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Archive for the tag “songs”

Joe Arcieri Songs: The Mixer

Joe Arcieri is a friend of mine who I worked with for many years during my ten years working for Acme Markets.  Joe, when not stocking milk or saving lives as a nurse, is an excellent guitar player.  I have had the privilege, from time to time, of (badly) plunking my bass guitar with Joe as he melts a face or two with a great solo.

As great musicians do, Joe has written some of his own songs and keeps a soundcloud site to post them.  When I have opportunity, I will post his music here as well.

Here is his composition called “The Mixer” which you can find here.

Here are the links to the previously posted songs by Joe:

Joe Arcieri Songs: Vela and Carina

Joe Arcieri is a friend of mine who I worked with for many years during my ten years working for Acme Markets.  Joe, when not stocking milk or saving lives as a nurse, is an excellent guitar player.  I have had the privilege, from time to time, of (badly) plunking my bass guitar with Joe as he melts a face or two with a great solo.

As great musicians do, Joe has written some of his own songs and keeps a soundcloud site to post them.  When I have opportunity, I will post his music here as well.

Here is his composition called “Vela and Carina” which you can find here.

Here are the links to the previously posted songs by Joe:

Joe Arcieri Songs: V Jam

Joe Arcieri is a friend of mine who I worked with for many years during my ten years working for Acme Markets.  Joe, when not stocking milk or saving lives as a nurse, is an excellent guitar player.  I have had the privilege, from time to time, of (badly) plunking my bass guitar with Joe as he melts a face or two with a great solo.

As great musicians do, Joe has written some of his own songs and keeps a soundcloud site to post them.  When I have opportunity, I will post his music here as well.

Here is his composition called “V Jam” which you can find here.

Here are the links to the previously posted songs by Joe:

Joe Arcieri Songs: Raw Track Mix 1

Joe Arcieri is a friend of mine who I worked with for many years during my ten years working for Acme Markets.  Joe, when not stocking milk or saving lives as a nurse, is an excellent guitar player.  I have had the privilege, from time to time, of (badly) plunking my bass guitar with Joe as he melts a face or two with a great solo.

As great musicians do, Joe has written some of his own songs and keeps a soundcloud site to post them.  When I have opportunity, I will post his music here as well.

Here is his composition called “Raw Track Mix 1” which you can find here.

Here are the links to the previously posted songs by Joe:

Joe Arcieri Songs: eJam

Joe Arcieri is a friend of mine who I worked with for many years during my ten years working for Acme Markets.  Joe, when not stocking milk or saving lives as a nurse, is an excellent guitar player.  I have had the privilege, from time to time, of (badly) plunking my bass guitar with Joe as he melts a face or two with a great solo.

As great musicians do, Joe has written some of his own songs and keeps a soundcloud site to post them.  When I have opportunity, I will post his music here as well.

Here is his composition called “eJam” which you can find here.

Here are the links to the previously posted songs by Joe:

 

Joe Arcieri Songs: 3 Mod Not So Medley 2

Joe Arcieri is a friend of mine who I worked with for many years during my ten years working for Acme Markets.  Joe, when not stocking milk or saving lives as a nurse, is an excellent guitar player.  I have had the privilege, from time to time, of (badly) plunking my bass guitar with Joe as he melts a face or two with a great solo.

As great musicians do, Joe has written some of his own songs and keeps a soundcloud site to post them.  When I have opportunity, I will post his music here as well.

Here is his composition called “3 Mod Not So Medley 2” which you can find here.

Here are the links to the previously posted songs by Joe:

 

Joe Arcieri Songs: Black Magic Mix

Joe Arcieri is a friend of mine who I worked with for many years during my ten years working for Acme Markets.  Joe, when not stocking milk or saving lives as a nurse, is an excellent guitar player.  I have had the privilege, from time to time, of (badly) plunking my bass guitar with Joe as he melts a face or two with a great solo.

As great musicians do, Joe has written some of his own songs and keeps a soundcloud site to post them.  When I have opportunity, I will post his music here as well.

Here is his composition called “Black Magic Mix,” which you can find here.

 

Yes, Like It Is: At The Mesa Arts Center DVD/CD Set: a Review

This post is the part of my Yes concert series of posts.  I started this series here and you can read the others here.

