Ramblin’ Man Fair to Camel?

RamblinProg 72dpiThe first annual Ramblin’ Man Fair was held last weekend at Mote Park in Maidstone, Kent. I came over from San Francisco to see the band Camel, who performed on day one of the two-day event, 25 July 2015. The festival was well run, and a success on many levels, with two main stages: one for rock & metal bands, and a smaller one for the purveyors of progressive rock. I took the trip all the way “across the pond” to see Camel with Jeff, my college roommate, as we have been lifelong fans of the group and had first seen them together on the Breathless tour, at the Roxy theater in Los Angeles way back in 1979. As hoped, Camel put in a strong performance, focusing on the 1975 recording, Moonmadness and fan favorites from the rest of their early catalog.

RamblinCamel01 72dpiCamel returned to the stage two years ago, performing a slightly revised version of their brilliant concept album The Snow Goose (1975). My wife Artina and I attended this show at the Barbican Theater and felt fortunate to finally see the band out again after that long break, which came due to a rare illness suffered by founding guitarist Andrew Latimer. For that show the group featured keyboard player Guy LeBlanc who passed away just this last April, and was replaced for this tour by Ton Scherpenzeel, a founding member of Dutch band Kayak, who has been active with Camel since 1984. Returning members included the multi-talented Jason Hart (keys, acoustic guitar, vocals), Denis Clement (drums) and long-tenured favorite Colin Bass (bass, vocals). This was another stellar lineup for this long enduring band.

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The show opened with “Never Let Go,” a staple from their first album, followed by “The White Rider” from Mirage (1974). Then commenced five of the seven songs from Moonmadness, most notably the one-two punch of “Air Born” and “Lunar Sea” along with “Uneven Song” from Rain Dances (1977), “Drafted” from the concept album Nude (1981) and the stunning and beautiful set closer “Ice” from I Can See Your House From Here (1979). In particular the instrumentals “Lunar Sea” and “Ice” highlight Latimer’s abilities as one of Britain’s most talented guitarists. He shows a RamblinManAndyTon 72dpirare restraint, like contemporaries Eric Clapton and David Gilmour, wringing powerful emotion from every note, never crowding the measure. On top of this, Latimer sings and plays flute, and these skills were also on display, as he traded leads and harmonies with Colin (who makes everything he does look easy, paired with Denis on drums) and shared solos with keyboard wizard Ton, who was in great form. After the long form encore “Lady Fantasy” the band were rushed offstage, seeming to be surprised at the shorter time they were allotted. Prior nights on this brief tour included a three track set from Dust and Dreams (1991) a keyboard instrumental, and “Long Goodbyes” from Stationary Traveller, (1984), one of our favorites, none of which they were able to play. The rush seemed unnecessary; the stage time allotted to the comparatively pedestrian Scorpions would have fit Camel’s entire set list. It was not an arrangement befitting one of Britain’s most talented musical outfits. Nonetheless Camel delivered during a truncated 80 minute set and made the trip spectacular for the two of us.

RamblinBOC 72dpiAnd there was more to see during the long Saturday afternoon and evening. The lineup of bands on the prog stage that day included Unto Us, Touchstone, Messenger, Pendragon, Haken, Anathema and headliners Camel. On the main stage it was No Hot Ashes, Toseland, FM, Blue Oyster Cult, Saxon, Dream Theater, and The Scorpions. The only act we really wanted to see on the main stage was American band Blue Oyster Cult who did not disappoint, with killer hits like “Don’t Fear The Reaper” and “Godzilla” alongside deeper cuts that showed off their blues-rock chops.

RamblinHaken 72dpiWe spent more of the day at the Prog stage, with Haken in particular hitting all their marks. This band featured inventive, structured tunes like “Cockroach King” that brought to mind the best aspects of Gentle Giant with madrigal vocals and deft instrumental interplay. They closed with the 20-minute long-form song “Crystallized” which featured lots of tightly composed counterpoint and dramatic musicianship. This is a worthy band that just signed to the Yes event Cruise To The Edge. Anathema followed and did their fans right with their brand of melodic prog.

RamblinManAnathema 72dpi

As to the fair in general, the event was well organized and not over-crowded, so lines for bathrooms, and the many varieties of food & drink were short, and there was plenty of space to stand or sit during the performances. Management, vendors and service personnel were upbeat, professional and courteous. On Saturday we lucked into a mostly sunny day in beautiful Mote park.

RamblinManFair 72dpi

On balance musically, the fair catered more to the heavy metal and hard rock crowd, as fans of that music attended in greater numbers, and those bands took a much larger stage than their prog brethren. Additional smaller stages played host to “Outlaw Country” and blues acts. No doubt that imbalance was due in part to the main event being a rare U.K. appearance by American country and blues rock legend Greg Allman. But I came away feeling a bit let down by this, and had not expected that here in the birthplace of progressive rock, the disparity between these related genres would be so large. It seemed a bit of whiplash; to my left was the brawn and bravado (“rock you like a hurricane”), and to the right, virtuosity and nuance (“daydreams and sunbeams”). Too much Yin for my Yang, and more leather than lace! While we did have a great time, I’m not sure the event founders will be able to entice me back next year, as nice as the fair was, and I know now to lean towards dedicated classic rock, alternative/indie or prog festivals. Next stop for a fest will be the Yes voyage Cruise To The Edge in November.

p.s. Special thanks this week to Matt and Steve Knight, who provided many of the photos herein!

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Wakeman’s Gonzo Weekend

rickjourney2At the early age of 12 years, I went to the record store to buy my first two albums.  One was “Journey to the Center of the Earth” by Rick Wakeman.  This began a lifelong appreciation of all the works by this brilliant keyboard wizard.  Journey and it’s followup, “The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table” were pure magic to my ears. Deftly blending rock, classical, and theater, these albums fueled my young imagination and continue to provoke wonder today.  I played these same records for my own kids, and one of my son’s early first purchases was Rick’s “Return to the Center of the Earth” which sported the exhilarating “Dance of 1,000 Lights.”

Last weekend after a prolonged period making the arrangements, Rick played most of these masterworks on two nights in Cheltenham at the Centaur. The night before these, he gave an intimate performance with three of his children, now young adults, Oliver, Jemma, and Adam Wakeman.  I took my son, now 19 out from California to Britain to see these shows – they were everything we hoped and more.

This intimate show held at Black Friars club in Gloucester, part of a restored Dominican Friary, allowed each Wakeman to play a few of their own compositions and covers from their catalogs.  Rick played his Nursery Rhymes, Beatles covers, and one from Rhapsodies.  Most notably the guys all played “Jemma” from “The Family Album” teasing Jemma about her bedtime ritual, ultimately ending with Rick reading a modified, sweet and humorous bedtime story. The audience was invited to add new lyrics, filling in suggested actions for the bedtime ritual, expanding on ones like “Jemma, Jemma, brush your teeth!” [See an audience video here on YouTube] Many who read this will know of Adam and Oliver’s work – what was a surprise to us is how talented Jemma is – great keys, guitar and beautiful voice.  The family shared stories and quite a few barbs at Dad on that Father’s day eve, for his many marriages and other foibles.  Heart warming, endearing, and a rare glimpse into the private life of these amazing artists.

Rick and family are now preparing for the upcoming Wakemanfest weekend, taking place this coming 30th October to 1st November at Lincolnshire’s Boston Gliderdrome. Already announced for the weekend are Mike Livesley’s version of Vivian Stanshall’s Sir Henry At Rawlinson End, The English Rock Ensemble, the Strawbs, the Cadbury Sisters and others. Q&A sessions will take place throughout the weekend. It promises to be another opportunity to catch a special concert including Wakeman and guests, a welcome chance to celebrate their work.

Steeleye Spans Time

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Steeleye Span’s Earlier Years

Steeleye Span played the Great American Music Hall July 16th, 2015. They are one of those bands that never made it into my collection, though I have friends that are fans, and have heard some of their influential British folk and roots music over the last 45 years. In fact Steeleye Span has been held in high regard internationally for decades, beginning with their debut album in 1970, and they have a couple of hit singles and three Top 40 albums to show for it. I’ve always been a bit more attracted by the renaissance era and progressive influences found in groups like Gryphon, but am learning to appreciate folk and roots music as time passes. What we discovered at the show last week was a band that’s held up exceptionally well, as the current lineup is able to put across their brand of folk-rock with an uplifting and engaging show.

