Offord being involved. I take it we can also dismiss the 18 minute track claim. Alan White has said there are no epics (although he didn’t say what he counts as an epic) and that most of the tracks are 5-8 minutes long.
The album will probably be out by Thanksgiving
There was a report that the album would be out by Thanksgiving. This appears reliable. Sherwood has since said release would be around September/October, consistent with that. However, there has not been any official announcement.
Curtis Schwartz may be producing the album
Some people are talking about Curtis Schwartz as the producer of the album. He may be, but we don’t know! Schwartz has definitely been involved in recording sessions with Howe, Davison and Downes. He’s also been involved in mixing the album. Whether he will be credited as the producer or co-producer, we don’t yet know. It’s a reasonable guess.
Alan White is on drums
Some people have wondered whether White is playing on all of the album, or if the band's primary touring drummer, Jay Schellen, has contributed. White has played all the drums on the album and has also contributed to the writing.
Friday, 14 May 2021
Thanks to the 61 of you who voted in our latest poll, on the best Yes-related album of the second half of 2020. The result was very boring!
1. Steve Howe: Love is (w/ Davison): 84%, 51 votes
2= Blackfield: For the Music (w/ Horn): 3%, 2 votes
2= John Lennon: Gimme Some Truth. The Ultimate Mixes (w/ White): 3%, 2 votes
2= Days Between Stations: Giants (w/ Sherwood): 3%, 2 votes
5= Prog Collective: Worlds on Hold (w/ Davison, Sherwood, Downes, Moraz): 2 %, 1 vote
5= The McBroom Sisters: Black Floyd (w/ Sherwood): 2 %, 1 vote
5= In Continuum: Acceleration Theory Special Edition Parts One & Two (w/ Davison, writing by Anderson): 2 %, 1 vote
5= Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy & Randy George: Cov3r to Cov3r (w/ Davison): 2 %, 1 vote
There was 1 unspecified vote for 'Other'. There were, thus, no votes for Marcelo Paganini's Identity Crisis, Kurt Michaels' Stones from the Garden, The Rome Pro(G)ject's IV - Beaten Paths Different Ways or David Minasian's The Sound of Dreams, all with Billy Sherwood. Nor for Zebras Don't Smoke's Don't Mention the Swedes, nor Zorbonauts' The Unobserved Beaver, both with Geoff Downes. Nor Carrie Martin's Entity (w/ O Wakeman), nor Anyone's On the Ending Earth... (w/ Davison).
So, a massive win for Love is, Steve Howe's latest solo album, with Jon Davison supplying bass and backing vocals on some tracks, and Dylan Howe drumming throughout.
Saturday, 12 December 2020
We first heard about Arc of Life back in summer 2019, but details were sparse and it was just in December 2020 that we discovered the full line-up: Billy Sherwood, Jon Davison, Jay Schellen, Jimmy Haun and Dave Kerzner. So, three members of the current live Yes band, someone who played on a Yes album, and a prominent figure in the modern prog scene who recently did a Yes tribute album.
To a degree, the news acted as an excuse for the usual arguments in present day Yes fandom to be recycled, but there was a good amount of interest in the new band. People couldn't help but talk about Arc of Life as a possible precursor of a next generation Yes, as with Simon Barrow’s piece.
Then the debut single, "You Make It Real", came out.
I've rarely seen the enthusiasm for a project drain away so fast. Sounding (and looking) like a forgotten pop song from 1990, even many of those who were looking forward to the new band seemed taken aback. iTunes samples for the full album suggest something more 'proggy', perhaps akin to CIRCA:, so I don't want to judge the album by the single. But someone chose to lead with that song.
There are two (separable but intertwined) issues here. The style of the song, and whether it's a good song within that style. The latter is subjective, so I want to start with the former: the style and its fit with the marketing of the new band.
When Yes-adjacent musicians go out and say they are deliberately making an album in a '70s prog style – as with Rick Wakeman's The Red Planet, CIRCA:'s own Valley of the Windmill, or Kansas's The Absence of Presence – it tends to go down well with the fans. Deviate from that style (as perhaps with Steve Howe's Love Is) and you get a muted reaction.
I'm not saying musicians should stay in their lane for fear of fan rejection. Levin Torn White is getting a re-release on vinyl and there's an album that surprised people with its style very successfully. Nor do I have anything against pop: I love pop (Dua Lipa's Future Nostalgia would be my pick of the year). The point I want to make is about marketing. Arc of Life must have realised that people will see them through the prism of Yes. They have definitely been marketed that way by Frontiers: Yes are explicitly mentioned 7 times in the video's blurb, including saying "that YES would be a clear point of influence". Promo talks of a "progressive rock philosophy, to craft creative, challenging, and ear-pleasing music that pushes boundaries" and a "grandiose and epic approach to music". So, if people are going to see you in those terms, if you are presented in those terms, wouldn't it make sense to pick a lead single that plays to that angle? Or, if nothing on the album does, to make sure the marketing feeds the message that this is a project in which the band members are doing something different from what you might expect.
