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Tuesday, 8 May 2012
ANDERSON, BRUFORD, WAKEMAN AND HOWE: A little gem
The other night I sat down for the first time to watch the Anderson, Wakeman, Bruford and Howe DVD released some years by Gonzo. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it is an absolutely magnificent artefact of a particularly peculiar time in the history of one of the greatest progressive rock ensembles on the planet.
At the end of the 1970s, Yes lost several pivotal members and made an album called Drama with a line-up that included Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes (no relation). They had formally been of a very clever, but very 70s pop group called The Buggles and I vividly remember how waves of shock and awe spread across the proggy/hippy wot-not community at the news that our seminal icons had been polluted by the addition of those two geezers that had sung 'Video Killed the Radio Star'.
Of course, that was massively unfair. I thought then, and still think now, that 'Drama' is a much better album than anybody ever admits, but was in undeniable is that it heralded a weird decade for the band; one in which they got progressively more poppy until at the end of the decade four of the pivotal members from their most legendary prog line-ups toured as a splinter group.
Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe is, as I assume you will have all realised, an ensemble featuring Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman, Bill Bruford and Steve Howe. They made an eponymous album in 1989 and also this film, which I flush to admit I hadn’t heard of until now.
I always rather liked Yes and now, for the first time, have been able to see one of the shows in the ‘AWBH presents an Evening of Yes Music’ tour is a revelation. The arrangements are sparse, even minimalist, and none the worse for that. It is very interesting to see such a no frills approach on such familiar material, and it contrasts very well with the other DVD that Gonzo put out; the artefact of the Union tour which is what happened a year or two later when AWBH teamed up with the remainder of Yes to produce another massively entertaining record, tour, and film.
I can’t pick which of these DVDs I like most. This is probably because, even though quite a lot of the tracks are the same, and four of the same musicians play on both, the arrangements and presentation are so completely different. One night I will have to watch them back to back and see if I can come to a definitive conclusion as to which one I like the best. I strongly suspect that I won’t.
In the meantime, check this out: