I can imagine Chris Squire projecting in an astral voice inside Jon Anderson’s head saying:
“You’re bloody at it again. Didn’t you learn anything the first time with ABWH?”
If you’re in the mood for nostalgia circa 1989, then ARW (Anderson, Rabin, & Wakeman) will indeed fill the void left over waiting for that second ABWH (Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, & Howe) album that will never arrive.
Not THAT these legendary musical stalwarts have any new material to display, but the combination of merging two different Yes camps into one as was attempted in the last Union tour back in 1991 was only half the battle. And if you remember, public opinion historically stated: too much progressive rock chefs were left to spoil the broth. Two guitar players, two keyboard players, and two drummers fought for ego supremacy, and therefore the experiment went all disheveled and the result of it all accumulated into another long-winded hiatus, until the West Coast faction of the band would return with 1994’s Talk.
Now in 2016 we now find ourselves condensed to one representative from the classic seventies era and one from the so-called ‘modern era’ of the eighties, you get to hear arrangements that are more concise rather than jumbled together by eight egomaniacal fighting for his solo to push the faders up on the soundboard. It’s a treat to hear Rick Wakeman’s interpretations of the 90125 and Big Generator era as much as it is to hear Rabin put his spin on some very few Yes classics such as “Perpetual Change” and “Awaken“.
Who could ever imagine that Rick Wakeman and Trevor Rabin could work so well together? But then again, the evidence was always there since they both collaborated on a song for Rick’s 1999 sequel to “Journey to the Centre of the Earth” aptly titled “Return to the Centre of the Earth” on a song entitled ‘Never is a Long, Long Time.”, but to go full-out on reimagining some of the classic Yes material from the each of their respective eras and amalgamate it into one cohesive unit? Well, that is the magic of ARW.
Only problem is, there was no time to assemble or preview any new material. as all the three have done is contribute bits and pieces of song ideas which according to Anderson, ‘sound unique’ and Rabin has concurred that rather than frustrate themselves into learning to performing new material, rearranging the old material to sound fresh and topical was top priority. And definitely truer words were never spoken, as witnessed on the evening of November 19th as I sojourned northeast from my usual stomping grounds of Los Angeles (unfortunately their show booked for the Orpheum was on a ‘school night’ aka work day) to a fun weekend of reuniting with the only Parsippany NJ High School Alumni member that I only speak with to this day, Michael Zullo and I were instantly stupefied in awe at their appearance at the Pearl Theater located within the casino cavernous confines of The Palms.
The seventies to eighties kept flipping back and forth like calling a coin heads or tails, as the set was constantly unpredictable (unless you peeked online at the set list early), as Trevor gave his guitar twist on several numbers I never heard him perform before such as “Perpetual Change” or the hallmark “Awaken“, but it was Wakeman who really outshone on the 80’s Rabin material, especially on “Hold On“, “Changes” and bringing the house down with a dazzling synthesizer solo tacked on to the tail end of “Rhythm of Love” that expanded a little above and beyond the Brian Love/Beach Boys homage.
Joining as side members were bassist Lee Pomeroy who gave it his all for a tribute to the late great Chris Squire on “Long Distance Runaround/The Fish” and drummer Lou Molino III, longtime friend of Rabin and former member of another Yes offshoot band, Yoso with Billy Sherwood and Tony Kaye was equally impressive.
The only real non-Yes song performed that evening was the tear inducing “The Meeting” a duet between Anderson and Wakeman that originally closed the first half of the only ABWH album. I had brought a date with me of whom I’ve been friends with on facebook for six years and I had just happen to have glanced to her in the seat next to me during this performance to be delighted to see tears of happiness well up in her eyes.
There’s always a first time for every thing and exposing someone generally a decade younger or two to something you’ve grown up to is perhaps the most gratifying thing in ones’ way. It’s a way of passing the baton as I’m sure it was the way it was with Chris mentoring Billy to take hold of the Yes reins before the inevitable caught up with him. At the end of the show, I outlined to my date, a basic history and discography of the band of where she could find the songs that she enjoyed, EVEN revealing to her that the new leader of the official Yes Camp back in LA, Billy Sherwood was born and raised up in Las Vegas and comes from a long line of legendary local Las Vegas Strip performers. My date was particularly impressed and remarked about how a singer such as Jon Anderson, rocking it out at the age of 72 can still sound and look so youthful and appear vibrant.
Now, if I happen to post this on November 30th, please note that if you’re in the Los Angeles/Orange County area, ARW, An Evening of Yes Music and More will be appearing at The Grove in Anaheim on December 2nd that ends the US portion of the 2016 tour. When I got back to LA that weekend from Las Vegas, KABC AM radio host Peter Tilden (also a television writer, most recently on an episode of The Simpsons) was talking heavily about the band while announcing that he giving away tickets for the Anaheim, referred to them as ‘the real deal’ and ‘that you can’t beat seeing the original singer, Jon Anderson up on stage’ which is great praise indeed, but then he went on to refer to the current band with Geoff Downes, Steve Howe, and Alan White and labeled them as a bunch of imposters.
Which is absolutely not true at all.
There’s been a lot of back and forth on social media of some harsh backlash on whether Yes should just disband completely because anchorman Chris Squire passed away and the spark is gone of showcasing any new material and variations on the album series has left considerable voids in the hearts of the diehards.
Remember what happened the last time Yes released a new album called “Heaven & Earth“:
The fucking audience didn’t want to hear it. The tour two years back in support of it only yielded two songs while the rest of the show bookended entire album performances of “Close to the Edge” & “Fragile“.
