Friday, 11 January 2019

Chris Squire Tribute - A conspiracy of love.

I was sat directly in front of Billy Sherwood on the opening night of their UK in 2016. I remember vividly his reaction to his first public performance of "The Fish." It was a clear demonstration of his love for the big man.

This collection though is not overwhelmed by sentiment it is a very interesting insight into Squire's contribution to Yes outside of the famous "pieces" which have been their staple 'go to' selection for the majority of the years since 1972. As Billy is intimately acquainted with the music he also has chosen to offer a fresh narrative almost a musical commentary on the pieces in question. For me the project divides between :-

1) The first seven pieces concluding with Parallels.

2) The final five which are a mixture of extras and obligations with a further piece which fits the mould of the first seven. Track by Track then.

On the Silent Wings of Freedom  

The performance is built around Billy's Bass Guitar which storms, caress's and then drives the music to a conclusion. Billy repositions the Bass firmly in the era of 71/72. High grinding churning sounds but 'clean' a strong presence full of power but never bloated something which Chris was concerned about when they were recording the piece in 1978. There is nothing stogy about Billy's playing it flies. Jay offers a powerful orthodoxy on the drums supporting the Lead Bass work and the guitar is also highly sympathetic seemingly finding more of the top line melody. This evokes more accurately the energised spirituality of the piece which brings me to the most interesting additions, Jon Davison and Patrick Moraz. Jon like the guitar work captures the mystical energised pulse of the piece and in the middle syncopated section and wordless vocal, retains gravitas better than the original recording. Pat shows precisely why no other keyboard player is better at Yes doing Jazz. His insertions early on add enormously to the atmosphere of the music and his solo at the play out is unsurprisingly far more serious than the original and surprisingly in no way trade mark Moraz. Its not a screeching bending solo much more naturally rhythmic. A great start. 

Hold Out your Hand 

The two pieces which start Chris's solo album are great lost Yes performances. So offering something meaningful was a real challenge but in Steve Hogarth's vocal delivery and Larry Fasts Keys one has the answer. Steve makes you listen carefully to the piece again because of that curious way in which he intones a lyric and Larry's Key's are not only special in themselves but are mixed much higher giving the music a broader feel. Oddly the Cathedral Organ intro is not missed. Billy offers a huge dose of love at the end with the Close to The Edge quote that finished Safe and became part of the Close To The Edge played on the three albums tour. 

As someone who thoroughly enjoys classical and easy listening music I cannot relate to the angst in Prog Rock circles when non originals play or sing. Onward is a standard and it is perfectly suited to any good singer taking the piece and making it their own and Annie does just that. She reminds us this isn't a good piece of prog rock its a hugely communicative piece of music period and very moving. In the years ahead I can see all sorts of artists covering this and I am sure it would bring a smile to his face. 

South Side of the Sky  

When I noted the inclusion of this piece from the "Big Three" I was initially disappointed this has gone from being much neglected to much played live. Most of the live performances in the cold light of day don't match the revival from 2004. However I was pleasantly surprised because after a very precise rendition of the opening rock section David Sancious steps in and gives an object lesson in how to grab a piece of music by the scruff of the neck and own it. You could argue he saves it from being 'by the numbers' but that doesn't matter its great and reminds us of how Yes could sound when they mix the orthodox with the off the wall without going off into orbit and losing the plot. Nice rock vocal from Mr Sherwood. 

The Fish

This is an endlessly fascinating piece of music which his Bassness played around with for years so its entirely right that Billy should do the same. I love Sonya Christina's opening  vocal quote before Billy gets down to the Bass Guitar played a la 71/72 before a wonderful return of the vocal section. Billy has less three dimensional majesty in his playing than Chris but he has more playfulness in the shapes and figures. He sounds a little like the naughty boy playing with his favourite toy and bending it into odd but really clever shapes. 

The More We Live - Let Go 

This was a great left field choice. It is a kind of new yes old yes that they could have become but wisely Billy avoided given their anchored tribal fan base but its great to hear Steve Porcaro move the Yes field just a little toward the centre with a really nice guitar contribution from Steve Hackett. This is a great addition and far better than yet more revivals from 71/72. 


