The 1991 Yes album ‘Union’ is one that very much splits opinion. Rick Wakeman famously nicknamed it ‘Onion’ as it made him cry whenever he heard it, and even from a fan perspective, it never really connected with a strong audience. Those who liked the poppier route Yes had taken in the 80s found musical kinship in the more commercial tracks – like the lead single ‘Lift Me Up’ and Billy Sherwood’s excellent ‘The More We Live – Let Go’ – but didn’t really like the proggier aspects, while the proggy fans welcomed the return of Steve Howe and a few more adventurous bits but still had no time for the pop aspects still present. It was a case of “too many cooks” – the album took in too much variation and enlisted five different producers – and in an attempt to please everyone, almost ended up pleasing no-one.
Like any band with a long history, Strawbs have gone through many changes over the decades. Musicians have come and gone; they’ve seen dozens of members come and go since their inception in 1964 – including legends Rick Wakeman, Sandy Denny and Curved Air’s Sonja Kristina – with each one bringing something different to the band. Through it all, Dave Cousins has been there to steer the ship. In fact, aside from very occasional silences, Strawbs have always existed in one form or other even though a lot of people would believe they threw in the towel some time during the mid 70s.
Back in 2015, Keith Emerson and Robert Berry hatched a plan to follow up their album ‘To The Power of Three’. That album (released in 1988 under the band name 3) became a cult classic, beloved by prog rock devotees and AOR fans alike, so the mere idea of a second record (no matter how belated) seemed to be cause for celebration. Various musical ideas were set in place for the new record over the next few months. Unfortunately, any future plans for the reborn 3 were put on hold in 2016 after Emerson’s untimely death.
Berry eventually paid tribute in the best way possible by ensuring all of Keith’s final musical ideas finally came to light. The resulting album ‘The Rules Have Changed’ (released under the 3.2 moniker) captured so much of the spirit of the original 3 with it’s melodic rock/prog crossover sound, but despite some great press, some of the fans seemed less enthusiastic. Those who viewed the album negatively insisted there couldn’t be a 3 album without Emerson, completely ignoring the fact that Berry had painstakingly structured a whole new work from Keith’s ideas. As always in prog circles, those who would never be pleased – no matter how good the outcome – made far too much noise and showed themselves to be wholly un-progressive in their attitudes. Those fans who seemed absolutely appalled by the idea of Berry releasing a second album based on Emerson’s ideas will surely explode with anger at the audacity of a third release, this time created solely from Berry’s own compositions.
The ever prolific Devin Townsend has announced a series of new releases that he says will be “interesting” but not necessarily something he’d want to present as “a major release”. The Devolution Series will give fans access to various live materials and more and begins with with an acoustic live set from 2019.
Things are busy behind the scenes with The Fierce And The Dead. The British post-rock band have had live shows cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but they’ve taken a lot of time to work on home demos and ideas for album number 4, which they’ve more than hinted will be as different from ‘The Euphoric’ as that album had been from 2013’s ‘Spooky Action’.