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Yes - Symphonic Live (DVD) CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.59 | 328 ratings

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The Mentalist
2 stars It must be in the genetic make-up of every prog rock star that when they reach middle age (and beyond) and are maybe no longer 100% comfortable prancing around with guitars in hand, they feel compelled to hire an orchestra - as if the noble symphony orchestra, rich in history, by its very presence, automatically imbues all music and musicians alike with a new found "maturity" and credibility. Sort of like saying, look, we've grown up; we're using an ORCHESTRA!!! Are we classy or what? Unfortunately, in most cases, all an orchestra serves to do is add a superfluous wash of mush and bombast to the proceedings. Yes' 2001 pseudo symphonic endeavor is no different. There's no mention anywhere on the sleeve notes as to who did the orchestration or wrote the orchestral passages, therefore I'm assuming it's done by the same guy who orchestrated 'Magnification'.

The show starts-off with an orchestral Overture. The first thing one notices is just how horribly synthetic the orchestra sounds. As for the overture; the music is very soundtracky and full of meaningless, empty "symphonic" gestures. (the odd bit here and there has actually been stolen from Keith Emerson's piano concerto. Of course, Emerson stole most of his ideas from Aaron Copeland. However, Emerson's plagiarism did ultimately bring forth pleasant fruit. ).

Close to the Edge is the first Yes classic to be given the cosmetic treatment, which comprises of a silly orchestral accompaniment, mainly consisting of additional but completely out-of-character harmonies. Basically what we have here is Yes playing 'Close to the Edge' the same way they've played it for the last 30 years, only this time there's a decidedly cheap-sounding orchestra noodling around in the background. The church organ bit, usually heard during 'I get up, I get down', is replaced here by a mega-cheesy orchestral bit. However, the keyboard solo that follows is played note-perfect by Tom Brislin, who is excellent throughout.

After a perfunctory and somewhat meaningless orchestral prelude, the band plays Long Distance Runaround. The orchestra adds nothing of worth to this run-of-the -mill performance of a Yes classic .

The next song Don't Gofrom 'Magnification' is rather worrying in that there is undoubtedly additional pre-recorded vocal harmonies coming from somewhere. ( If you haven't noticed, listen again) What is even more disturbing is how the band actually tries to disguise the fact it's succumbed to the Brittney Spears/Michael Jackson school of performance practices (that's miming in case you're wondering) by giving Alan White a microphone and letting him "sing" as well. So that's where the vocal harmonies are coming from... I DON'T THINK SO!!!! Shame on you, Yes! Shame on you!

After the absurd spectacle of Yes semi-miming, the absurdity factor is increased for the next song, another from 'Magnification' In The Presence Of What's absurd about it? Well, consider this: after going to all the effort of hiring a complete symphony orchestra and conductor, after hiring a replacement keyboardist, and after all the rehearsals and money spent preparing for the tour, what do Yes decide to do? They decide to let the drummer play keyboards!?!?!?! Eh? (maybe this is his reward for pretending to sing during the previous song)

Drummer: "Okay, I'll pretend to be a one-man multi tracked vocal section if I get to play piano..."
Rest of band: "IT'S A DEAL!!!"
On a serious note; this is probably the most successful song on the DVD as far as the blending of band and orchestra goes. Not the greatest song ever written but it comes across well.

Then comes 'Gates of Delirium. Like their rendition of 'Close To The Edge' it's basically a very average version dragged down farther by a decidedly pedestrian, middle-of-the-road orchestration. The orchestra performs the role of nothing more than an expensive accompanist and adds nothing of worth to the composition. Keyboardist Tom Brislin does another fine job, though.

A Steve Howe solo spot comes next. Always enjoyable. Starship Trooper follows on, and a fine version it is, too. Interestingly enough, they decide not to bring the orchestra in until "wurm". Yet again Tom Brislin is excellent. In fact, the whole band plays well on this one. The orchestra is completely superfluous.

Magnification, from the album of the same name, is another one where the orchestra and band gel rather well. But is it all really worth the bother? Probably not.

And You And I A complete symphony orchestra and yet it still doesn't sound as good as Rick Wakeman's mellotron. You go figure.

Out of all the Yes "classics" on this DVD Ritual is the one that comes across best, as visually as well as musically it's quite dramatic.

Your Move/All Good People is nothing great as far as performance goes. It does, however, get the audience up on its feet, which is maybe not a good thing, as there's some pretty grotesque dancing going on down there. Oh, and the orchestration is truly awful on this one - almost as grotesque as some of those dancers.

The one concession to 80s Yes is a pretty lame version of Owner Of A Lonely Heart without orchestra.

The DVD ends with an orchestra-free version of Roundabout The reason there's no orchestra one this one is because they're all out front dancing their pants off (I wish). Well, they're dancing, but they keep their pants on. A quick word about that orchestra: taking the masculine brass section out of the equation, this is the first time in my life I can safely say that I wouldn't mind getting intimate with an entire orchestra.

So what can I say? Chris Squire plays brilliantly as always. Ditto Alan White. Jon Anderson's voice is as good as ever. Tom Brislin plays a blinder. Only Steve Howe's playing lacks the fire of old. And the orchestra plays what's been written for them - trite, clichéd nonsense basically. All in all the whole thing doesn't really gel. The band doesn't sound particularly inspired - Steve Howes fingers seem to get, er, stuck a lot - and the orchestration is entirely naff. The notion that the orchestra is there to replace the keyboard parts is a fallacy. I can't think of one keyboard part that's been replaced. The orchestra is completely superfluous and, sonically, sounds bad. When all is said and done, I give everyone concerned 10 out of 10 for effort. But I'm afraid I'll have to give the DVD a * * rating.

You have been in the presence of ThE mEnTaLiSt upon his high-horse.

The Mentalist | 2/5 |


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