Steeleye Span Band 72dpi

Steeleye Span Maddy 72dpiLong time founding member Maddy Prior led the procession with a voice that is undiminished by time. She shared stories and historical perspective between the tracks, most of which were traditional songs and ballads. The band opened with “Blackleg Miner,” a track originating from Northumberland that enjoyed a brief revival in 1986 after a miner’s strike in the region. Of this song and it’s meaning, Maddy added “If you don’t pay your workers they will turn around and bite you in the bum!” Later in the first half of the set, “I Live Not Where I Love” showed off Maddy’s still pliant clear tones. Introducing the piece, she added, “This song is about true and abiding love, very deep and all-consuming love, and it disappoints me that I’ve sung this to two or three people in my head.” Other fan favorites included the hit “All Around My Hat” which led to an audience sing-along and ended the first of two sets. The encore was an “a capella” version of “Somewhere Along The Road.”

Steeleye Span Jessie 72dpiThe band’s lineup has changed frequently over the years, and Maddy was the only founding member on board for this latest tour. The rest of the group consisted of Julian Littman (guitars, vocals), Liam Genockey (drums) and amazing violinist Jessie May Smart, who played beautifully and added vocal harmonies throughout. Alex Kemp, Maddy’s son was intended to play bass instead of his father Rick Kemp, but lacked the paperwork to make it past border control for their US dates and was replaced by stand in. The band was tight, and focused on playing in unison behind their multi-part vocal harmonies, so key to the performance this traditional music. While Julian stepped up a few times to play some lead solos, it was Jessie who remained the focus instrumentally, with her virtuosic playing on full display.

Steeleye Span Band Color 72dpi

This was a pleasant evening of traditional music from Britain and beyond, and a feast for fans of the band that welcomed Maddy and the group with rapturous applause and undivided attention. The tour continues in the U.S. into July, then returns to Europe and the U.K. into mid-December, for all those inclined to celebrate the band and this rich musical heritage.

Steeleye Span Tour 72dpi

Yes: War and Peace

Yes Relayer CoverThe Yes album Relayer, one of the band’s most adventurous and enduring records, was originally released in 1974. It is a progressive rock masterpiece that includes elements of jazz-fusion, and a looser feel, thanks in great part to keyboard player Patrick Moraz, and the sessions that were part of its writing. The album is a work of art, in its story telling, prose, virtuosic playing and beautiful cover art by Roger Dean. Its release was followed by two tours of North America, England and Europe, each segment utilizing amazing stage sets designed and built by Martyn Dean, resulting in the most impressive theatrical performances of their careers. Forty years after it’s release, Steven Wilson remastered the album from its original multitrack tapes in stereo and 5.1 sound, producing what is now the definitive release on CD and Blue-ray.

THE ALBUM

Relayer’s centerpiece is “The Gates of Delirium” which occupies side one of the vinyl album. Written during the unending turmoil of the Vietnam War, and the August 1974 resignation of U.S. President Richard Nixon, it weaves a tale about the evils of war and it’s aftermath, inspired by Leo Tolstoy’s War And Peace. As Anderson described the multi-part suite “There’s a prelude, a charge, a victory tune, and peace at the end, with hope for the future.” It contains some of the most assured and aggressive instrumentals and vocals of the band’s catalog. The music perfectly illuminates the central story and it’s lyrics. Consider the battle scene instrumental, complete with the sound of battle cries and clanging metal, the band creating the sometimes abrasive tones of naked aggression – following the lyric:

The fist will run
Grasp metal to gun
The Spirit sings in crashing tones we gain the battle drum
Our cries will shrill the air will moan and crash into the dawn

This cacophony fades into the peaceful finale “Soon,” one of the most beautiful songs Yes composed and an enduring fan favorite. Just as with the story of war before it, “Soon”, perfectly matches music to hopeful prose emerging from the shadows of battle. Moraz lays down a backdrop of peaceful organ and Mellotron. Steve Howe leads with atmospheric pedal-steel and acoustic guitars, and Jon Anderson delivers one of his most touching yet powerful lead vocals, a reflection of his utopian philosophy:

Soon Oh soon the light
Ours to shape for all time, ours the right
The sun will lead us
Our reason to be here

