When Chris Welch commented on Bill Bruford leaving Yes in the summer of 1972 he said it was like Rolls quitting Royce.
Over the years since then all the talk has been about how complex Yes's music was by then and what a mammoth task it was for Alan to come in and learn all that stuff in a few days which he did in time for Dallas.
That was only a small part of the story the reality was the way Bill and Chris worked was entirely atypical. To break into that required a complete rethink for the entire band. Chris towards the end, on the fortieth anniversary of the Yes Album acknowledged that. Rick in late '72 found the change unsettling. It was as if the foundations of a building had been completely remodelled and the upper floors didn't sit properly afterwards.
When you sat in the Wembley Arena in 1977 and listened to Alan count in Starship Trooper you knew the journey had been made. Trooper, Siberian, Good People, And You and I, were BETTER than the originals. Alan and Chris made the band more majestic more spiritual more moving on these pieces. But it was a real exercise in patience and commitment to the band to get to that point.
When Chris was interviewed in May 1973 when they were rehearsing for a new album, as we called them in those days, and asked how they were going. Chris said they would come away with something achieved every day whereas in the past arguments made the going slow, some days nothing got done. Maybe they should have argued more but Alan's approach was to vibe things up and Chris was still learning how to fit around the new drummer. He got a parking ticket the day of that interview.
Looking back Alan had to completely rethink his approach and having been a Beatle Drummer, with all the kudos and openings that brought, its amazing he stuck with it. It was not an easy gig.
What really began back then was unswerving loyalty to the cause that was their right to the end.
Relayer showed how quickly he could learn and that sharp clean sound on the drums was back for Sound Chaser and To Be Over.
The solo album showed what an intuitive drummer he was and somehow the mic'ing of the kit caught this wonderful three dimensional warm musical vibe that the band was not able to capture. Oddly much later capturing Alan at his best also came outside of the Band.
if the live act of White/Squire was on the money by '77 three years later they were veritable monsters in the studio when what began at Redan with 10 pieces morphed into Trevor and Geoff joining them. Messiah and Lens had that hard edged playing with tons of space, this was a new forward looking rhythm section with the values of Bill/Chris in there. The sound was clean the playing energetic, certain, Offord was there along with Horn T.
Sadly it was not until Keys that freewheeling open ended approach returned where the music was both expansive and controlled and routed in the two of them.
However with the accidental Yes of Rabin Alan showed yet again what a huge musician he was. He completely reinvented his style with only brief moments (Intro to Changes) where 70's Yes was on show and boy could he swing. No one got Rhythm of Love like Alan. Whatever else one thinks about those years, Alan always delivered what was needed.
Fast forward to 1995/6 and he showed with Keys, one of his greatest performances, how much he had developed something Rick acknowledged publicly.
Artistically Keys was really the follow up to Drama but with a different front line. Listen to criminally overlooked pieces like Footprints. Alan was spartan but powerful and Chris would nibble his way round the piece or just funk it out. This was the kind of understanding that made music making seem effortless but it gave such certainty to A.W.H. and they were much more playful and inventive in the way that Yes should always be with such a certain powerful foundation. What a talent to play Owner, It Can Happen and this stuff.
There was also something else which I learned through Alan, to hear the drummer playing the melody, listen to Bring Me To Power and at different times they are all playing the rhythm and they are all playing the melody, phenomenal stuff.
Whilst the top line was fractious coming and going and uncertain, Alan and Chris always turned up and when Yes tried a fourth wind with HSW W was there.
Personally I think those four years off the road were not helpful, these guys needed to work and stay on their game but from 2008 right through to 2014 Alan and Chris were the foundation stone of all that touring and then out of the blue came Levin Torn White. Like that project from the 70's it got so much more out of Alan than the contemporaneous work the band were undertaking and its difficult to get your head round the idea that the same man played drums on Heaven and Earth and LTW.
He worked with others before Yes, you may have heard of them, and during, there was a really long piece a jam with the late Paul Kossoff I recall on Koss's own album.
Colston Hall under the Dean Canopy 1975, Starship the encore at Wembley'77, Colston Hall with Benoit, Oliver and Astral Traveller and the magic hat in Glasgow in 2015 with young William on the Bass. Thank you for such wonderful memories.
At the end of every concert in the UK in 2011 Chris thanked us for our commitment. I reciprocate that to you.
So its "Lights Out' Alan you have pushed the envelope, shot out across the horizon and disappeared "Onward" with the "Keys To Ascension."