All star prog tributes are hardly a new phenomenon. Robert Berry and Yes man Billy Sherwood have been contributing to such releases since the 90s and it’s often resulted in records made with love. Occasionally, they’ve included a few tracks that’ve become essential collection fillers. There’s a Pink Floyd tribute from the 90s called ‘The Moon Revisited’ that brings together a host of famous faces recreating the monolithic ‘Dark Side of The Moon’ from start to finish. Naturally, the record isn’t as good as the original – nobody ever claimed it would be – but a run of tracks during the second half make it a keeper. World Trade’s take on the instrumental ‘Any Colour You Like’ and Robert Berry’s ‘Brain Damage’, especially, showcase veteran talents able to turn their hands to almost anything with ease.
According to music historian and author David Hepworth, 1971 is “rock’s most exciting year”. There are a lot of music fans of a certain age who would agree with that: those keen record buyers who still treasure well worn copies of Uriah Heep’s ‘Salisbury’, Caravan’s ‘In The Land of Grey & Pink’, Hawkwind’s ‘In Search of Space’ and Rory Gallagher’s ‘Deuce’; people who’d hit their early twenties in time to hear Pink Floyd’s ‘Meddle’ and Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s ‘Tarkus’ with fresh ears when the sounds of those hugely indulgent arrangements sounded like the future; and certainly not forgetting those for whom the first three Black Sabbath albums heralded the arrival of a whole new genre, but arguably hit perfection in ’71. There’s a lot of further weight to be added to the argument that 1971 is musically significant, with lesser known albums by Samurai and Jade Warrior propping up the art-rock scene, The Zombies’ Colin Blunstone delivering an absolutely killer solo debut with ‘One Year’ and Phil Collins making his first major appearance with Genesis. All of that barely scratches the surface, of course, but it’s fair to say there was always far more to 1971 than Led Zeppelin’s monolithic fourth platter and ‘Who’s Next’.
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.
‘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.
It’s a great time to be a Yes fan. Various members of the band’s extended family tree are incredibly busy right now. The band have announced the release of a new album, ‘The Quest’ due in October. In addition, Steve Howe will be releasing ‘Homebrew 7’ – another collection of home demos at the end of July and ex-keyboard player Tony Kaye is getting ready to release his first ever solo album.