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The four-day record buying and gig spree continues, with a bit of architecture and design thrown in. 

The highlight was going to see Camel on tour playing Moonmadness in its entirety for the first time since its release in 1976...  

By ProgBlog, May 29 2018 06:10PM

One of my Record Store Day 2018 purchases, that is one of the limited editions specially produced for the occasion rather than one of the albums I happened to buy as I wandered through the stalls set out in Cremona’s Corso Campi on the day itself, was a 40th anniversary edition of UK by UK. My original vinyl pressing of this album is in perfectly good condition and I think it’s a well produced record but I was seduced by the promise of the booklet and intrigued by the idea of an Eddie Jobson re-mastering; I’ve not listened to the original LP for some time so I can’t be certain but I think the individual instruments are more discernible on the new release – it has a nice clarity.



Eight years on from the birth of progressive rock in the form of In the Court of the Crimson King, the genre was getting a little tired and large numbers of the record-buying public were getting tired of prog. Not helped by self-imposed exile from the UK for tax reasons but surely driven by creative burn-out to a great extent, the hiatus between studio albums meant that the three really big players in the field slipped out of the music paper headlines and created a void to be exploited and filled by the standard-bearers for Punk, claiming that the excesses of prog indicated how out-of-touch these bands were.

It wasn’t enough to simply release a ‘best of’ (though Yesterdays, released in 1975 was really my introduction to the first two Yes albums and something I still like.) Following the completion of the British leg of the Relayer tour in May 1975, bar an appearance at the Reading Festival in August that year, there wasn’t another UK appearance by the band until October 1977, though all five members of the group issued a solo album. ELP might be perceived as being the worst offenders, not playing on UK soil for 18 years after their 1st May 1974 show in Liverpool and though they performed in Europe and the USA later in 1974, they were absent from the stage between 21st August 1974 and 24th May 1977 with only a Christmas single (I Believe in Father Christmas, Greg Lake, 1975) and a near-novelty single (Honky Tonk Train Blues, Keith Emerson, 1976) to satisfy their fans. Pink Floyd seemed to have managed fans’ expectations quite well, despite the length of time taken between The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here, then Wish You Were Here and Animals and the lack of live dates, especially in the UK. Between 14th December 1974 and the first Wall show in Los Angeles on February 7th 1980, they undertook a three month long North America tour and then played Knebworth in July 1975, toured Animals around Europe including the UK with dates in London and Stafford and North America between January and July 1977. Two of the members also produced solo albums, David Gilmour and Rick Wright’s Wet Dream.


For my part, I was less satisfied with ELP’s Works Volume 1 and Pink Floyd’s Animals than I had been with their preceding records; Yes’ Going for the One was a radical departure from Relayer but I thought it was still high quality, with Awaken high up in the list of all-time great prog tracks. In the case of the former and the latter, I wasn’t over-impressed with the keyboard tones from the Yamaha GX-1 and Polymoog respectively; Animals featured far less keyboards than Wish You Were Here so that I hesitate to call it progressive rock. By 1977, other acts like Camel, Caravan and Gentle Giant had stopped writing epics and both Caravan and Gentle Giant had begun to lose their appeal to core fans; Focus seemed to have disbanded, having released an uneven album of studio scraps the previous year; and Genesis may have released Seconds Out but this coincided with the departure of Steve Hackett. I thought that the future belonged to jazz rock and bought my first Isotope LP.


Looking back, 1978 started on an exceptionally good note with the release of Bill Bruford’s first LP as a band leader Feels Good to Me and the eponymous debut from National Health, both records being examples of jazz sensibilities mixed with prog leanings which resulted in complex, melodious albums. I think Feels Good to Me has a more experimental feel, thanks to Annette Peacock’s vocals and using flugelhorn in a (broadly) rock context; National Health is more intricate and, in the tradition of the band’s forerunner Hatfield and the North, didn’t take itself too seriously.


A good way to start 1978 - National Health
A good way to start 1978 - National Health

Then came UK.

