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.
It’s been a busy, but polarised, couple of years in YesWorld since bassist and founding member Chris Squire passed away. The “official” branch of the Yes tree have continued to tour with bassist Billy Sherwood filling some massive shoes and have released a couple of enjoyable live CDs.
Meanwhile, ex-members Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman have been working hard on the live circuit, also using the Yes name – presumably easier with Squire no longer able to threaten legal action as he previously with Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe in the late 80s.
In 2015, multi-instrumentalist Billy Sherwood found himself ahead of a rather daunting task. He was hand picked by his close friend, Mr. Chris Squire, to be the bass man for progressive rock legends Yes, after Squire – founder member and only constant – discovered his ongoing fight against leukemia would soon be lost. It was obviously a job he’d would rather not have, but given the circumstances, he was the most obvious and sympathetic choice. In many ways, the only choice. Sherwood’s links with Yes go back a long way, of course: he’d previously been involved with the band in an on/off role since the turn of the 90s, if anyone could fill the void and at least have half a chance of fan acceptance, it would be Billy Sherwood. Looking back even farther, Sherwood’s own music with Lodgic and World Trade had showed parallels with the more commercial sounds of Yes. The 1989 World Trade debut, especially, often sounded like the album Yes might have unleashed after ‘Big Generator’ had they continued along the shiny, techy, AOR-prog path.
In addition to the release of the new Yes LP ‘Heaven & Earth’ on July 21st, this summer also sees another Yes-related disc hit the market.
It’s the turn of the sole album by Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe to receive the 2CD deluxe treatment. In 1989, the four (then) ex-Yes men teamed up with bassist Tony Levin to record new music. The resultant album was very well received on both sides of the Atlantic.