Yes has just released its latest live album called Like It Is: At The Mesa Arts Center documenting a concert played by the band at the Mesa Arts Center in Mesa, Arizona, on August 12, 2014.  This concert was in the context of the Heaven & Earth Tour.  The album consists of two CDs and one DVD.

The line-up Yes fielded that show was:

The track list is as follows (the album from which the songs come in parenthesis):

CD 1: (Close To The Edge)

  • Close to the Edge
  • And You And I
  • Siberian Khatru

CD 2: (Fragile)

  • Roundabout
  • Cans and Brahms
  • We Have Heaven
  • South Side of the Sky
  • Five Percent for Nothing
  • Long Distance Runaround
  • The Fish
  • Mood for a Day
  • Heart Of The Sunrise

DVD: All tracks

As I said above, this album documents a show from the Heaven & Earth Tour where Yes played tw0 albums in toto live, as well as some a few other songs to round out the set from Heaven and Earth and The Yes Album.  This album contains the entire Close to the Edge album and entire Fragile album (the actual show featured the Close to the Edge songs in reverse order).  This album lacks any sort of introduction music that the band had live at the show.

This album serves as a companion to the live album Yes released immediately prior to this one entitled Like It Is: At The Bristol Hippodrome which you can read more about here.  Over the past two tours Yes has taken to playing complete albums. Yes’ Three Album Tour featured the entire The Yes Album, Going for the One, and Close to the Edge albums played in their entirety.  The Heaven & Earth Tour featured the Close to the Edge and Fragile albums in their entirety.  Between this live album and Like It Is: At The Bristol Hippodrome Yes has released the live presentations of all four albums.

I reviewed a show from the tour this album documents which you can see here.

It is also worth noting, sadly, that this album is the last one recorded with Chris Squire in the band.  Chris Squire passed away in June 2015 right before this album was released.  You can read more about Chris’ passing here.

It is tough to review the music as this is a live album and the music really is derived from much older and established studio albums, so any review of the music could become really a review of those albums.  Needless to say, Close to the Edge and Fragile are Yes and progressive rock stalwart albums that stand on their own as classic albums which have stood the test of time.  The Heaven & Earth Tour presented these two complete albums played very closely to how they actually sounded on their original recordings.  So, the songs on that tour – and consequently this album – were not stretched out, the solos were not expanded, and there was virtually no improvisation.  So, in order to avoid reviewing the underlying studio albums, I will focus on the sound of the music more than anything else.

The sound quality of the album is excellent.  The sound is crisp and there is great separation between the instruments and between the vocals.  I am sure some audiophiles could find things to nitpick, but I have no complaints.

Ultimately, I think whether one enjoys this album depends on whether one likes this particular iteration of Yes and can accept the necessary effect age has had on these musicians who are in their sixth decade of performing.

Now, I am long term Yes fan so I have to admit that I wish Jon Anderson (original and long time vocalist) and Rick Wakeman (classic keyboardist) where back in the band and performing live.  That being said, Davison is an amazing replacement for Anderson and Downes is a quality prog rock keyboard player.  Of course, Downes’ style is markedly different from Wakeman’s at times, and I can’t say I do not miss Wakeman’s playing from time to time, but Downes’ style makes for an interesting change.  Wakeman’s playing is flashy, consistently fast, and with a lot of notes whereas Downes’ playing tends toward a lot of chording and being more understated (more cynical people would say “more tasteful” as compared to Wakeman’s choices).  In my opinion, this is a legitimate, excellent, and worthy iteration of Yes.

