October 27, 2008


We were swarmed with YES votes in our latest 'Best Of Poll, which pleased me greatly. This is especially true because almost everyone has an opinion of YES and their output. However, it was equally tough for pollsters to choose one precisely as they had lots of favourites. I so understand. It WAS hard. With the large YES catalogue, certainly many of the albums by YES were left off because...well, with classics like Close to the Edge and The YES Album, it is way too hard to select an album like Tormato (which received NO votes). And I liked Tormato. Overall, we received a remarkable 119 votes and here are the results:

  • Close to the Edge (45) - Yep, this classic won pretty handily. And I have to admit to being surprised even though I shouldn't be. I chose Close to the Edge. It's been my favourite for EV-ER. And it is obviously your favourite as well. Filled song-to-song with absolute perfection...absolute.
  • The YES Album (39) - Yes, this selection was thisclose. As a matter of fact, for a while, this selection held the lead. But then I received five votes for the current number 1 and it was over. But there is still a lot of love for the album that yielded "Yours is No Disgrace," "I've Seen All Good People," and "Starship Trooper." Classic!
  • Fragile (13) - Yes, the drop was precipitous on this album that still gave us "Roundabout" on Top40 radio. And with "Heart of the Sunrise," and the short but spectacular "We Have Heaven," Fragile is in the classic stretch of YES albums.
  • Going For the One (7) - A classic reunion album with some superb YES compositions that include "Wondrous Stories," and the perfect title track with its frenzied steel guitar from Howe ("Going for the One"). And how about the ethereal "Turn of the Century?"
  • Tales From Topographic Oceans (5) - I admit to being very surprised (even with five solid votes that were accompanied by explanations) that this overtook Relayer..but it did at that. Indeed a challenging listen but I have to agree with voters, it was a special album, clearly one for the fans. I love the build of "The Revealing Science of God."
  • Drama (4) - This album, which lacked Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman, brought in Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn of The Buggles ("Video Killed the Radio Star") to fill the void. It certainly changed the band's sound. Regardless, there are fans who appreciate the album (I loved the cover).
  • Relayer (3) - This album represented a directional change from Tales of Topographic Oceans. Bringing in Patrick Moraz to fill the big shoes left vacant by the departure of Rick Wakeman, the band worked on gorgeous songs built from ideas formed by Anderson. The album only had 3 songs but they still work well today.
  • Talk (1) - With its Peter Max YES logo and Trevor Rabin at the helm, the album failed to garner much in the way of fan support. But I thought that "Walls" was interesting.
  • 90125 (1) - YES as a pop bad with the nice "Owner of a Lonely Heart" to prop it up. But "Hearts" was a great tune and so 90125 did fair business for YES fans.
  • Big Generator (1) - Big Generator is considered an under-rated album by some YES fans.

And that's it. What was left out were the band's debut Yes, along with following album Time and a Word, Tormato (I'm surprised that wasn't at least one vote for this one), Union, Open Your Eyes, Ladder, Magnification. We did get a vote for the live album, Yessongs and even a vote for Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe (should we have included it?). But when you're talking about the best that YES has produced, it clearly comes from their classic Anderson/Squire/Howe/Wakeman/Bruford configuration. Without Question. Many of the core members left and came back at various times for various projects but when YES was at their most stable, they were at their best. And those are represented in the selections. Ladies and Gentlemen...YES.

I received an email with one of the votes that I thought bears reading and so I include it here (Thanks, Nick, for your email):

"Tough choice.
First of all, because it might be telling, a little of my personal musical background.

I spent my formative musical years in the 80s, but I have 2 older brothers, so my tastes really run through music from the 70s as well. However, it was always in a historical context. Led Zeppelin was always, to my memory a “was” band and not an “is” band. The sounds of U2, Phil Collins’s Genesis, and the Police all intermingle with my coming of age. Although Rush is (arguably, like so many of these types of things) my favorite band, the first album I had of theirs was Exit… Stage Left (on cassette) because it was in a bargain bin and it seemed to be the largest number of songs I could afford with the money I had at the time. The first Rush album I remember being aware of on release day was Power Windows. I didn't hear 2112 in its entirety until about 1987 (and still think, despite some promising moments and all around good energy, it sounds embarrassingly dated). I was a young drummer though, and as a drummer, it is pretty much mandatory I be drawn to Rush. :-)

