Wednesday, 26 September 2012

ABWH: Review 

September 2012
Progressive rock archive concert.
Yes men Jon Anderson, Bill Bruford, Rick Wakeman and Steve Howe reunited back in 1989 following a series of band departures, line-up changes, side projects and solo projects. With a vibrant collection of new material that revisited a more 'traditional' Yes sound, the four released a self-titled album and engaged in a series of concerts under the name "An Evening of Yes Music Plus". The live set captured here includes plenty of unhurried soloing from each of the band members, a number of tight live renditions of crucial Yes compositions and five central tracks of Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe material. The first track from the then new album is Birthright and it follows directly after Bruford's solo performance with its tribal rhythm and understated instrumentation. Disc two begins with Themes which opens wide toward the end into a rhythmically dynamic duet between bassist for the project Tony Levin and Bill Bruford. As this section of the concert builds to a crescendo Heart Of The Sunrise Roundabout and Starship Trooper build into to Order Of The Universe highlighting the fact that the ambitious early progressive heights were still being scaled.

In standard DVD plastic case Live at the N.E.C. comes nevertheless with rich visual content: cover insert printed on both sides and twenty eight page booklet. The artwork holds much of Roger Dean's trademark imagery: bold graphic designs, intricate lettering and absorbing paintings. All track titles are listed on the rear, inside the cover is a page of information on the Evening of Yes Music Plus. The booklet is huge, beginning with the original tour dates and personnel. A comprehensive band members 'family tree' traces the musical careers of the quartet. There is a description of the project's inception and development; photos of relevant curios and ephemera; performance stills and promotional photography; brief biographical sections for the players along with portrait imagery; Dean's cover art and inspirational landscapes conclude the package.

This three-disc set presents a concert recorded Live at the Birmingham N.E.C. on October 24th 1989. Discs one and two are audio discs of Yes classics and ABWH tracks with plenty of space given over to virtuoso soloing: Steve Howe plays Clap and Mood For A Day, Jon Anderson sings a medley of three favourites over a single guitar accompaniment, Rick Wakeman delivers a passionate rendition of a medieval influenced synth montage, Long Distance Runaround provides a springboard for Bill Bruford to showcase his considerable percussive talents as does Themes. The Julian Colbeck video that fills disc three is an intimate monochrome look at the band in informal backstage setting and pre-concert rehearsals. In this way angles and details not easily found in live performance footage are explored and lingered over. Eventually, snatches from the concert itself are stitched into a compact whole leaving the impression that the viewer has shared something of the whole experience rather than simply a recorded concert. All in all this is a fantastic opportunity to enjoy this unique phase in the varied history of Yes - a package with a sense of souvenir about it. The collection can be ordered directly from the Gonzo Multimedia website, where you can also find the DVD An Evening of Yes.

...and check out the ABWH artist page at Gonzo

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What happens when you mix what is - arguably - the world's most interesting record company, with an anarchist manic-depressive rock music historian polymath, and a method of dissemination which means that a daily rock-music magazine can be almost instantaneous?

Most of this blog is related in some way to the music, books and films produced by Gonzo Multimedia, but the editor has a grasshopper mind and so also writes about all sorts of cultural issues which interest him, and which he hopes will interest you as well.