Does this album reflect any change in their live sound due to age?  Only a little.  I have to say that Alan White’s playing seems to have been deteriorating (at least in a live setting) since at least 2008 as he has gotten older.  He looks like a tired guy on stage once a show is over.  Don’t get me wrong, he still is a solid drummer who keeps time and provides some good coloring, but his live playing has gotten a lot less complex.  He is no longer the so-called “original thunder machine.”  In saying that, though, he does have some pretty good fills, as he does on “Heart of the Sunrise.”  Also, Chris Squire’s voice at this point in his career was not what it used to be.  I am not saying his singing is not good on this album; quite the contrary, his vocals on this album are very strong and mixed fairly high.  The effect of his age is the fact that his vocal parts have been lowered a bit; he no longer was singing in the stratosphere at this point, which provides the songs a slightly different sound than Yes fans may be used to hearing.  Some people have claimed that Yes plays the songs too slowly.  They did seem to reduce the tempo a little on a handful of songs between 2008 and 2012 (which I think was a concession to help ailing vocalist Benoit David), but with Davison’s joining the band they seem to have sped the songs back up to their appropriate tempos again.  Despite that, some still think they are playing too slowly, but I do not think that is a fair criticism at this point.  Their live tempos now reflect the tempos found on the studio albums, as opposed to their old practice of playing live a break-neck speeds.  The fact is, gone are the days when Yes ramped up the tempos on stage as they used to do in ages past (see Yessongs as an example), but the fact that modern live tempos are slower than their live tempos from the 1970s does not mean that modern live tempos are slow compared to the studio recordings.  The other thing to note is that the band’s live tone and presentation on this album is consistent with what they have been largely doing since 1991’s Union tour (with exception of the 1994 Talk tour), which is to have a cleaner and warmer sound as opposed to the dirtier and aggressive live sound they had in the 1970s and 1980s.

I think the music as played on this tour sounds very much like the original studio versions of the songs, so there are not really very many new interpretations to report for the purposes of this review.  I think Howe’s playing on this album is typical of his current cleaner style rather than the more aggressive style he employed back in in the 1970s.  Regardless of what he thinks, I think his use of a guitar synthesizer does an injustice to the coral electric sitar and twelve string acoustic guitar it allegedly duplicates.  It just does not sound right to me.  On “Siberian Khatru” it sounded like Downes got sloppy on the harpsichord solo in trying to play it as fast as Wakeman did/can. I am not sure Downes can generate the finger speed!  “And You And I” sounds as classic as ever (despite the guitar synthesizer) though, as is typical of these “whole album” presentations found on this album and the prior one, Downes does not extend the keyboard solo like Wakeman would.  “Close to the Edge” sounds a little thin, I think, as Howe’s guitar lacks the distortion he used to use and he uses that guitar synthesizer (though his sound on this track has been the same since at least 1998) which I do not think is nearly as good as the original instruments it supposedly duplicates.  The organ solo in “Roundabout” has been reworked as a Downes solo as opposed to him trying to replicate Wakeman so whether one appreciates the solo depends on whether one enjoys Downes’ playing or thinks Wakeman’s solo is “classic.”  Fragile‘s “solo tracks” “Cans and Brahms,” “We Have Heaven,” and “the Fish” we all played exactly as on the album, which is to say that they all used previously recorded tracks over which the soloist played live in order to recreate the studio recording as much as possible (these tracks are impossible to play live without backing tracks as the were recorded in the studio using multiple layers of overlaid recordings to allow for more sounds than just the five guys in the band can produce).  On a personal note, I love having an official live version of “Five Percent for Nothing” as that track is so short, so goofy, and so obscure that I would never have thought they’d ever play it live let alone release an official live version of it.  In saying that, I have to say  that having musicians play another musician’s solo track (e.g.: current drummer Alan White playing former Yes drummer Bill Bruford‘s solo track “Five Percent for Nothing”) is a little weird and does take the listener “out” of the listening experience if one is aware of it.  For that reason I found Fragile to be a really weird choice as an album to play precisely because it has so many solo tracks featuring long departed Yes members (3 of the 5 members of Yes on Fragile are not in the 2014 lineup); if the listener rankles at this, I understand the feeling.  My approach simply has been to accept the tracks as a new presentation in 2014 and to appreciate the new approach this particular lineup of Yes gives them.  To that end, it appears to my ears that the 2014 lineup recorded itself in the studio to present the studio tracks that need backing tracks instead of relying on using the preexisting recordings on Fragile.  So, that gives these live presentation of the solo tracks a little more legitimacy.  They are not relying on the old recordings.  Since 2002, “Southside of the Sky” has become a classic live track and as much as I absolutely love the Howe/Wakeman guitar/keyboard duel at the end of live version of the song (as memorialized here), Downes does not recreate Wakeman’s sound or his style here.  The guitar/keyboard duel is played in Downes’ own style and, I have to say, I think he did a great job and his soloing is really well done.  Unfortunately, as mentioned above, as is typical of these full album tours (and therefore this album), the solos were all of a rather modest length (for Yes), so it was not stretched out like on prior tours.  Finally, I really love the version of “Heart of the Sunrise” on this album.  It is really well done and has a nice dirty sound absent from some recent prior tours.

