Thursday, 20 March 2014

Yes goes back to its classics

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Members of Yes are, from left, Chris Squire (bass), Alan White (drums), Geoff Downes (keyboards), Steve Howe (guitar) and Jon Davison (vocals).
Progressive rockers Yes were at the forefront of a musical revolution a few decades ago and according to its long-time drummer, they've never stopped looking ahead.

Currently on a Canadian tour which will bring them to Prospera Place March 21, they'll be playing a retrospective of their music with a unique twist.
The band will perform three of their classic albums in their entirety - The Yes Album, Close to the Edge and Going for the One.

"They encompass a lot of the styles of music we did," said drummer Alan White from Los Angeles, where the band has been working on a new album with producer Roy Thomas Baker (Queen, Nazareth, Journey, Alice Cooper, etc.). "I think Close to the Edge, for example, is a very strong album.

"And we know it really well and the band plays it great on stage.

"And then, Going for the One was a slight change of direction … and then the Yes Album has quite a few hits on it."

With its reputation built on the strength of their musicianship, Yes has succeeded in combining intricate songwriting and arrangements that go well beyond the three-chord classic rock mold. Part art, part symphonic melodrama and part rock, the band, along with a few other English groups, came to define the progressive rock genre.

The band began in 1969 when bassist Chris Squire, vocalist Jon Anderson, guitarist Peter Banks, keyboardist Tony Kaye and drummer Bill Bruford joined forces in London. But, rather than following the American blues/rock tradition that so many others in England at that time did, they drew inspiration from other sources such as classical music, jazz and traditional English folk songs.

They created groundbreaking long-form records in their earlier days, such as Fragile or Tales From Topographic Oceans with iconic album artwork from artist Roger Dean. Later, their material changed around the time vocalist Trevor Horn, keyboardist Geoff Downes and guitarist Trevor Rabin joined in the early 1980s, becoming more singles-oriented (Owner of a Lonely Heart and Cinema, for example, were from the 1983 album 90125).

But one thing has stayed the same; they've made their music as they saw fit.

Over the course of several personnel changes, and despite a hiatus from 2004-08, the group has steadfastly stuck to their guns and pushed ahead, creating music not easily defined, then or now.

White, who now calls the Seattle area home, has been with the group for 40-plus years. He's been there since the departure of original drummer Bill Bruford to King Crimson, following the recording of Close to The Edge.

But when he was asked to join, he was caught a bit off guard, finding out the first show he was to play with them was mere days away.

"I don't know if I was thrown into the deep end," he said, laughing. "I had my own band that was playing similar kind of progressive-type stuff. We were fond of different time signatures, so I was used to that a little bit.

"But, after about three days (of rehearsal), I was thrust on stage in front of 10,000 people."
Passing that trial by fire, he's since provided the solid foundation upon which has been layered the musical creativity of musicians such as Squire, Howe and Anderson, along with the others who have played in Yes off and on through the years.

These days, the hair may be a bit thinner and greyer, but the musicianship is still there. Having played with Howe and Squire for so many years now, and Downes since he joined in 1980, White said they know each other well on stage and off.

Vocalist Davison is the new guy in the band, having joined in 2012, following the departure of then-lead vocalist, Canadian Benoit David, who had been singing in a Yes tribute band before he joined.

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