Following the demise of the trio version of King Crimson in 1974 which took Robert Fripp away from music for a couple of years, Bill Bruford and John Wetton continued their musical education by rotating through a number of different bands. I thought Bruford’s involvement with Gong and National Health were interesting and it was definitely quite pleasing to find him sharing a drum stool with Phil Collins for Genesis’ Trick of the Tail tour, as he appeared to be helping out all the right bands. Wetton’s move to Roxy Music and then Uriah Heep impinged less on my consciousness; I was never really interested in post-Siren Roxy and thought Uriah Heep’s music unadventurous. However, his touring arrangement with Roxy started before King Crimson officially ceased to exist . It was meant to be a temporary measure before Crimson was due to recommence touring, and served to introduce him to Eddie Jobson. The proposed 1977 collaboration between Wetton, Bruford and Rick Wakeman could have been amazing but its failure to get off the ground ultimately resulted in the formation of what was hailed as a ‘supergroup’: UK. Their eponymous debut is a slick progressive rock album with jazz rock styling thanks to Bruford and Holdsworth but the modern sound, courtesy of Jobson, made it seem quite different from long-standing progressive acts and newer groups from that time, like symphonic prog band England; the three-part In the Dead of Night is an indisputable prog classic though it’s only now that I’ve got the 40th anniversary edition, complete with lyrics, that I can distinguish the words. The song writing was mature, involving all the group members, leading to a truly coherent effort where equal weight was afforded to each individual and it’s my belief that this equality, the fluid guitar lines from Holdsworth, the power and precision of the rhythm section along with Jobson’s virtuosity on keyboards and violin, adding a contemporary feel but with a past tied to the early progressive era, that made the record stand out as something with significance for the whole genre, like a new In the Court of the Crimson King.




Jethro Tull’s Heavy Horses was also released in April 1978 and I really like this second offering in the prog-folk trio of albums, with an enhanced palette thanks to the guest violin of Darryl Way, though there was a distinct sense of continuity from Songs from the Wood rather than being something that stood out as unique. My copy of the LP, bought in Barrow, was a swap for King Crimson’s Earthbound which I had just bought but thought was disappointing. Thanks to the staff in Blackshaw’s for sanctioning the exchange.

Steve Hackett released his second solo album Please Don’t Touch which was quite different to 1975’s Voyage of the Acolyte, an album I rate higher than any post-Gabriel Genesis. I found it a bit of a mixed bunch and it’s that lack of consistency that marks it down – it’s not really UK progressive rock. Meanwhile, Hackett’s erstwhile bandmates released the decidedly thin end of the wedge ...And then there were Three... I first got a copy of Please Don’t Touch on cassette in 1981 or 1982 so I could also compare it to the excellent Spectral Mornings (1979); And then there were Three was acquired by a friend shortly after its release and I gave it a couple of listens before giving it the thumbs down. The seeds sown by the second-rate Your Own Special Way in 1976 were bearing a bitter fruit – Genesis could no longer be classed as a progressive rock band. Hackett’s other former colleague Peter Gabriel released the second of his self-titled albums which I don’t think can be called prog, either, though that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. Rather, it was an example of what we might today call post-rock, very much a successor of the first Gabriel solo album. If prog was to wither away, this would provide a reasonable alternative; the highlight has to be Exposure.

Van der Graaf Generator shed an organist, a saxophonist and the ‘Generator’ for 1977’s The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome, becoming more urgent sounding and, despite the excellent lyrics, more basic; it could even have been classed as prog-punk for sheer attitude. Bolstered with an appearance from David Jackson and with Charles Dickie on cello and synth, the group bade farewell (until the 2005 reunion) with a live album Vital. My brother went to see them in Leeds during that tour but it wasn’t until the reformation that I could really appreciate the intensity of the group. When I first saw Hammill performing solo in 1984 it was full-on but in a band context, it was off the scale.

Camel managed to keep one foot firmly in the prog idiom with Echoes and The Sleeper from their ’78 album Breathless but however good the melodies on the other tracks and the bright production, the relative brevity of most tunes makes it seem almost pop-prog descending into funk on Summer Lightning and outright silliness on Down on the Farm. This was another album bought by a friend at the time of its release but I don’t remember listening to it very often; I think we anticipated Peter Bardens’ departure because there appeared to be a tension between chief song-writers Bardens and Latimer, fuelled by an interfering record label, as they moved away from the early, classic Camel sound.