  • The Video (the DVD)

The video is of all of the songs and is an adequate document of the show.  The footage is reasonable and fun to watch, though I was a little disappointed in it because virtually none of the video images behind the band are visible, which is a shame since they had a good slide show on this tour.  Luckily, for me, the “Southside of the Sky” images and lighting is somewhat visible in the video as I think they did a really good job with it.  Unlike the video for the previous Like It Is video, this does not seem to favor any particular musician over the others.  It seems to be a much better video presentation which more often than not focuses on the musician one wants to see at a given point in the music.  I will say that I think the audio of the DVD is not nearly as good as that of the CDs.  It is quieter and far less dynamic to my ears.

  • Conclusion

As a live album, the album has a quality sound and is enjoyable to hear.  As a Yes live album, it is a very accurate document of where Yes was in 2014 and what they sound like.  If someone is a fan of and/or enjoys the Yes of 2014, then this album is worth picking up and adding to one’s collection.  This album may help people on the fence about the Yes of 2014 to become fans as it shows truly good performances of classic Yes songs and reveals that this line up can hold its own with Yes’ classic line ups in the past.  Otherwise, if someone just cannot accept a singer other than Jon Anderson and/or cannot accept a keyboardist from the Buggles and/or Asia in Yes, then this album is not for you.

  • Packaging

The album is packaged as a digipak and the artwork is pictured below.  As one can see, the album artwork is standard Roger Dean work and also includes some quality photographs of the band.

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Yes, Progeny: Seven Shows from Seventy-Two: a Review

This is part of my series of posts on the progressive rock band Yes which you can find here.  This is a review of Yes’ live box set released in May 2015 entitled Progeny: Seven Shows from Seventy-Two.

The band fielded the following line up for all of the concerts documented on this album:

The set list (the albums from which the songs are taken are in parenthesis next to each song) at each of the concerts on this album are as follows, though sometimes in a slightly different order (specifically, sometimes “Clap” and “Mood for a Day” are switched or even interspersed and sometimes those pieces are flipped with “Heart of the Sunrise”):

Disc 1:

Disc 2:

Review:

It is tough to review the music as this is a live album and the music really is derived from previously released studio albums, so any review of the music could become really a review of those albums.  I will do my best to avoid reviewing the songs (as that is really a review of the albums from which they come) and stick to reviewing this as simply a live set.  So, in order to avoid reviewing the underlying studio albums, I will focus on the sound of the music more than anything else.  Suffice it to say, the music on this set is drawn from The Yes Album, Fragile, and Close to the Edge which are absolutely classic and stalwart Yes albums and comprise what some consider a “holy trinity” of Yes albums forming their most influential, famous, and greatest music.  Indeed, Close to the Edge is considered by many to be the greatest progressive rock album of all time or, if not the greatest, certainly in the top three.

Progeny is a release exclusively for the absolute die hard Yes fan.  The album consists of seven complete Yes concerts from the Close to the Edge Tour in 1972 and comprises nearly fourteen hours of music.  Each of the seven complete concerts, though different and unique performances, are nearly identical to one another in content and presentation.  If the above were not enough to show that this album is really only for the ultra-Yes-fans, aside from the sheer volume of music and repeated performances of the same material, this album also stands along side the classic 1973 triple-disc Yessongs live album (which was my first Yes album and made me a Yes fan) and the Yessongs live video, which, taken together, document elements of eight concerts also from Close to the Edge Tour (just as a side note for the sake of clarity and completion, three tracks from the Yessongs album, namely “Long Distance Runaround,” “The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus),” and “Perpetual Change” were all recorded live from the Fragile Tour and feature Bill Bruford on drums accordingly).  So, to put it simply, Progeny more-or-less releases seven different performances of live material that had already been released since 1973!