Unlike 'Hold Out Your Hand' the organ intro sounds trivial compared to the magnificent intro played by Rick in Vevey but once thats out the way we get the characteristic Bass Sounds of 71/72 applied to this '77 piece, great simpatico playing from the Guitar leaving more space and less toppy than the original but there is also another interesting narrative here. We get to listen to Davison/Sherwood in a controlled setting on a Yes  Song.

Billy's warmer voice shadows Jon's sweeter but narrow voice perfectly. I would not spill my coffee on the floor or have palpitations if these guys sang on new Yes music with this outcome. Technically the Unison Singing has a richer broader feel than the original. Please note that is not a comment about performance but production. 

Summary to date.

For me this piece ends the interesting part of the CD before we move into obligations and extras. 

Owner and Roundabout 

This could have had me heading for the move on button but for two things.

1) The completely bonkers mad cap performances from Nikki and Dweezil on Owner which remind us rock and roll should be fun. I just love Nikki's rasping energised delivery and Mr Zappa is as madly fluid and inventive as his father would have been.

2) Roundabout is a studio recording of the live arrangement with the middle section in, so its a romp and Ricks trade mark rolling keyboard inserts are wisely....just left out. Listening to I can see Chris curling his finger in the air in that curious way he developed and fans mimicked during the acapella section.

The Technical Divide and Comfortably Numb

A couple of extras from Billy's library showcasing the late sometimes very late Chris Squire. 

Don't Kill the Whale 

To be honest I hate this song and I have never understood any formation of the band playing it. However with Candice Night and Brian Auger involved its a nice exercise in a vaguely R & B feel but that Cetacei chant doesn't get any better for me.  

Billy and the players take the music entirely seriously and offer many new insights so one can form a new relationship with the familiar and also one or two surprises. 

The project also reminds us that after Relayer Chris, as he talked in interviews in 1976, wanted Yes to progress but not necessarily by making longer and longer pieces of music. Parallels, Freedom, Onward were potentially the beginning of a new kind of Yes more direct more rock and you could argue they did lead naturally to Drama and 90125 however odd that might sound.

So Billy has displayed his great affection for his mentor, the players have offered us fresh insights and in some cases improved on the originals, what more could one ask for? The fun of Owner took me by surprise but sends out an important message into the angst ridden community of Yes relax laugh a little more, we only come this way once as Chris and Peter would observe.

In listening terms if you are past Christmas and have put Swiss Choir away break out Fish Out of Water, A Day in the Life and this CD and remind yourself of an important part of Chris's legacy beyond Yes's most well known work.    

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Gryphon - Reinvention

When a Band records its first new collection of new music in 41 years it poses questions for both the musicians and the audience.

To make it personal I am not the same person I was when I was 22 in 1977, when the Band last made what we used to call an album. I have similar thematic qualities but transactionally I am different. To keep it simple I still like music to be thought provoking and expansive but I do not need it to be precocious or clever. At our ages neither the musician or the listener has to make points to themselves about their extra ordinary wisdom and good taste as either player or listener. Cleverness was a big part of the 1970's post Beatles music and sometimes it paid off and sometimes it did not. 

So what do I want from music now. Charm, grace, humour, intelligence, emotion rather than cleverness, the latter sated my precocious youth, oh and something that clearly communicates a shared love of the band and its music rather than themselves. 

Re invention begins with one of four compositions from Brian Guilland. "Pipeup..." opens with a beautiful airy motif played on a wind instrument and takes flight in a vaguely Andalusian way, the band come in and interject with chops and licks before a delightful Mandolin (Harp like) phrase, nothing overstays its welcome and words like delicate and subtle come to mind. Then a jaunty section which gives way to more picking and just when you think the music might just be a rather charming instrumental it stops and in comes a vocalisation which interestingly takes me back to the Bonzo Dog Do Dah Band, delightfully whimsical. 

The next piece is by new comer Graham Preskett who has a furiously heavyweight pedigree in amongst other things film music. Bringing in Graham after Brian is very clever. His pieces are more straightforwardly memorable, still Gryphon but a more direct set of arrangements. These first two works are a blue print for the the rest of their music, both having clearly defined writing styles.

Graeme Taylor's first "tune" (Haddocks Eyes) is a kind of Gryphon signature piece. The longest work on the album but to these ears much more musical and atmospheric than several of the heavily convoluted pieces of "Red Queen." That's probably because its rooted in a simple literary device, its the Song the White Night sings in "Alice Through the Looking Glass" full of the quaintness of English Whimsy (sorry that word again) and the perfect antidote to the auto tuned cynicism of today's music, a minor masterpiece of music making and not because its clever but because of its charm and grace. 

The Preskett/Guilland compositional story continues before we arrive at Rory McFarlane's one contribution." Bathsheba." This is the tune with its repeating nagging introduction that gets you immediately, very straight forward as all the bands forces join in then stops for a delightful violin statement, then the two weave together creating simple musical magic. 

The final Prescott tune begins with the feel of a Scottish Aire, I go all "Braveheart" when I hear this piece and start walking the Munro's, and shed a tear or to. The piece evolves the tempo accelerates and the players all chip in. I love the sounds  of all the medieval instruments. It is beautifully orchestrated and it has a different kind of momentum to Brian's work giving the project a stylistic bandwidth.

Graeme's second piece "Ashes" mines the kind of territory that Genesis did at their beginning, a piece like "For Absent Friends" springs to mind celebrating Englishness on a Sunday and from the point of 1971 not 2018.

The CD completes with Brian's best work. A wonderful plaintiff introduction a delightful wistful vocal and then gorgeous stately wind playing. The second section is much heavier and a bit like Big Big Train, but in moderation, before taking off in all sorts of sparklingly interesting directions. For the third theme everything is reduced to a completely exposed keyboard figure very slowly, very deliberately (Yes you Yes fans you got it I Get Up I Get down) as various players flirt round the edges of the stabbing keyboard before it disappears, into the far distance, the whole enterprise having charmed us for a precious hour. 

The Gryphon returns to the cover and looks to the left its head held proudly and rightly so. A perfectly judged re invention.





Sunday, 29 July 2018

Yes Featuring Anderson, Rabin, Wakeman - Fragile

With the Yes family the only relationship that matters to me is the one with the music I am thrilled to observe that the very first new music from Trevor, Jon and Rick hits the mark for me. 

Fragile opens with a lovely nagging rotating guitar figure full of pathos which propels the music through its five minute journey. A lovely expressive vocal from Trevor "Goodbyes and Endings" (a perfect homage to Christopher Squire indeed many of the lyrics seem to  lead to the extra ordinary Bass Player) uplifting and emotional with some nice sympathetic steel like guitar in the background. Choral vocals come in support and gradually Jon weaves his way into the narrative as Jon and Trevor trade their way through the piece. They sound like a band.

Some clever key changes and some beautiful rhapsodic on the money playing from Rick. But mercifully this is a song played well not a "vehicle for players"

Another change "touch be the touch such a sacred life we live" perfect uplifting Anderson vocal triple tracked, at last after all these years we hear Jon's voice recorded in the most sympathetic way possible given it HAS changed. But importantly he is inside the song and singing with support rather than pushed out front and overexposed. 

This is very much a Rabin Song you can find earlier versions of it online but this recording shows they can get past the name grab and all the politics and record something which has life and moves one. Bring on an album or an EP !


Friday, 13 April 2018

John Holden - Capture Light

The Age of Enlightenment - Is not lost.

This project singlehandedly speaks of a simple truth, that if we seek something more, which speaks of beauty and intelligence in equal measure, that celebrates the questing spirit of mankind whilst celebrating its past, we are not alone. 

"Tears from the Sun" begins full of atmosphere with a nagging rotating pulse played on the piano. The tunes it will encompass are suggested and as the piece begins to evolve I am reminded of the care that Brian Wilson applies to his most ambitious work. Endless small additions are made to build a a gorgeous fabric in which the ideas can thrive. But music needs personalities as well as personality, the twin Oliver's (Wakeman and Day) are quite superb providing a sophisticated beautiful palette, in the case of Mr Day, and wonderful appropriate rhapsodic playing from Wakeman on the piano.

