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YAK

Neo-Prog • United Kingdom


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Yak biography
YAK were a 4 piece instrumental progressive rock band who played between '82 & '84. The line up consisted of Robin Hodder (guitar), SySnell (bass), John Wynn (drums) & Martin Morgan (keyboards). The band stopped playing when jobs took the members to disperate parts of the UK. The material had only ever been recorded in Lo-Fi but Martin was determined that it should not be 'lost'. In 2003 he set about re-recording 8 of the YAK tracks which were released as the "Dark Side of the Duck" album in Feb '04. Following this and enthused with the response, the band re-formed - original line up, but now with Max Johnson on bass. A live EP, "Does Your Yak Bite ?" was released in 2005, and the same line-up released the jam collection "The Rutland Chronicles" the following year.

Yak had not yet managed to capture a sound real close to their heart in the studio though, but in 2008, 2 years after it's first planned release, "Journey of the Yak" was issued. On this creation the influences of the symphonic masters of yesteryear; GENESIS, CAMEL and UK; really came to it's right - mixed with dreamier and ambient segments not too unsimilar to the works of an artist like BJORN LYNNE.

It's worth noting that the recording line-up changed while the recording of this album took place. Morgan started recording this production by himself; and published some of the new recordings on Yak's MySpace page. These recordings caught the attention of drummer Dave Speight (WHIMWISE), who wanted to participate on this project. He brought longtime accomplice Gary Bennett (bass) with him; and the input of those two fine musicians undoubtedly have had an impact on the evolvement of the style of music pursued by YAK on this production.

WHY IS THIS BAND LISTED AT PROGARCHIVES:
Influenced by acts like GENESIS and CAMEL, and incorporating stylistic elements from artists like UK and BJORN LYNNE, the evolved form of symphonic rock mixed with dreamy and ambient segments presented on their 2008 album "Journey of the Yak" saw to it that YAK was approved for inclusion by the Neo Progressive team.

-----

The early history of YAK contains material written by
: : : Martin Morgan, Asheldham Essex : : :

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Quest For The StonesQuest For The Stones
Import
Yaksongs
Audio CD$17.99
Journey Of The YakJourney Of The Yak
Import
Yaksongs
Audio CD$14.99
$80.14 (used)
Hungry Heart/Something On Your MindHungry Heart/Something On Your Mind
Fat Possum 2015
Vinyl$4.86
$11.36 (used)
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YAK discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

YAK top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.99 | 27 ratings
Dark Side Of The Duck
2004
2.43 | 7 ratings
The Rutland Chronicles
2006
3.86 | 43 ratings
Journey of the Yak
2008
3.80 | 77 ratings
Quest for the Stones
2015

YAK Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.50 | 2 ratings
Does your Yak bite?
2005

YAK Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

YAK Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

YAK Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

YAK Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Quest for the Stones by YAK album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.80 | 77 ratings

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Quest for the Stones
Yak Neo-Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

4 stars Yak is back. I now, corny! After reading the recent reviews (both the 5 and 3 star ones) as well as reminiscing on the quality of their previous release, the eventful 2008 'Journey of the Yak', I went out to add this to my purchases, pretty confident in nailing another winner. Just to witness a 2 track album that runs 45 minutes was enough to get me enthused further. Yak remains the brainchild of composer and keyboard maestro Martin Morgan, ably supported by drummer Dave Speight and bassist Gary Bennett. Morgan is a virtuoso who can handle a wide variety of keys but what makes him somewhat original is his use of an electric guitar patch that gives his ivories a powerful tone. He also uses a flute patch to great effect. Comparisons to Genesis (in its instrumental packaging) as well as Camel is utterly founded and unashamedly so. Reliant on synthesizers, piano, organ and that guitar solo sound, Morgan really gives the production a full and meaty palette, well anchored by the more than able rhythm section.