“The Gates of Delirium” is a prime example of Yes’s large-scale songs that are designed to take listeners on a journey, to take them to a place far removed from their beginnings. The song begins with a state of turmoil, the onset of war and reaches its climax in the middle with a musical depiction of war. A state of peace is attained after the battle, bringing the listener into a world free from the fetters of time and space. The beginning of the piece has a strong rhythmic force, which propels the music forward. The ending has an absence of beat and pulse, and produces a feeling of timelessness, quietude, and contemplation – a hymn-like atmosphere. While Tchaikovsky and Mahler give their final slow movements tragic overtones, Yes’s slow movements portray hope and transcendence rather than tragedy. It is music for the theater in our minds.

The second side of the original LP contains two tracks that are masterful works in their own right. In particular, the jazz fusion influence brought by Moraz is demonstrated in “Sound Chaser” featuring his impossibly fast leads on the Fender Rhodes keyboard backed by similarly frenetic drum and bass runs – some of the best synergy between Chris Squire and Alan White on record. The frenetic middle instrumental passes between key and meter with vocal punctuations (cha cha cha, cha cha!). This music rewards only the attentive listener. The more gentle, melodic “To Be Over” makes a perfect closer for this brilliant album.

Yes Relayer CD Cover 72dpi

The cover art for Relayer is one of Roger Dean’s most beautiful paintings. I felt fortunate to see this finely detailed work up close at a San Francisco Art Exchange showing in 2009, prior to seeing a Yes and Asia gig in the city. Roger once described the painting: “Relayer was really a pencil drawing –I’ve said it jokingly but it was almost painted with dirty water- its got so little color in it. It wasn’t a conscious intention to do a contrast– it was just how that should have been – just the right way to do it – to this day it’s definitely one of my top 3 favorites.” A poem by Donald Lehmkuhl sets the tone for Jon’s lyrics and Roger’s cover art; it begins with the line, “Snakes are coiled upon the granite.” As rendered, the artwork imagines an otherworldly, nearly colorless historical setting for “Gates” creating the perfect packaging to match the musical genius inside.

Yes Relayer SFAE Show
Alan White chats with Doug Harr at SFAE

THE 2014 STEVEN WILSON REMASTER

As to the latest remastering, the CD and Blue-ray DVD present the best sounding versions of the albums I’ve heard to date. In an interesting turn of events, the battle sound effects from the original mix of “Gates” are not included on the remastered versions of that track as they were not found on the multitrack master tapes. Not to worry, as original album versions, including two with the needle drop are included on the DVD. In addition we get single edits of “Soon” and “Sound Chaser” along with a studio run through of each track. It’s nice to have the clean Blu-ray stereo pressing of “Sound Chaser” live from Cobo “Hall” (an arena in Detroit, Michigan) in 1976, though it was previously available on The Word Is Live, and would have been more valuable had it been paired with “Gates” (which appeared on YesShows) and a version of “To Be Over” from the prior year. It would in fact have been a notch better if an alternate live performance of the entire album was included, and even more interesting if any live video had been added. Having said that this now definitive set contains a wealth of audio to consume and appreciate.

Yes Relayer Booklet 72dpi

TOURS AND LIVE RECORDINGS

As to live video, the only complete film from this period is a valuable if flawed document of the Relayer tour at Queen’s Park, London from May 10, 1975. The picture is excellent considering the era, though because it’s the early leg of the tour, and the band played during daylight, the staging effects are poorly captured. Unfortunately, the sound is poor during the first segment of the show, and never completely recovers. At some date we may see unearthed footage from later segments of this tour, which eventually ended with the most impressive staging of the band’s history. For now it is the most important footage of this incarnation of Yes.

The staging by Roger and Martyn Dean represented a massive undertaking for the ensemble during the long tour. If we include the 1976 “solo albums” leg of the journey, there were almost 150 performances between November 1974 to late August 1976. The staging went through three iterations – beginning with the Tales set, followed by a set dubbed “Barnacles” for the second U.S. visit between June and July of 1975. A subsequent tour with the same lineup but no new Yes album to support came in May of 1976. Dubbed the “solo albums” tour, this is still referred to by most as part of the Relayer tour, though “To Be Over” had been dropped from the set list to make way for a few alternate and solo tracks. Most importantly, the break left time for Martyn Dean to conceive of his most stunning staging yet, the “Crab Nebula.”