One quality that this piece shares with half of the project is the tunes are strong enough to bring the music right down to a plaintive story telling vocal, Joe Payne is perfectly capable of carrying the piece, his vocal is vaguely Operatic Tenor and like everyone else exudes class. So rather than self conscious loud soft contrasts, where there is thunder and then quiet, the pieces evolve and add a sense of journey and attachment that one experiences with symphonic structures. There are verses and choruses but within a mosaic of an interlocking arrangement and the tunes are good enough for you to sing along to. But like "One Race" its a cohesive journey.


This music knows what it is, orchestrated rock and the arrangements match the ideas. There is no self conscious attempt here to grow the music beyond its natural potential. 

"Crimson Sky" begins with a beautiful figure repeated on guitar and then appears to enter a quite standard four to the floor back beat over which Julie Gater sings, she has a beautiful warm voice and a good range but just when you think this is where ambition ends the tune twists, a heavy guitar interjection (wah wah) and then the pace comes off and the music is allowed to breath before returning to the more traditional element and young William on Gee-tar. But once again twists and turns abound, a wordless vocal takes the interjection, then the wah wah again, then a ravishing drum fill before that chorus returns. In  other words the arrangement is playful, indeed the one quality that has knocked me side ways with this "album" are the arrangements, their inventive and audacious but matched with such appropriate good taste.

"Capture Light" opens with a plaintiff reading from Joe and the beautiful balladry, piano and quiet guitar choices (acoustic) perfectly channel the beauty and vulnerability of Venice. I have sat in St Mark's when the sun has leapt from behind the clouds and dazzled the nave with sun light, captured light indeed. One element which I really enjoy is what is euphemistically called programming, which means conjuring up string and orchestral arrangements and more vaguely soundscapes. It has always puzzled me why brilliant programmers will work in concert to the great benefit of say Barbara Streisand but are absent from Progressive Rock (in the main). This CD shines a light on the advantages of programming adding endless additional insights into the musical tableau, creating atmosphere, supporting the themes behind a ticking percussion or bass guitar figure or a flourishing of chordal organ. 

"Ancient of Days" is arguably a straight song with a chorus which immediately had me weeping " Speak to the mountain, talk to the forest, starlight and sunlight leading the way, call to the valley, sing to the heavens, The Ancient of days" This chorus is EVERYTHING I have been talking about on my winter sojourn and mines the same narrative . If I can wrench myself to think about this piece intellectually what I adore about it is the musical patience displayed. A wonderfully spacey section (programming, drum fills, easing off, ticking along percussively, the bass and then the guitar threading an intense rock chorus before finally after so much musical teasing, emerging in a glorious finale this piece is "RIGHT THERE" for me.           

And there is so much more !!

"One Race" is invested in all the qualities of the first piece the atmosphere of the instrumentals feed directly into the subject. The atmospheric athletic beginning, the exposed vocal reflecting the subjects emotional state and then we are off the starting gun is fired and the music goes with it this is pure Brian Wilson ("Who Ran The Iron Horse" or "Mrs O'Leary's Cow") where the music describes the lyrical narrative. Again this is preceded by a beautiful slowed section where the tune does not need noise to bury or shield it, its strong enough to shine unadulterated and after the "result" descends through the pathos of Jesse's Story.

CD's need curved balls to offer variety and "Dream Catching" with its spoken media intervention (something Trevor Horn uses to great effect) is odd ball so when the gorgeous tune comes in (and out) it is so much more appreciated. Throughout the CD snippets spring to mind of how other bands operated in their glory days and some of the cinematic elements remind me of Mr E. O.Papathanass√≠ou but on this track the uplifting acoustic guitar strumming reminds me of Gordon Giltrap. 

"No Man's Land" is attached to the ideas of  "Ancient of Days" except we are in the City, an intense repeating echoed guitar sound starts this piece communicating an unsentimental environment from which the vocal narrative allows us to escape from. This like "Crimson Sky" is a sophisticated "song" rather than a piece like "Tears","One Race" and 'Dream Catching". It has an urban jazz feel to it and rather than an "arrangement" it feels vibed up and self propelled but halts for some left field interjections. Great smokey vocals and a very nice authentic jazz feel on piano from a Wakeman (!!!) followed by some programmed brass hinting at Harry South territory.