This brings me to the topic at hand – Yes. Me being a drummer, it is often the drummer of a band that really makes or breaks it for me. Despite “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and “Changes” being the first time I had ever heard of a band called Yes, I did not realize what Yes could truly be capable of and tell I made the connection that the group that did these unique contemporary pop songs was the same bad that played “Roundabout”. This intrigued me, so I delved a bit deeper. I found the magic that is Bill Bruford, and I never looked back (err... forward). In my mind, the Yes that matters is the Yes that had Bill Bruford in it. Alan White is no slouch, but he just doesn’t bring the magic touch and unique, melodic sound. Yes can be overbearing and bombastic. Alan joins in the bombast and I think often sends Yes over the edge into the cliché they became for pompous, meandering 70s prog rock. Bill always grounded the band in taste and simplicity. He played (and still plays), to borrow an analogy from Bono, like the notes are expensive. He never plays 2 when 1 will do. Yet, despite the idea of him playing fewer notes rather than many, he always played them in a way that no one else thought of before. He plays odd beats over straight meter, straight beats over odd meter, and turns rhythms around until you are sure that no one, including him, knows where the ‘1’ is, then he brings it right back in line with a beautiful press roll. Pure genius. He is the personification of English Gentleman Drummer. Light touch and wry smile.

Given all this long winded set-up, Yes really is 4 albums: Time and a Word, The Yes Album, Fragile, and Close to the Edge. Although 90125 and Big Generator have a special place in my heart (Big Generator being, in my mind, particularly underrated), I see them as being by a different band with familiar vocals and bass playing. They don’t really feel like Yes to me. However, even narrowing my field down to just 4 albums, to pick “the best” still feels a little unfair.

I think I can eliminate Time and a Word because, although there are great moments and beautiful playing (and Tony Kaye’s wonderful Hammond B3), it has that awful orchestra that mostly just gets in the way. It also doesn’t flow as well as the others. It is a collection of songs, not a true album in the sense of what bands used to try to do. The Yes Album is solid and precise. In its original form, 2 sides, each with 2 beautiful pieces and an interlude in between. The pieces are not epic, but they do have a scale that says “we are not afraid to allow our ideas to play out.” They are not throwaway 3 minute pop songs. It would be a fantastic debut album, brought it doesn’t hit the heights of later works. Fragile, of course, is the classic album. It has what was their biggest hit for over a decade (and certainly the biggest written by anyone in the classic line-up), “Roundabout”. It also has the ever popular duo “Long Distance Runaround”/”The Fish”, which I remember as a one of the few bass compositions to be a staple of FM radio, and the live fan favorite tour-de-force “Heart of the Sunrise”. However, despite these great songs, the album is a little uneven. Although “The Fish” and “Mood for a Day” are great musical numbers, the other individual band member contributions are spotty. Bill’s Five Percent for Nothing (not even what he wanted to call it) is at best an interesting musical exercise, not a song. “We Have Heaven” is a perfect example of why Jon Anderson needs to have a band. By himself, he is sappier than Paul McCartney writing songs for Celine Dion, and even less subtle. Then there is “Cannes and Brahms”, which really comes to the crux of why the album cannot be considered Yes’s best – Rick Wakeman was contractually unable to officially compose anything for the album.

All of his writing is supportive and unofficial, so he is not really able to pull out all the stops the way he does on other albums. Given all this, it would seem we are left with Close to the Edge. While not always the first album I look to when I want to listen to some Yes, it really is a masterpiece. I can see why Bill left after this album was finished (although I really wish he had been able to stay on to do the tour, too). How do you top it? It has beautiful themes, memorable melodies, and extraordinary feats of musical prowess. It was the defining peak of tremendous group of musicians. It superior compositionally and in execution to just about anything else being done at the time. Melodies and counter melodies weave throughout the pieces while Bill and Chris Squire keep the rhythms bubbling along like only they could do together in a way that was both complementary to the melodies and interesting as interplay unto itself. I think it is a shame that we’ve never seen this band play these songs live. We came close with Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe (no Chris Squire, Bill on electronic percussion) and with the Union Tour (too many cooks to really pull it off organically, and again, Bill with the electronic drum kit), but I don’t think we will ever hear these songs as they should be presented live. To me, the most disappointing album would be Yessongs, only because it has so much promise, but Bill only plays on 3 of the songs (although that album contains my favorite performance of my favorite Yes song, “Perpetual Change”).

