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Anderson Bruford Wakeman  Howe - Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe CD (album) cover


Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe


Symphonic Prog

3.21 | 329 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Yes, we did make "Close to the edge".

With four fifths of the line up which made "Close to the edge" present, this is in many ways the forgotten Yes album. That said, although it contains some good stuff, it's not one of their best.

While Chris Squire (the absent CTTE member) was busy redefining the sound of Yes with Trevor Rabin, ABWH were at least attempting to revert to the more traditional Yes style. It may therefore be significant that with Squire missing, the bass playing and the harmonies seem relatively weak here. Squire's place is taken by Tony Levin, his role as a supporting musician being firmly emphasised by the lowly placing of his name. No disrespect to Levin, he is an accomplished and highly respected bassist, but his style is different to that of Squire, and thus less suited to the Yes style.

The rather cumbersome name for this combo came about as a result of the complex ownership of the Yes name which at the time was shared by Howe, Squire and White. As White and Squire were still using the name for their current project with Rabin and former Yes man Tony Kaye, ABWH could not also use the name. Names such as "The Affirmative" and even "No" were reportedly considered before this compromise was agreed upon.

In terms of structure, the album has a reassuringly prog feel, with a trio of pieces around the 10 minute mark, each with sub- sections. The album is however over-lyrical, with Jon Anderson's vocals being the dominant sound virtually throughout.

The opening "Themes" rather ironically has the feel of a Patrick Moraz piece, Wakeman's piano and synthesiser contributions being unusually slurred and jazzy. Bruford's drumming emphasises the jazz aspect of course, as does Howe's unusually loose guitar. The following "Fist of fire" is very much an Anderson song which finds him in chanting mode. Wakeman adds some striking fanfare synths, but the track is otherwise dull.

It is only when we get to the three part "Brother of mine" that things really take a turn for the better. The lyrics occupy two whole pages of the accompanying booklet, an indication once again of Anderson's dominance. Despite its length, the song is actually quite commercial, as evidenced by its use in extract form as a single. It is effectively three independent pop based songs joined together to make a coherent whole. Asia's Geoff Downes, who was also briefly a member of Yes, gets a writing credit on the final part.

"Birthright" focuses lyrically on the impact of the first atomic bomb test on the indigenous population, but becomes slightly confused geographically about the culprits. This and the following ballad "The meeting" are musically pretty unexciting songs.

"Quartet" follows the example of "Brother.." in that it is four disparate songs segued together to make up a longer suite. The second part, "She gives me love" brings into the lyrics a number of titles from Yes' glory days, including "South side of the sky", "Long distance runaround", and "Gates of delirium", but the setting is a prosaic, lightweight song.

"Teakbois" has a carnival atmosphere while benefiting from a slightly more interesting arrangement, but by now you really are wishing that Anderson would sit down for a minute or two! He finally does so for the start of "Order of the universe" but the captivating opening instrumental proves to be a false dawn, and we are soon back into another vocally dominated suite of songs.

"Let's pretend", which is co-written with Vangelis, is a pleasant but undemanding lullaby to close the album.

In all, ABWH flatters to deceive. On the face of it, the wonderful line up is committed to reverting to the prog sound the fans yearn for. In reality, what we have is a Jon Anderson solo album which features some top class backing musicians. A missed opportunity.

Easy Livin | 2/5 |


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