Yes Relayer Ticket 1976The “Crab Nebula” was a three-headed creation that towered over the band, fit out with spotlights, and built to emerge and vanish during the show, because as Martyn noted “Anything that’s onstage for three hours becomes boring if you can’t make it vanish.” Ten people worked for three months on the “Crab Nebula” structure, made with wood, aluminum, foam, plaster and varnish, resulting in a transportable, sturdy construction that kept it intact and functional through the summer tour of stadiums and coliseums, which ended in August of 1976. This was part of Martyn’s work with Yes over a seven-year period, when he and his team produced increasingly sophisticated and impressive staging. Along with the cloth backdrop designed by Roger and made by Felicity Youlette, it represented scenery and craft raised to the level of artful theater.

Music, lyrics, poetry and art come together on Relayer, creating a sumptuous package. Considered along with its legendary performances, this is one of the pinnacles of 1970’s era progressive and classic rock.

More to come on this fantastic album, its long tour, and its place as one of the most theatrical works of the progressive era, when I finish my next book! In the meantime, collect these discs and put on your headphones…

Genesis – Like What You Know

Gallo App LogoFans of the band Genesis have something to be excited about this year, and it’s not the band’s official “R-Kive” box set and flawed documentary! Author and photographer Armando Gallo just released an iPad app titled Genesis – I Know What I Like that brings to life his landmark 1980 publication of the same name. Gallo and his team have fashioned a beautiful alternative to the long out of print book that presents revised text, dozens of interviews, rare audio recordings, film clips and beautiful photos of the group on stage and off. It’s loaded with features and represents a definitive account of this progressive rock band and their early years. This app comes highly recommended to all fans of Genesis and those interested in rock journalism.

Gallo BooksGallo’s original book was Genesis: The Evolution of a Rock Band published by Sidgwick and Jackson in the UK in 1978. This was expanded and improved with the release of I Know What I Like, by DIY Books, Inc. (1980), which added to the timeline, and contained the definitive account of Genesis up to that year. The book captured their history, recordings, astrological charts (!) and most importantly their stunning live performances, following the story from their inception through the 1970’s. Armando was the perfect biographer for the band as he had collected more than a hundred hours of interviews with the musicians, their families, friends, and collaborators, pairing this with his own exceptional photography.

The Iconic Photo: Gabriel performing "The Musical Box"
The Iconic Photo: Gabriel performing “The Musical Box”

Because Genesis was such a theatrical, visually stunning band in concert, the real treat of these books were the photos. The DIY release came on better paper stock, and contained perfectly rendered full color shots of the band together and apart. For more than two decades, prior to the emergence of internet fan groups, besides a couple of very low quality films from 1973 and 1976 these books were the only way to access quality imagery of the band in concert. Those of us who loved the group, and particularly those who missed the early years relished these images. The photos featured Peter Gabriel’s increasingly elaborate costumes and set pieces, from the fox head mask (with wife Jill’s red dress) to the old man of “The Musical Box”, the Apocalypse from “Supper’s Ready”, “Watcher of the Skies” and finally Gabriel as Rael from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Gallo LambThese were followed by gorgeous shots of the band as fronted by Phil Collins, after Peter’s departure, from the Trick of the Tail through And Then There Were Three albums and tours. This included perfectly composed shots showing guitarist Steve Hackett, bass/rhythm guitarist Michael Rutherford, and keyboard genius Tony Banks along with all of the fantastic staging and lighting from the shows. The book also covered the early solo careers of each band member, ending with a hopeful quote from Gabriel about what became an abandoned project to turn The Lamb… into a movie.

Gallo IntroGallo’s iPad app transforms this two-dimensional print experience into a new interactive journey. Using a software platform originally designed to create children’s books, the story is brought to life by including recordings of some of those actual interviews, short video clips, and additional color photos. Genesis songs play in the background. Anthony Phillips, Steve Hackett and Daryl Struemer supplied original songs and more than a dozen musicians from all over the world supplied original music. These musicians are fans from Australia, South America and Europe, who were inspired by Genesis to go professional. Visually, there is a most impressive ability to manipulate photos as they appear on the page. Readers can grab shots, move them across the window, resize and return them to the margins. Some free features included in the app are the ability to “pose” with members of the band for new snapshots, and grab and use prints as wallpaper. A modestly priced in-app purchase unlocks the entire book and many additional features, including a “lightbox” of Gallo’s slides. These are some of the most entertaining features of the app and are well worth the fee – go for it!