Kerzner online has pushed back on expectations of something Yes-like. He said on Facebook: "It's Billy and Jon's new tunes with a new line up. [...] I arrived late in the game after the songs were already written. If someone came to me and said "Dave what would you do IF you were wanting to make a sort of next-generation Yes album" that would be different. That was never mentioned whatsoever. These are just my pals from the latest Yes line up who asked me to join their side project band". Musicians should follow their muses: if Erato whispered in Sherwood and Davison's ears the words to "You Make It Real", I'm not saying they shouldn't record such a song. But maybe don't release that as your lead single while your label declares that "YES is clearly the main point of comparison".
Just before the release of the debut Arc of Life single, we had the single for the new Downes Braide Association album, "Love Among the Ruins". Here is a Yes member with a successful side project with a different sound to Yes. DBA offer something much closer to mainstream pop than Yes normally do, and do so successfully. But then Chris Braide is a massively successful songwriter/producer in modern pop music. I ran a quick Twitter poll of "Love Among the Ruins" versus "You Make It Real": DBA are ahead 11:2. We're into subjective territory here. Any song, some people will like it, some won't. I'm not a fan of "You Make It Real", although most of the iTunes samples for the album sound more interesting.
So, what were you expecting from Arc of Life? What did you think of "You Make It Real"? Are you looking forward to the album, Arc of Life, or indeed to the new DBA release, Halcyon Hymns?
Tuesday, 22 September 2020
I hope everyone is having an OK pandemic. Perhaps buying some new music soothed your soul? I asked you all what was the best new Yes-related album of Jan-Jun 2020. 82 of you answered:
1. Rick Wakeman, The Red Planet: 37 votes (45%)
2. various artists: A Tribute to Keith Emerson & Greg Lake (w/ Sherwood, Downes, Davison, Moraz): 20 votes (24%)
3. David Cross & Peter Banks: Crossover (w/ Downes, Sherwood, Kaye, O Wakeman): 18 votes (22%)
4. Trevor Rabin: Can't Look Away - Deluxe: 4 votes (5%)
5= John Holden: Rise & Fall (w/ Sherwood, O Wakeman): 1 vote (1%)
5= The Warriors: The Lost Demos (w/ Anderson): 1 vote (1%)
There was 1 vote for 'other', but the album wasn't specified. There were no votes for Lawrence: After Arabia - Original Movie Soundtrack (w/ Wakeman R), Clannad's In a Lifetime (w/ Horn), Light Freedom Revival's True Love Dreamwishes (w/ Wakeman O), the "Yendor" audiobook (w/ Wakeman O), or Trevor Rabin's Lost Soundtracks Vol 1 – Jack Frost or Lost Soundtracks Vol 2 – Film Music.
The winner was not a surprise. The Red Planet has been getting rave reviews and is a significant release for Wakeman (senior). Most of the Yes-related albums in the first half of this year were finished before the pandemic began, but The Red Planet was finished after lockdown started and had a delayed release because of the difficulties. We'll see whether there's a crop of albums made entirely during lockdown over the next few months.
A commendable second place for another Cleopatra Records tribute album. That's better than most of these albums do. I think ELP's music adapts well to this format, as with the great Encores, Legends and Paradox: A Tribute to ELP, because it's music with lots of room for solos and personal touches to come through. Third was Crossover, my choice and probably the last significant Peter Banks release there'll ever be. In all, albums featuring Billy Sherwood collectively got 39 votes, two above The Red Planet.
My polling widget is now giving me results on a regional breakdown. US voters preferred A Tribute to Keith Emerson & Greg Lake, then Crossover, before The Red Planet, although maybe that's partly about copies of The Red Planet taking long to get over to the US? UK voters chose The Red Planet, only putting A Tribute to Keith Emerson & Greg Lake third equal. German votes also went for The Red Planet, while French voters picked Can't Look Away! There were also votes from Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Japan and New Zealand.
Friday, 29 May 2020
1. Downes Braide Association: Live in England, 28 votes (37%)
2. Steve Howe Trio: New Frontier (w/ writing by Bruford), 25 votes (33%)
3. Refugee: Refugee [re-release] (w/ Moraz), 12 votes (16%)
4. Rodney Matthews and Jeff Scheetz with Oliver Wakeman: Trinity (w/ Wakeman R), 6 votes (8%)
5. In Continuum: Acceleration Theory Part Two: Annihilation (w/ Davison, writing by Anderson), 4 votes (5%)
6. Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders: Get the Money (w/ Davison), 0 votes (0%)
So, a close result in the end, but victory for the Downes Braide Association's first live album, just ahead of my choice, the Steve Howe Trio album. The winners for the first half of the year were Jon Anderson's 1000 Hands: Chapter One and Trevor Horn's Reimagines the Eighties, so combined I think that shows 2019 was a great year for Yes-related releases with representation from most of the band's best known members.