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Patrick Moraz - The Story of I CD (album) cover

THE STORY OF I

Patrick Moraz

 

Crossover Prog

3.38 | 119 ratings

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ExittheLemming
Prog Reviewer
4 stars The Story of Ay Caramba!

43 years on it still looks like a giant radioactive golf tee but in mitigation, what other jobs apart from golf pro and 70's Prog muso give white guys a chance to dress like black pimps at Halloween? Patrick must have felt like he was playing with house money at this point in his career: a member of one of the biggest bands on the planet (Yes) and given free rein to explore his own musical vision via a solo career. However, that triumphant walk down the 18th fairway towards an adoring gallery to hoist the shiny beaker aloft, was denied him as he inexplicably found some heavy rough with his final approach shot. It was rumored there were plenty grass snakes in there all more than willing to smuggle his ball from the short stuff (Golfers do not have a monopoly on bad lies)

Yes do not come out of Moraz's version of events at all well but I've yet to see or hear their side of the story. Patrick claims he was abandoned with his wife and baby daughter in the freezing Swiss winter of '76 with no money, transport or explanation for his expulsion from Yes. All this took place in the aftermath of the band's biggest and most lucrative tour to date where they played more than 65 dates with some audiences in excess of 100,000 on the 'Bicentennial Tour' If all were not rosy in the bean sprout garden it seems inconceivable that Moraz would have remained such a desired presence at this time on the solo projects of both Howe (the Steve Howe album) and Squire (Fish out of Water) Some have speculated that Yes were unhappy with Patrick's reinterpretation of the canonical Wakeman parts and would have preferred a more verbatim approach. From what I can gather, both musicians found the other's contributions difficult to replicate.

"Unfortunately, I was forced to leave. And even though, at the time, the split was not made to appear acrimonious, I suffered extremely and extensively. To be asked to leave so suddenly put me in a lot of turmoil and disturbance. The fact is, I was never compensated for anything. I never ever got paid for any of my tour participation in the extremely successful and extensive YES Tour of 1976. After all, as a member of the band, I was entitled to a 20% cut from what the band was getting". (Patrick Moraz)

Moraz has clearly never studied contract law but has studied Brazilian music extensively and was the musical director of a touring Brazilian ballet in 1972. He was therefore more than qualified to couch his inspiration in the infectious rhythms that emanate from that part of the world. However, apart from Cachaca, where the rhythm clearly begets the melody, the 16 percussionists used are often relegated to being just a textural device. This is a pity and maybe a missed opportunity. The other notable exception to this is Dancing Now where the bass, drums and keys fall hypnotically into step under the percussion's pulsating spell, resulting in a genuine fusion (or if you prefer, a slinky Latin funk groove thang y'all) It also explains why I believe those who nominate The Story of I to be the first 'world music' album (principally erm...Patrick Moraz) are rather wide of the mark.

Patrick claims he contributed as a writer to much of the material that ended up on Going for the One but never received a writing credit

"I don't like to dwell into negatives, however, I can tell you that I had absolutely no desire to want to leave YES, at the time, in November of 1976. Somehow, it had been decided that we would go and record, in my own country, Switzerland, what became the album "Going for the One", which we had extensively composed, developed and rehearsed during the course of 1976 (and even before that). There was no reason in the world for me to want to leave the band! Also, I understood, much later, that Rick (Wakeman) was already in town, with his own crew, when I was still in the group, and I was still part of YES. In addition, it was an extremely complicated and difficult situation for me to be stranded, on the street, with my baby daughter who was only one-month old and her mother, without any transport or money, in the cold winter of Switzerland. Then the fight for survival to stay alive, it all became surreal" (Patrick Moraz).

There is also perhaps the inevitable inference that Moraz has a propensity to fall out with his collaborators to the extent that the rifts become irreparable. His subsequent stint with the Moody Blues from 1978 to 1991 also ended badly. I mean, what could he have possibly contributed to this soulless fondant ensemble who produce a neutered 'white noise' for unsolicited sperm donors? It's like hiring Le Corbusier to build your patio. Patrick was eventually fired from the Moodys and sued them for breach of contract and lost royalties. He ended up losing around $325k by not accepting a pre-trial settlement offer of $400k and being awarded a relatively paltry $75k. Depending on which unverifiable source you choose to believe, Moraz originally filed for $3.7 million which begs the question: wouldn't you query the amount of your first royalties cheque or tour payment rather than wait 13 long and unlucky years to cry foul! The trial was televised, and if you have the intestinal fortitude for it, can still be viewed on the Internet. It's hardly eye candy your honour: 4 pommy mullets all equally unconvincing in a suit v Swizz ringer for a considerably more hirsute Muppet Gonzo. (Courtroom 6 Los Angeles CA 1991) It's impossible to warm to either plaintiff or defendants as everyone is clearly lying through their laser whitened teeth

Given the Olympian chops and vaunted ambition on display, it's ironic that possibly the most enduring theme on the whole album is Cachaca's childlike sing song motif (based on the Baiao rhythm) That's not to say there are a lack of memorable themes elsewhere, but if his career long quest to harness the primitive with the civilized has taught him anything, it's Steve Reich's observation that window cleaners don't whistle Schoenberg.