Gallo Lightbox
The Lightbox – Use Viewer to Zoom In
Gallo Gabriel
Tab through additional photos
Grab and resize photos
Grab and resize photos
Trick of the Tail Tour
Trick of the Tail Tour

Armando himself introduces the app with a bit of background, ending with the heartfelt coda, “I hope that this app will push the legacy of Genesis music into the future for a new generation to love and discover…welcome to the wonderful world of Genesis”. Download the app, unlock the entire book and extra features and experience that world with Armando Gallo…you will like what you know!

Gallo Credits

Yes: Beyond, Before and Again

Yes Squire CTTE 2014 72dpiBeen thinking since Sunday about what to say after the passing of Chris Squire, the immensely talented bass player and vocalist for Yes. I’ve seen Chris play live over the years at more than a dozen Yes shows, and every time his performance has been incredibly entertaining and inspiring. He is one of the most important musicians of our time and will be sorely missed by fellow artists and fans alike, as evidenced by the outpouring of remembrances and condolences over the past week. Yet the band Yes will continue and change once again, as they have so many times over these more than 40 years. And that’s an honor to Mr. Squire, and a very good thing indeed.

Chris had been part of the artistic flowering of rock music since it’s maturation during the 1960’s and beyond. The progressive rock and jazz-fusion genres nurtured some of the best bass players of the modern era. Unlike much of mainstream rock and jazz, these adventurous forms inspire each instrumentalist to stretch out, to explore the boundaries of their craft and produce artistic music that startles and amazes listeners. Such was the case with Chris Squire and his signature Rickenbacker bass. To help describe just what makes Squire so unique, I reached out to my collaborator, author and musicologist friend Tim Smolko. He came up with an excellent four-part answer to this inquiry:

  1. Squire’s treble register. Squire spent as much time exploring the upper register of the bass as he did the lower. Utilizing such a wide pitch range gave him the ability to construct his elaborate bass lines, take solos, and interact with the other melodic instruments in the band (voice, guitar, and keyboards). Most players create intensity by developing a low, growling tone. Squire not only did that (the “Roundabout” bass line), but he created the same intensity in his upper register.
  1. Squire’s use of a pick. Squire was not the first to play the bass with a pick, but he was among the early pioneers. His use of a pick gave his playing the speed, execution, and punchiness that most other bassists didn’t have.
  1. Squire’s participation in the “emancipation” of the bass. I like to compare what players like Squire did for the bass guitar to what Beethoven did for the cello. In the Classical period before Beethoven, composers often gave cello players a boring job: just play the root position notes that underlie the harmony. Haydn and Mozart came along and gave cellists more interesting parts, but it was Beethoven who treated the cello as an equal instrument alongside the violin and viola. In his string quartets, the four instruments are equal partners. Chris Squire did the same for the bass guitar. Instead of playing just the basic notes that outline the chord progression, they created melodies of their own and became an equal partner with the other instruments. It’s as if Squire is soloing all the time, but he’s still laying the foundation for the song. Like Paul McCartney and John Entwistle, Squire stands out as a great bassist because he treated his instrument as a melody instrument.
  1. Squire’s band mates helped him become great. It’s obvious when listening to Yes that the other members never dictated to Squire what to play. He had the freedom to make his bass parts as elaborate as he wanted. Not only that, the other players “took over” some of the traditional roles of the bass guitar in order to let Squire become the melodic player that he was. Steve Howe, Peter Banks, Tony Kaye, Rick Wakeman, and Billy Sherwood often played the low-end notes and the basic rhythm of a song while Squire did something else.

All keen and valid observations; thank you Tim! It’s particularly important to understand that his bass melodies share the sonic palette as an equal partner with the other instrumentalists. In addition, the other aspect of Squire’s talent as a musician was his powerful vocals. Chris could almost be called the co-lead vocalist of Yes, so frequent was his simultaneous harmonic pairing with Jon Anderson, Trevor Horn, Benoit David, and Jon Davidson. The signature Yes sound relies in large part on these vocal harmonies. At every show I attended Chris was consistently in strong clear voice, and it’s an important part of his legacy.