The “seven shows” featured on the Progeny box set are the full, complete, live, and unedited recordings from the following concerts:

There is some cross over between the live recordings on the Yessongs album and those on Progeny and they are as follows (copied from Wikipedia here):

“The release of Progeny: Seven Shows from Seventy-Two reveals further audio similarities [with Yessongs]:

  • the first portion of “Roundabout” is from Ottawa, Ontario on 1 November;
  • “Heart of the Sunrise” and “And You and I” are from Greensboro, North Carolina on 12 November;
  • the first two thirds of “Excerpts from ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII'” are from Athens, Georgia on 14 November;
  • “Siberian Khatru” and “Yours Is No Disgrace” are from Knoxville, Tennessee on 15 November; and
  • the “Firebird Suite” intro (including the Mellotron/bass pedal link piece), the final third of “Excerpts from ‘The Six Wives Of Henry VIII'” and “Mood for a Day” are from Uniondale, New York on 20 November.

(“I’ve Seen All Good People” and “Roundabout” from 5:26 onward do not match any specific performances on the Progeny set or in the Yessongs film; they may be culled from the performances at the Rainbow which were not used in the film.)”  What is interesting is that the recordings in Progeny reveal that the tracks on Yessongs have been doctored as the Progeny recordings are completely unadulterated.

How is the album?  Well as a Yes super-fan I think the album is amazing.  The Close to the Edge Tour features the classic Yes lineup in their prime playing arguably the most classic of Yes music.  1972 saw the band come truly into their own and play with raw power.  They played their music with high octane youthful energy and with an aggressive edge to it, perhaps most due to the fact that Steve Howe’s guitar sound seems much more distorted than even compared to its sound by the end of the 1970s much less during the 1990s and following.  Of course, part of the more aggressive sound also comes from the fact that the more “acoustic” moments from Yes’ set (e.g.: “And You And I” and portions of “Roundabout”) are played live on electric guitar as, at this time in history, they were not able to sufficiently amplify the acoustic guitars on stage to a satisfactory level for those songs.  So, even the “acoustic” portions of the set sound more aggressive as a result in this live setting.  Finally, the band plays the pieces so aggressively and at such a break-neck-pace that it often sounds like the wheels were about to pop off the bus at any moment, and that gives the concerts a certain excitement.  I think a lot of the criticism that modern Yes has received about playing the songs “too slowly” can be attributed to the precedent set by performances such as those on this tour.  Now, I will concede that Yes did slow the pieces down during the Benoit David years to compensate for his failing voice.  Aside from that, however, modern Yes has taken to playing the songs at the tempo they were originally recorded at in the studio.  Compared to the tempos on Yessongs and Progeny, the album tempos are a bit slower and I think when those songs are played live at album tempos it only sounds slower because live albums like Yessongs have so influenced people’s thinking as to what Yes should sound like in a live setting.

