Thursday, 15 March 2012

YES: Everything you know is wrong

Union Live Part One
My day job is running the Centre for Fortean Zoology, which is - amongst other things - the world's biggest cryptozoological research organisation. What is cryptozoology? It is the study of unknown animals. Creatures that mainstream science does not accept exists. And one of the biggest watchwords of cryptozoology, is that accepted paradigms can be wrong. badly so.

I am running this Gonzo bloggything not just because Rob Ayling is an old mate of mine, but because (in my own little way)I have been a rock music historian for nearly 40 yrs, and this gives me an unparalleled opportunity to wade through some of the less well-trodden byways of music history, and then wax lyrically about them to a wider audience than my long-suffering wife and stepdaughters, and Prudence the dog. And I am enjoying every minute of it.

Something that I have discovered over the years during my cryptozoological career, and not uncommonly in my music historian one is the truth of the aphorism that "everything you know is wrong". I don't know who first coined the term, but I first came across it in an LP by The Firesign Theatre, and a book by my old mate Lloyd Pye .Now I am going to use it in the context of this fine DVD from those jolly nice folk at Gonzo.

If you believe accepted wisdom, the 1991 Union album and tour were somewhat fraught. According to Wikipedia (and I am the first to admit that this fine resource is sometimes almost terminally flawed:

After Big Generator in 1987, Jon Anderson teamed up with ex-Yes men Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman and Bill Bruford. The result was Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, released in 1989 and supported by a successful tour.

Because of the separate existence of Yes (part of the band's name still being owned by Chris Squire), this alternate incarnation were forced to use their surnames as the band's name after Squire threatened legal action. Meanwhile, Yes began composing and recording material for their follow-up, while Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe did the same, beginning production at Miraval Studios in the South of France in April 1990.

Bowing to record company pressure to resurrect the Yes banner, Squire and Anderson came up with the idea of merging both projects, which resulted in the 1991 album Union. In the meantime the ABWH material had been extensively reworked under the supervision of producer Jonathan Elias, which involved replacing many of Howe's guitar parts with new ones played by sessioner Jimmy Haun. Similarly, with Wakeman unavailable because of his heavy touring schedule as a solo artist, many of the keyboard parts were redone by a variety of players in a variety of studios in Los Angeles and New York. Post-production also involved Chris Squire adding backing vocals to a couple of ABWH tracks, but this would remain the extent of the "reunion" of the 1971–72 line-up as bass parts on the tracks were performed by Tony Levin.

Hmmm. This doesn't sound like the ideal scenario for a world tour. Indeed, I had always been led to believe that relationships were pretty strained by this point. Imagine my surprise when I got hold of the Union DVD from Anne-Marie at Gonzo. It is a cracker! And furthermore, everyone involved tooks like they are enjoying themselves. Far from any animosity, members of both camps are cheerfully chatting and fooling arounbd with each other, and overall there is a spirit of bonhomie that I was totally not expecting.

Musically it works far better than I had expected, and there were other surprises as well. But, as I tend to do, I have over-run my budgeted words, and will have to stop for today. In the mean time check this out: 'Roundabout' from the Union DVD...

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