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Chris Squire - Fish Out Of Water CD (album) cover

FISH OUT OF WATER

Chris Squire

 

Symphonic Prog

3.92 | 299 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

iguana
4 stars An unlikely, very intriguing piece of work.

In 1975 rock behemoths Yes, slightly worn out after years of recording, touring, haphazard stage prop behaviour and revolving-door politics took a year off to record a string of member solo albums; both to allow themselves some quality time away from each other and to clear out some accumulated but hitherto non- utilised material. As much as this period in the band's life is shrouded in mystery as logical was its occurrence. Yes had always been a conglomeration of highly individual talents and characters whose chemistry (for better or worse) constituted much of the band's attractiveness on stage and in the studio. The band's members, who in various bouts of megalomania had often employed their participation in Yes to showcase their craft to the best effect, were thus well-groomed for solo ventures ? and they went for it come hell or high water, often forging successful careers for themselves as individuals. Initial motivation must have been the erstwhile solo success of their wayward (and by then departed) keyboard wizz Rick Wakeman that led them to think along similar lines. Guitarist Steve Howe had enough interest in a wide array of instrumental stylings and guitar traditions to churn out albums worth of highy eclectic material while the band's figure head Jon Anderson probed even wider territories of creative loopiness. Yes' current keysman Patrick Moraz went further into his mode of jazzy cinemascope excellence while also contributing heavily to his bandmates' solo efforts; even their stalwart drummer Alan White, by many accounts the most modest and grounded Yes- member, dabbled with indigenous rhythms and calypso song structures on his own "Ramshackled". However, within this plethora of solo material bassist Chris Squire's singular album "Fish Out Of Water" is universally viewed as the best one. Why so?

While his colleagues very much built their solo work around their instrumental prowess while often lacking compositional finesse the lanky bass player went a distinctly different route. Both renowned and dreaded for his tedious meticulousness he set about crafting something which relies more on composition, arrangement and atmosphere while understanding that the last thing people would require is an album of bass guitar shredding from who had undoubtedly become one of Britain's finest four-stringers this side of John Entwhistle. Squire did have one element at the ready that would free him from a purely instrumental straightjacket: his voice. His erstwhile training as a chorister at St. Paul's Cathedral in London had equipped him with sizable knowledge of harmony, counterpoint and backing arrangements which he would employ to best effect within Yes' ranks, often providing much needed bedrock for Anderson's and Howe's off-kilter ideas while not neglecting his own style and melodic capabilities. Indeed, by retreating to his initial role in Yes and providing very strong lead vocals Squire succeeds in making this album not too overbearing. Indeed, composition and collaboration is the key here. While all the songs are self-composed (and, at times, succumb to an undoubted degree of pompousness on his account) there is an array of notable collaborators at work here to make them a success. Drummer Bill Bruford returns in one of his lesser-known collaborations and in reuniting the very early Yes rhythm section provides a welcome touch of class. Patrick Moraz excells throughout on some jazz/classical hybrid keyboard work and the albums roots in quintessentially English musical traditions is augmented by a chamber orchestra, Canterbury scene regular Jimmy Hastings on flute and King Crimson's own Mel Collins on saxophone. Squire's old mate from the Syn days Andrew Pryce Jackman returned on tasteful piano and orchestral arrangement. Another notable participant is Sir Barry Rose, Squire's old choir leader on pipe organ. It is not a rock album, it is something else that eschews any pigeonhole. And it is very good indeed.

Indeed, that pipe organ sets the scene as it introduces the opening track with Squire's customary Rickenbacker bass ascending above it and it leads into 43 minutes of very diverse, stately material. The somewhat jazzy, off-beat "Hold Out Your Hand" does not deviate much from its downbeat funkiness with organ and orchestra forming a gently oscillating horizon cloudscape with Squires angular bass lines and vocals taking the lead. Its sister track "You By My Side", on the other hand evokes the uplifting harmony pop of the psychedelic late 1960s with more than a hint of heyjudeisms and an anthemic Procol Harum-type pastoralness and the orchestra tastefully employed in its coda. A delightful bridge which exquisitely features flautist Mel Collins segues into "Silently Falling", somehow acting as a sum-up of Side 1 albeit being rockier and with a fast-paced jazz bit in the middle which evokes very early Yes on speed as Patrick Moraz and Bill Bruford chase each other across the finishing line. Chris's vocals may be a bit grating by the end as he hardly deviates from his rather constructed phrasing but they need to be viewed as another instrumental capacity just like what Jon Anderson has attempted in Yes to various degrees of success.

Side 2 starts inconspicously with the slightly nondescript "Lucky Seven" which flows along timidly and gives every instrument the opportunity to stretch out without dominating the proceedings. It is here that the album's crafty composedness may divide the listener into terminal boredom or appreciation of the varied musical undercurrents. It takes its time and it grows in stature just like its key proponent did within his band's ranks. "Fish Out Of Water" is thus a fair representation of Chris Squire as a musical person. He is firmly a second-rank acteur, but one who is capable to fill out his own creative space that he often self-restricts. As the album moves into its 15-minute long closing track "Safe" it elevates itself onto an even higher plateau. After a quiet, almost inaudible start it picks up momentum and ends in a frenzied orchestral waltz that seems to spin around its own axis with several instrumental leads ? and more of Squire's lethal bass ? coiling around it; almost hurling the listener to an impending point of impact. That point materialises in a huge band/orchestra crescendo which leads into a fading drone that consists of some lone, mournful bass notes disappearing into the post-listening void like the distant grumble of a departing vintage airliner.

This was also the last that would ever be heard of Squire as a true solo artist. When Yes resumed operations a year later he contributed heavily to every ensuing album (by "Drama" and "90125" he had become the de facto leader of the band) and, thus, transferred all of his own material into band sessions. Squire did remain open for collaborations outside of Yes such as Esquire, Conspiracy with later band alumnus Billy Sherwood, an unexpected The Syn reunion (reviewed elswhere here) and his most recent collaboration with Steve Hackett, the snappily named Squackett which, however, suffered much from the diluting capacities of artistic joint ventures. Some people are probably not cut for solo careers...

iguana | 4/5 |

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