Stegzy's Music Project

A commentary on Stegzy's album collection

Keys To Ascension – Yes [#653]

As a teen I really liked Yes, I had forcibly had them played at me by my elder brothers so it was only to be expected. As my disposable income grew, I was able to purchase pretty much all of the band’s back catalogue either on cassette, vinyl or CD. Of course, this was fairly easy to do as the band went on hiatus between 1985 and 1988 then again between 1988 and 1991 and once more until 1994 and the release of Talk.

During those downtimes, no new music was released, instead regular “Best of” or live compilations, but to me, it didn’t matter then. I just went and bought what I could. But then something happened. I began to realise I was paying for the same songs over and over again. Nothing new. Maybe an unusual flourish or a change in tempo but really nothing new. I already had Yessongs, Yes Shows, 9012Live and Classic Yes so when I saw Keys to Ascension in the racking at HMV, I looked at the track listing and thought – why bother?

Keys to Ascension is a two volume compilation album featuring two discs per volume and features recordings from their live shows in 1996 of songs from the Going for the One and Tormato era (Interesting to note as they had just lost Trevor Rabin and Tony Kaye and regained Steve Howe and (briefly once more) Rick Wakeman) and some new tracks which later appeared on Keystudio .

This period of Yes history sets off my prickly brain. I really don’t care much for this period and even though the line up is the classic line up (albeit briefly and accentuated by Billy Sherwood), I don’t fall back into fandom with the band until Magnification and then, as if to take the piss, they do the whole “best of – live” shit again this time with touring live concerts (of which I went to three) until Fly from Here.

Lazy fan fanning and cheesy nineties rock do not make great albums. Indeed, Queensryche, Ayreon and Porcupine Tree were doing much better stuff at this time while Yes were following the Camel route of keeping the fans happy and experimenting. Personally, my music tastes were also changing at this time. I was no longer focussed on bands from my childhood and teenage, I was no longer being fed music by siblings, instead from more knowledgable peers, and I was starting to explore darker musical pathways which would eventually lead to a more mature adult contemporary pantheon of musicians.

At time of writing, Keys to Ascension is not available digitally on either Apple Music or Amazon but is available to buy on Amazon. I couldn’t care less about Google Play and I value my privacy too much to use SpottyFi.

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Incas Valley – Yes/Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe[#630]

Unknown-4As long term readers of this project might remember, during the divergence of Yes in the early nineties, when Chris Squire said “No” to Jon Anderson’s use of the band name

Yes

forcing the creation of  the eponymous Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe (and later the creation of Anderson Rabin Wakeman (ffs!)), Jon Anderson, Bill Bruford, Rick “Keyboard Wizard” Wakeman and Steve “Carpet” Howe  got together with Tony Levin, released an album and went on a world tour entitled An Evening of Yes Music. Incas Valley is the bootleg of one of those shows.

I remember being excited at the prospect of Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe touring the UK with their show and hoped that I would be granted permission from my parents to go to their gig, the closest to me at the time was in Birmingham. Sadly, my olds decreed that 16 was too young to go to Birmingham to see a rock band on my own and my older brothers couldn’t care less about their younger brother’s musical development so didn’t offer to take me. Instead one recorded onto a cassette a BBC radio broadcast of the gig instead so I had to make do with that.

Many years later I discovered the Incas Valley bootleg on a binary newsgroup and it was pretty much the same set but with extras. So now, to relive that experience, I often play Incas Valley on my stereo in the kitchen while I charge myself £40 to sit in the loft and pretend I’m in the Birmingham Arena. Win!

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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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