ProgBlog

By ProgBlog, May 5 2020 09:26PM

A list of recent past, present and future happenings in the prog world


Recent additions


All April additions to the ProgBlog collection were ordered online using Bandcamp and Burning Shed because of the continuing lockdown and the classification of (physical) record shops as non-essential; my pre-order of Jon Kirkman’s latest book, Tales from Photographic Oceans Giants Under the Sun, pre-ordered at the end of last year also arrived to brighten up a weekend.

I’ve attempted to keep the economy ticking over but it’s another short list thanks to the constraints imposed to reduce the spread of Covid-19: Oughtibridge (Download) – [‘ramp]; The Equatorial Stars (Vinyl) – Fripp & Eno; Todmorden 513 (CD) – Markus Reuter; Tales from Photographic Oceans (Book) – Jon Kirkman; No Sleep ‘til Wilmersdorf (CD) – [‘ramp]; Frammenti Notturni (V) – Unreal City; Nostalgia for Infinity (CD) – Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate; Debris (CD) – [‘ramp]


The recent past


Book review: Tales from Photographic Oceans Giants Under the Sun - Jon Kirkman



Jon Kirkman's limited edition Tales From Photographic Oceans Giants Under the Sun was published in April, a photodocumentary of Yes live performances from 1969 - 2019 using previously unseen images primarily supplied by fans, many of which are of professional quality. There’s an introductory piece ‘The Camera on the Cover’ by Tony Howard, a former Southampton denizen who now lives in Canada; it’s his Olympus OM10 on the cover, used for photos of solo shows by Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman in 1980 and of Yes during the Drama tour that feature in the book. He relates how he had to hide his camera at the venue and how it was taken away from him part way through that Drama show, which chimes with my experience of attempting to take my Olympus OM2N into a Yes gig, having it removed at the bag search before the show then returned to me afterwards (I can only think that this was the 90125 tour at Wembley because I managed to get surreptitious photos of Peter Hammill and Camel at around that time.)

Broadcaster, author, journalist and Cruise to the Edge co-host Kirkman got into Yes music in 1972 through And You and I from Close to the Edge being shown on the UK's staple rock music TV programme The Old Grey Whistle Test, then hearing debut album Yes via the son of a friend of his mother, and being a Liverpudlian, connecting with the cover of The Beatles Every Little Thing. He’s since built up a close working relationship and friendships with the band, interviewing 16 of the 18 members for his books Yes - Time and a Word: The Yes Interviews (2013) and its updated version Dialogue (2017) making him ideally suited to curate such a project. It’s therefore not surprising he first photo is of Peter Banks in 1969, in black and white, captured in mid air holding a blonde Telecaster above his head. It’s striking not only because it’s a well-composed image but because it’s not the white Rickenbacker everyone associates with Banks during his time in Yes.

Each group of photos is accompanied by the show’s set list and a photo of the ticket stub, and given the difficulties of clandestine photography in theatres during the pre-digital era, it’s not surprising that there’s better coverage of the band from this millennium.

This book isn’t for everyone. For a start it’s a limited print run of 300, which makes it quite expensive, but for the hard-core fan it’s a really good addition to the library of Yes biographies, despite the paucity of words. And though there’s not going to be a second print run, there is a possibly of a second edition because of the overwhelming number of photos submitted. I’ll be signing up for that, too.


Details of how to order Jon Kirkman’s Tales From Photographic Oceans Giants Under the Sun can be found on his website: https://jonkirkman.co.uk/product/tales-from-photographic-oceans/



More Covid-19 cancellation chaos


Stewart / Gaskin Kings Place Concert Rescheduled

Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin have announced that their forthcoming performance at Kings Place, London has been put back a year to Saturday July 31st 2021 when it’s hoped that some semblance of normal life has returned. Everyone who bought a ticket for August 1st 2020 will be able to use their e-ticket for the rescheduled date at no extra cost: if you haven't done so already, please print it and keep it safe till next summer. Alternatively, you can get a full refund by emailing [email protected] with the subject line 'Stewart/Gaskin ticket refund'. There will be an announcement when tickets for the rescheduled concert go on sale, but Stewart and Gaskin are assuring those who already have an e-ticket will have their seat guaranteed


Yes - The Album Series European Tour 2020





It’s just been announced that Yes have postponed the European and UK legs of the 2020 tour and are working on confirmed dates for the rescheduled shows. The Royal Albert Hall (where I’ve booked tickets) is due to provide updated information on its website on May 31st. According to the Yes (official) Facebook page, all tickets bought for this year’s performances will be valid for the new shows


Rick Wakeman – The Red Planet



If the YouTube clips are anything to go by, Rick Wakeman’s The Red Planet, originally intended for release on April 3rd along with special launch events, will be well worth waiting for. It’s been held up by manufacturing and logistical issues caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the latest update suggests it’s going to be closer to June when we can finally get our hands on what sounds like the proggiest project Wakeman has been responsible for since debut solo album The Six Wives of Henry VIII (the last notification from Music Glue gives the date as May 22nd.)


