Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Favourite track on Heaven & Earth

Heaven & Earth, the new Yes album: what's your favourite track? That was our latest poll. 139 of you voted and the results are:

1. "Subway Walls": 50 (36%)
2. "Believe Again": 27 (19%)
3. "Light of the Ages": 22 (16%)
4. "The Game": 16 (12%)
5. "To Ascend": 14 (10%)
6. "It was All We Knew": 6 (4%)
7. "Step Beyond": 3 (2%)
8. "In a World of Our Own": 1 (1%)

So, Yes fans, or at least the ones who read my website, prefer the longer, 'proggier' tracks.

[Numbers for "Believe Again" corrected, 25 Aug 2014.]

Monday, 30 June 2014

Poll: Best Yes-related album of 1974

As we wait the official release date of the new Yes album, Heaven & Earth, we continue with another poll looking to the past. 83 of you voted in the poll for the best Yes-related album of 1974. The results:

1) King Crimson: Red (w/ Bruford): 38 (46%)
2) Rick Wakeman: Journey to the Centre of the Earth: 26 (31%)
3) King Crimson: Starless and Bible Black (w/ Bruford): 9 (11%)
4) Refugee: Refugee (w/ Moraz): 6 (7%)
5) Wally: Wally (w/ Wakeman): 1 (1%)

No votes for Badger's White Lady (w/ Kaye) or Eddie Harris's E.H. in the U.K. (w/ Kaye, Squire, White). 3 votes for Other, but not specified.

So, a repeat of the 1973 poll, King Crimson winning over Rick Wakeman, although Red's margin over Journey (15%) is better than Larks' Tongues' over 6 Wives (5%). King Crimson nab third as well, with few votes beyond these albums.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Poll: Best Yes-related album of 1973

114 of you voted in our poll for the best Yes-related album of 1973. The results:

1) King Crimson: Larks' Tongues in Aspic (w/ Bruford): 47 (41%)
2) Rick Wakeman: The Six Wives of Henry VIII (w/ Bruford, Howe, Squire, White): 41 (36%)
3) Black Sabbath: Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath (w/ Wakeman): 10 (9%)
4=) Peter Banks: Two Sides of Peter Banks: 5 (4%)
4=) Badger: One Live Badger (w/ Kaye, Anderson): 5 (4%)
6) Paul Kossoff: Back Street Crawler (w/ White): 3 (3%)
7) Johnny Harris: All to Bring You Morning (w/ Anderson, Howe, White): 2 (2%)
8) Flash: In the Can (w/ Banks): 1 (1%)


There were no votes for Flash's Out of Our Hands (w/ Banks) or for Donovan's Cosmic Wheels and Claire Hamill's October (both w/ White).

So, a close result between two classic albums, Bruford's debut with King Crimson and Wakeman's first planned solo album. I was surprised to see Black Sabbath in third, ahead of Pete Banks' three albums or Badger's debut. 1974 poll up shortly on the main site.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Poll: Best Yes-related album of 2013, part 2

Another biannual poll of the best Yes-related releases, another odd voting pattern. The results were:

?) XNA: When We Changed You (w/ Sherwood) - 30 (29%)
1) The Prog Collective: Epilogue (w/ Sherwood, Wakeman R, Banks, Downes, Moraz, Squire, Kaye) - 16 (16%)
2=) Steve Howe: Homebrew 5 - 15 (15 %)
2=) King Crimson: The Road to Red (w/ Bruford) - 15 (15 %)
4) Flash: In Public (w/ Banks) - 8 (8%)
5) Ayreon: Theory of Everything (w/ Wakeman R) - 7 (7)%
6) William Shatner: Ponder the Mystery (w/ Sherwood, Wakeman R) - 6 (6%)
7) Belle and Sebastian: The Third Eye Centre (w/ Horn) - 2 (2%)
8=) Chris Audren: In True Mental Universe (w/ Anderson co-writing) - 1 (1%)
8=) Various artists: Fly Like an Eagle: An All-Star Tribute to Steve Miller Band (w/ Sherwood, Downes, Wakeman R, Kaye, Banks) - 1 (1%)
8=) Deckchair Poets: Who Needs Pyjamas (w/ Downes) - 1 (1%)

No votes for Johnny Borrell's Borrell 1 (w/ Horn), DuskMachine's eponymous album (w/ Downes) or Sons of Hippies' Griffons at the Gates of Heaven (w/ Sherwood). One invalid vote discounted.