The first epic, the 23 minute 'Quest for the Stones', opens on a soundtrack-ish tangent, very orchestral and sorrowful, then shuffles along majestically, cresting and diving then swooping around for another loop, keeping things intense and interesting throughout. There are no gratuitous exhibitions of technical prowess, instead relying on emotional impact and symphonic tolerance, evident on the elegant piano passages that litter the arrangement. Bennett's bass rolls alongside like a true partner in crime. Old school prog chock full of nostalgic winks and nods, bubbly synthesized passages that soar, scream and wallow on multiple levels, exuding a strong audacity and flowing change.

The second and final track is an outright classic as 'Veils of Aeternum' is probably closer to vintage Steve Hackett, very propulsive and bright, loaded with a ton of solos that sound like the Hacker, slippery and tone conscious. Some cool bass slapping from Bennett that comes from out of nowhere, always challenging and never boring. Flute frills and pastoral pools of reflection add to the mystery.

Not overtly long by any stretch (pun intended), the album has a fine flow and is perfect reflective instrumental prog. They reinvent nothing, nor do they claim to aspire to anything else , only improving a style that has had a lot of staying power over the decades. The cover art is quite humorous as one can clearly detect a mighty knight in flashy armor, sitting atop his trusted yak, whilst refreshing itself in a Sherwoodian brook. A solid follow-up and a worthy addition to any collection.

Short, compact review for a short and compact album.

4 Pursuit of Nuggets

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 Quest for the Stones by YAK album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.80 | 77 ratings

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Quest for the Stones
Yak Neo-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars YAK are a British band that have been around since the early eighties but because of "life" this project was put aside until they released their first album in 2004. These guys have a sense of humour as witnessed in the title of that first album "Dark Side Of The Duck" and a later record "Does Your Yak Bite?". I agree with the majority that the all instrumental music here has a CAMEL/ GENESIS vibe as in "Snowgoose" and "Wind And Wuthering" but no not nearly as complex or enjoyable and i'm not big on either of those classic albums which is maybe in part why I can't get into this one. It just lacks anything thing that tugs at my emotions. I did think of Mike Oldfield but maybe only because this has two side long suites and it's all instrumental. There's certainly not the array of instruments that Oldfield employed as this is a three piece with drums, bass and keyboards.

Like Drew i'm a little confused that they don't have guitar listed as part of the instruments used here as i'm sure I hear plenty of that in the title track. Maybe it's a guitar-like sound that they get through the keyboards? Anyway i'm not a fan of it whatever it is. I much prefer the second suite called "Vale Of Aeternum". It opens with the birds chirping and mellotron-like sounds. Those guitar-like sounds arrive around 2 1/2 minutes in. The bass stands out a little more a minute later. We get a calm with mellotron-like sounds as these two themes are repeated later on as well.

Obviously there are many fans of this Symphonic album but the keyboard sounds just don't do a lot for me, still I can appreciate what they've done here so 3 stars it is.

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 Quest for the Stones by YAK album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.80 | 77 ratings

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Quest for the Stones
Yak Neo-Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team

3 stars Seeing Ivan Melgar (for whom I have immense respect)'s five star review for this album intrigued my enough to prompt me to seek it out. Now I have gotten to know the album a little bit, so I feel ready to voice my opinion. Yak seems to have captured some of the essence of late 1970s GENESIS and CAMEL--melody and sound, not necessarily musical complexity. As a matter of fact, some of the foundational music sounds so rudimentary as if it was constructed purely to serve as a vehicle upon which melody and guitar and keyboard soli can shine (which they do fairly well). This is, for me, a treacherous slope, as I want my progressive rock music to to feel as if all instrumentalists are equal contributors to both composition and exposition. Even iconic instrumental virtuosi like John McLaughlin, Jean-Luc Ponty or Al Di Meola surround themselves with near equals and compose for the exposure and exploitation of the full talents of their sidemen. (Usually.) Perhaps I am wrong to try to put Martin MORGAN on that level (Is he ONLY a keyboardist as listed above? If so, how does he make all those keyboards sound like guitars?), but I find myself bored and disappointed in the simplicity of the four-chord foundations to each of the suites' multiple sections (which often drag on a bit too long, IMHO) as well as the simplicity of the work load demanded of his rhythm section. Martin has managed to create some wonderful, engaging melodies over these simple foundations, but, it's kind of like listening to TONY BANKS or GENESIS with all of the lyrics removed or the watered down version of CAMEL after Doug FERGUSON and Pete BARDENS had left. In my opinion, this band (or its leader) has some growing to do before it produces masterpieces of the quality and caliber of the other five star albums in PA's Top 100. This is a very good album, a very pleasant listen that takes one on a nice fantasy ride (or two), but no more. 3.5 stars, rated down for lack of anything truly new or innovative.

