Stegzy's Music Project

A commentary on Stegzy's album collection

Inconsolable Secret – Glass Hammer [#633]

TheinconsolablesecretWhenever I hear Glass Hammer, I can’t help imagining a group of prog loving guys getting together to play music they enjoy. They do a few cover versions then decide to do their own stuff. Their own stuff is heavily laden with references to riffs and melodies from the covers they have just played. This makes their sound almost comical and self-referential.

I first heard Glass Hammer on the Odessey concept album, a various artist collaboration retelling the story of Odysseus, in the track In the Court of King Alkinoos and was interested in its similarities to works by Yes and King Crimson. A quick Google resulted in the suggestion that Inconsolable Secret was an album that I’d like.

I didn’t.

There is a little too much twiddly in the album for me. Lots of long keyboard widdling and guitar wankery can be a little too detrimental to the sound of an album. Moreover, the similarities to Yes are a little too obvious. Indeed, Glass Hammer singer Jon Davidson would later go on to replace Jon Anderson in the latest post-Squire incarnation of Yes. Beyond that, there are too many similarities to In the Court of King Alkinoos. Too often I forgot I was listening to Inconsolable Secret and thought iTunes had slipped into Oddessey. Still, it’s an interesting work and I suppose I keep it just incase my music tastes develop later, much like how they did recently with Renaissance and Illusion.

 

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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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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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Close to the Edge – Yes [#281]

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 13.35.18Close to the Edge – Yes

The first time I heard this album I was blown away. I had it on cassette so I was able to play it wherever I wanted on my Walkman or on my portable hi-fi. One place I played it was on top of a windy rainy mountain in Wales, miles from anywhere significant. It is there where I am transported when I hear this album.

Stuck up a mountain. In the wind and rain. Rain pattering onto my hood. Snug and warm in my coat. Listening to this album overlooking fields of sheep watching the rain clouds drift in from the Irish Sea. Getting back to nature.

Years later I discovered that the album was recorded in a studio where the band had requested a more “rural” feel. Cue plastic cows, sheep pens and straw being strewn across the floor; Steve Howe stood on his carpet, Rick Wakeman with his cup of tea and Jon Anderson with his tambourine. Prog madness. Prog. No music like it.

Close to the Edge comes in with 3 tracks. Not many to the uninitiated, but with track one coming in at just under 20 minutes long and tracks two and three together the same, it’s easy to see why prog is such a good showcase for talent. Think of recent popular music. The likes of Gaga and her ilk with wishy-washy 3 minute jobbies. Trash. It’s like Twitter versus the blogosphere.

Close to the Edge is Yes’ fifth studio album and last with Bill Bruford (until Union at least). A rich tapestry of musical talent surpassed only by their next  studio album, Tales from Topographic Oceans.

 

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Classic Rock: Symphonic Rock – Various Artists [#276]

Classic Rock: Symphonic RockClassic Rock: Symphonic Rock – Various Artists

This is another compilation where the core idea works but the choices of tracks don’t.

Curiously, it appears that 70% of the artists featured on the album have previously featured on this project, so if you’ve missed those entries you’ll find that the links take you to those articles.

Anyway, Classic Rock: Symphonic Rock has a relatively good mix of tunes really but not ones I’d have chosen to highlight how rock can be symphonic. It’s a little too…. “twee”…for my liking. There are far better bands that could have featured on this compilation. There’s no Queensryche. No Meatloaf. The Yes option is pretty much mundane and the inclusion of Clannad, of all bands, confuses me no end. Clannad are not what I’d call rock for a start.

Tracklist

1-01 Vangelis Pulsar
1-02 Sky Toccata
1-03 Hawkwind Urban Guerilla
1-04 Focus P’s March
1-05 Electra Scheidungstag
1-06 Gentle Giant The Advent Of Panurge
1-07 Triumvirat A Day In The Life
1-08 Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe Brother Of Mine
1-09 Roger Waters The Bravery Of Being Out Of Range
1-10 Procol Harum A Salty Dog
1-11 Mike Batt Losing Your Way In The Rain
1-12 Clannad Sirius
1-13 Jon Lord Aria
1-14 Barclay James Harvest Child Of The Universe
1-15 Jon & Vangelis So Long Ago, So Clear
2-01 Mike Oldfield Sentinel
2-02 Moody Blues* The Story In Your Eyes
2-03 Rick Wakeman Catherine Howard
2-04 Electric Light Orchestra Standin’ In The Rain
2-05 Alan Parsons Project, The Damned If I Do
2-06 Herd From The Underworld
2-07 Jethro Tull Aqualung
2-08 Gong Ard Na Greine
2-09 Vanilla Fudge You Keep Me Hanging On
2-10 Ekseption 5th Of Beethoven
2-11 Aphrodite’s Child It’s Five O’Clock
2-12 Strawbs Autumn
2-13 Camel Tell Me
2-14 Genesis The Silent Sun
2-15 Yes Heart Of The Sunrise

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Can’t Look Away – Trevor Rabin (#243)

CantlookawayCan’t Look Away – Trevor Rabin 

This is former Yes guitarist, Trevor Rabin, and his third studio album.

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Big Generator – Yes (#186)

Big Generator – YesBig Generator - Yes

When this album came out in 1987, I was so excited. Here I was, a teenager, about to hear music from a band that had formed a few years before I was born. New music that was hopefully going to be a lot like 90125

I wasn’t disappointed.

Instead I recorded the album onto a cassette and listened to the tape until I was bored. I still love this album. It shows the direction Yes continued to follow for the next few years. Of course by the time House of Blues came out, I was already getting a bit bored of Yes. Especially as it seemed (at the time) that getting to see them play live was going to be purely a dream. Of course I’ve since seen them several times.

Still, the majority of my favorite songs by Yes are on this album. A lot of longer term fans hate it. I don’t. Fab stuff.

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The Best Prog Rock Album in the World…Ever – Various Artists (#176)

The Best Prog Rock Album in the World...Ever - Various Artists (#176)The Best Prog Rock Album in the World…Ever – Various Artists 

This is one of the last CDs I bought. A wicked compilation showcasing a massive range of prog bands covering Canterbury scene, Zappa and even the first sprouts of New Romanticism.

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Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe – Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe [#71]

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 19.10.20Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe (ABWH)

ABWH by ABWH is an album that slots in between Big Generator and Union in the pantheon of Yes albums. Oh, yes, you probably won’t be aware of what happened.

As frequently happens with Yes, there are often little tiffs between members, some members want to do something one style, while the others throw their toys out the pram and say they want to do it a different way.

Case in point. Listen to any Yes album pre-90125. The style is different. You can hear how the style has evolved sure, but it’s definitely a different paradigm shift is styles. The younger, cooler, less hippy members of the band went “We want to do an album like this” while the pye eyed hippy lot went “No but we want to do one as well”

Unfortunately you can’t have two bands with the same name formed of members, old and new. No. It just won’t do (Are you reading this Renaissance, Deep Purple etc?)

So what you do in a situation like that? When your older band mates come along and say “Hey, lets make an album?” Well you make an album. Of course the existing member of Yes at the time (White, Squire, Kaye and Rabin) went “Oi! No! Not as Yes you don’t” and so began a long battle for the rights to use the band name Yes.

In the meanwhile, ABWH produced an album and this is that album. Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Rick “Grumpy” Wakeman and Bill “I’ve met Stegzy Gnomepants” Bruford. It’s full of Anderson mystique, Howe and Wakeman twiddly and Bruford boshbishbashing. It’s a show off album. It says “Listen to us! We’re old but we can still do stuff”. Yeah.

It’s ok.

It’s not great.

It’s ok.

Its definitely of the time, late eighties, early nineties. You can tell from the tribal and African influences. To me it’s too twee for the time. It’s certainly an album of talent, but it’s like 10 years too late. The style is very Peter Gabriel and you can tell Squire isn’t about because the bass just isn’t as fiddly.

