Saturday, 29 January 2011

Tales From Topographic Oceans -Yes

When I listened to Topographic Oceans for the first time in October 1973 my reaction was one of puzzlement and I was clearly mourning the loss of  Bill Bruford. During much of the later part of the seventies I viewed it as a confusing piece of musical architecturer. Then in 2009 I returned to it and was taken mostly by the two inner movements, particularly the Remembering. In recent months I have been encouraged to set free my imagination and dream a little more. I sat down in Sri Lanka with the intention of reviewing the CD during this most fertile period that I have entered. What actually happened is I tipped my mind into the music and let it wash through me. These essays are essentially prose poems which look at the music from a point where I am fusing my aesthetic sensibilties and spiritual feelings spurred on by a new sense of imaginative enquiry and trying to capture simply what I am "hearing" right now. I am not suggesting, my responce is right or I have now "got it" I am simply saying this is what I hear now. This is a diary entry on a journey. 

The Revealing Science of God 

A musical avatar to the Shrutis.The waves crash endlessly on the beach at Rathgama enveloping me in nature’s beauty. I close my eyes and begin a waking dream of creation, from the swirling currents emerged sounds that gradually weave a deepening tapestry. Then it begins a searching a forming a coming together and the thoughts become denser and begin to vocalise the dawn of mankind begins thousands upon thousands of year ago we emerge from the sea becoming denser and denser the excitement of creation building. The great awakening begins and we are there and mankind strode forth walking in the sunlight and pondering the revelation of the science of the great imaginative mind. A pause to consider the beauty of sunlight and the great distances. The creators mind is there but unseen and now we look back, what happened to our memories of the spell and having reached a high point of creativity Jon and the others look back and ask the same question. How have we forgotten the imperative of the divine imagination?  And now we are off sailing through the air seeing the bounty of creation the starlight, the beauty of the earth and its abundance. Stunned to silence by its beauty we ponder all we have seen.
Jon and the others use their gifts to reflect the beauty created by the divine and acknowledge the doubters of this truth. Now we ascend flitting swooping across the land questioning why the wars why the descent, the divine is here we just need to listen and look. We are free to consider all gods bounty and now we ponder and slow down meditating gaining wisdom understanding and some reach out, devout Christian’s, old people closer to the end considering the meaning of the story in a devotional thoughtful way. The answer is in the great beauty of what is here to be surveyed and considered from great heights flying fast and free to celebrate, it is all before us. Then the question, there is a course to a universal season a oneness to come and we can set aside the doubts, the wars, the bad caretaking and wrongness and move towards the love and light that is the only way to freedom and freeing ourselves and finally the binding together of today’s awareness of that wisdom, the celebration of the birth of mankind and the recognition of the divine imagination that we come from and is available to all.  

The Remembering
The endless crashing of the waves is inside of my mind, a message from the divine that we are inside a story already written we are merely touching its fabric as we pass through. The spring bubbles up full of life and vitality and the water washes over us leaving a clear clean calm pulse. The gentle slow chant begins and we sail back in time to days forgotten and are encouraged to remember. Our mind takes ship as it gathers momentum seeking out the alternate tune. We dream as one coming together and we see images of mankind dancing to the song wandering freely in a new world. We consider the sculptures that we have been left, reflecting glimpses of the alternate way.
Now though we reach out to touch the richness of the creative mind momentarily catching a glimpse of the truth our mind travels towards the divine and we see in our minds eye the spirits of our souls dancing and we see the messages long forgotten, the alternate tune. We have returned and we are here in the world of today full of potential to grow together to remember are past and to let go of our back ground and prejudices and just be, celebrating ancient man and understanding all the parts  of  the story. We are free to caste our mind adrift and dream and understand unencumbered by propaganda and others agendas.
Our dreams set us free to provide creative energy, to set to work using metal that enables us to travel to sail to fly great distances and see new worlds other skylines. And then we consider the teachers and their impact relaying their story and those whom worship and revel in their beliefs and die for the relayed beliefs. And there are great philosophers who can help us through literature, even the wisdom of a seagull’s habits, tells us part of the story and influence our paths. But the relaying beliefs and their systems the passion it unleashes is destructive and violent and leads to the ultimate madness of mutually assured destruction but we can lift ourselves above this and fight back and stay the course and go back to our roots even today as we wander the cities and life passes by so fast we can stop and see the sense of rightness that we came from peering into the creators mind setting ourselves free. There is a calming gentle free unburdened solution full of joy and light and we can travel on knowing that we are indeed one that we come from the same place we just need to consider the alternate tune and we can then ascend past the sunlight and the rainbows. The alternate view is surely there and we can ascend joyous and return to the creator and bathe in its mind.                      