So as I was listening to Peter berate the current line-up on AM radio of all formats to stand upon a soapbox, I was reminded of a social media controversy that ignited on Prog Magazine’s facebook page a few months back by a Dom Lawson, who’s usually a stanch supporter of everything that Yes releases as evident by his own website Tales From the Edge or on the band’s main website itself (and I believe he’s written a few books on the band too).
But now that time has somewhat passed since Squire’s shift off the mortal coil, Lawson has been given both camps a tremendous shellacking and here are some italicized bits and pieces to paraphrase:
“The problem is that the current Yes lineup (after the passing of Squire) comprises no one’s idea of a classic or even particularly credible formation for the band. Steve Howe’s presence ensures that the whole thing isn’t a dishonest farce, but even he isn’t an original member. Surely the last nail in the coffin for the notion that this is actually Yes, rather than a well-intended tribute by ‘Steve Howe and pals’.
Yes, this band have had an absolutely insane number of lineup changes and purposeful reinventions over the last 40 years or so, but Squire was omnipresent and his absence has forced Yes into uncharted territory. They’re gamely keeping the flag flying onstage, but is there any real enthusiasm for this lineup to make new music? It seems unlikely.”
Well, let’s be clear on one time: There was a long hiatus of non-activity in Squire’s homestretch. If we all remember correctly, There was hardly any new material belted out by Yes for an ENTIRE DECADE between 2001’s Magnification & 2011’s Fly From Here, other than a greatest hits collection featuring a EP disc of new acoustic renditions of Fragile era songs and one new Dylanesque song entitled “Show Me” which unfortunately served as Jon Anderson’s swan song to the band, AND a live box set. The now Sherwood led band has been in this sort of ‘album series limbo’ ever since the last few tours with Anderson, pausing only to promote the heck out of “Fly From Here” was released with Huey Lewis look-a-like Benoit David on vocals and Oliver Wakeman taking on daddy’s role back in 2010-2011. During that interval of non writing activity, IF there was any new material being written, Squire would usually hand it off to Billy Sherwood for an outside album pow wow get together with some other prog greats willing to collaborate on a giant concept album or sending them off as e-mail files to Steve Hackett for a solo album project or the duo that they formed as Squackett.
Yes are unequivocally on the home straight at this point. It would be unfair to begrudge these musicians a steady income, of course, but does it need to be earned under a banner that no longer seems appropriate.
Meanwhile, Yes fans are readying themselves for the launch of ARW, a much-anticipated collaboration between Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman. Keen observers of the band’s frantic revolving personnel door will know that this trio did perform together on the Union tour in 1990, but that they have never joined forces on a Yes studio project. As a result, the new(ish) band’s claims to be “the definitive Yes lineup” are nothing short of ludicrous, and yet it’s hard to deny that by most sensible reckoning, any band featuring the man who sang on every one of Yes’ most revered records and the keyboard maestro that most diehards regard as the Yes ivory-tinkler – not to mention a quintessential prog icon – is going to effortlessly, and rightly, overshadow the rabble of hired hands and stand-ins currently performing under the Yes banner.
I don’t remember reading anywhere about ARW as referred to being the ‘definitive Yes line-up’ but I do have memories of whether I heard either Anderson or Squire usher their thoughts for the future for the band whether it be on the Yesspeak DVD from a decade back or the Yesstory 1991 VHS tape that Yes is the kind of band that would forge on with new members and offspring, of whomever wants to take over the mantle and wasn’t Oliver Wakeman, the youngest son of Rick who stepped up to the high-rise multi-keyboard plate to try to prove himself worthy of his musical inheritance?
Well, maybe the rest of the band were underwhelmed in the long run with Oliver, BUT AT LEAST, a spawn generated by a revered band member actually ACHIEVED a writing credit (“Into the Storm” on the “Fly From Here” album) amongst the pantheon of greatness.
When and if Sherwood ever gets the current line-up to develop new material, Sherwood will be at the helm and I’m sure with Howe on his side showing no signs of slowing down, writing wise that is, he’ll make the Squire legacy proud.
Speaking of developers of new materials, Jon Anderson has not been resting on his laurels. In addition to last year’s fantastic collaboration with legendary violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, for APB, Anderson also spent a good two years writing online with The Flower Kings maestro, Roine Stolt (who also tours as a member of Steve Hackett’s band) after bumping into each other on a progressive rock cruise. And from that fateful meeting, we are now pleased as progressive rock punch to have a masterful sounding new disc that is the perfect seasoned blend of The Flower Kings and the best of whatever solo workings that Jon Anderson has spent his entire career bringing us. There are echos of Jon’s earliest solo ventures such as Olias of Sunhillow, the South American and calypso exploration of Deseo, and most definitely some monumental Jon & Vangelis inspired beauty.
Anderson wrote the lyrics and sang the vocals from his San Luis Obispo California home and e-mailed them off to Stolt in Sweden where he was also joined in the studio by some FK alumni such as Jonas Reingold on bass & drummer Felix Lehrmann on drums, and flying in all the way over from New Jersey, 2001’s Magnification tour session keyboardist Tom Brislin, somewhat finding himself once again entrenched in the battle of Yes Camps.
Oh no, not this guy again!!
Honestly, it’s a wonderful album of brand new Anderson Yes inspired music, and I’m sure many die-hard Yes fans will come to regard it as official canon or a malformed bastard child be tossed away like “Heaven & Earth.”
This Yes Log is to be continued with a very, very, very, special Yes yuletide special edition of material pertaining to YES that you will NOT HAVE SEEN ANYWHERE ELSE. There will be two collaborators on the blog with me next week to present something that many of you may not have seen before. So on December 15th (ish) come with us once again to the YES WAY BACK MACHINE to 1994 for a surprise treat that I can hardly wait to show all of you.