Sunday, 26 March 2017

Soul Survivor - no just a survivor.

Enthusiasm for art, and in this case a 1970's rock band, must start somewhere very honest. It is what draws you in in the first place. When you are young and idealistic and wish to belong to the right fashion you may be driven by the crowd but on the whole with Yes there was no crowd in that sense. To like Yes was to go against the grain. 

At what point does that original enthusiasm and enquiry tip over into something else, some thing which cannot be considered purely from a place of intellectual curiosity. I suspect its when we consider something "US". Yes defines a part of who I am. 

The difficulty is even if our connection remains unchanged what we are committed to will change and in the case of Yes radically. 

For many we will stay until the bitter end, whether thats for us or them, but I find myself on a twin track with the band I fell in love with as a teenager. 

On the one hand I value its effect on my musical journey more than ever recognising it is the bedrock of everything to do with my interest in music (Fairport are in there to) but on the other hand I am now completely disinterested in the latest series of territorial disputes and angst created by it, in a word I am bored.

Last night I telephoned the Theatre in Chipping Norton for a ticket to Fairport 's annual concert at the lovely little theatre there. I didn't check the setlist or the line up or whether someone is in or out I just attend having great confidence it will be a lovely evening of the familiar and the unfamiliar. 

"Yes" have destroyed that simple choice for me and I think its because there is an attitude amongst some of those associated with the band that they are more important than the music and I believe many fans feel the same way and whether they like to admit or not it consumes a good deal of energy. My sense watching numerous clips of ARW Yes is that desire to be there and have a great time (for themselves) is so great that the communication of the narrative has become lost. They and in particular Jon are delighted to be there (look at me I can still do it), fans think its fantastic that they and he (look at him he can still do it) are there and everyone is smiling and certainly in the United States taking pictures. But is it profound have the musicians sublimated themselves to the message of the music or is the music just a bi-product of whats going on. Is there a profound connection with the music or the personalities, everything I have read suggest the latter so if like me your interest is in the music then what have you to go on. Many musical elements, which frankly I do not respond to, and underlying it all a sense that the soul of the music is absent a bright shiny thing is on offer to have fun with but can it be felt ? Ironically the tribute to Chris is probably the one element where a connection is made a gifted player pays homage to him and a connection is made, because the artist has sublimated himself to the musical task.   

For the first time since 1970, when I did not know Yes and checked it out and liked it, I have made a decision determined by a simple qualitative judgement based on my view of the music rather than an auto choice driven by connection, that is a substantial change.

I am bound to say thats a shame and it was the act of buying a Fairport ticket without hesitation last night that reminded me how far I have traveled in my interest in Yes. I am connected to Fairport and feel comfortable with them I no longer feel the same way with "Yes".  

I only have to play any other music I love to realise that "Yes" have made the whole business of enjoying their music more complicated. I can do it and particularly with music which was made many years ago unaffected by the current distractions. As a listener it cannot be helpful to sit there finding your responses are about arguments which are swirling around in your head, not arguments of your own making but ones you are aware of from without, about legitimacy, about this might be the last chance about he is the original not about what the music offers you. I have heard a good deal about the former but very very little about the latter. For some that is clearly enough, for me to dress Yes music "as we are the real deal and we are having fun" is to miss the point. The only deal is the music and ones dedication and love for it as a player and as listener, creating it with love and care and receiving it with love and care with an open curious mind and a beating heart free of earth bound considerations. 


  1. That's a shame. I think that the fire, the life and the energy that ARW brings is extremely inspiring and heartening. The experience I had at the show I saw was that the joy is back and the mojo is back. I was at a rock and roll concert of Yes music as opposed to a recital of Yes music. I'm a rock and roller so I like the rock concert show I've seen since probably 2002.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts Chris. Last time we exchanged I was very short with you. My apologies it is miss directed frustration with yet another round of entitlement politics which the band have been associated with three times now. As someone who has given me great pleasure over the years I am pleased for Jon Anderson that he is singing better than at any time since 2004. It is not the same but he has found away of getting air into his chest again so that his voice sounds more rounded and musical. Unaccountably on the UK shows the Bass player, who whilst he lacks the three dimensional statuesque playing of Chris, has great drive and tone and was turned down way to low making everything sound more brittle without a big low end sound.

  3. I hear what you are saying. In the 70s I was searching for something. I listened to hard rock (too hard) and softer folky things (too soft). When I heard 'Yessongs' and the three albums that made up the triple live. I found what I was looking for. It could get heavy and rock such as with 'Yours Is No Disgrace' and then more ambient such as 'I Get Up, I Get Down' from 'Close To The Edge'. Roger Dean's logo and artwork bought a sense of visual identity. I saw the live shows of 1977, 1978 and 1980. When the split came I drifted. In 1996 I was in Tower Records London and discovered the live album 'Keys To Ascension'. I reconnected. When 2004 came around and there was the 35th anniversary tour. There was the suggestion this might be the last opportunity to hear the classic line up (minus Bill. It felt a little end of an era. The ensuing documentaries hinted at the change ahead, the differences of outlook and that maybe, according to the words of Mike Tait, recreating something unattainable. Jon's voice was raw and subsequently he needed to time to get his health in order. I watched from afar as things unravelled. I still look in to see how things move on but my interest wanes. There is a sadness but an inevitability as well.

    1. Dear Tony,

      Thank you for your very thoughtful comment.

      For me Yes provided the platform for my life long passion for music. Music stopped being simply the soundtrack of my youth it became crucial to me. If I am really honest about this, since 1978 I have kept an interest, in the way you describe, in the curious changes of direction and a string of concerts from 97 to 2004 and from 09 to 15 but the real excitement the real movement in my musical journey is elsewhere. Phenomenal performances of Stravinsky and Sibelius, a library of classical music, some jazz, world and a constant stream of activity, both new music and in concert, from Fairport are where the momentum is. Whereas because of the entitlement politics of Yes and the financial dynamics everything is couched in terms of the soap opera it has become. If it wasn't for some really lovely people who I have met and share the concerts in the UK with I think the wick would not be low but stuttering ... or out. Whilst I never expect any new music to challenge me in the way Close To The Edge did, the best new music from them is as individuals Steve Howe's "Time", Trevor Horns "The Professionals" and Alan White's "Levin Torn White" show me that creativity is still there and Geoff Downes DBA's two CD's are well crafted and entertaining playing to his strength as an orchestral pop arranger and player.