The Ancient 

Instrumental Reflections of the Puranas 
The divine unceasingly wraps itself around me, as the waves envelope me, calming centring me. But then one wave yields and breaks and the cymbals crash yielding a new story. We are off dashing through the jungle deep on and on in the dense richness of the under growth and we hear the calling ancient horns braying and then we move down alongside a river and the boats navigate the charging rapids and the jungle is alive with the vitality at 2.11 we then pause change direction and the run starts again the ferns spring back as we leap on the excitement mounting  to a meeting 2.54 we enter a clearing and we gather and then the sun appears and the jungle ends and 3.16 the majesty of the great civilisation is revealed to us in all its glory slow, stately and  magnificent.          
The chant begins acknowledging the divine. The celebration starts and the people in all their glory are revealed.   A braying of trumpets at 5.15 and the chant grows and swells at 5.46 another intervention and a t 6.06 the great parade sets of at a run developing the ritual the praise.    
And now the dignitaries the elite return the praise and the whole ceremony grows and gathers pace. And at 8.32 the celebration envisioned turns to thought of the end of the ancients supremacy. The great energy dissipates but for long years the ancients continue at 11.04 the retreat begins the turmoil decay, the disease the ending is coming and now all is confusion and disharmony and finally an end 12.27.
A song and acoustic guitar cadenza in memory of the ancients.
Looking back now we tell the story in words recognising acknowledging. To look back we need imagination we need to ask questions we need to delve and study to take our own journey pausing to question all we have heard 14.30. Then a lullaby homage to those that have gone before and to those that carry the story in their head and pass it on. We reflect on the ending and what more can we do NOW, perhaps nothing just be? And finally again we strive to understand reflecting asking questions probing 17.38. But the stories were made and in a final flourish the majesty of those ancients, those giants of the sun, returns the trumpets bray and we ascend triumphant and in the rustle of the wind the crashing of the waves returns.    

Life is a fight between sources of evil and pure love.
The endless movement of the water ever present wrapping my soul in warmth and joy, my spirit ready to dance. A high wave crashes and collapses against the shore and out of it emerges the long languid line of Steve’s guitar propelled prompted by Chris’s oh so warm bass and Alan’s rock steady drumming. A diversion and then back to the main stately theme’s 1.30 the dance begins Jon wordlessly sings the eight double note progression. We are set free to celebrate, the dance is on, and then Chris steps into the ring and the bass dances the tune at 3.55 the music is quelled calmed and then it is the turn of the minstrel, he enters the ring and plays a song of love on the guitar calming us so we breathe more easily and the sun comes out to play 5.24 and we sing to it.  The source is acknowledged as we move toward it and at 6.52.the warmth of its presence increases. Jon reflects on the journey on the struggle, maybe we can persuade some and not others, and we find solace from our roots our home but some see the meaning and we are magnified. We must continue to dream to have courage and recognise the true source. That is all we strive for, at the end we will be there, we will not lose faith but the journey is long and wearisome.
There are other forces to contend with and in those we can lose ourselves 12.02 and now the fight is on as evil grows remorseless and powerful and the joy of the dance tries to be heard in the cacophony. At 13.34 the battle for our souls intensifies at 14.20 the dark themes are hard and strong but in the end evil is revealed in all its discordance and is laid bare. At 15.00 good fights back building the strongest rhythm as evil tries to pull it back confuse and overcome. Now Good and Evil are locked together in a deadly embrace indistinguishable and then finally at 16.56 the song of light over comes all and banishes evil. The minstrel step forward and plays a stronger theme of love and 17.19 the song of the sun returns caressing us more openly emotional and celebrating the simple truth that music heals music will bring us back to where we belong. A gentle lullaby “we love when we play” we are of the sun we are all coming home back to the oneness we all come from. At 19.50 the journey complete the source revealing its majesty retreats, withdraws, leaves us, ascending back to the stars having shown us some of the truths of the story leaving us richer and, if we care to, realising that what we see and struggle with without, is merely what comes from within.
“In my heart of hearts I know what I ought to do, but I have another alien element entwined inside me that wants to lead me astray”. 

