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

ANDERSON BRUFORD WAKEMAN HOWE

Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe

 

Symphonic Prog

3.21 | 329 ratings

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patrickq
2 stars The first four songs on Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe are very good, so I'm sure I was ecstatic that day back in 1989 when I first got this CD and I'd just finished the first 25 minutes. The fifth track, "The Meeting," is not very good, but that's OK, right? Even all those years ago, I couldn't have been naive enough to think this album wouldn't have a song like this: sappy, simple schlock.

But sadly, Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe is mostly downhill from there.

The album opens with the semi-prog of "Themes," a medley of three, well, themes, including "Second Attention," in which lead singer (and ABWH mastermind) Jon Anderson declared his independence from Yes, of which ABWH is an acknowledged spin-off (their 1993 live album, released after the band was folded back into Yes, was called An Evening of Yes Music Plus). Anderson's claim that Yes had become too commercial for him has always struck me as dubious - - but I digress.

The concise, minor-key rocker "Fist of Fire" follows, and then it's the lead single, "Brother of Mine." When I first heard "Brother of Mine" on the radio, I tuned into the third and final part and wasn't sure if I was hearing Asia - - it turns out that this originally a tune written by former Asia guitarist Steve Howe (the H of ABWH) with his pal, Asia cofounder Geoff Downes. And then we have "Birthright," the Howe-Anderson song about the impact of nuclear testing on indigenous peoples of Australia. So far, so good: the first four songs on Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe are a good balance of pop and rock, soft and hard, keyboard-based and guitar-centric.

The late 1980s and early 1990s was a particularly fruitful time for Howe as a songwriter (for example, check out his album Turbulence), so it's too bad that more of his material wasn't included on Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe. Instead, the remainder of the album is largely written by Anderson and keyboardist Rick Wakeman, two fine, upstanding men who often bring out the worst in each other when they co-write music. Examples here include "The Meeting" and "Quartet" (though "I'm Alive," the single extracted from "Quartet" and revised and extended, is very good).

And it gets worse - - much worse. After those two songs, which combine for fifteen minutes without Howe or drummer Bill Bruford, is "Teakbois," a song so ill-advised that it needs its own paragraph.

First of all, the word teakbois appears to be something entirely made up by Anderson. The song would be bad enough without the ridiculous Caribbean arrangement and the diction with which Anderson apparently tries to mimic tropical speech. I guess the times were different, or maybe Anderson is just so spacey that no one can be too offended by what, in the hands of anyone else, would be seen as cultural appropriation.

Howe returns as a songwriter (at least apparently - - all of the songs are credited to Anderson, Howe, Wakeman, and Bruford, plus additional writers as appropriate) for at least part of "Order of the Universe," the eighth of the album's nine songs. There's nothing wrong with the tune, which to me sounds just as "commercial" as the music Yes was producing heretofore.

Finally, the album closes with "Let's Pretend." Other than some very uninvasive keyboards, way back in the mix, "Let's Pretend" is performed by Anderson and Howe, but is a song Anderson wrote with his off-and-on collaborator Vangelis; if Wakeman had accompanied Anderson, "Let's Pretend" would be tough to distinguish from "The Meeting." That's not good.

To summarize: Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe opens with some very good music, but devolves less than halfway through. On the bright side, Bruford and bassist Tony Levin are stellar on this album - - in terms of drumming, Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe is one of my favorite albums ever. But overall, this one is really just for Yes fans, or maybe fans of Jon Anderson or Bill Bruford. I'd direct casual Yes fans to ABWH's An Evening of Yes Music Plus, which has live versions of most of the good material on Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, or to the Yes box set In a Word, which includes the studio versions of "Brother of Mine" and "Fist of Fire," the latter in an alternate, and much-improved version.

patrickq | 2/5 |

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