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.
The inaugural release from Strawberry Records, ‘Halcyon Days’ aims high in terms of 60s entertainment. Bringing together a great selection of mod, soul and freakbeat sides, it presents famous names alongside forgotten heroes; places cult floor fillers, deep cuts and a few genuine rarities among fantastic (and sometimes very interesting) covers of well known tunes. Across nearly 90 tracks, it sets itself up as a varied and comprehensive listen. It’s very much the kind of set tailor made for those who’ve worn out the more bog-standard mod comps and are looking for a world beyond The Action, The Creation and those much-loved Spencer Davis Group hits.
The Beatles can arguably claim to being the most covered band in the history of recorded music. Pretty much everything they released between 1962-1970 has been covered at some time, and by bands and artists from right across the musical spectrum. Dig deep enough into the internet, you’ll even find other people reinterpreting ‘Revolution 9’, surely the most marginal of Beatles recordings. Even while the band was still active – long before being considered of any real historical importance – their work was being reinterpreted by high profile artists in a disparate range of styles. Most notably, The Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix, Booker T. & The MG’s, Otis Redding and Elvis Presley put their own stamp on various Fab Four classics, but for every hit interpretation, several dozen others could be found languishing on cult albums and under-bought singles.
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.
The first Yes studio album in a decade – 2011’s ‘Fly From Here’ – came under fire from various quarters. Since the core of the material first took shape in the early 80s, some (unfairly) lambasted the release for scraping the barrel for ideas, while others were less specific, wheeling out their beliefs that “no Jon Anderson = No Yes”. Neither short-sighted opinion held much water, since the album featured some of the best material the band had committed to record since the mid 90s, possibly even before. Benoit David did a great job vocalising both the new material and those ideas laid down by Trevor Horn and band some decades previously; Steve Howe sounded very comfortable in his role as guitarist – happy not to overplay his role (as he perhaps had done on some other Yes work) – while bandleader Chris Squire’s bass work appeared impeccable throughout. As with the often maligned ‘Drama’ of 1980 and the pop-oriented ‘90125’ from 1983, this more than showed that whatever the incarnation, there can be enjoyable results.