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

FISH OUT OF WATER

Chris Squire

 

Symphonic Prog

4.00 | 487 ratings

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ExittheLemming
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Behind the Trout Mask Replica

During a break necessitated by disruptive industrial action at the factory of Outlandish Stage Threads R'Us, Mr Squire took some time out to dash off a very fine solo album, which is often suggested quite disingenuously as the great lost Yes album? (Answer: No) I just don't hear any of the classic Yes fare here at all as the content is more akin to the polarizing and fabby Relayer than that of the earlier group albums. Apart from the unsustainable early form shown by the prolific Wakeman, the rest of Squire's team-mates solo efforts have been uniformly patchy. Howe's output is redolent of a show boating hobbyist with no-one on hand to temper caution:

OK Steve , I'll let you do one more guitar overdub but only if you promise to record over your vocal track

while Anderson's new-age mystical pop is all the provocation the punks would ever require to begin their siege at the gates of Prog's bouncy castle. Are there those with greater culpability in the rise of Punk Rock? (Answer: Yes)

Mercifully, this album does not fall into the trap of being mixed to the detriment of the cover artist's collaborators i.e. although Squire's bass is prominent in the sound picture, the remaining parts of the arrangements are allowed sufficient room to breathe. First time I heard Fish Out of Water I was struck by what a fine set of tonsils Mr S has, and am continually surprised they were not brought to the fore and exploited more often in a lead role for Yes. Although not as technically accomplished a singer as Anderson, Chris possesses a very endearing and sincere delivery that communicates something Jon can only dream about: emotion. Delivering the notes with perfect pitch in a cherubic soprano emotes precisely squat in my book.(see Aloha from Solihull)

Hold Out Your Hand - One of the few offspring of the failed marriage between virtuosity and lyricism that ever amounted to anything in the world. Yep, an irresistible pop melody mounted over a beguiling array of meter changes and challenging harmonic pathways underpinned by that bass guitar sound. The Bruford/Squire groove here is flirtatiously funky with a buttermilk cream topping via the spiralling synths and keys of the hirsute Swiss Moraz. I do think Patrick's contribution significant to the Yes output i.e. as on Relayer, he brings a looser and sparser jazz sensibility to the compositions which kneads some of the inherent stiffness from these lily white critters. Sensibly, the orchestral elements sourced from arranger Andrew Pryce Jackman are utilised sparingly until rising to the surface at the track's instrumental fade to avoid cluttering the electronic band. The lyrics alas could be euphemistically described as 'ambiguous':

True is true enough to Hold out your hand. Forward motion life promotion to reverse is to repeat. All you've got to do is hold out your hand for the treasures of the universe, are lying at your feet

Erm... more gritty urban alienation from a 27 year old millionaire with a country retreat? (and incredibly long arms).

You By My Side - A glorious and unashamedly simple pop ballad as good as that hatched by such illustrious poultry as Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, Ray Davies or Gary Brooker. Although unequivocally a love song, the object of the author's devotion may well be less tangible than your average 'hippy chick with a rawkin bod', as the 1st person singular changes to plural quite tellingly:

You know we love you we can't be without you. When we're at home, we still feel this way about you. Everything's clear. Here is here and everything is as it appears to be so

Do Burt Reynolds or Cher receive royalties for this?

The exquisite piano carries a tenuous gospel feel in places and further implies these words are dedicated to the author's creator (who sure as hell wouldn't win many design awards from the cosmetic surgeons guild)

Silently Falling - Fuelled by a memorable theme resilient enough to withstand the many modulations of harmony and rhythm it undergoes during a hauntingly plaintive development. Squire displays a more legato and understated lyrical bent to much of his playing than hitherto and such an approach captures the mood and feel of this piece perfectly. Beautiful music realised by receptive and empathetic souls. Nuff said.

Lucky Seven - A captivating and languid groove with a seven beat phrase length that inhabits a sonic realm and vocabulary not a kick in the backside off that of the Bruford/Wetton axis in Crimson. Such is the ingenuity and assurance of the playing and composition here, that the oddness of the groove is completely transparent. Yep, rule numero uno for weird time signatures kiddies is the same as that for good soccer refs, if you don't notice them they're doing their job correctly. Listen closely to the telepathic dialogue between the bass and drums on this and just marvel at Bruford's unerring choices as to when to mirror Squire's increased bass activity at the appropriate places. Mel Collins delivers a delicious little sax hook at periodic intervals and let's face it, the man has never sullied a recording with an extraneous note in his entire career.

Like Close to the Edge, Canon Song is a flat packed epic (but like all furniture produced in this fashion, invariably short of the requisite number of screws and bolts for robust longevity) This is perhaps the only real disappointment on the album, as despite a shedload of good thematic ideas and an arrangement that lacks neither daring or ambition throughout, it just doesn't hang together as a unified composition in its own right. That is not to say there is anything remotely shoddy afoot, as it does withstand repeated listening to reveal the significant detail contained therein. Unfortunately however, it smacks of platform boots too small for their owner but tolerated for the increase in height gained. The yawning trap of fusing the orchestral sources and electronic band into a unified whole is fallen into here, hook line and sinker with the whole sheboodle audibly creaking under the weight of competing timbres and duelling counterpoint. Squire's spiritual preoccupations are further expounded upon and in this light, the cover art of his features behind what could be deemed a confessional grill is possibly indicative of his intentions with this album. Notwithstanding your own religious orientation, I certainly think Chris sincere and although I genuinely abhor what I feel is a delusional and evangelical world-view, do respect same as valid. Mr S cannot be accused of cloistered virtue as his own past betrays that of a man who has learned some salutary lessons from the dangers of turning on and tuning in to forbidden frequencies.

It seems a pity that when Yes reconvened after their solo sabbaticals, the lessons learned from such indulgences were not taken on board i.e. to survive with a vestige of credibility in the music industry 'post-punk' they should have made some hard choices: Dispense entirely with the scratchy fussiness of Howe, retain Moraz for his jazzy restraint, kidnap Bruford from Crimson but use Anderson as the hostage.

Despite my habitual scorn I would like to reiterate that this is an excellent album and perhaps one of the few Yes solo outings that enhanced the reputation of its creator.

Finally, in homage to the master milkman of metaphors (Chicapah) I will attempt same: From this point on not only did Yes became prog's fish out of water (Tormato) but half baked to a golden crispy brown (Big Generator) until eventually prefaced with 'You want fries with that?' (Open Your Eyes)

ExittheLemming | 4/5 |

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