The cracks had not yet appeared in Yes but the cover of Tormato was a hint that all was not well. I bought the album on the day of its release, shortly before heading off to university armed with what I would discover was the best hi-fi in my hall of residence. I also managed to get to see them for the first time that October, in the round at Wembley Arena on the Tormato tour. The album contains some great ideas but the heavy-handed production detracts from the quality of the writing and the lack of a over-arching concept makes it appear devoid of a distinct identity. Taken on its own it doesn’t indicate the end of the golden era of progressive rock but it did suggest that Yes needed to rethink their future plans. The end of progressive rock was most starkly illustrated by Emerson Lake and Palmer with Love Beach. If the image on Tormato was a poor excuse for an album sleeve, the band photo on Love Beach was the antithesis of prog and that, more than anything else, meant I avoided the album until last year, and I only bought it then because it was cheap and I was filling a gap in my record collection. Even taking the best moments of Memoirs of an Officer and a Gentleman into account, it’s a really poor affair, succinctly exposing the true meaning of ‘contractual obligation’.


1978 ended with another National Health album, with a subtly different line-up to the debut but equally as good and, if anything, even more adventurous: Of Queues and Cures. National Health may get lumped in with the rest of prog but though the music conformed to many of the prog traits, the ease with which a substantial number of the musicians fitted into the British jazz and avant-garde scenes made them stand apart. Prog had withered without anyone to grasp the possibilities revealed by UK, whose 1979 follow-up Danger Money was a bit schizophrenic; reduced to a trio the material was a mixture of first-class retro-prog and verse-chorus-verse-chorus FM-friendly tunes played by progressive rock musicians.


The golden era of progressive rock was over.









By ProgBlog, Jun 12 2016 09:24PM

I remember the UK joining the EEC in 1973 better than I remember the last time the UK took place in a European referendum on the 5th June 1975. During an Art lesson at the time we joined the Common Market, we were given the task of illustrating the event and though my family quite happily discussed issues that laid the foundation for my own political awakening, I don’t recall how they voted in the 1975 plebiscite.

The first half of 1975 was relatively quiet for releases from major progressive rock acts. In April Camel released Music Inspired by the Snow Goose and Hatfield and the North released The Rotter’s Club the previous month but it wasn’t until late summer into autumn that the floodgates opened and Caravan finally managed to get an album in the charts with Cunning Stunts; Gentle Giant released the accessible Free Hand; Quiet Sun put out the phenomenal, off-beat Mainstream; Pink Floyd returned from hiatus with Wish You Were Here; Jethro Tull released the under-rated Minstrel in the Gallery; Steve Hackett embarked on his first solo venture, albeit with help from a number of his band mates, Voyage of the Acolyte; Van der Graaf Generator mark II announced their reformation with Godbluff; Chris Squire became the first of the Yes alumni to release a solo album during their break from band duties with Fish out of Water; and Vangelis, who had sparked our interest because of headlines linking him with Yes after the departure of Rick Wakeman in 1974, put out Heaven and Hell. Focus rounded off the year with Mother Focus, a departure from the symphonic prog of Hamburger Concerto, veering into pop and funk territory, considered by many to be disappointingly sub-standard.


With the exception of Wish You Were Here and Fish out of Water, I didn’t buy any of the albums listed above at the time of their release due to a combination of lack of funds and a lack of willingness to take a punt when I’d only heard excerpts on the radio. I’ve yet to commit to a copy of Cunning Stunts. When I did buy an LP it was catching up with a release from earlier in the progressive rock timeline, including the compilation Yesterdays which really counts as the first Yes retrospective, no doubt issued (in February 1975) to maintain interest in the group as they all took time off to explore solo ventures. I thought it was a decent way of acquiring some of their early material, plus a muscular, prog version of Simon and Garfunkel’s America, for half the price of the first two studio albums. Another two albums that I did buy when they first came out were Rubycon by Tangerine Dream and Rick Wakeman’s Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, from March and April 1975 respectively. I hadn’t bought Journey to the Centre of the Earth, having been put off by the vocals but I thought the singing on Arthur was better and Wakeman’s song writing had improved, though not to the standard of the musical vignettes on the entirely instrumental The Six Wives of Henry VIII. Also, as much as I approved of Jules Verne’s proto-science fiction, I was much more familiar with Arthurian legends. Rubycon continued on from where Phaedra had left off and at the time I was very much in favour of keyboard-drenched sojourns into outer and inner space and the amorphous washes from Tangerine Dream, coupled with the sequencer pulses weaving and morphing in and out of the synthesizer, organ and Mellotron drones chimed with my interest in sonic exploration.