Homebrew 5 was leading for much of the time, with When We Changed You only on a couple of votes, until a late surge saw XNA's debut gallop ahead to win. As previously, this would seem to indicate a body of voters outside of the usual readership making a concerted attempt to win the poll, rather than to be representative of general Yes fan opinion.

Meanwhile, the best Yes-related release poll of 1972 was won by Flash's debut album... but it was kindly pointed out to me that I listed David Bowie's Space Oddity in the poll, when I meant Hunky Dory (both with Wakeman). Ooops. I'll re-run that poll some time later. The poll for 1973 will be up on the main site shortly.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Heaven & Earth: 8 tracks

Jon Davison says in a recent interview that the new Yes album, Heaven & Earth, has 8 tracks (plus a bonus track for the Japanese CD). Let's presume the album will get a vinyl release, so that limits the overall length. What does this mean for song lengths?

Well, Yes and Time and a Word had 8 tracks each, the longest at 6:54 ("Survival"), the shortest 2:06 ("Clear Days"). The Yes Album only had 6 tracks, but Fragile had 9 (with 3 tracks under 2 minutes and "Heart of the Sunrise" at 10:34 + reprise).

The next few albums all had rather fewer tracks (3, 4 but a double, 3, 5), but Tormato also has 8 (up to 7:47 for "On the Silent Wings of Freedom"). Drama is a short album and just 6 tracks, but 90125 has 9 (up to 7:39 for "Hearts"). Big Generator is another 8-tracker (maximum 7:37, "I'm Running"). Union, on vinyl, was I think 13 tracks (including "Miracle of Life" at 7:30).

So, actually, 8 is the commonest number of tracks on a Yes album (from the vinyl era). Fly from Here has 6 or 11, depending how you count ("Into the Storm" at 6:54 is the longest if you don't count the "Fly from Here" suite). The longest track on one of these 8-piece albums is only 7:47 ("On the Silent Wings of Freedom"), but Fragile squeezes in one track over 10 minutes out of its 9. Generally, we see a lot of the longest tracks being around the seven, seven and a half minute mark.

Wild speculation, but there you go.

UPDATE: A new Chris Squire interview has more. He describes "three [songs] that are on the longer side, nine-, 10-minute sort of long songs." But that can't leave much room for the other five tracks.

OK, presume they long-uns are 9.5 minutes long each. Three of them adds up to 28.5 minutes. If we're still presuming a vinyl length to the album, then total run time will be forty-something minutes. Fly from Here was towards 48 minutes, but albums like Fragile, The Yes Album and Tormato were under 42 minutes. Let's say the new album is 47.5 minutes long, then that would leave 19 minutes for the other 5 tracks on the album, or 3:48 on average. That's short. That's shorter than everything except "Cinema" on 90125, shorter than everything except "Holy Lamb" on Big Generator.

So, maybe we have something that looks like Fragile, a bunch of shorter tracks (the five "solos" on that album go up to 3:00 long for "Mood for a Day", plus "Long Distance Runaround" is 3:30) and a few longer ones ("Roundabout", "South Side of the Sky" and "Heart of the Sunrise" all over 8 minutes).

Squire also described how Davison "worked with the other four of us on a couple of tracks each", so no solo tracks like on Fragile. Should we take Squire's quote literally? Will the credits have 2 songs that are Squire/Davison, 2 that are Howe/Davison, 2 that are White/Davison and 2 that are Downes/Davison?


UPDATE (25 May 2014): German Amazon gives the LP release as being two discs, so all those assumptions above go out the window.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Interview with Steve Babb of Glass Hammer about their new album, Ode to Echo

I talked recently (well, Facebook messaged to be precise) with Steve Babb of Glass Hammer about the band's new album, Ode to Echo, which is released 11 Mar 2014, and other things. My thanks to Steve.


You have a new album out very soon in Ode to Echo. Can you tell me about how the album came together, and about working with multiple vocalists on it?

Steve Babb: I think this may be our 14th studio album. It’s getting hard to keep count! We began work on Ode to Echo shortly after the Cruise to the Edge shows last year.  It being our 20th anniversary as a recording band, we thought it would be cool to have fun with this one and bring back some voices from the past. Carl Groves fronted the band on stage last year, so he was a clear choice to handle the lion’s share of the lead vocals. Of course Jon Davison sings a good deal as well. Susie Bogdanowicz returned after a three album hiatus, and she’ll also be joining the live band for The Moody Blues Cruise in April and The Terra Incognita Festival in Quebec this May of this year. Walter Moore and Michelle Young were valuable GH members and singers in the 90’s – Walter fronted the band for our NEARfest performance and the Lex Live DVD. They’re both back too!