"Seaglass Hearts" is a beautiful lollipop to end with, twin lead vocals, we are now firmly in Brian Wilson territory circa "Imagination" or "Lucky Old Sun" The listener is relaxed we are saying good bye laying back and just listening to beautiful warm music. One senses this is not "Lets Pretend" its for real and it completes with a nice musical joke which reminds me of "The Old Master Painter" from "Smile". 

Frankly I am stunned, join me in being stunned and make the journey.   


Monday, 26 March 2018


The "me" of course is Trevor Horn who is along with Geoff Downes the source of two pieces on Yes's 2011 C.D. Well two pieces is a little of an understatement one of them is the side long suite of songs which gives the C.D. its title. 

Whereas the other music has been given a remix and the vocal tracks are offered in three part unison, so Trevor's input has little impact, Trevor moving up from guide vocalist behind Benoit David to sing the two songs himself offers a quite different emotional resonance to the David sung tracks. 

Trevor's vocal performance is much more instinctive than the original, he really owns the emotional narrative of the two pieces indeed some lyrics have been changed. Put simply you can feel his passion, Trevor owns the journey. 

"Life On A Film Set" is now less self consciously metaphorical and more humanist and direct which really suits the material as it is sung in 2011 and not with the self consciousness artiness of 1981. The change of lyrics for the third verse move from allegory to emotionally descriptive. 


The new lyrics are not reflected in the recital in the booklet.

There are other changes the remix gives the music more presence and life but also some of the arrangements have been tidied up particularly the transitions on the suite. Probably most changed is "Sad Night on the Airfield" in some ways it is more emotionally sophisticated with additional instrumental insights and a more complex vocal arrangement but it lacks some of the direct majesty of the original and Steve's slide playing. Like the first song movement it is shorter than the original. However at an organisational level the small changes to the sections of the remaining large scale piece gives it more momentum as it moves through the final four sections. One definite and obvious improvement is to the reprise, Steve's Guitar work is more out there and wired, so that the final section crescendos with more impact rather than simply offering a levelling off and end, it really does summit before concluding.    

"Hour of Need" is the Japanese version and we have an additional track which reminds me of the dilemma of working for two bands. The new piece penned by Steve could easily fit onto Phoenix or Omega (Asia) and as it distracts from the clarity of the original vision of the CD (H/D plus a Steve Solo, a Chris Song, a Steve song and one group effort). I think Trevor was wise to leave it off. Returning to "Hour of Need" I prefer the song version I do not feel giving it a three movement feel makes it more than the sum of its two parts (the intro and outro are connected) or puts it up their with "Children of Light" which with its restored intro is a genuine 3 part Yes "piece' where the sum is greater than the parts.

I think Trevor performance on the two H/D pieces is sufficient cause to have and enjoy the alternative and I would have preferred another re recording of a 1981 H/D piece rather than the other extras. 

To return to the remaining non H/D pieces they benefit from a warmer more engaging mix with subtle changes, a more attacking guitar in "T.M.Y.A.W.M.T.B.", an extra acoustic counterpoint in "Hour of Need" a closer more direct vocal by Chris on "Into the Storm" In the latter piece a definite improvement is Trevor's "Armies of Angels" sung in Trevor's English voice rather than Benoit's Mystery Voice which is at odds with everything else where he sings in a received English pronunciation.  

The remix then is intellectually fascinating, the extra music not a real benefit but Trevor's performances on his two self penned pieces make it indispensable for this listener. 

Saturday, 24 March 2018

The Revealing Science of Teamwork

Out there in fandom two matters appear to drive how you judge a Yes concert. 

1) Whose in the band.

2) The setlist with includes material which at its youngest is 40 years old.

As  I spend most of my time listening to music which was composed anywhere between 100 to 400 years ago the latter is not important, and as to the former it is how it is played and most importantly what is the overall impact of the orchestra or ensemble playing the music.Without consciously approaching tonight in the same way that is indeed why it was a raging success because the age of the material wasn't of itself important and what was most important was how the ensemble came together to play it as a unit, not whom precisely was in the ensemble but how the ensemble worked as a unit. 

The first half from "Disgrace" to "And You and I" was in the main material played in recent years but this particular group of players presented it in a fresh and invigorating way. The music had a darker more communicative raw feel to it. In a nutshell it had more personality. 

