What is “Toytown Pop”? The label, coined by fans and collectors, refers to the more mundane and child-friendly aspects of the psychedelic era and psych pop movements. It is chiefly concerned with everyday life, shops, buses, swings in the park, and has an obsession with being home in time for tea. In terms of lyrical concerns and overall concepts, you’d be hard pressed to find anything more…1967.
For those who aren’t regular visitors down the rabbit holes of cult 60s pop, The Beatles’ ‘Penny Lane’ is a good example of this musical niche with its busy narrative driven by people and casual observations, and to a lesser extent, the optimistic tone and bounce of ‘Good Day Sunshine’ could also fit the remit. Obviously, due to licencing agreements and costs – as usual – you won’t find The Fab Four anywhere on ‘Climb Aboard My Roundabout’, but Grapefruit Records has unearthed a whole world of other treats to ensure that this three disc set is a very comprehensive journey through Toytown, and is never less than interesting.
For many years, psych/prog band The Syn’s recorded output totalled a couple of rare 7” singles. Although much loved by collectors, these recordings remained elusive throughout the 80s and 90s, all too rarely spotted at record fairs or in second hand record shops. As an early vehicle for Yes men Chris Squire, the historical value of the discs was perhaps greater than their monetary value, but they often seemed shrouded in mystery to those who discovered Yes much later. Thankfully, Umbrello Records came to the rescue in the mid noughties when they reissued The Syn’s four original 7” sides along with other period rarities and other recordings, and even though their ‘Original Syn’ compilation was terribly titled and looked cheaply packaged, it would be an invaluable collection filler for those lucky enough to grab the limited edition release.
Ever since the CD boom in the 90s, the market hasn’t been short of rock compilations. There have been literally thousands of collections of 70s rock classics flooding the market, often very similar in nature. You’d think they’d only be a finite amount of people willing to put their hands in their pockets for discs containing Rainbow’s ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’, UFO’s ‘Doctor Doctor’ and Hawkwind’s ‘Silver Machine’, but still they come…and in huge numbers.
Taking an early influence from Paul McCartney, bassist Chris Squire truly pushed boundaries in the late sixties and early 70s and took the four stringed instrument into new territory. Using the rhythmic instrument as a lead, Squire gave the bass a distinctive voice and with progressive rock band Yes, he subsequently became a huge influence upon bassists around the world.
Prior to his death in 2015, Squire gave his blessing for Yes to continue without him. In many ways, any form of Yes without Squire seemed like an odd proposition since his writing and arranging skills were always pivotal to everything, but the official Yes (featuring long-time members Stece Howe and Alan White, alongside vocalist Jon Davison) have toured harder and more extensively than ever, keen to keep Squire’s memory and legacy alive. With Yes releasing their own tribute in October 2018 via Cherry Red Records (including new recordings by Yes men Jon Davison and Billy Sherwood), it’s only right that the band’s founding father should have his own tribute too, and while on the surface, this US release ‘A Life In Yes’ (issued via Cleopatra/Purple Pyramid) doesn’t appear quite as glossy as its UK counterpart, it is every bit as interesting. A few recordings even make it an essential listen.