Whereas I’d heard of bands like Amon Düül, Kraftwerk and, thanks to the marketing gurus at Virgin Records selling The Faust Tapes for 49p, Faust, of all the German bands I only really liked Tangerine Dream; that was until late summer when Triumvirat released Spartacus and, after hearing March to the Eternal City on Alan Freeman's radio show, I went out and bought the album. Whereas most of the album is stylistically analogous to Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s Karn Evil 9, March to the Eternal City hints of ELP but is obviously Triumvirat. This is the best track on the album thanks to the lyrics which sound as though they could be telling some future tale, “they carry missile and spear”, like a storyline from the comic strip The Trigan Empire; the other words are a bit schoolboy-ish and naive.

It was early in 1975 was when I discovered Premiata Forneria Marcon (PFM) when friend Bill Burford bought Chocolate Kings and live cut Cook, and a Europe-wide take on the progressive rock super-genre began to reveal itself with other musicians and bands joining the movement, one that still seemed very much rooted in the original ideals. This time of progressive rock coincided with the death of Franco in Spain and the beginning of the transition to democracy and Greece only emerged from a military junta the previous year, 1974.


Fast forward to 2016 and Europe seems to be doing its best to tear itself apart. Southern states have been most badly affected by austerity and though it’s been easy for those in power to deflect the blame from the banks that caused the financial crisis in 2008, it has resulted in an abandonment of belief in the political system. Those on the Right blame immigration for their economic outlook while those on the Left decry inflexible centrists for imposing austerity on their countries. So far, the far Right have been kept from power but the frightening prospect of Golden Dawn in Greece, a violent party that took third place in elections in 2015 or France’s Marine Le Pen or, even more recently, of Norbert Hofer from the Freedom Party who was narrowly defeated by the socialist Alexander Van der Bellen in this year’s Austrian Presidential election, being elected to run their country is a serious cause for concern because their insular point of view and populist nationalism is a breeding ground for hatred and violence and threatens genuine democracy through clamping down on freedom of speech. Our very own UKIP operates under the guise of respectability but a series of interventions by party officials shows how nasty they really are, trading on fear, lies and the politics of hatred. Wars in Africa and the Middle East have created a massive migrant crisis as refugees risk their lives in the flight from their own countries towards what they believe to be the safety of the West, landing in Italy and Greece, creating perfect conditions for the rise of anti-immigrant sympathies.

It seems to me that the UK referendum on our membership of the EU, a political gamble by David Cameron that was always destined to fail, has been reduced to the level of a playground brawl with each side calling each other names and, despite those who wish to remain talking up doom scenarios and those who wish to leave having no idea of how the country will fare outside of the EU, this has become a referendum on immigration. Those in favour of leaving imagine they are going to take control of our borders. Could they remind themselves how many Syrian refugees the UK has taken in? That was 1,602 at the end of March this year. What an amazing response to a humanitarian crisis! According to Nigel Farage, controlling immigration is restricting the movement of Europeans into the UK complaining of the stress placed upon housing, jobs and the NHS but allowing an undisclosed number of Commonwealth citizens to come to the UK. It’s hard to believe he can get away with such hypocrisy but the 24 hour media cover concentrates on ‘blue on blue’ attacks and making up non-stories about Jeremy Corbyn.

It would be nice if someone broadcast the message that it’s not immigrants who put strain on public services, but ideological austerity and the deliberate dogmatic shrinking of the State. No one has said there’s not enough room in the country. There aren’t enough hospital beds, teachers and affordable houses or public transport because this government, and those before, have pursued policies of enriching the few and penalising those on low and middle incomes, welcoming foreign investment in luxury developments but leaving flats empty, under-occupied and pushing house prices beyond the means of a major proportion of the population, slashing the salaries of healthcare workers and teachers through public-sector pay freezes and pension changes and forcing low paid private sector employees into zero hour contracts. Please don’t think that education, health, housing, jobs and transport would be better if we leave the EU – those advocating leave are equally responsible for the state of the country with their private healthcare directorships and money secreted away in tax havens.

