Pink Floyd’s sixth album, ‘Meddle’, is regarded as a prog rock masterpiece. The band had released enjoyable works prior to its release in 1971, but ‘Meddle’ is arguably the first album where all of the “classic Floyd” ingredients came together to create something coherent. David Gilmour has referred to it as the first album since his appointment as guitarist that really made sense, and – as enjoyable as bits of its predecessors are in their own weird and wonderful ways – it’s hard not to argue with that logic. The thunderous bass groove driving ‘One of These Days’ very much looks forward to parts of ‘Animals’; in Gilmour’s ‘Fearless’, there’s a melodic prog songcraft that he would take forward and make the heart of ‘Dark Side of The Moon’ and even the post-Roger Waters ‘Division Bell’, and via the mighty ‘Echoes’ – a side long epic – bits of the Floyd’s soundtrack recording past collide with huge solos, and there’s even a melodic phrase that would be reworked a few years later to become one of ‘Dark Side’s timeless musical touchstones. Unfortunately, there’s the lazy blues of ‘Seamus’, too – something that undoubtedly grew from their Pompeii animal cruelty jam ‘Madamoiselle Nobs’ – but very few albums are perfect.
There are several albums that are widely perceived as genuine classics. Albums which haven’t faded with the passing of time, but instead only seemed to become richer. Sometimes you might feel as if you never need to hear these again due to their over familiarity, and yet, a chance encounter with Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of The Moon’; The Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds’, or a favourite Beatles album only serves to remind you how good they still sound, and remind you of why you loved them in the first place.
‘Heaven & Earth’, the twenty first studio album from Yes, seemed to spend most of its natural life lurking under a cloud of negativity. The last recording to feature founding member Chris Squire and the first to feature vocalist Jon Davison, it was criticised for “not being proggy enough”, “sounding like a lightweight Yes tribute band” and worse. None of the criticism was especially warranted. ‘Heaven & Earth’ featured some lovely sounds; tunes that featured lots of Yes hallmarks blending with a few poppy flourishes to create an almost spiritual and reflective piece.
Billy Sherwood is no stranger to an all star compilation. Over the years, he’s helped mastermind tributes to all manner of artists, often with mixed results. His 2019 project ‘A Prog Rock Christmas’ can seem as scattershot as many of those previous all star affairs, but by bringing together various prog legends to put their own stamp on a few familiar yuletide ditties, there are a several things to enjoy along the way, ranging from the traditional to the bespoke.
Fifty years is a long time for anything. It seems an especially long time for a band to exist…and particularly one that always set out to push boundaries and create music that wouldn’t necessarily appeal to the pop music buying masses. …And yet, here we are: prog rock legends Yes celebrated their half century in 2018. Granted, they’ve had an ever evolving, less than stable line up – no fewer than nineteen members have passed through the official ranks of Yes since their inception in 1968, and at the end of 2018, none of the band members are the true founders – but there is still a Yes. Detractors be damned.
Masterminded by Dave Kerzner, ‘Yesterday And Today’ is an all-star tribute that celebrates all line-ups and all eras of a great band, featuring a few very familiar faces, some of whom have been brave enough to tackle a couple of deeper cuts from the Yes catalogue.