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


Anderson - Bruford - Wakeman - Howe


Symphonic Prog

3.22 | 357 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Moogtron III
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Jon Anderson, Bill Bruford, Rick Wakeman and Steve Howe, well known from some classic Yes albums from the 1970's, made a studio album which couldn't be released under the Yes banner, because in the U.S. there was still another "Yes" being around (Chris Squire, Trevor Rabin, Alan White, Tony Kaye and originally also Jon Anderson). But no doubt, this album, the sole Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe studio album, was meant to be a Yes record: made with the same attitude as the classic Yes albums. Adventurous, melodious, progressive rock.

It's funny, though. I don't think many Yes fans will mention this album as their favourite album. This is easy to understand. The album has quite a different sound than the classic Yes albums. Rick uses modern keyboards on the album, Bill Bruford makes use of electronic drums on the albums, instead of the dominant Chris Squire bass sound there is a subtle Tony Levin bass sound, which doesn't come to the forefront. Further on, as I recall well, the album is not made like some of the most well known Yes classic albums, not out of collective group writing: Jon Anderson had a blueprint for some of the songs already. More than any album the album reminds you of Anderson's solo work.

This is not all easy to digest for many devoted Yes fans. The album has a bit of a thin sound, not the full sound of most of the 1970's Yes albums (Tormato is an important exception). Further on, the album has a song of it with Creole influences ("Teakbois"), which is something that hurts the ears of many Yes afficionados.

And yet, this album is a true masterpiece of prog. It has all the elements of a true progressive symphonic rock recording: there are different genres of music being mixed (classical music, (hard) rock, minimal music, world music, folk etc.). The album has a lot of tempo changes, and very different musical atmospheres next to one another. The three main instrumentalists, Rick Wakeman, Steve Howe and Bill Bruford show the world once again that they are true virtuosos. There are some great lyrics on the albums, most notably from Jon Anderson. (Steve Howe also adds some lyrics, but his are not the most innovating or adventurous ones (e.g. Quartet)). The approach is basically non commercial, even though there was a record company around, trying to bend things in a more commercial way. Also the majority of the songs are long, leaving the path of the traditional 3 minute song easily.

This alone is not enough to make a progressive masterpiece, but Jon Anderson was moving things once again in a non commercial musical adventure. There are some great original musical ideas on the album, Yes (or whatever you would call it) was once again trying to reinvent itself. The compositions are all good, on the album. Even though I wouldn't call any of the individual songs a Yes classic in itself, together they form one of the most adventurous Yes albums ever made.

The history of the album is well recorded, though I'm going to sketch some rough lines anyway. Yes had made Big Generator, with a key role for Trevor Rabin, who took a lot of time producing the album. The relationship between Jon Anderson and Trevor Rabin was a strenuous one, because both were being able to direct an album in a certain way. The Anderson / Rabin cooperation was much more difficult than the Anderson / Howe cooperation back in the 1970's, because the visions and approaches of Anderson and Rabin were quite different, and also their ways of working. Also, Chris Squire and Trevor Rabin had a more modernized Yes in mind, with more room for hit singles, while Jon Anderson still had more progressive ideals. Jon Anderson, who was less of a perfectionist than Squire and Rabin, and much more productive and visionary, saw himself stranded in the Yes of those days, and called on his old band mates Bruford, Wakeman and Howe to make another Yes album in the 1970's tradition. This was the background for this album.

And now for the individual songs. "Themes" shows where ABWH stood for: adventure, old veterans turning into young playful dogs again. Wakeman starts with a minimalist pattern, adding themes, mounting the octaves after another, when suddenly Bruford falls in with his drums, giving the idea as if the rhythm is tackled like a soccer player, and then spreading machine gun fire. Amazingly progressive stuff. Anderson comes in with powerfum lyrics in the best tradition, Wakeman adds some of the fastest solos he ever played on a record.

"Fist of fire" is powerful as well. Not fast like the first track, but there is a steady, confident rhythm pattern with lots of room for Wakeman to play his modern sounding solos, and Anderson singing from the top of his lungs.

"Brother Of Mine" has some interesting, heartfelt lyrics. Actually, it's like a medley of different songs. Melodious, and even though they are not as progressive as the first two songs, they are nice anyway.

"Birthright" is one of the best songs on the album. Steve Howe's opening guitar chords (Spanish sounding) and Bill's powerful rhythm pave the way for some of Anderon's best and meaningful lyrics ever, sung by Anderson like a true musical story teller. It's about "the Day of the Cloud", where, if I recall well, nuclear test were being done in Australia, whereas nobody had mentioned this to the Aboriginals. The music and the lyrics fit together very well. Halfway the song the rhythm stops, there is still a keyboard "cloud" and Steve Howe comes in with some very emotional "spirit of Algarve" playing (dixit Bruford) and then Bruford comes in once again with some magnificent powerful modernized tribal drumming. Absolutely classic stuff! Wakeman adds some great keyboards as well. At the end of the song there is a great musical invention: there is a rhythm pattern which follows Anderson's final spoken (called) utterings.

Then follows a short, simple song: "The meeting". Not progressive in itself at all, but because of the place on the album paradoxically heightens the progressive content of the album. Really beautiful, almost bringing you to tears.

"Quartet" is more sedate track, a medley once again, about love, not between teenagers but between man and wife. Well, they were a mature bunch of guys, ABWH, weren't they? Nice, melodious, gorgeous tunes, for almost ten minutes.

"Teakbois" is hated by many Yes fans. Still, it shows Yes (ABWH) from a more loose side, with a lot of swing. They were inspired by a local Creole band on Barbados, where they worked on the album. It's actually very swinging, with good melodies, but many Yes wouldn't ever want Yes to record a song like this. It's actually quite good, another medley with great playing, strong melodies and once again an innovative band.

"Order Of The Universe" is very hard rocking and has, except for some simple themes, also some of the most progressive playing at the end of the song. Anderson is almost shouting on the song, which shows it's emotional content. Not beautiful, but certainly powerful and progressive.

The album shows with a Meeting - like track, and like that song "Let's pretend" is beautiful, almost bringing you to tears. Immensely contrasting with the restless, hard rocking Order Of The Universe.

This album is truly progressive, and arguably Yes never made an album anymore with so much more musical adventure and progressive attitude (though according to some the studio tracks on Keys To Ascension part 2 come close). ABWH died a quick death. According to some because the creative well dried out. Bill Bruford pointed out in an interview though that there was a true progressive attitude in the beginning, but those windows were being shut down quickly because of record company policy.

But this record is a true progressive masterpiece. Warning: not everyone will like this. It has quite a different sound than the older Yes albums. But a masterpiece it is.

Moogtron III | 5/5 |


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