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 Quest for the Stones by YAK album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.80 | 77 ratings

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Quest for the Stones
Yak Neo-Prog

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
Special Collaborator Symphonic Prog Specialist

5 stars "This Yak has reached maturity"

I've been following YAK since 2004 when they released the surprising Dark Side of the Duck, an album I left in the shelve for several months because of the horrendous name (Who could imagine that an album with such a title would be so good?) and I was impressed. Years later Martin Morgan contacted me for the release of The Journey of the Yak, which was even better, but even though they were close, the status of masterpiece kept avoiding their records.

Yesterday received a copy of Quest for the Stones and my first thought was:

"A Symphonic album with only two epics in 2015? This guys must be crazy"

But now I say pleased: "This is the kind of madness I love".

Since then I have heard it 10 times because it's like a refreshing trip to the 70's when Prog was king and musicians weren't afraid of being called pompous and self-indulgent by mediocre critics, so before boring the readers, let's go to the music

The album has only two instrumental tracks and is opened by the 24 minutes epic Quest for the Stones, a musical piece that has everything that a Prog fan like me loves, long and fluid keyboard solos with radical changes and a "Marvelous real" atmosphere in the vein of Borges or Garcí­a Marquez stories that captured me from the start. They are not afraid to play long Mellotron sections that recreate the spirit of the Symphonic golden era without any shame...And I love them for taking that risk.

The second epic Veil of Aeternum (19:25) maintains the atmosphere and the style, but has clear influence from GENESIS (Wind & Wuthering era) but with a different approach that prevents people of calling them clones. The music again is mysterious and carries some sort of magic in a story told out without words, which I won't try to describe to avoid the risk of ruining the musical experience of others?.Will only say that loved it from the first to the last note.

It's my opinion that Quest for the Stones is the best album that the band has ever released and the first one that I will rate with 5 solid stars, so..... If you're a fan of 70's Symphonic Prog with a modern edge, buy this album, you won't regret, and remember, it's for a good cause, because the money you pay goes for "Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary".

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 Quest for the Stones by YAK album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.80 | 77 ratings

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Quest for the Stones
Yak Neo-Prog

Review by robbob

5 stars Well . What a great surprise. A very important evolution since their last work.

This album seems to be the middle work of Genesis between Wind and Wuthering and Then There Were Three...(without vocals) They should have contacted Phil Collins(sadly his voice is weal now) and put vocals to this one.

A very inspirited album .Specially the first song... So if this would been a Genesis album (W& W Collins era) surely a masterpiece ... It is still one but is so inspired in that Genesis works that is not so original.

So fantastic ,pleasant symphonic prog rock . 4.5 stars for me ....so one half more in stars score.