There was more invention in the playing particularly from Steve on "Disgrace" and "Southside". "And You and I" benefited from a really focused reading from Jon whose diction meant the vocal narrative was weighted with more gravitas rather than sounding like a sound a like. I noted that Jay played this piece somewhere midway between Bruford and White and the fills in the crescendos gave the music more personality. 

A special mention for the vocal choir section in "Southside" I listened to this very critically and it sounded fine to me, no pitching issues I noted in other words Steve was good to go!!  

I preferred "Wondrous Stories" without Geoff's rather sugary intro and again with the cut and thrust of the rhythm section the piece rather than floating cut through more. 

The first half then was entertaining and benefited from a team that brought out the best in themselves collectively and individually. This is in part because the players are gracious and generous in their attitude to the music and each other, they are their to serve the music rather than the other way round. 

We dashed back for the second half and were seated for Jon's atmospheric and spirited reading of the opening piece which is crucial to get right. I always feel the record sounds a little like a run through in places and of course it lacks the architectural certainty of "Edge" but Billy and Jay make each section sound more certain and defined and Geoff makes everything count in away the originally keyboards, which often relied on rather anaemic mellotron washes did not. They did not play it to loud or aggressively so the meditative spiritual side of the music really emerged. The beauty of the guitar lines shone with a special luminescence as Steve played with an inventiveness and love of the original and that aided the sense of specialness of the piece. It is a profound piece asking questions of a spiritual nature and should evoke a sense of journey of spiritual musings on mankind's origins. Tonight they captured that sense perfectly and I found myself welling up with tears as the piece moved into its reprise. 

The only element which survives from the middle movements is the acoustic coda and song from "The Ancient". Once again Steve appears to play this in a manner which gives the cadenza more shape but the revelation is Jon's voice. He has really learned to expand the depth of his voice giving it a more rounded more musical feel and his reading of "Leaves Of Green" was exquisite tonight. He isn't just hitting the notes and avoiding going flat he is offering a rounded expressive three dimensional communicative performance. I also felt overall his unfussy understated but sharp image reflected in his singing more directly impassioned and less studied theatrical. 

And so to Ritual, Billy had been playing with attack all night with that dirty grinding sound which is part of the DNA of Yes, as well as providing a great vocal foil to Jon, a big improvement on his vocal performance in 2016. With "Ritual" and indeed like "Revealing" he grabbed the bass Lines by the scruff of the neck and owned them. Indeed Ritual is very much about the rhythm section making sense of the rather off the wall heavier sections and Jay and Billy did just that. Jay played with precision and attack and once again a piece that wanders on the original went from one certainty to another tonight. That meant the step offs for the song sections were utterly ravishing probably the first entrance of Nous Sommes Du Soleil was even more moving than the second, a real first and for me another moment of tears. 

As with the Revealing Geoff made everything count, he is a card carrying member on these pieces, to borrow from a 1976 review of Patrick Moraz by Dan Hedges. But the really transcendent moments come from Steve's utterly beautiful statements of the themes which lead into the song sections. They are both reprises and restatements giving the piece thematic cohesion and all one can say is he aimed a lot of love at his guitar in these sections.  

Jay takes the piece to the top of the manic rhythmic crescendo before the percussion movement which the magic hat comes on to perform. For Alan to hit the ground running with a percussion solo is the bravest of musical daring. He is starting cold and has to carry the other two percussionist and he does it bravo sir !!

And so a thundering ovation brings the formal concert to a close. Its London so Trevor comes on to sing Tempus Fugit, a song I personally do not like but he is much stronger than Oxford in 2016 and of course the final ubiquitous encores of .... well you know. 

However what this concert will be remembered for, indeed this tour, are the stellar performances of a fine Yes Group (of musicians) and their reading of Topographic Oceans. Bringing these pieces back, the most controversial of their long career, was a risk and making them the high point of their 50th anniversary is an achievement that this particular team can be very proud of.  



Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Downes Braide Association - Skyscraper Souls

When we are teenagers popular music is the narrative of our youth. I was a teenager when popular music was exploding, developing endless possibilities. As one grows older you realise it was THE time to be a teenager and the real wisdom is to see the 60's/70's and those possibilities as THE answers. 