Progressive rock espoused the benefits of external influences and embraced the nascent green movement. I’m not suggesting that there’s nothing wrong with the EU but the UK will not be able to face up to global challenges like climate change on its own. This means the abandonment of austerity and offering more, better targeted training and rejecting xenophobia. Let’s do it with help from our EU partners.





By ProgBlog, Jul 19 2015 07:03PM

Oktober are comprised of Gary Bennett (basses, guitars, keyboards), David Speight (drums, percussion) and Molnár Kinga (vocals). Their origins hark back to 2007 when drummer Speight was playing with Peter Banks’ improvisation group Harmony in Diversity, who were invited to play at a Hungarian prog festival; also on the bill were Netherlands band Flamborough Head and Yesterdays, a Hungarian band based in Cluj Napoca, in the Transylvanian region of Romania and featuring Kinga on vocals. Speight was acquainted with Gary Bennett through symphonic prog band Yak but when the pair were involved in a collaborative effort on a record for Southend-on-Sea based hi-fi company Rega, Speight suggested Kinga as a vocalist for the project because she would be able to handle the complex arrangements associated with the prog take on the tracks they’d selected.

Bennett continued to work on original material with Kinga when she was back in Transylvania, sharing mp3 files over the internet. By 2011 the songs were ready for the addition of the drum tracks. The vocals were recorded in the UK in 2013 and the entire album was completed, mixed and mastered in December 2014; Sandcastles (2015) is the end result and it’s an album of well-crafted, beautiful melodic music carefully presented with some poignant (uncredited) photography from Bennett and his partner Fiona and one photo, ice skating, taken by Bennett’s father in 1986.

This isn’t really prog but it certainly has sonic links with prog. At just under 32 minutes and containing six songs it could have come from the early progressivo Italiano stable where a band’s recorded output was often notoriously brief. I’m struggling to pigeonhole the music but I shouldn’t really try because it’s best to let the music speak for itself; labels are only marketing tools, after all. Lyrically, the content is reflective and descriptive, taking in supernatural phenomenon and myriad aspects of the natural world. Throughout, Kinga’s voice is clear and strong and is reminiscent of Annie Haslam from Renaissance or, perhaps closer still, Amy Darby from Thieves’ Kitchen. Another comparison with Renaissance would be shared natural imagery as Betty Thatcher’s words included word pictures of icy pools and curling leaves; I’d go as far as suggesting that Bennett’s lyrics stray into classic Yes territory with his use of ‘green language’.

There’s a general progression over the CD of increasing complexity, where the later tracks are more layered than on the earlier tracks. Opening song Other People’s Parties is almost exclusively Bennett on acoustic guitar and Kinga singing though it’s here that we first get a glimpse of one of Bennett’s influences with a short burst of electric guitar that calls to mind the clean, compressed and EQ’d sound used by Mike Oldfield. This song is a joint Bennett – Kinga composition, the remainder of the album was written entirely by Bennett.

The shortest track on the CD, Don’t Stop is more up tempo and introduces a short riff on one of the multi-tracked guitars during the first two verses before another splash of Oldfield-like lead. The contemplative Dust and Rain is analogous to Genesis’ Blood on the Rooftops with some clever word-play over classical guitar, something that Steve Hackett would cover over his solo career. Lost and Found gets a traditional Irish folk song treatment, Bennett having played in a ceilidh band, and Oktober are joined by guest musicians Mick Graves on fiddle and Fez Powell on bodhran - Graves’ violin was produced by premier London violin maker Richard Duke and dates from around 1780. In this song Kinga delivers some neat call and response vocals and her harmonies remind me of Canterbury-scene backing vocalists The Northettes.