Patrick's ability to build and develop appropriate mood or atmosphere has always been hugely impressive e.g. Refugee, Relayer and around 35 film scores to date. The opening Impact serves as the aural equivalent of a movie trailer where snippets of the music to come are spliced and woven into a hybrid electronic/acoustic soundscape that melds seemingly incongruous elements into a faintly unnerving and disorienting whole. The analogue synth textures and sequencer effects clearly denoting the 'technological' are ingeniously assimilated with the chanted wordless vocals and ethnic percussion representing the 'primitive'. This is much harder to pull off than it sounds as many similar attempts from Rock and Jazz musicians often come across as either patronizing or exploitative of the very cultures from which they are drawing their inspiration.

For me, Patrick's overriding signature calling card is the jaw dropping pitch bend modulation and vibrato articulation he coaxes from his trusty ARP Soloist Synth (at least I think that's the critter he's using: gear-heads out there are free to correct me by all means) On occasions his legato soloing imitates uncannily the whammy bar tantrums of many a sugared up electric guitar shredder. By way of contrast, his piano work has a leanness and forensic detail that makes his reading of something like Chopin's Military Polonaise (his contribution to Steinway to Heaven) the only version to date of this flaccid saccharine tune taking up arms to defend itself. Check out the all too brief exquisite solo on The Best Years of Our Lives (like tiny specks of gentle rain on a still pond) or the tongue in cheek gravitas during Intermezzo where baroque counterpoint grows flamenco cojones and plays footsie under the table with a slightly tipsy Auntie Prog. The solo piano track Impression (the Dream) is all the evidence anyone should need that this is a musician who grew out of Rawk's short pants a very long time ago.

The Best Years of Our Lives is but a holding pen for untapped tears and one of the most beautiful songs bequeathed by Prog in the 70's full stop. I'm surprised it wasn't released as a single to become a global number one smasheroonie. Shame, as this might have prevented Patrick having to drag the Moody Blues' pale flabby asses through the courts. It was nagging at me for a while where I had heard that voice before until I realized that John McBurnie was in Jackson Heights together with Lee Jackson prior to Refugee. I have to confess I've never been a huge fan of his singing. He's a very accomplished vocalist to be sure but texturally, for me at any rate, he sounds rather generic and downright cloying on the MOR ballad Like a Child in Disguise This is a session man whose name is forever destined to remain on the tip of everyone's tongue.

I've never made any secret of my reluctance to take Progressive Rock or concept albums seriously and The Story of I is no exception. The narrative appears to go something like this: There's a tower in the jungle that everyone wants to gain access to, as inside, they can experience all their wildest desires and fantasies but only on the condition that they cannot fall in love with another inhabitant of the tower. Call me the Devil's avocado if you like, but what would happen if the body corporate's mental health screening is found wanting and a suicidal inhabitant's wildest desire or fantasy is to destroy or burn the tower to the ground? Or worse still, if one of your wildest desires is to write a risible rock concept album about the whole experience without resorting to stealing the towels. Those of you familiar with Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia's The Platform will realise that this ain't remotely that movie's take on a 'Vertical Self Management Centre'. All joking aside, there is an irony at work here as Patrick Moraz was, in 1976, effectively living out such a fantasy by being a bona fide Rock Star with all the privileges that status entails. Is this art imitating life or vice versa? Actually I suspect the message is considerably more prosaic than that: We are all prisoners of our own desires maan

Kudos are due however for this lyric which carries genuine insight:

There's nothing new except what's been forgotten

Similar to Keith Emerson, I always thought that Moraz had effectively outgrown Rock and Roll circa '75 and should have embarked on a career writing contemporary classical music or exploring new directions in the genre from which they both originated (Jazz) Given the subsequent moribund state of both marketplaces, it's hardly surprising they chose to follow the smart money.

Patrick's first choice as drummer for this project was Billy Cobham but as he wasn't available, used Alphone Mouzon instead. Alphonse played with Weather Report and Larry Coryell's Eleventh House and his playing on the first half of the album is markedly different to that of Andy Newmark's on the 2nd. The latter is a more 'in the pocket' player whose sparer style is a better fit for the material. Mouzon's busier fusion style is a perfect match for the more complex pieces on side one and he also introduced bassist Jeff Berlin to Moraz who quickly hired him for the sessions. This was Berlin's first big career invite.

My review version of the album is the 1990 Virgin release which I've never felt could faithfully reproduce what must have been an incredibly busy production where much of the finer detail may have been sacrificed in the final mix-down. That's hardly surprising in the analogue domain with as many as 28 performers all vying for the available audio bandwidth at any one time. To my ears, the sonic environment is commensurately foggy and blurry in places so I have to crank up the volume to differentiate who's playing what in the quieter sections (which my neighbors love me for.) I understand there is a remastered edition from 2006 which may have addressed some of these issues but I ain't heard that. Quibbles aside, there is much to enjoy here as The Story of I manages to encompass an incredibly eclectic blend of instrumental Progressive Rock, Classically themed cinematic soundtrack, memorable songwriting, Latin, African, Funk and Caribbean rhythmic elements together with a generous sprinkling of Jazz fusion thrown in for good measure. Some of the latter reminds me in places of Return to Forever circa Romantic Warrior, and that can't be bad thing in anyone's book. Along with Chris Squire's Fish Out Of Water and Wakeman's earlier output up to Criminal Record, this is one of just a handful of Yes solo releases of which their creators can be justifiably proud.

ExittheLemming | 4/5 |

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