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 Journey of the Yak by YAK album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.86 | 43 ratings

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Journey of the Yak
Yak Neo-Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

4 stars Back to Budapest, Hungary on my annual return to visit my dad and of course, a little expedition to Periferic Records (yes there is such a thing as a prog store!). While hungrily (sorry for the pun!) flipping through the shelves, the salesperson put on this rather exclusive album which caught my attention and invariably convinced me of its merits, I added it to my voluminous shop cart. At first afraid by the "new age"?ish cover , I was pleasantly surprised by the beauty inside, an instrumental work of superlative proportions , similar in style to early Steve Hackett and recent the Lens (IQ's Mike Holmes) , two dudes that I dearly admire, so it was a rather easy purchase. The guitar parts are allegedly played on synths, as the keyboard parts are done by Martin Morgan (hence referred to as the ivory guitarist). What makes this album somewhat singular is the quality of the melodies, profound and rich as well as completely memorable, as if you had heard it all your life. Seduced by eschewing any kind of tendency towards wallpaper music, the music flows like rivulets of bliss, misty and atmospheric, held together by solid bass and drum interface.

"Gates of Moria" is the launch pad for the Yak's travels, a sonic luminescence of glorious proportions, long sustained notes flexing the arrangement into a symphonic overture of the loftiest order, followed by three 10 minute + epics to get things lathered up, so to speak. The music gets a little more serious and dense on the epic (and barely disguising the evident Genesis tribute) "Entangles in Dreams" where a sophisticated and chiming acoustic guitar intro that could have graced "Wind and Wuthering" collides with a massive instrumental chorus that has recognizance all over its stunning notes, soaringly orchestrated to evoke maximum emotion, armed with a full-fledged Tony Banks-ian organ salvo that is properly devastating. The "crying guitar" effect is masterfully utilized, all within a whirlpool of classic Genesisms, including ornate piano work, as well as that jangly acoustic guitar arpeggio that Ant Phillips brought to the mix. The bass suddenly gets quite robust, blasting a new progressive path forward , setting up for a long and celestial solo from Morgan on his ivory axe , howling mellotron patches in the skylight. "Jadis of Charn" proves that re-hashing old influences is not the only motivator, a clearly original epic that relies on a slightly more complex blending of sounds and instruments, still well within the symphonic formula, evoking Steve Hackett's universe but with some added quirks, bubbly neo-electronica synths to mention only one. The mid-section gets a little animated with colliding solos, soul searching synthesizer leads, rumbling organ fills and maddening "guitar" solos. Then a slower moody part kicks in , drenched in melancholia, garnished by a gorgeous lead line that basks in the deepest neo-classicism.

Third up is the "March of the Huorns" , an imperceptible ambient intro stretches into a organ-pumped ramble, a repetitive 4 note echoing guitar riff to provide depth, all knotted with some swerves and detours , a reptilian Gary Bennett bass taking the melody further along with drummer Dave Speight bashing away gloriously. The reoccurrence of the 4 gun salute only keeps things rolling tightly, launching another series of solos within the same orchestral framework.

"Dearly Departed" is a complete departure from the preceding style, a resonant, sorrowful lullaby that is achingly beautiful, the elegant piano at the very forefront. A flute synth repeats the theme in a more emphatic sheen, a joyous revelation of splendor, partnered by some huge orchestrations. A fragile piece of genius.

The title track takes the cake though, as it best exemplifies the qualities of musicianship and melody in perfect harmony, as close to classic Hackett pieces as "Shadow of the Hierophant" or "Spectral Mornings", leading Steve to probably wonder: "a keyboard can do me like that?" . Hurtling leads screeching towards the highest peaks, brooding cross rhythms (the churning organ again) and marshaling bass and drums. All the lush ingredients that make this album such a treat are here on display. The piano finale is preposterous in its infinite beauty, a sterling slice of progressive history.

This is lovely stuff that stalwart Genesis fans should lap up in pure enjoyment. If you are looking for originality then stay far away from this Yak. I for one an glad that I walked in at the right time to hear this. Timing IS everything?.

