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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.

Thursday, 24 July 2014


The opening notes on Yes‘ 21st studio album are like sonic comfort food: Guitarist Steve Howe teases an ethereal melody, his delayed notes conjuring the mystical waterfalls and hovering spaceships of any good Roger Dean cover. But the blissful vibe is temporary — moments later, Geoff Downes enters with a blaring synth pad, while new frontman Jon Davison stretches awkwardly into cosmic goo.

But just when you’re ready to write off opener ‘Believe Again‘ as a lukewarm retread, the chorus arrives, bassist Chris Squire anchoring Davison’s feather-light cries with an earthy warmth; then midway through, Howe unleashes a sinister guitar break, punctuated by Downes’ fusion synth squalls. In eight minutes flat, the track manages to frustrate and delight in equal measure — exemplifying the overall half-excellence of ‘Heaven & Earth.’

The high points here rank among Yes’ finest work in decades — but reaching those heights is never easy. ’The Game’ is as solid a straight-ahead pop song as they’ve written since ’90125,’ riding a wordless vocoder hook and a lovely guitar fade-out — but it’s marred by a vague, hippie-dippie lyrical style and a paper-thin drum sound that might as well be looped from a Casio. The acoustic ballad ’To Ascend’ wastes Howe’s yearning 12-string and lovely harmonizing from Squire and Davison, weirdly transitioning to a bouncy, anti-climactic new-age chorus (“Taking the time on a wing and a prayer / A wounded bird in the hand / With the eyes of a child / Come to understand“).

The songs — most of the time — aren’t the problem; it’s the way they’re captured on tape. Roy Thomas Baker, the man who once helped Queen realize their most grandiose sonic visions, doesn’t aim too high on ‘Heaven & Earth,’ offering the band a computerized sheen that doesn’t fit their organic, muscular strengths. The album was supposedly written and recorded on a tour-looming time crunch, and it often sounds like it: Alan White’s drums are often surprisingly loose, and a few sections (the timpani-synth intro to ‘Subway Walls,’ the chorus piano on ‘To Ascend’) feel stitched together and slightly out-of-synch, suggesting the players were never in the same room together.

Read on..

Union (Standard DVD)
DVD - £9.99

Union (2CD)
2CD - £7.99

Rock Of The 70's
DVD - £12.99

The Lost Broadcasts
DVD - £7.99

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