The opening section of Sleepers Awake is a fantastic riff reminiscent of Songs from the Wood era Jethro Tull and features a bouzouki, custom-made from an old 12 string guitar. The scan of the last two lines of verse two is a clever piece of lyricism, like Steve Hackett’s Tigermoth from Spectral Mornings. There’s more evidence of keyboards on this, the longest track, and there’s a nice ambient percussion section before a repeat of the bouzouki phrase and a reprise of the third verse from preceding track Lost and Found. In very prog fashion, there’s a neat segue into final track Sandcastles; taken together these two tracks could almost be a 13 minute long mini-suite because musically they’re approaching prog territory. Sandcastles features more Oldfield-like lead guitar but it’s the structure of the song that makes it stand out; after a fairly conventional verse-verse-chorus-verse-chorus there’s a short syncopated section with the kick drum on every beat overlain with a concise guitar solo that fades (too) rapidly to seashore noises. This ends with a haunting verse that doesn’t appear in the lyrics, rather like a hidden song: Sing me to sleep underneath weeping willows / Wild fragrant roses are still in full bloom / I need to be gone by the first chill of autumn / My old friend the west wind is calling me home. These last two tracks are without a doubt my favourites and when Kinga sings the ‘rolling white horses’ line in the first chorus of Sandcastles it gives me involuntary goose bumps.

Bennett himself suggested that it would be disingenuous to call the album prog, but as both he and Speight are lifelong progressive rock fanatics, specifically citing Yes and Genesis, it’s hardly surprising that prog influences shine through and it’s evident from their respective techniques on guitars and drums that they really know their art. It was their belief that there was sufficient prog element in the songs to appeal to fans of the genre and I find it difficult to disagree. The songs may range from singer-songwriter introspection to electric folk but they defy being catalogued. Not having a target audience could be detrimental but, if Oktober get the break they deserve, Sandcastles, with its general theme of the ephemeral nature of things, has the power to speak to a wide range of people. I know I like it and I know there’s an audience out there.

Copies of the album can be ordered on ebay: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Sandcastles-Oktober-/291512162629 or by contacting the band at www.facebook.com/oktobertheband



By ProgBlog, Sep 14 2014 10:18PM

The eponymous Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe album has just been repackaged in a Roger Dean illustrated box, 25 years after its original release. There’s also been a re-release of Songs from Tsonga, the 35th anniversary tour video which originally came out only 10 years ago. These retrospectives are hot on the heels of a new Yes album, Heaven & Earth; a reader’s poll for Prog magazine that named Close to the Edge the best prog album; and also the release of the most recent Steven Wilson remix of a classic Yes album, The Yes Album.

AWBH contrasts widely with the contemporaneous Yes and I believe a reflection on their relative merits is helpful in understanding the enigma of Yes magic. My personal interest in the band goes back to 1972 and the release of Close to the Edge. This was the first album I ever listened to, having previously heard and watched nothing other than the groups on BBC TV’s Top of the Pops, and it’s fair to say that it changed my life. Checking out the previous releases of the band was an obvious step and this resulted in the acquisition of Fragile, The Yes Album and then in late 1973, new release Tales from Topographic Oceans. Relayer had been added to the collection before I bought the retrospective compilation Yesterdays in 1975. At this stage I was able to formulate a view of Yes music that has remained pretty much unchanged to the present day, and one that seems to be shared with a large number of Yes fans: Close to the Edge is not only the best Yes album, it is the best album, period. Fragile contains some of the most revolutionary pieces of music for the time and is an obvious stepping stone to the perfection of their next release. This was possible because of the integration of Rick Wakeman into the group because his proficiency on keyboards was matched by his willingness to broaden the sonic palette required by the vision of the band. I’ve previously written that I regard Tales as something of a misunderstood masterpiece and that only Yes in 1973 could have attempted to undertake something as different, as brave as that. One of the great unknowns is what Tales would have sounded like with Bill Bruford because, though Alan White performs admirably on Tales, I don’t believe he’s in the same class as Bruford. The qualitative difference between pre-Wakeman and Wakeman-Yes is evident when you compare The Yes Album and Fragile and the relationship between the two is similar to that between Fragile and Close to the Edge; The Yes Album is more adventurous than its two predecessors with four original long-form compositions making up the bulk of the album, but the sounds available were limited to piano, organ and, for the first time on material by Yes, a little bit of Moog. Until I bought Yesterdays I hadn’t heard Peter Banks’ guitar and though I find it effective and fitting for the early Yes material, the diversity of styles and sounds and the song-writing ability introduced by Steve Howe, was a key to the transformation of a good band into something unimaginably good.