4.5 tibetan bells

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 Journey of the Yak by YAK album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.86 | 43 ratings

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Journey of the Yak
Yak Neo-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The old Yak lineup got together for some jam sessions which were eventually released on two rather inessential releases - The Rutland Chronicles and Does Your Yak Bite? - and then the band disintegrated again, once more leaving Martin Morgan to fly the flag for the project. Taking inspiration from the best results of those jam sessions, Morgan crafted an all-new set of compositions for this true followup to The Dark Side of the Duck - and what a followup it is! With some musical pals rounding out the lineup to give it a real band feel, it's another piece of tasty neo-prog instrumentals reminiscent of Camel, early Steve Hackett solo material, and The Lens. If you liked the Duck, you'll like the Journey too.

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 Dark Side Of The Duck by YAK album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.99 | 27 ratings

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Dark Side Of The Duck
Yak Neo-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Yak were a particularly obscure band from the first wave of neo-prog who broke up in 1984 leaving only a few scratchy demo tapes to their name. Cornerstone of the band Martin Morgan was keen to make sure the band's compositions survived in a much more audibly palatable form, so on this debut release from the Yak - 19 years after the breakup! - he set about reconstructing the best of the demo compositions himself.

This multi-instrumentalist task he succeeds at admirably - in particular, I'm impressed with the way he's able to make the drum machine feel like a real drummer - and the end result shows Yak to have been a very interesting band in their time. As the band name implies, there's a big influence from classic-era Camel at work, which takes their instrumental Genesis/Steve Hackettisms a la The Lens in a new and interesting direction. One for all lovers of first wave neo-prog.

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 Journey of the Yak by YAK album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.86 | 43 ratings

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Journey of the Yak
Yak Neo-Prog

Review by Tarcisio Moura
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 3,5 stars really. Contrary to most of my fellow reviewers, I did not find this album to be that great. To me Journey of the Yak is a promising work that suggests better things in the future. Sure, this CD is very good and the group has all the right influences for my taste. There is definitive Camel feeling on it (specially around the time of The Snowgoose, an obvious source of inspiration). The early Genesis connection is quite visible too, since there is a lot of Banks-like synths. Nothing very flashy or too bombastic, but quite melodic and dreamy. However, it is still far from perfect.

One of the main reasons may lay in the fact that Yak is a trio: just keyboards, bass and drums. No guitars, neither vocals. It´s a huge challenge to have a whole CD without any other instrumentation than those mentioned nor the vocals to hold your atention. And they did it, which is proof of their talent and skill. Yet, the feeling of something´s missing haunts me and as much as Martin Morgan does a terrific job on the keyboards, it is clear that the Yak´s music asks for something extra (like a guitarrist in the same vein of Andrew Latimer, for exemple. It would be fantastic to hear some guitar /keyboards duels). The songs are all good, I always hear the CD from start to finish without skipping a single track. Production is quite adequate for this kind of music.

Conclusion: a very good instrumental symphonic record. Specially if you´re a keyboard freak. The lack of some extra instrumentation is a hindrance to them in my humble opinion. With another member to add more variety and with a little development from the songwriting department they can easily go from very good to excellent or even brilliant. The potential is all there. I´m looking forward to hear their next works.

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 Journey of the Yak by YAK album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.86 | 43 ratings

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Journey of the Yak
Yak Neo-Prog

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

4 stars Headphone bliss as we journey into new progressive territories.

Martin Morgan kept the Yak dream alive since the band's formation in 1982 and the result is the band are finally able to release some excellent instrumental progressive albums. The "Dark Side of the Duck" began the voyage and the band set sail to embark on their latest venture "The Journey of the Yak". The band's members have ties to prog legends Yes, Whimwise and The Enid and so you may expect the influences to come out strong on their album. In fact the influences of Camel and ELP are far more pronounced. The use of multilayered keyboards, with flute-sounds and scorching guitars are the dominant force. The Steve Hackett style guitar breaks are mesmirising. There are even passages of vocalisations using synthesizers in the soundscape.