The Living Tree - Anderson Wakeman

The idea that Jon and Rick would one day team up and write a series of songs together was always a given. They wrote a good deal for the abortive “Yes” recording sessions in 1979 in Paris. When Jon and Rick with Steve Howe and Bill Bruford came together in 1989 one of the highlights of that CD was “The Meeting” a classic Rick tune much like his work on the Country Airs CD to which Jon wrote some beautiful lyrics. Indeed this is the piece that planted the seed that lead to the Living Tree.
In 2006 whilst Yes was in hiatus Jon & Rick toured the UK with a number of new tunes but it wasn’t until 2010 in preparation for a second UK tour they finally recorded a whole batch of material which became the Living Tree.
This project was always going to operate in musical territory quite distinct form “Yes music” however what made it particularly intriguing was this would be recorded in the wake of the various illnesses’ that Jon had suffered. How would this affect the music given his physical and emotional state?
The Living Tree Part 1
The piece begins with a stately performance from Rick beautiful rhapsodic runs on the piano and in comes Jon intimate, committed with a close in  mike sound husky and fragile. He sets up a beautiful image
“There was a sacred lady soul …so daily laid a trail of light”. Her spiritual power suggests renewal rebirth “learning to live learning to love again”
This is counter pointed by the image of the sacred man journeying searching for the secret learning and this is done in the shadow of the living tree. Now deep in to his sixties he acknowledges the need for spiritual romance in the combining of woman’s beauty and man’s wisdom and then we break for
Morning Star
Beginning with a syncopated piano motif Jon is asking questions where is the energy to move on/ keep on/ where is the future.
Then the recognition the game of youth has to stop and anger at getting old.
And then the answer “catch the deeper spell…” full of hope and life dig deeper for the answer.
We now see an echo of the message of Topographic Oceans “and the more we see the world as one, not fractured but regained to the question there’s the answer”        
The piece lyrically now finds the answer to the question posed he finds his morning star. An interesting journey lyrically, setting up the doubt and the difficultly but eventually finding the answer. Musically it is driven by Ricks insistent formal playing and a gentle acoustic guitar moves into the mix adding colour and intimacy.
House of Freedom
Rick sets up a gentle ballad some delicate string surges and Jon husky and sincere sings about the right of us all to move on powered by the freedom of the Internet. “All the answers, coming in the house of freedom…” What strikes me forcibly on this piece is that Rick’s performance is so beautifully judged and sincere. A bedrock of piano and the most sympathetic of solos mid-way through.
Living Tree Part 2
Having set up their musical store Jon is ready for some affirmation “We are the master class of all we receive we are the branches of the truth the living tree” Echoing all these years later sentiments expressed by Donald Lehmkuhl in the Tales for Topographic Oceans tour booklet. And a wonderful glimpse of the notion of the mind creating the story “In the pages  that you sing your song again you will write yourself a life” Maybe not so pyrotechnically clever or impressive as Yes’s main sequence lyrics nevertheless the lyrics here can be sign posts should we chose to read them.
Anyway and Always  
This piece composed in 2006 starts with a clear statement of the main melody and switches to a strong rhythmic attack from Rick to under pin Jon’s spoken vocals over the top. A gentle message of hope and one is reminded how Jon’s Northern English voice rounds on certain words in such an attractive way... incredible ….truth…receive… realise… clear it’s those strong open vowel sounds!! These are very engaging performances and whilst it is obvious his voice is not what it was it is still truly special
This flawed me when I first heard it a beautiful melody ushers in a vocal performance that is devoted to the hopeless war in Afghanistan and the despair of the young soldier desperate to return counting down the hours. This is worth the price of admission alone. Rick is so mature and sober and I will always consider it a privilege to have heard two performances of this song on the recent UK tour. Jon’s lyrics are direct impassioned and devoid of any of the criticisms that detractors of his work place at this door. “We are the first generation to know that war really doesn’t believe it just breaks the soul clearly around us every day” …. Indeed.
A celebration of divine loves this song maybe about his partner, but equally those whom are precious to his spiritual journey. It is charming and sets up a beautiful rhythmic dance. “No one ever could love you the way that you love…” This is direct impassioned and brave given it operates artistically in an entirely different place to the ten minute pieces of music full of pyrotechnic playing where many would wish Jon to go.
A gentle waltz leads us into another gorgeous lyrical dance entirely appropriate for this 66 year old man who has had such severe health issues. “I’m planting in the garden, I’m moving to the centre, I know the sun will shine on today” here is a practical example of how to move on guided and healed by the “Morning Star”.
Just One Man  
Jeremy Cubert wrote this piece and it appears on the demo CD Survival and other Stories. Jon fragile and challenged sings of all those men who have engaged in the spiritual awakening of mankind down the ages. In concert his simple and coherent explanation of the lyrics matched the performance then and on this CD. Given his own rehabilitation you cannot escape the notion that there is some witness in the grooves.