What can we honestly expect now, post scripts choreographed bucket listed unfinished business, for me that is the best we can expect, and yet this new offering does something else. It plays to a narrative with every bit as much power and connection as the narrative of youth. 

At the risk of not appearing to value the beautiful arrangements and playing, which are of the highest standard, I find myself riveted by the lyrical journey. 

From the searing emotional refections of prelude to the atmospheric ocean tide section of  the long title track one is caught by something I feel very close to "Life is to be Lived Not Avoided" and if it is we will be buffeted by the kind of emotional insights reflected in these thoughtful beautiful lyrics which are delivered with a real emotional power.  


"This is a song for those who never stop believing", "even when life seems so unfair" 

Skyscraper Souls 

"If we can't turn back the clock searching for a place called home". 

"Ocean child take me away from all the madness we are one we are one" 

"Just keep turning on this rock" ... "with our Skyscraper Souls"

Skin Deep 

With a great vocal from Marc Almond.

"pulling you in better watch out" "it might spit you out again" "well you wanted love when you felt so alone" "I know whats behind this indestructible"  

The lyrics speak to those deep into there lives who hold on to the magic of the 1970's when demanding music was the thing and an 18 minute track like the title track was de rigour and where their personal lives are a metaphor for that yearning that searching for more than a 3 minute answer where dangers and disappointments abound as well as wonderful revelations. 

When you consider the blurb and the inclusion of very idiosyncratic talents like Kate Pierson and Marc Almond you might think the music might display a slightly fragmented vision but their contributions simply strengthen a cohesive and clearly developed musical foot print. Andy Partridge's guitar support is just that and you do not find yourself thinking thats A P instead you simple feel the playing is highly sympathetic. Indeed on "Darker Times" the vocal arrangement puts me in mind of the work with Andy Paley on Brian's "Getting Over My Head".

Music journalists need labels "pop progressive", "80's pop" to steer people and reference.     

For me this is just music, at 5.15 and at 6.40 the instrumental work on the title track becomes internalised and complex and shows a sophistication which adds to the growing sense of collective journey but I do not see it as a prog fix, just music. Did a few of AP's licks echo the late Peter Banks ...YES. Like all really great music its not an exercise in instrumental gymnastics its making a point reprising building strengthening the sense of a special cohesive journey which takes twists and turns to reach its conclusion. The great strengthen of the title track is it has that twin effect of feeling over in a flash but whilst you are inside it, time stands still. 

"We are mountain climbers you and I" as the music builds to a crescendo from about the 10 minute mark.before falling away at the 13.22 mark to Ocean Child achingly beautiful. Right now this piece is the best extended work the most satisfying the most emotionally engaged since .......whenever. 

So great humanist lyrics which make you smile, cry, yearn and reflect offered in a highly sophisticated sound palette.  

Side B is not a retread of the first two albums because of the support from the players rather than machines it sounds warmer and packs more punch.For me the stand out piece from this section is "Skin Deep" with a magnificent contribution from Marc Almond a great tune and arrangement but it is the vocal narrative dripping in emotional resonance which lifts this piece to another level. 

Pieces like "Tomorrow" remind you of Geoffs capacity for finding great melodies. It has a nagging echo of something off the second Asia album indeed the vocal progression echoes the more robust style of the late John Wetton, I am certain this is because David Langdon is singing unison vocals with Chris giving the vocal slightly more weight. David also plays some lovely baroque wind on this piece. Similarly "Lighthouse" sounds like a high quality offering from either of the first two albums except Tim Bowness produces some wonderful counter point and harmony vocals giving the music more character. 

"Dark Times", probably because of the spoken introduction, feels more akin to the title track and the lyrics have that melancholy quality that informs the latter. For me the vocal arrangement match the kind of thing that Brian W can find in his reservoir of genius.The "What energy" section with its squiggly sumptuous counterpoint horn playing is, if you want to make a comparison, pure "Smile" 

So to the finale reprising those key vocal themes "searching for a place called home with our skyscraper souls". Beautiful.

My heartfelt thanks to Chris and Geoff for investing so much passion and dedication to this project which for this listener is exactly what I need and is more than mere unfinished business or bucket listing it is for us now.