Yes Squire White 2009 72dpiWhich brings us to Squire’s longevity and legacy in general. Provided one does not count the Anderson, Wakeman, Bruford, Howe album as Yes, Chris has been in every incarnation of the ever-changing Yes lineup, enduring for over 40 years. Other band members have come and gone, some with fairly prolific solo careers, particularly Rick Wakeman and Jon Anderson. Yet with the exception of his outstanding 1975 solo album Fish Out Of Water, and a few other collaborations, Squire’s primary focus had been Yes. He poured every ounce of his focus and his talent into it’s many incarnations, helping drive the relentless touring schedule that has kept the music alive.

yes troopersAnd it is important that Yes does live on and endure, as they have thus far when other band members have passed on or have left the fold. The fundamental reason for this is clear – the band has produced a huge catalog of music, rife with stellar compositions and virtuosic musicianship. This music should and will be played even after the original and long standing members are no more. As evidenced recently when Squire first announced that his illness would preclude his involvement in the upcoming Yes tour and he indicated his support for collaborator Billy Sherwood to carry on in his stead. “The other guys and myself have agreed that Billy Sherwood will do an excellent job of covering my parts and the show as a whole will deliver the same Yes experience that our fans have come to expect over the years.” I for one am very interested to see who will fill in for Chris over the coming years and what kind of interpretations they will do of his work.

Yes Squire band CTTE 2014 72dpiWhich leads me to the broader question, one often debated amongst fans on Facebook and other social media sites, as to what gives a musical group it’s identity. This is the point recently raised by Geoffrey Himes in a Smithsonian.com article. Mr. Himes poses a valid question about rock bands, “How much can you change its personnel before it’s no longer the same band,” suggesting there is both a legal angle and a fan’s perspective to consider, and continuing with other valid points. It’s interesting fodder when considering a group like Yes. I’ve read posts by fans adamant that “Yes is not Yes” without Jon Anderson, who so embodied the band’s core vision and spiritual leadership. But I would argue that like the classical composers of the past, progressive rock music should be played in concert into the distant future for generations to come. In fact, Chris said it best in a 2013 interview with Jason Saulnier “I believe that like a symphony orchestra there could be a version of Yes in 100 or 200 years from now, honoring the music and presumably creating new music as well. That would be a nice thing I think.”

Yes Squire Keys (c) Owen1996  72dpiLet’s celebrate the fact that progressive rock music, particularly as composed by bands such as Yes, is that good. That it is a valid and viable form of music and it can continue to be interpreted for original and new audiences, just as has been the case with classical and original jazz forms. While any original members survive and are able, they should be part of the family that continues in this pursuit. While I can still catch Steve Howe, Jon Anderson and the other band members, either together or solo, and while they can still play, I will continue to attend their live shows, and will continue to recommend others do as well, provided they still enjoy the results. As new musicians come to the fore and perform this music, if they do it well, I will be there to enjoy their mastery of these works and honor the memory of those who came before them.

Like all fans, I was terribly disappointed when Jon Anderson fell ill just before the summer of 2008 tour, as I had 3rd row tickets to the cancelled show in Mountain View. But the band soldiered on, with new vocalist Benoit David, then Jon Davison and we’ve seen every tour since. We’ve also seen Anderson live in solo tours including one with Wakeman in Scotland, and we loved every minute. Last year Davison again took lead vocals for the band at Cruise To The Edge and put in an astounding performance. He hit the most powerful sustained note I’ve seen by any Yes singer for “Heart of the Sunrise” on the refrain “I feel lost in the city….”

The band are on tour this summer with Toto, then hosting the third annual Cruise To the Edge voyage this November and they will begin a tour of the UK and Europe next year, having announced that the set list will include all of Fragile (1972) and Drama (1980). Both of these albums showcase some of Squire’s most intricate bass leads, and so it’s fitting timing that these will be the focus of this upcoming tour. We were all deeply saddened to hear of the passing of the great Chris Squire and I for one will be at the upcoming shows and beyond, to celebrate his life’s work and continuing legacy.