A restrained reverential highly melodic performance from Rick, a fragile sincere performance from Jon combines to offer us a diary of thoughts and feelings from August 2010. This CD eschews slick production techniques lives with its short comings and in breaking the rules is capable of speaking to us directly in a unique and compelling way.    


Lovers End - Moon Safari

The idea behind Yes was to have really strong vocals combined with very accomplished instrumentals. One Band that has been recommended to me who carries that torch is Moon Safari here are my thoughts on their latest effort.  

Lovers End

Its Saturday night and its time to witness the high achieving new piece of work by Moon Safari -Lovers end.

It opens with a beautiful musical hall piano sound the harmonica joins in giving a sense of pathos and then the ever so sweet voices. And he is regretting his stupidity she is out on the town strutting her stuff and he knows he should be with her. His loss will never disappear. Endlessly beating himself up he never get it right but then she couldn’t change his world. The musical background is focused full of delightful repeating ascending guitar runs and then a gentle resolve acoustic guitar giving the piece the chance to breathe and lead us in to the staccato exciting riff that opens

A Kid …. With its story of loss, false pride and bad judgement and the oh so honest “Here’s to you love, wherever you are you’re still inside me”. What I love about this music is the maturity of the transitions as we get deep into the piece the pace picks up and the guitar very generically safari picks up the melody and then fades away to leave the drum to control the dynamics but this isn’t a drum solo its intelligent support as the excitement builds up and the repeating piano motif sets up the vocal and we are now telling a story quickly talking the narrative before the big gorgeous chorus “Here’s to your love wherever you are “ and then reminding us of that pre love simplicity and the music ascends the soloist’s are offering deft and supportive accompaniment then another slowed section as everybody takes a breather and beautiful full figures from the guitar WHAT A JOURNEY!!

Southern Belle a homage/ look back to my hero Brian this could have been on Smile utterly beautiful and then the piano sets up the tune and the guitar wails plaintively.
"Somewhere waiting for my love, someone” oh such memories of Carl Wilson in the lead BUT utterly original. Then the chord change, oh dear this is tearful stuff.

The Worlds Best….Some relief a tinkling piano and those oh so appropriate smooching drums lead to the block harmonies. What makes this music so great, a step on, a step up is the role of the drums pushing the harmonies and energising the music the palate of the keyboard sounds are quite narrow but that’s the trick you never feel anyone is taking a solo its so sympathetic to the outcome this is collegiate team built music .

New York The mood changes again some slide a big syncopated melody and we are in love with and in New York (who wouldn’t be).