By ProgBlog, Jun 22 2014 04:47PM

Tales from Topographic Oceans was released on December 14th 1973 and my brother Tony bought a copy the next day. Tales would divide opinion amongst fans and critics alike: overblown and pretentious or symphonic prog masterpiece.

The presentation of the album was quite special. It was less ostentatious than the preceding Yes offering, the triple live set Yessongs in a triple gatefold and it was more elaborate than Close to the Edge which, perhaps more than any other album, was responsible for creating a link between the sonic vision of a band and a visual representation of the music. The imagery used on Tales took in some obscure iconography and utilised ideas put forward by the band themselves, such that it could have been a bit of a dog’s breakfast. But somehow, Roger Dean got it to all hang together. I was more worried that the four words of the album title featured three basic colours. Both the front cover and the open gatefold work as complete images, as the eye finds different focal points for the two potential presentations: the Mayan temple on the front cover; the waterfall for the open gatefold. I used to try to ascribe meaning to the position of the photographs within the song words but I no longer believe there is any association other than they are literal illustrations of Anderson and Howe's use of 'green language' in their lyrics.

This cover is wrapped around roughly 80 minutes of music which, though it can be plotted on a line of general progression between Close to the Edge and Relayer, there has been nothing like it in terms of ambition and scope either before or since. The original release was of course on four sides of vinyl and though I own a remastered and expanded edition on CD, I still have a vinyl copy and that’s how I prefer to refer to the album.

80 minutes of complex and challenging music makes Tales a fairly difficult listen. With each side acting as a suite in its own right it's quite easy to see why the casual listener might have difficulty understanding why Yes should record such an album. There are a bare minimum of passages where there is a straightforward rhythm defined by bass drum and snare and, with its lofty, philosophical concept, this could be the reason why most critics were so averse to the album as it moved ever further from the narrow confines of rock ‘n’ roll.

I personally love the album though I believe side 2 (The Remembering/High the Memory) is comparatively weak. Side 1 (The Revealing Science of God/Dance of the Dawn) is relatively accessible because it does seem a natural progression from Close to the Edge but that’s not the reason it’s my favourite track. There's a good deal of sonic variety and what comes across as shared input. I particularly like that around the same point on Close to the Edge where there's a Wakeman organ solo, there's a synthesizer solo on side 1 of Tales, and I love the sound of the moog. As an atheist, the title of the track did use to cause me some concern with its reference to ‘God’ and there’s also the line ‘Young Christians see it from the beginning’ but my apprehension was reconciled when I placed the album in the context of a quest for enlightenment that doesn’t necessarily require a specific deity.

Side 2 comes across as having most of what Wakeman has described as padding. Though it’s necessary to regard this movement as part of the whole, I still find that the relatively slow pace of the piece tends to drag and, whereas Close to the Edge and to a lesser extent The Revealing Science of God are densely packed with sound, The Remembering (forgive the allusion) has space between the notes. What’s more, this side contains music with the least contrast.

Side 3 (The Ancient/Giants under the Sun) comes across as almost pagan. From the different languages used to name the Sun to the percussive sections and then the end ‘leaves of green’ section which, though by no means folk music, does call to mind a plainer, less advanced or mechanised way of life. It’s no surprise that the band should use The Firebird Suite as opening music for their live shows. I think that stretching the possibilities of rock music by incorporating some of the ideas of Stravinsky was brave but also something that perhaps only Yes could have done and, if you’ll let me draw another parallel, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring not also caused something of a stir when it was first performed in Paris in May 1913, dividing critics and the ballet audience with its deviation from the accepted form. I think that The Ancient and Ritual are the best illustrations of the influence of Stravinsky on Yes music.

Side 4 (Ritual/Nous Sommes du Soleil) is something of a cross between the more straightforward prog of The Revealing Science of God and the percussion movement on The Ancient. It may be that Wakeman also thought that this was an unnecessary inclusion but again, in the context of what Anderson and Howe had envisaged, it’s actually stunningly dynamic, especially (so I am told) when performed live. The resolution of the track into the Nous Sommes du Soleil section is a powerful piece of musical drama, drawing threads from the other three sides together into what always feels to me like a very satisfactory conclusion; you have to have listened to the other three sides before this to get it to work. It’s uplifting and very positive and ultimately very satisfying.

When I first used to listen to the album I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more overt keyboard work but I’ve since realised that the subtle mellotron that pervades the entire album is a vital part of the overall orchestration. I believe it’s important to see the work as ‘orchestrated’ because of what Anderson and Howe had originally conceived. Equally, the percussion (and Alan White was something of an unknown to me) should not be regarded as rock drumming because it’s often used as musical colour around guitar lines, rather than the other way round.

As a fourteen year old, listening to the album and poring over the lyrics (and I used to be able to recite all of them) this was a natural successor to Close to the Edge. It’s only since then that I’ve read how it divided fans in a manner similar to the schism caused by the release of 90125, but I do understand why. I accepted Tales because I believed that Yes music had the power to transform; the music and the concept of Tales may be challenging but they are ultimately rewarding but it’s not surprising that the further they deviated from the idea that rock ‘n’ roll is an expression of simple rebellion, the more chance there was of losing fans.

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