I have listened to some of the Alan White 70s Yes recently, and Tales from Topographic Oceans shows some promise. Most of the other stuff between that and Drama, though, seems to lack any real identity and seems to just be mired in flaky mid to late 70s morass. It’s too pompous to be fun and too boring and uninspired to be impressive. Drama has a little flair, but without Jon Anderson, it doesn’t feel much like Yes. I’ve already mentioned 90125 and Big Generator, and those are more Trevor Rabin albums with guess stars. Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe is not technically a Yes album, and without Chris Squire (either on bass or on backup vocals), it is missing a bit of Yes’s soul; it comes off a little sterile and overly Jon Anderson. Union is just an abysmal failure that all members should (and I believe have) roundly dismiss as rubbish concocted by their record company. There are other albums during and after this time (Talk, Magnification, The Ladder, various Keys to Ascension projects), but I must admit, I have not given them any chance whatsoever. If they don’t have Bill Bruford on it, I am just going to assume it is not what I am looking for unless someone specifically tells me otherwise.

So, the long and the long of it, from this Bill Bruford fan, Close to the Edge is the pinnacle of Yes’s recorded achievements."

For the long promised Albums You MUST Hear Before You Die!, I will be posting a letter each post until exhausted (there were only 17 emails).  Some were only a few titles, some only one.  But there were more than a few that were massive and a few extended, well-detailed lists.  I’ll post them as I received them.  Today, I have a well thought out 'tick-off' list of 10 albums. Thanks to Timothy for his contribution.

  1. All Things Must Pass - George Harrison: This album is absolutely brilliant and I would choose it or any Bealtes album if forced to.
  2. Quadrophenia - The Who
  3. Madman Across the Water - Elton John
  4. Revolver - The Beatles
  5. Sticky Fingers - The Rolling Stones
  6. Duke - Genesis
  7. Imagine - John Lennon
  8. Houses of the Holy - Led Zeppelin
  9. Brainwashed - George Harrison
  10. Blonde on Blonde - Bob Dylan

We have no reviews today (although we should have). There will be a few for Wednesday. See you then.

If you have missed the last As The Disc Spins (updated), check it out here.

To access the previous site and catch up, click here.






White Zombie is releasing a 5-disc (4CD/1DVD) collection that assembles much of Zombie’s early years into a collective set.  The 4 CDs will contain 64 tracks, acquired from the Gods on Voodoo Moon (1985) EP, Soul-Crusher, and Psycho-Head Blow Out (1987) LPs, the “Pig Heaven”/”Slaughter the Grey” single (1986), the God of Thunder EP, and Make Them Die Slowly (1989), LA Sexorcisto: Devil Music, Vol 1 (1992), and Astro-Creep: 2000 (1995).  The DVD will provide 19 video clips with 9 of them White Zombie music videos (3 previously unreleased), and the rest Live performances throughout their career period.  The DVD is presented in 5.1 Surround and will include ‘Hidden Gems.’  All of this is packaged in a Deluxe Digipak protected by an O-Card (heavy clear plastic slip-cover).  The included booklet will feature artwork by Rob Zombie.  Geffen Records will release Let Sleeping Corpses Lie on November 25.

As mentioned on The Digital Bits last week, Zoe Records will be releasing a 3DVD Live set for RUSH, filmed during the Snakes & Arrows World Tour called Snakes & Arrows Live.  This set will also contain the rare ‘Atlanta Bootleg’ video footage of 4 songs (“Ghost of a Chance,” “Red Barchetta,” “Trees,” “2112”) from the North American Tour.  Bonus features will include “What’s That Smell” vignette, 2007 tour Outtakes, “What’s that Smell” Outtakes, “Red Sector A” from the R30 Tour, and What’s that Smell trailor.  The 3DVD set will be packaged in an eight panel digipak.  In addition to the 3DVD version, there will also be made available the single-disc Blu-ray version.  This title in both formats is planned for November 25.

Bring on the Night, a video from Sting, is slated for reissue as a Blu-ray copy.  It is scheduled for November 25 and will feature a new 1080i Hi-Def Widescreen film transfer with Digitally re-mastered DTS-HD Master Audio as well as the more standard 5.1 Surround and PCM Stereo.  It will include three bonus music videos (“Bring on the Night,” “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free,” “Russians”).  This A&M Records reissue will be released on November 25.