By the time we reach Heartland the way this music works is very well established. Almost a mellotron surge and their, they are those drums nothing fancy but pushing shoving the music forward the synthesiser gives way to the statement of the melody by the guitar. This song dances and the lyrics are beautifully rhythmic but again we have love trouble this time its Dickensian wrongness love and then we have time to think as the lyrics evaporate the arrangement provides the intrigue an ascending keys solo then we slow down the bass tinkling away in the back ground nice big fat riffing, always always pushed by those drums and then up comes the synth solo again full of warmth and positive energy and expectation. A gorgeous block harmony “From the heroes of yesteryear … “Then a lovely positively matching affirming lyric “But darling can’t you see? We’re still soldiers of the heartland, even now I still see you like I did when I could dream…

Rubicon A gentle guitar intro and the response from the bass and the guitar and then a lovely seductive sounding lyric. Is there a better harmony group right now? “Playing the fool just won’t do me no good so I try to play straight, though it’s much to late” Oh dear we have messed up again.
“You stopped me at the supermarket, asked me how I am doing, Once again I’m lying to you, tell you that I am alright”. Pride before a fall “and then we say the words “I love you” when the words don’t mean a thing.” The more I listen the more I love the narrative of these songs for that is what they are skilfully, lovingly arranged songs. This is not progressive rock section work, it is fused worked up to provide a complete oneness of composition. Then the final resolve understated alluring harmonies echoing the phasing of Lucy In The Sky so appropriate completing the cycle of love lost but the unprinted lyric at the end “do do do do You know that I love you”.

I adore this music what a great get. I had no idea whether there were more answers when I began enquiring again but there are and this is a big big one!!

To find out more about this wonderful band go to

Shaman Mirror Medicine Tree - Rich Goodhart

Music which heals – not healing Music.

Ever since the Beatles musicians have experimented with exotic musical instruments. As studio recording techniques became more sophisticated so experiments with pure sound developed. Some flirted with it Santana’s Caravanserai, Page/Plants No Quarter and Crimson’s Larks Tongues give us a peak into this world.

More significantly John McLaughlin produced a series of wonderful music with Shakti using world instruments whereas Brian Eno became known really as a “sound musician” and much of Peter Gabriel’s music mined this fertile area. Later on new age music gave us this notion of healing music and when I travelled to Canada in the 90’s I noted you could buy a wide range of nature CD’s which evoked a sense of calm and relaxation. Ravi Shankar takes us all the way back to the Beatles and his daughter Anouska has offered a kind of very intelligent cross over update.

Rich Goodheart’s new CD Shaman Mirror Medicine Tree is 109 minutes of "sound poems" where the notes work over time to evoke an opening up into a world of clarity and calmness.The sounds he evokes alone are seductive and enticing and if you have a mind to listen and open up and let go you will find your intellectual fascination satisfied and come out smiling. Rich a long time fan of Yes teams up with Jon Anderson their quintessential band leader and vocalist up until his respitory attack in 2008, for one chant.

The opening piece is typical, creating mystery with its revolving drone and flute sound weaving in and out of the ether with tinkling bells. This is not soporific healing music this is thought provoking music which heals and then comes the lilting percussion run and the glissando guitars I imagine myself deep in the desert in a place of purity and clarity. But the music has fire in its belly and as the percussion picks up speed the jews harp interplays with the guitar and it all grows in vigour and strength and then the piece touch’s down a gentle percussion leads to the final drone.
On the Dark Sea of Awareness is full of mystery and with the wonders of technology the remarkable clean production puts Rich in the room as he sets up the rhythmic chant using all manner of exotic percussion.
Weaving Luminous Strands opens with the same sound palate as Crimsons Larks Tongues In Aspic Tibetan Bowls and more gorgeous glissando guitar from Daevid Allen.
The title track sounds important echoing percussion and flute sounds set up the mood and then another treat an exotic stringed instrument searching questioning gradually finding the truth of the melody which is quite beautiful, then percussion to accentuate the rhythm and finally the human voice calm warm with a surging chant. It is not trying to impress or astonish you it is trying to draw you in, communicate and leave you fulfilled which of course is astonishing!
The music is brave, 14 minutes of Bouzouki Meditation and 10 minutes of Tibetan Bowls beautiful exercises in unadorned communication, gentle and rich in melody State of Grace and exciting in an intriguing way Shadow Wings on Moonlit Waters.
There is a live performance of the chant segment of Moon Ra from Jon Anderson’s best effort Olias which only reinforces the idea that the whole piece should be presented live by an ensemble and he sings his own lyrics on the gentle work out Good Love Coming.

This isn’t chart topping, global world tours music but if every day several people are introduced to this world then their intellectual curiosity will be satisfied and their heart will beat more gently.

To purchase this CD which is essential every day listening for me, visit