In terms of diversity in the performances across the Progeny set, keep in mind that Yes music is very composed, but there is limited room for improvisation.  Howe is constantly throwing in different improvised notes here and there from show to show for flare and excitement and changes up his solos each night.  Indeed, his solos on “Yours is no Disgrace” are all rather different at each show, and his presentation of his solo pieces also change, where sometimes he even includes “Mood for a Day” within a break in “Clap.”  Wakeman’s solos differ too but not nearly as much.  Most notably, the third segment of his solo spot seems rather different each time.  Anderson has a penchant for making little noises and adding syllables here and there for his own sort of improvisation.  Perhaps my favorite bits were the improvised introductions to “Yours is no Disgrace.”  Although I knew from Yessongs that they had a little ditty they played before launching into the song, I had no idea just how much it differed from night to night.  For a band not known for its improvisation, it was fun to hear them try it a little from night to night.  This little improv reminds me of the so-called “Flight Jam” Yes would improvise before playing “Awaken” on the Going for the One Tour (hear it here).  Although not as ethereal, and far more Earthy and blusey, I think the “Yours is no Disgrace” improv deserves its own name along side “Flight Jam”!  I was also surprised to hear how they ended “Close to the Edge” each night with a little improvisation as well, especially coming from Howe (which I did not expect).  Furthermore, the “church organ” section from “Close to the Edge” was presented differently in the shows as well, sometimes with a lot of Howe supplementing it and sometimes not.  Of course, Jon Anderson’s in-between song banter changes from night to night.  Interestingly, he often describes “And You and I” as a “protest song,” which is something I don’t think I ever heard before.  Finally, this was Alan White’s first tour with Yes and, as the story goes, after Bill Bruford’s departure from Yes, he was given three days’ notice of the tour before he started it to learn all the material, and had a single rehearsal with the band before playing his first show with the band.  So, needless to say, his playing is constantly being refined with each show as he learns the material better and that is pretty clear when listening to this set.  I have to say that as much as I am a Bruford fan, White is an absolute monster on this tour and his playing today pales in comparison to what it was then.  White’s playing is fast, aggressive, and, as Anderson likes to say, a true “thunder machine.”  He was all over the place with a ferocious approach, filling every gap with as much as possible.  I am not sure if that reflects the fact that he was still learning the material and just trying to do as much as he could to compensate or is just the way he decided would play that tour.  Sure, his drumming seems rather youthful then and he has matured (to his benefit) as the 70s went on, but his playing today is so sparse that it is hard to believe that the guy hitting as many drums as possible on Progeny is the same drummer.  In terms of the mix, each show is different.  Sometimes Howe is really loud and sometimes he is not.  What was interesting to me is that Wakeman and White are often louder in the mix than they are on Yessongs, so Progeny provides a much better window into what they were playing live in ways I found really insightful and fresh.  Squire’s volume seems to remain consistent throughout each concert and never really “gets loud” like Howe.  The singing is about as audible as it is on Yessongs.  One other interesting thing to note is that, although he is shown playing it on the Yessongs video (so I presume he played it at most, if not all, of the shows for the Close to the Edge Tour), the Coral electric sitar that is traditionally played during much of “Close to the Edge” is either not played for the bulk of the performances on Progeny or is so effects laden that it sounds strikingly like a typical electric guitar instead.  I just could not discern it’s distinctive sound very often during the sections of “Close to the Edge” were it is supposed to be played.

For the average listener there is probably nothing all that distinct between each of the seven shows and, indeed, nothing that makes this release necessary especially in light of the fact Yessongs has already long been released documenting live material from the same tour.  The sound quality occasionally reaches that of Yessongs (which, even in it’s day, was arguably average at best, let alone compared to a modern recording), but it mostly sounds like very good bootlegs.

It is also worth noting, as I intimated above, that the Progeny recordings appear completely unadulterated.  For example, one of the shows was part of a radio broadcast and the radio broadcast can be heard over the PA system and Jon Anderson makes a point of mentioning it.  Another moment is when one of Rick Wakeman’s keyboard fails and Anderson mentions that the roadies are repairing it.  Also, when the songs on Progeny which crossover with the recordings on Yessongs are compared, it is clear that Yessongs was doctored.  For example, both the improv and the guitar solo on “Yours is no Disgrace” were truncated for Yessongs whereas they are in their full glory on Progeny.  Also, as noted above, some of the tracks on Yessongs were more than one performance spliced together.  Here, on Progeny, the performances are included raw with all of the occasional bum notes and flat vocals included.

So, to sum up.  Progeny is a fantastic document of what Yes was like as a live band in 1972.  The songs are amazing and the performances are the stuff of legend.  For the very hard core Yes fan this release is well worth getting in order to soak in the Yes of yesteryear bashing away with abandon on stage (especially for Yes fans like me who are too young to have enjoyed them in person).  For just about anyone else, this box set is about the least “essential” release Yes has ever produced as it duplicates (seven-times over no less!) live performances from the Close to the Edge Tour, which Yes has already released twice before (the Yessongs album and video).

Photographs:

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Yes, Like It Is DVD/CD Set: a Review

This is part of my series of posts on the progressive rock band Yes which you can find here.

Yes has just released its latest live album called Like It Is: At The Bristol Hippodrome documenting a concert played by the band at the Hippodrome in Bristol, England, on May 11, 2014.  This concert was in the context of the Three Album Tour.  The album consists of two CDs and one DVD.

