Stegzy's Music Project

A commentary on Stegzy's album collection

House of Yes: Live at the House of Blues – Yes [#594]

House_of_YesWhen this album was released back in 2000, the internet as we know it today was still in its fledgeling state. Websites were mostly created and owned by actual people rather than by corporations and users actually had to seek out their news rather than have it shown to them if an algorithm deigned to do so. As a result, I was only aware it had been released because I saw it while I was browsing the CD racks in HMV.

Of course, with it being a Live/Best of compilation and I already had most of the songs Live or in compilations, I was reluctant to part with hard earned cash for stuff I already had and instead bought something a little more desirable like Air’s Moon Safari or whatever else was about in those days. However sometime later, probably during the Great Internet Download Free-for-All of the early noughties, I was given a copy of the album by a work colleague and so it joined my collection.

House of Yes is a live double album featuring music from Yes’ earlier career and their album The Ladder. It also features Billy Sherwood on guitar and Igor Khoroshev on keyboards, Sherwood left shortly before the album’s release and Khoroshev had already been booted out of the band by that time due to a sexual harassment controversy.

I can’t say that I don’t like this compilation. There are some good performances on the album the enjoyment of which can be enhanced by the viewing of the DVD of the gig.

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Going for the One – Yes [#532]

220px-Yes_Going_for_the_OnePossibly one of the first albums I had recorded on cassette. My middle brother had this on cassette and did a copy for me on his twin tape but as home taping killed music, there was nothing after this.

Nonsense of course, I eventually went and bought the album on vinyl, thus saving music for future generations.

Indeed, as a teenager, Going for the One was pivotal in my musical development to such an extent that I performed the track Turn of the Century during a school end of term concert and Wondrous Stories as an exam piece for my Music GCSE. While the majority of my peers enjoyed the likes of Wham, Culture Club and emerging techno, rap and house music, I was busy being ten years behind my contemporaries and enjoying what this album had to offer.

The album sees the return (albeit briefly) of keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman following the departure of Patrick Moraz who played keys for the previous album, Relayer. The return of Wakeman does do some favours to the band at this stage of their career and the track Awaken with its extended organ solo at the heart, really is like a “glad to be back” from Rick.

Sadly, as with all prog bands, the band would separate once more after their next album, Tormato but you can certainly hear the development of the Yes sound and how it is an acoustic ancestor of Tormato with this album.

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Fragile – Yes [#495]

FragileI originally bought this album from Woolworths in Pwllheli while holidaying in my Uncles cottage. I remember being excited at the prospect of being able to listen to it on the record player we had there. And so, in 1986 progressive rock reverberated across the Welsh mountains for a brief moment Heart of the Sunrise leading the charge. That was until I was told to turn the music down.

At the time of the album’s release, Yes were coming to the end of an era with the imminent departure of drummer Bill Bruford (who left after the recording of the follow up album Close to the Edgeand the addition, in this album, of keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman, who replaced Tony Kaye. This was to become what some fans call “The Classic Yes Line Up” which is interesting as it was only like this for a couple of albums and it seems that nobody wants to talk about the regroup non-cannon album Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe .

The album itself features a number of really good songs, Heart of the Sunrise, Southside of the Sky and Roundabout; all fan pleasing tracks that are played regularly at gigs. It also features a handful of tracks written solo by each band member: Anderson’s We Have Heaven sounding like something from Olias of Sunhillow Bruford’s Five Percent for Nothing sounding like an A Level Music submission and the beginnings of later Wakeman solo projects audibly clear in Can and Brahms .

A fun album with some nice classic Yes songs but sounding flat, disappointing and unpromising with today’s ears.

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Fly From Here – Yes [#483]

220px-Fly_from_HereIn my eyes, Yes’ best but final album. Technically, this isn’t Yes’ final album but it is the last one I bought before Chris Squire’s death in 2015.

Following the departure of long time lead singer Jon Anderson who was undergoing throat issues and Wakeman who was busy being a grump, Squire, Howe and White looked to former band mates Buggles – Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn, to reform the line up that made Drama a hit.

Horn obviously remembered how difficult Squire’s music was to sing when you register no longer reaches the notes of your youth and opted to produce the album instead. At this point surrogate singer Benoît David was asked to join the band, David’s singing style having been recognised by Squire who had seen David’s performances with Yes tribute act Close to the Edge on Youtube.