Spin forward a few years, the band reconciled their differences and recorded Union. Another pile of tosh. More of that later.

 

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Music Project – Album #55– Adventures in Modern Recording – Buggles

AdventuresInModernRecording Adventures in Modern Recording – The Buggles

More than likely, if you’re over 25, you’ll probably be familiar with The Buggles. You’re probably also aware of Trevor Horn and his production skills. If you’re a Yes fan, you’ll probably also know of Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn’s brief stint as members of the progressive rock supergroup.

If not, you’ll probably go “meh” and skip over this entry. Adventures in Modern Recording is the Buggles’ “difficult” second album. I have the 2010 remastered re-release. Two tracks from which stand out, I Am a Camera, which is a reworking of Into the Lens from the Yes album Drama, and We Can Fly From Here which was later reworked by Yes and appears on their album Fly From Here.

As with all second albums, it’s nothing groundbreaking. It’s a nice to have if you’re a Yes fan or you happen to be curious about The Buggles having just heard Video Killed the Radio Star.

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01011001–Ayreon [#22]

000-ayreon-01011001-(advance)-2cd-proof-2008

01011001 by Ayreon

I can’t remember how I first heard about Ayreon. It might be listening to a compilation or something but from the first song that I heard, I just knew that I would like his work.

So I managed to get his back catalogue with this fantastic double album being released at the moment that I began getting Ayreon’s work.

I think that Ayreon, or Arjen Anthony Lucassen, does a bloody good job of uniting various artists such as Floor Jansen, Anneke Van Giersbergen, Bruce Dickinson and Fish under a single project umbrella. Much in the same way as Ivo Russell-Watts did with 4AD and This Mortal Coil. The difference being that Lucassen creates a concept album as the central cusp of the union.

So let us see….changing artists – Check; Concept albums – Check; Bearded and hairy musicians – check; Rock music – Check….so does that make it prog? New prog? In my opinion, yes it does.

01011001 tells the tale of the descent of man into destruction despite alien entities, psychically beaming visions of our destruction into our little heads. It works. It tells a story. With music and catchy tunes.

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9012 Live: The Solos & 90125- Yes [#20] & [#21]

9012 Live: The Solos – Yes

People that have known me for a while will no doubt agree when I say, as a youth, I was weird. When all my contemporaries were enjoying U2, Deacon Blue, Blur and Shakespear’s Sister; I was deeply entrenched in a puddle of prog. Most notably, Yes and Triumvirat.

As I reached my early teens my desire for music grew. HMV became the Minaret that called me through it’s doors to the music Mecca that was inside. Remember, this was many years before the Internetz and free musicz. You would have to go through the LPs and CDs alphabetically by artist and hope that there would be something new or exciting within your price range. If they didn’t have the album, you could ask them to order it, but they’d probably charge a fortune. Or you could just hope that on the off chance it would somehow miraculously appear in the racks.

In the day, records were out of my price range and I would use Christmas and Birthdays to boost the contents of my music library by asking grandparents to buy me the albums or by using gift vouchers. One of the albums I got during this time was this. Unfortunately the vinyl got warped somewhere between the printing press and my record player. I didn’t have a receipt. I didn’t have the courage to ask for a refund. Instead I listened to the listenable bits and made do.

This album reminds me of so much about my childhood. Probably because this and the accompanying studio album and video were on repeat

90125 – Yes

I wrote to Jimmy Peado Saville and asked him to fix it for me to sing with Yes because of this album. He was obviously too busy fiddling to Fix anything for me.

90125 is a break from the twiddly weirdness of their earlier stuff. A complete style change from Tormato and Drama. Yet it works. It works well. They even had a new guitarist. Trevor Rabin (Steve Howe had gone to play with Asia). He looked so cool I wanted long hair like his. I wanted to be dark haired so I could have long hair like his. This was new stuff and a new style that would continue to evolve and grow like me. I must have listened to this album a million times as teen and as a twenteen. With the VHS live video to accompany it too.

Incidentally, this is the album which contains Owner of a Lonely Heart; Yes’ most famous song.

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