The band fielded the following line up for this concert:

The track list is as follows:

CD 1: Going For the One

  • Going For the One
  • Turn of the Century
  • Parallels
  • Wonderous Stories
  • Awaken

CD 2: The Yes Album

  • Yours is no Disgrace
  • Clap
  • Starship Trooper
  • I’ve Seen All Good People
  • A Venture
  • Perpetual Change

DVD: All tracks

  • The Missing Album

As I said above, this album documents a show from the Three Album Tour where Yes played three albums in sequence in toto live, which means, obviously, one album is missing from this album.  This album contains the entire Going for the One album and entire The Yes Album album, but the actual show also included the entire Close to the Edge album with “Roundabout” from the Fragile album as the encore (naturally).  It also lacks any sort of introduction music.

Word is, among Yes fans, is that Yes is going to soon release a live album from their Heaven & Earth Tour in 2014 in the spring of 2015.  The set list for this tour included the entire Fragile album and entire Close to the Edge album.  So, evidently to avoid duplication on successive albums, Yes decided to not put the Fragile and Close to the Edge live material on this collection.  As an aside, the rumor is that Yes will include the live Heaven & Earth material on a bonus disc with the live album to be released in 2015.

  • The Music

It is tough to review the music as this is a live album and the music really is derived from much older and established studio albums, so any review of the music could become really a review of those albums.  Needless to say, Going for the One and The Yes Album are Yes and progressive rock stalwart albums that stand on their own as classic albums which have stood the test of time.  The Three Album Tour presented complete albums played live very closely to how they actually sounded on their original recordings.  So, the songs on that tour – and consequently this album – were not stretched out, the solos were not expanded, and there was virtually no improvisation.  So, in order to avoid reviewing the underlying studio albums, I will focus on the sound of the music more than anything else.

The sound quality of the album is excellent.  The sound is crisp and there is great separation between the instruments and between the vocals.  I am sure some audiophiles could find things to nitpick, but I have no complaints.

Ultimately, I think whether one enjoys this album depends on whether one likes this particular iteration of Yes and can accept the necessary effect age has had on these musicians who are in their sixth decade of performing.

Now, I am long term Yes fan so I have to admit that I wish Jon Anderson (original and long time vocalist) and Rick Wakeman (classic keyboardist) where back in the band and performing live.  That being said, Davison is an amazing replacement for Anderson and Downes is a quality prog rock keyboard player.  Of course, Downes’ style is markedly different from Wakeman’s at times, and I can’t say I do not miss Wakeman’s playing from time to time, but Downes’ style makes for an interesting change.  Wakeman’s playing is flashy, consistently fast, and with a lot of notes whereas Downes’ playing tends toward a lot of chording and being more understated (more cynical people would say “more tasteful” as compared to Wakeman’s choices).  In my opinion, this is a legitimate, excellent, and worthy iteration of Yes.

Does this album reflect any change in their live sound due to age?  Only a little.  I have to say that Alan White’s playing seems to have been deteriorating (at least in a live setting) since at least 2008 as he has gotten older.  He looks like a tired guy on stage once a show is over.  Don’t get me wrong, he still is a solid drummer who keeps time and provides some good coloring, but his live playing has gotten a lot less complex.  He is no longer the so-called “original thunder machine.”  Also, Chris Squire’s voice is not what it used to be.  I am not saying his singing is not good any longer; quite the contrary, his vocals on this album are very strong and mixed fairly high.  The effect of his age is the fact that his vocal parts have been lowered a bit; he is no longer singing in the stratosphere, which provides the songs a slightly different sound than Yes fans may be used to hearing.  Some people have claimed that Yes plays the songs too slowly.  They did seem to reduce the tempo a little on a handful of songs between 2008 and 2012 (which I think was a concession to help ailing vocalist Benoit David), but with Davison’s joining the band they seem to have sped the songs back up to their appropriate tempos again.  Despite that, some still think they are playing too slowly, but I do not think that is a fair criticism at this point.  Their live tempos now reflect the tempos found on the studio albums, as opposed to their old practice of playing live a break-neck speeds.  The fact is, gone are the days when Yes ramped up the tempos on stage as they used to do in ages past (see Yessongs as an example), but the fact that modern live tempos are slower than their live tempos from the 1970s does not mean that modern live tempos are slow compared to the studio recordings.  The other thing to note is that the band’s live tone and presentation on this album is consistent with what they have been largely doing since 1991’s Union tour (with exception of the 1994 Talk tour), which is to have a cleaner and warmer sound as opposed to the dirtier and aggressive live sound they had in the 1970s and 1980s.