Aurally, Fly From Here is very much in the style of Drama era Yes. In fact, the song from which the album’s title comes is one that Horn and Downes worked on that almost became a Buggles song before they joined Yes. I really like this sound of Yes. It shows how the band might have developed had 90125 not happened, a richer more illustrative sound with a strong prog taste. The final flourish and farewell, in my eyes, of a band that helped me enjoy music as a developing youth. My only regret being that I never had the free time my youth afforded me to listen to the album on a regular basis.

 

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Fish Out of Water – Chris Squire [#475]

2015 saw the passing of one of rocks greatest bass players, Chris SquireFish_Out_of_Water_(Chris_Squire_album)_cover_art aka Fish, from acute erythoid leukemia complications. A great shame as he was a talented musician who formed and was a cornerstone of prog rock band Yes. Squire’s first solo album, released in 1975 in a period when the members of Yes were releasing solo albums, is today’s album, Fish Out of Water. 

I’d not listened to Fish Out of Water in its entirety before composing today’s entry I’m ashamed to say. I guess it didn’t sit well  with my appreciation of Yes’ development since 1986 but that’s not to say I wouldn’t have enjoyed it and appreciated it more had I had access to the album when I was younger.

Fish Out of Water is very early Yes in style and features Bill Bruford and Patrick Moraz as support musicians but it’s also possible to hear Squires own distinctive style which matured and resurfaced in later albums such as The Unknown and Conspiracy 

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Drama – Yes [#388]

Yes_DramaChris Squire, bass player and founding member of Yes, passed away a few weeks before I began writing this entry. His passing was about to leave a massive uncertainty with the bands future in that how can you possibly fix a giant Chris Squire sized hole in the fabric of the Yes continuum. Then came news that Squire’s colleague and former band mate and Music Project attendee, Billy Sherwood would step up to the plate.

Which is nice.

Drama arrived at an interesting point in Yes’ history. Jon Anderson had left the band to pursue projects with Vangelis. Rick Wakeman had gone too, his goal to add ice skating and twiddly keyboards to everything. That left a huge hole in the band. No singer; No keyboard player. What to do?

It was about this time that the band met producer to be, Trevor Horn and keyboard jedi, Geoff Downes. You might remember Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes from global supergroup and ground shaking behemoths the Buggles. That’s right, the band that brought you Video Killed the Radio Star.   In recognising their potential, Chris Squire invited the two to join Yes and fill the shoes of Anderson and Wakeman and history was made.

This is possibly my most favourite Yes album. I really wished that the Drama era Yes line up had produced more music like this. Contrasting between the previous Yes album Tormato and the following 90125 it’s certainly a distinctive sound. Horn struggles to reach the same pitches as Anderson, while Downes seems to lack the fingers to compete with Tony Kaye and Rick Wakeman, yet it isn’t a disaster. There are some songs on the album that were many, many years ahead of their time and it certainly shows what sort of geniuses makes up the band.

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Desert Light – Yes [#362]

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 19.46.27This is a bootleg from a concert in the series I saw Yes at in 2002. I then saw the band one last time a year later I think.

I grew up with Yes. They have a special place in my heart and mind as well as a place in my music collection. Sadly long time member and bassist, Chris Squire, passed away earlier this month so it is unlikely I will get to see the band again. I have read that Squire’s old pal Billy Sherwood of Squire/Sherwood collaboration The Unknown has stepped up to cover the massive Chris Squire hole in the band. Moreover, lead singer Jon Anderson is also no longer with the band, Rick Wakeman pops in and out, Steve Howe must be pushing 934 and Alan White is looking a bit tired these days too. It remains hard to imagine how long the band will continue without Chris in the engine room.

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Conspiracy – Billy Sherwood & Chris Squire [#304]

Conspiracy - Chris Squire Billy SherwoodYes’ bass guitarist, Chris Squire and his chum, former two album Yes guitarist Billy Sherwood, collaborate and produce a sound that is rather quite good under the working band title of Conspiracy.

You can hear where Yes were heading with this collaboration. Hints of Talk and Big Generator permeate the overarching soundscape of this album and a version of More we Live (Let Go) from Yes’ later Union album features as well as Open Your Eyes and the twee  Man in the Moon from later (and best forgotten) Yes album Open Your Eyes. 

Sadly the collaboration only lasted one more album, The Unknown, and technically Conspiracy is a collection of studio workings gathered over several years. People still debate whether it was Squire who did the dirty on Sherwood or whether other forces were at work. Either way, Squire remains the only member of Yes to have played on every Yes album and Sherwood still floats in and out of prog bands and projects, not really adhering himself to any big name.

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