The musical progress came hand-in-hand with personnel changes. It often seemed as though the ambition of Jon Anderson was a driver for the required change though the replacement of Bruford was a decision forced upon the band by the drummer, as he went off to challenge himself in the 1972 incarnation of King Crimson. Wakeman’s dissatisfaction with Tales and his solo success prompted him to jump ship but his replacement, Patrick Moraz, further demonstrated the internal tension and inherent instability of the group when he only managed to stay for one studio album, the excellent jazz-rock inflected Relayer.

The rise of punk and changes to the industry itself had an effect on the music produced by the band for their subsequent release which included the surprise return of Wakeman. Though the urgency of the title track showed that they had taken note of punk, the release of Wonderous Stories as a single was a nod to a more business-oriented record label. Yet they still included the stunning, almost side-long Awaken; another contender for best prog track, ever. Though the Going for the One line-up remained intact for the recording of their ninth studio album, Tormato, the results were rather confused and the product was incoherent, despite containing some good ideas. I went to see them play live for the first time on this tour and was pretty much blown away with the set, the musicianship and the ‘in-the-round’ presentation. The lack of an external producer was one reason why Tormato wasn’t such a complete or polished recording and this was addressed by the arrival of Roy Thomas Baker as producer for sessions that were meant to contribute to the follow-up. This didn’t work out and, along with the formation of new song writing partnerships, contributed to the departure of both Anderson and Wakeman.

The Drama album contains some good material and is well played but... But was this Yes? Keyboard and vocal duties had been taken up by novelty pop act The Buggles, Geoffrey Downes and Trevor Horn respectively. I bought the album, even quite liked it, but I didn’t go to see them when they played at the Lewisham Odeon, close to where I was living, in December 1980. The demise of this incarnation set the scene for two versions of Yes: Chris Squire and Alan White retained the band’s name, once more calling themselves Yes when Jon Anderson belatedly joined the Cinema project that also featured Tony Kaye and Trevor Rabin, releasing 90125 in 1983. This split Yes fans; the sound was very contemporary and the song writing was dominated by Rabin to the exclusion of the long-form, complex and cosmic. I was one of those who didn’t like the new-look Yes. The line-up lasted for another album before Anderson quit once more, seeking to recreate the classic Yes spirit. He drafted in Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman and Bill Bruford and Bruford brought along bassist/stick player Tony Levin. Their only album was released in 1989 and featured some material that was structurally similar to Tormato plus other multi-part compositions. The sound was modern but the spirit and concept were classic Yes. The real Yes were in hiatus at the time and were stirred into legal action to prevent ABWH from using references to the band name Yes. I’d been to see 90125 performed live in 1984 but I much preferred ABWH in 1989, seeing Bruford playing material he’d originally performed on album. More record company interference affected the mixing of the album, with none of the band members present at the final mix. It’s to be hoped that the reissue has addressed what Steve Howe described as being ‘guitar-light’. The album was no side-project. It was four musicians who had come back together to create something that they knew the fans were missing. Sadly, industry intervention ruined the follow-up project and ABWH were absorbed into Yes for the Union album and tour.

Yes seem to find it difficult to maintain a stable line-up but frequently revert to recycling past members. My last purchase was Fly from Here, which unsurprisingly harkens back to Drama-era Yes because Geoff Downes was brought in to replace Oliver Wakeman and the title track, a multi-part suite, was originally conceived during the Drama period. It’s unlikely that they’ll ever produce another Close to the Edge unless Anderson is brought back into the fold. There’s no longer any magic on record but the classic three album tour, which I saw at the Royal Albert Hall, was brilliantly received by the fans. We don’t want song-based albums, we want challenging side-long suites with analogue instrumentation and musical tension and contrast with soaring, uplifting themes. I think it’s time for another ABWH.


By ProgBlog, Apr 20 2014 08:41PM

By the end of 1974 Tony and I had a combined collection of just over 20 albums. This may not seem very many but money was fairly tight. Apart from a badly-paid newspaper round and a cancer and polio research newsletter collection we had to wait for birthdays and Christmas for cash to buy music. Time and again we’d go into Blackshaw’s and think about buying something different. I’d held Aphrodite’s Child’s 666 in my hands many times without buying it, seduced both by a line-up that included Vangelis and the subject matter, and influenced by hearing the track The Four Horsemen on Alan Freeman’s radio show, though I was never convinced about the cover art. This appears to be signed M. Jubre but lyricist Costas Ferris has said that the band forgot to ask (artistic director) Gerard Fallec the name of the artist. When it came to parting with money we were reluctant to take a shot in the dark, demonstrating an innate unease with gambling - the shortage of ready funds made us very selective, or closed-minded – five of our twenty albums were by Yes, three by Pink Floyd and three by The Nice.