The album evokes pleasant aural imagery of wide sweeping plains, vast mountain scapes and Tolkienesque fantasy horizons. The atmosphere is dreamy and haunting but never less than uplifting and evocative. There are some intricate complexities of music such as the title track and these sequences are juxtaposed with simple pieces such as 'Dearly Departed'. The beauty of this track is it's melancholy melody that touches the emotions, especially the flute sections that have a powerful resonance. It begins with beautiful piano, a very pretty melody that is consistent and rather sombre but utterly compelling. It is a short track but so endearing and lulling in a dreamy way.

The real feature of this music is rather than just background music there is an imposing mood that grabs hold and refuses to let go. I have heard the music many times now and it is always a new experience as the listener is allowed to take from it whatever he or she wishes. There are long lead guitar breaks such as on the title track. Morgan is masterful on keyboards, particularly mellotron, Dave Speight produces innovative metrical patterns on drums and Gary Bennett is the rhythm machine on bass.

On the opener 'Gates of Moria' the keyboards dominate and there are swishes of wind effects and a strong melody. The atmosphere transports you out of the real into the imaginary realm like all good music should. You can visualise the sounds. The opening track is compelling and has a hypnotic melody that draws you in with every listen.

'Entangled in Dreams' has a soft flute and acoustic sound. The melody on piano carries it along beautifully, and this is echoed with the electric guitar, a virtuosic performance of huge string bends and harmonics. The Hammond sound kicks in and it sounds more like ELP in this passage. This is one of the best works on the album and it grew on me very fast like osmosis. I think it is more like Camel than other pieces or "The Snow Goose" album especially, it certainly has that classic 70s prog sound so difficult to emulate, though Yak have managed to do so masterfully on this album. The ending with haunting flute sounds and ambient guitar and keyboard is absolutely spine chilling prog; a masterpiece track that really resonates with my senses on every listen.

'Jadis of Charn' features a Baroque intro and then an infectious hook in melody. The guitars are heavenly with strong string bends and they are played over relentless grinding organ. In particular I like that riff 7 mins into it that locks in and reminds me of 70s prog such as the early Genesis or Caravan or even Nektar come to think of it. I would rate this track as a definitive highlight. This is the reason I listen to prog; to discover scintillating, captivating music such as this.

'March of the Huorns' begins with Classical Baroque nuances, choral voices, and then a huge sound blast of keyboards backed by the crash of drum and bass. There is an interplay of instruments creating tension and release that all prog songs should encompass. The sound embodies a sense of wonder and exploration. The Emerson like Hammond sound is always welcome and those Gong-influenced spacey guitars that rise and fall over embellishments of sporadic drumming; a pure delight to my ears. The melody on guitar is now familiar after several lessons and always lifts my spirits high. This chugs along at a brisk pace with heavy handed piano and strings via mellotron played with dexterity by the hand of Morgan.

The final track 'Journey of the Yak' is the absolute fresh sound of Yak and this featured as a track on "Prognosis 4" that came as a sampler with the Classic Rock Presents Prog magazine and introduced me to the band. Interlaced within this last epic are some incredible proggy moments. It begins with piano and huge lead guitar in a wall of sound. It locks into a rather jagged staccato riff that sounds orchestral and the way the drums kick in is enough to gain my attention. The main drawcard is the Hammond blasts once again that remind one of Rick Wakeman or Emerson. The virtuoso musicianship of the trio is incredible and they go into full flight on this. At 3:40 a deep staccato drone introduces the new time sig and the Hammond organ crunches a wondrous motif with some soaring spacey guitar passages. The music has an organic quality with dissonances in sound and metrical shapes that fracture the rhythms. At 7:04 a warm piano chimes in and it rings the mood down to a serene feel, then the Andy Latimer style guitar lead break takes it to a new level. This is some of the best music I have heard in a long time.

So, overall the album is a remarkable throwback to all that made the 70s great, when prog was a dominant force; virtuoso musicianship, lengthy tracks, extended keyboard and guitar solos, moody atmospherics and a conceptual framework: that pertinently describes "The Journey of The Yak".

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