Interscope Records will release an EP by Chester French called She Loves Everybody.  It is slated for November 18 with a full-length album coming on February 24, 2009.

Universal Records South will release a new album for Country star, Randy Houser called Anything Goes.  It is planned for November 18.

Rounder Records will release an 18-song Live album by Earl Scruggs on November 18 called The Ultimate Collection/ Live at the Ryman.

Hip-O Select Records will release to stores the Various Artists 5CD/119 track Series collection of Motown Hits.  This one is called The Complete Motown Singles, Vol 11A:1971.  It is planned for November 18.

Geffen Records will release an LP version of Alone 2 – The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo, planning the Rivers Cuomo album for November 25.

Geffen Records will release a DVD called At Last…The Beginning: The Making of Electric Ladyland for Jimi Hendrix.  It is scheduled for release on December 9.

There is more Jimi Hendrix coming from Experience Hendrix, who will re-release Electric Ladyland on December 9 to coincide with the release of the above mentioned DVD.

Interscope will release an Enhanced CD for Feist called The Reminder.  It is scheduled for November 25.

Hip-O Records will release The Original Soul Men (1967-1980) for Sam & Dave arriving on December 9.

Universal Motown will release a Various Artists collection called Motown: The Complete Number 1s.  It is planned for issuance on December 9.

Want more LPs?  They’re coming.  Here’s a list of slated LPs from artists that you know with albums that you love.  They are:

  • 10cc - The Original SoundtrackIsland Records
  • 50 CentBefore I Self-DestructAftermath Records
  • James BrownIn the Jungle GroovePolydor Records
  • Jimmy CliffThe Harder They ComeIsland Records
  • CreamWheels of FirePolydor Records
  • The JamAll Mod ConsPolydor Records
  • Cat StevensMona Bone JakonA&M Records
  • The WhoQuadropheniaMCA Records
  • Thin LizzyBlack Rose: A Rock LegendMercury Records
  • Toots and the MaytallsFunky KingstonIsland Records
  • TrafficJohn Barleycorn Must DieIsland Records

All LPs are scheduled for December 9.  If you’re a vinyl junkie, this is shaping up to be a very…busy…year.  2009 may be even crazier yet with upcoming LP re-releases.




Review - Grateful Dead - Rocking the Cradle: Egypt 1978 - CD/DVD

Grateful Dead opted to head off to Egypt to perform near the base of the Great Pyramid back in 1978. This beautifully put together set with 2CDs and 1DVD tells the whole story. The set is cleverly entitled Rocking the Cradle: Egypt 1978.





Review - Oasis - Dig Out Your Soul - CD

James Hrivnak returns with a review of Dig Out Your Soul, the latest album to arrive across the pond by Oasis.



Review - The Dears - Missiles

The Dears return with a new album (Missiles) that is pretty good in my book. Hailing from Montreal, they produce an album with some great tunes. Check out "Disclaimer" for some gold and a 'must' download.





Review Column - As The Disc Spins - Lindsey Planer

We have a new - and packed - As The Disc Spins column wherein Lindsay Planer reviews seven titles. These include The Deluxe Editions of Elton John and Tumbleweed Connection by Elton John, the Deluxe Edition of Copperhead Road by Steve Earle, and the Legacy Edition of Pacific Ocean Blue by Dennis Wilson. In addition, he reviews three DVD titles that include the Joe Strummer documentary, The Future is Unwritten; a Various Artists set called A Technicolour Dream; and a Donovan documentary called Sunshine Superman - A Journey of Donovan.







Copyright 2002-2008 Matthew Rowe.
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Disclaimer: various news pieces may state a specific media publication or program as a source. All other news is considered 'rumour' only. That goes double for release dates.

212 Frech

"Even though most of the people I knew in my youth are gone, I still reach out to them..." Norman Maclean - Paraphrase

"...we should enjoy every sandwich." -- Warren Zevon
"Buy the ticket, take the ride." -- Hunter S Thompson
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"We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be." -- Kurt Vonnegut
"Because they wouldn't let me go for three..." -- Woody Hayes (OSU)
"Show me peaceful days before my youth has gone" -- Neil Diamond (Serenade)