Contrary to the perception that prog fans were sad and lonely but actually to enable us to investigate the previously unknown, we actively engaged in temporary album swaps with friends to expand our horizons. Loaning out albums to school friends introduced me to early King Crimson. Neil Hayton (whose brother Keith was in Tony’s year) lent me In the Court of the Crimson King. Up to that point we’d only heard Red and Starless and Bible Black, so this album with its stunning cover (and an assistant engineer called Tony Page!) and amazing music shifting between the manic horror-metal of 21st Century Schizoid Man and the gentle musings of I Talked to the Wind and Moonchild via the doom-laden mellotron chords of Epitaph and the title track was an eye-opener. It was my next purchase after returning the borrowed copy. As friends’ tastes changed it was possible to buy their unwanted records. John Woodhouse became more interested in the smooth jazz of George Benson, so I relieved him of his former favourites Voyage of the Acolyte and Pictures at an Exhibition for a reasonable price. He had conscientiously looked after his vinyl, so I was far from unhappy with the arrangement.

The ritual of listening to music included multi-listening sessions for new acquisitions, poring over the sleeve and lyrics until they were committed to memory, no mean feat when you consider that a piece of work like Yes’ much maligned (but equally loved) double LP Tales From Topographic Oceans from 1973 contains some of the most obscure lyrics ever written. If there were no lyrics provided we would constantly replay sections until we’d worked out what was being sung. For a long time my copy of ELP’s Tarkus still contained my hand written efforts of the interpretation of words for the title track. Looking for errors in the printed lyrics was a kind of game, but even better, my copy of Relayer (a 1974 Christmas present) has the caption above the band photo in the wrong order and there was a black highlight over the music publisher that obscured the original text, which might say Yessongs. The photo caption was corrected on subsequent pressings and on CD releases.

At other times a group of us would gather in one of our houses to listen to music. We had the stereogram and a new Philips stereo; Bill Burford had a mono record player fitted with a stereo cartridge; Guy Wimble had a fairly nice stereo turntable in an under-used room that was always freezing cold, even in the height of summer. We’d all stay silent and attentive to each record and review it once it had finished, comparing it to other pieces of music we had heard and rating the performance of the individual musicians. Once we’d assimilated all the pertinent information about an album we would turn the lights off and listen in the dark. Rubycon by Tangerine Dream was absolutely brilliant when played in the dark. I received a pair of almost decent headphones for Christmas one year, not realising that my parents were trying to tell me something (I’d quickly learned to ignore my father asking “what’s that racket?” as he walked by the dining room where the Philips stereo system was installed.) After finishing my homework I could sit and listen to any racket I wanted without disturbing anyone.

One of the notable events to hit Barrow was the screening of Pink Floyd – Live at Pompeii. Directed by Adrian Maben and filmed in the amphitheatre at Pompeii in October 1971 the original edit only contained live recording. We went to see the subsequent edit, released in 1974, replete with footage from 1972 of the band in the cafeteria at Abbey Road studios and Dark Side of the Moon recording sessions. There were limited screenings and consequently the cinema was packed. Standing in the queue waiting to get in, I was genuinely worried that I’d not get a seat.

When I first travelled around Europe by train in the summer of 1980, Pompeii was a ‘must visit’ destination, so much so that I spent cold and clear night (according to my diary written at the time) sleeping on a platform bench on Pompei Scavi Villa Misteri station on the Circumvesuviana narrow-gauge railway. The idea was to enter the site when it opened at 9am in the morning, allowing a full day amongst the ruins. The buildings were very impressive, really well preserved and covering quite an extensive area and there were continuing excavations at various points around the site. The first stop was the amphitheatre, appearing slightly less well kept than in the Floyd film, with tiers of grass-covered steps. It’s staggering to think that we were witnessing a city that had been frozen in time for almost 1700 years, but I was also rather awestruck by walking through the stunning backdrop to Live at Pompeii which was ideally suited to the early, cosmic Floyd.


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