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Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations) - Yes, Solo Family Album CD (album) cover


Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations)


Various Genres

3.02 | 6 ratings

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4 stars This is really the first of the ‘friends and family’ solo compilations from Yes, although it doesn’t bear that title. Or maybe the second if you count Union, which wouldn’t really be a stretch. The sleeve title of this album is “Affirmative”, which is kind of clever I suppose. Of all the solo “family” albums the band has released, this is my favorite and I think has the best broad representation of the compositional and performance skills of the various past and present members of the band.

It probably also has the most recognizable works, beginning with “Catherine Howard” from Rick Wakeman’s The Six Wives of Henry VIII. This is a majestic work with graceful tempo changes and incessant keyboard riffs, and yet another example of a Wakeman tune that sounds far better in isolation than it does buried inside one of his ostentatious solo recordings. This one has a short instrumental lead-in that sounds vaguely familiar, but I can’t quite place it. For some reason Wakeman’s piano-heavy works always remind me of an old-fashioned Lutheran church service, which is a little bit funny but really has nothing to do with this review. Sorry.

“Wind of Change” is one of the small handful of tracks Tony Kaye recorded with Badger in the early 1970s. For those not familiar with that band, Badger favored more of a blues sound with the occasional religious overtone, although Kaye did play mellotron and the band had a couple of Roger Dean album covers so they get nods for that. This track is kind of a self-indulgence for those of us who fondly recall the days of the fat mellotron with a blues guitar dancing atop it in a lazy, carefree kind of way. I believe this recording was from the Jon Anderson-produced One Live Badger release. For me this is one of the hidden gems on the album.

The next two are from Steve Howe’s solo debut and are quite well known to his fans. “Nature of the Sea” and “Ram” are both obviously guitar-heavy numbers, plus Howe plays dobra and banjo on “Ram” which is kind of cool. I believe “Nature of the Sea” features a couple then-members of Gryphon, and Howe plays both acoustic and electric guitars as he would so often in later solo works. These are especially strong because Howe spares the listener his vocals.

Chris Squire is up next with “Hold Out Your Hand” from what I believe was his only true solo album, 1975’s Fish Out of Water. A short keyboard-laden track with Squire once again proving the electric bass can in fact be a lead instrument.

Wakeman gets portentous again with “Merlin the Magician” from his 1975 King Arthur album. I’m not a big fan of that album, or really even of Wakeman’s solo career in general, but this is a good representation of his solo style with plenty of keyboard magic and pompous scaled arrangements. I suppose this was a logical choice for inclusion given the purpose of this album.

The instrumentation on “Ocean Song” sounds suspiciously similar to the “Soon” stanza from “Gates of Delirium”, but the vocals are much less dramatic. This song is from Anderson’s Olias of Sunhillow album, although I’m not sure where this particular rendition came from. This is typical melodramatic Anderson solo stuff, with some great harmonic vocals and swelling percussion bits. Nothing that would make a Greatest Hits album, but a decent track nonetheless.

Alan White only had one solo album as well, 1976’s Ramshackled, and “Spring – Song of Innocence” is taken from it. This is also the only track on that album where Anderson and Howe appeared, so in some ways it sounds like a mellow version of an early Yes recording. A peaceful and easy ballad of sorts, kind of like what you might expect a Ray Thomas (Moody Blues) song to sound like if Yes performed it.

Patrick Moraz makes an appearance with “Chachaca” from his 1976 debut The Story of I. This is a slightly brassy number with decent keyboards and a catchy rhythm, but otherwise seems a bit out of place amid the more symphonic Yes tracks.

And speaking of out of place, Bill Bruford’s “Feels Good to Me” is from his 1978 solo debut by the same name, and is a light jazz/fusion number with keyboards that sound like the Wurlitzer demo tracks that played in the organ music stores in shopping malls back in the 1970s.

“I Hear You Now” is a Jon and Vangelis from their first collaboration, Short Stories. Vangelis lays down a lovely synthetic sound garden for Anderson to chant a little love song in. I’ve never been strong on that particular partnership since they’ve largely produced nothing more than synthetic bubbly tripe in my opinion but again, if the point of this collection is to showcase the various side projects of band members, well – this is one of those projects. Que sera.

“All in a Matter of Time” comes from Anderson’s underrated 1983 solo Animation. As I said before I’m not a fan of his solo work for the most part, but this particular album came in the middle of the early 1980s draught when Yes and just about every other progressive band were donning parachute pants and learning how to dance. Anderson quietly put out this album of his typically schmaltzy ‘touchie-feelie’ lyrics (about being born or something, if I recall), but with a nice accompanying cast of old-time rockers and a solid if slightly commercial sound. This one is a bit nostalgic for old-time Yes fans.

Trevor Rabin manges to make it on to the album with “Ette Noire (Eyes of Love)”, a bombastic 80s dance-rocker that will shock you out of a nice groove when it comes up on the album. I’ve gone on record before saying I actually really like Rabin’s live performances, and it’s possible Yes would not have survived the 1980s without his contributions to the band. But he just doesn’t ‘get’ the Yes sound. This is a case of a very good musician who was also a decent composer and had strong business acumen, but was just not the right kind of artist for this band. I’m not sure where this song came from and don’t really have enough interest to find out. This was included as a ticket- punch since Rabin had been in the band, and probably no other reason.

Peter Banks closes the album out with an instrumental jazz/funk/fusion number that sounds like something Giorgio Moroder would have composed for a hip 1980s movie soundtrack. This is okay if you like that sort of thing, but again only included here because he’d been in the band. From his 1995 Instinct CD.

So a bit of a mixed-bag as far as styles, but a very nice overview of the various members of the band to that point. There would be four more ‘official’ friends and family albums after this one, but for me this is the first and probably the most interesting of the lot. 3.5 stars, plus .5 more for the Badger tune = 4 stars.


ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |


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