I think the music as played on this tour sounds very much like the original studio versions of the songs, so there are not really very many new interpretations to report for the purposes of this review.  Their effort to sound like the album was even down to mimicking the fade out for “I’ve Seen All Good People,” to having a short guitar solo on “Yours is no Disgrace,” and to truncating the jam during the “Wurm” section concluding “Startship Trooper.”

For me, the biggest things to note are “A Venture” and “Awaken.”  “A Venture” is special, of course, as this tour is the only time this song has ever been performed live.  I always had a soft spot for that song and Yes, despite playing it a little conservative with the other songs, allowed Downes to stretch out the long extended piano solo fade out into a nice smooth jazz jam.  “Awaken” is a Yes epic classic and, for some, the true test of Downes’ worthiness as Yes’ keyboard player.  I have to say that he turns in an excellent performance all around, but he makes two decisions that I found to be a little disappointing.  The first is that he shortens the opening piano introduction a little for some inexplicable reason.  The second is his keyboard arrangement during Howe’s first guitar solo.  Wakeman’s keyboards are very active – as Wakeman tends to be generally anyway  – during this first part of the guitar solo.  Wakeman plays ascending and descending scales very quickly almost to double Howe’s fast runs on guitar, which, I think, makes this section sound even more frenetic and exciting.  By contrast, Downes opts not to play anything at all during this section in order to allow Howe to have the entire spotlight, and it gives this section a sound that is somewhat more sparse than to what one may be accustomed.  Conversely, however, during the second part of Howe’s solo, Wakeman’s playing becomes somewhat understated whereas Downes elects to play hard edged and rapidly played chords when Howe quickly swipes chords on guitar, to make his accompaniment of the solo in this section a lot more exciting and aggressive sounding than Wakeman’s arrangement.

The only other things notable with the songs is that there is no intro music – presumably because it segued into Close to the Edge, which is not included with this set – but instead there is low synthesizer drone that leads into “Going For the One.”  Finally, Downes plays a short intro to “Wonderous Stories” which does not appear on the album.

  • The Video (the DVD)

The video is of all of the songs and is an adequate document of the show.  The footage is reasonable and fun to watch, though I was a little disappointed in it for a few of reasons.  First, virtually none of the video images behind the band are visible, which is a shame since they had a good slide show on this tour.  As an aside, the DVD menu screen has a short montage that is the same as the one that opened the show.  The other thing I was disappointed about is the shaky camera work that happens from time to time when a mobile cameraman walks around doing close ups of the band.  Finally, the footage clearly favors Howe, who has the majority of screen time, followed by Davison, and then Squire.  Downes and White get the short shrift.

  • Possible Commentary

When the discs are inserted into the CD player on a computer the titles and artwork for the discs are not this album but are Going for the One and The Yes Album respectively.  I wonder if this is the current line-up’s subtle message telling fans that this is Yes and not a Yes line up of the past.  Some fans have expressed some consternation with the title of this album thinking it reflects some sign resignation by the band of their state and their line up.

  • Conclusion

As a live album, the album has a quality sound and is enjoyable to hear.  As a Yes live album, it is a very accurate document of where Yes is now in 2014 and what they sound like.  If someone is a fan of and/or enjoys the Yes of 2014, then this album is worth picking up and adding to one’s collection.  This album may help people on the fence about the Yes of 2014 to become fans as it shows truly good performances of classic Yes songs and reveals that this line up can hold its own with Yes’ classic line ups in the past.  Otherwise, if someone just cannot accept a singer other than Jon Anderson and/or cannot accept a keyboardist from the Buggles and/or Asia in Yes, then this album is not for you.

  • Packaging

The album is packaged as a digipak and the artwork is pictured below.  As one can see, the album artwork is standard Roger Dean work and also includes some quality photographs of the band.  As a funny aside, the photographs of the band found in the packaging as show below depict them playing material from Close to the Edge which was specifically not included in this set!

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