Some of the singers worked here at our studio with us, others we recorded in different studios in Florida, California and in Nashville, TN.

Essentially, this album began the way most do. Fred [Schendel], Alan [Shikoh] and I worked on ideas which developed into songs; then we worked with the singers. 

Ode to Echo was a beast to mix. But I couldn’t ask for a greater group of people to work with!

Now that Yes has become Jon Davison's priority, what has it meant for Glass Hammer to work around those commitments? Has Jon joining Yes brought Glass Hammer more attention?

The priority for all the members of Glass Hammer, including Carl, Susie and Jon is to make music. We do that under the Glass Hammer name, and sometimes we do that within the context of the music of another band. The way I see it, that’s a good thing. The priority never changes for members of this band. For example, Fred and I are currently producing and arranging for at least seven different artists as well as playing for a number of projects and albums. Carl Groves remains the leader and creative spark behind Salem Hill. Jon sings and is now writing for a version of an older prog group from the seventies. That Glass Hammer gets to spread its influence into numerous bands and directions is a win-win for us and the fans. We’ve not had to work around anyone actually. Of course, Jon wasn’t allowed to perform live with us last year – which was unfortunate, but that took one phone call to Carl to fix. Fred and I continue to work and Glass Hammer continues to thrive. Other bands play no part in the momentum we’ve established for our creative output. That’s just not going to happen.

As for the attention, Jon has always acted as a Glass Hammer ambassador to Yes-fans since he joined their operation. Basically, you have the singer for Glass Hammer on stage in front of thousands of prog-fans whenever they’re on tour. The vibe we get from Yes-fans is very positive. I know Yes catch a lot of grief from one faction or another – so maybe we’re getting the best of that deal. Either way, free promotion is not a bad thing.

Can we go back to your previous album, Perilous? Can you talk through the writing of that album?

Perilous was written by Fred, Alan and myself. We collaborated with Jon on all the vocal ideas of course, and he did a fantastic job of interpreting those ideas. We wrote songs, as usual – music first, then vocal melodies, then lyrics. We did this knowing that the entire thing had to work as one enormous (epic) idea. It is, essentially, one piece of music. I penned all of the lyrics, which were based on the notion of coming to grips with mortality in middle age. I knew most of our fans could relate to this – being of about the same age as myself.

A very good friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer just before we began writing the album. Lyrics were based, to a certain extent, on conversations he and I had about his fears and his faith. He knew I was writing lyrics about this, and gave his blessing before succumbing to cancer just before we finished the album.
Life is Perilous. We live in Perilous times. It sounds like a downer for a group who is known for its optimism. Yet that is where I’m at right now as a lyricist. Life can take nasty turns as well as good ones, and where I once kept my ‘feelings’ private about such things, I am now more vocal. 

Ode to Echo is largely about malignant narcissism and its dangers. See what I mean? Maybe we’ll get to talk more about that later.

You and Fred are active online. How do you find interacting with your fans (or, indeed, detractors) in this way?

Some of our dearest fans and friends will occasionally voice a negative critique of one of our albums or maybe have a problem with the direction we’ve taken the band at one point or another. That’s cool. I like to know what they’re thinking and I don’t count them among the ‘haters’. I’ll read a nasty post or a bad review every now and then, and I’ll try to be objective about it and see if there is anything to learn from it.
Fortunately, most of what I read is very positive and exceedingly friendly. Many of our fans become cherished friends over the years. For me, it’s a completely positive experiences. I encourage them to email or post to our Facebook page – whatever they’re thinking. We’re grateful for them. I can’t say that enough!

Online, you've mentioned Glass Hammer being involved in the Sonic Realities project. Can you say anything more about this? Is this original music or a cover?

Dave Kerzner of Sonic Realities asked us to join the Neil Peart project. [More about Sonic Realities here - Henry] Fred composed most of the music for this track, and I did the lyrics. Alan added a good deal too. Carl Groves is singing this one. We were given many of Peart’s tracks to choose from, then asked to write music to his drumming and to incorporate his ideas into the Glass Hammer sound. It is unavoidable that we don’t sound a little like Rush on this, but I think it has mostly succeeded. We just wrapped up this song, which for now at least is called “Impulse”. 

Lots of fun! Rush was and remains a huge influence on Glass Hammer.

Friday, 14 February 2014

DPRP 2013 poll

The results for the 2013 DPRP poll are out. As discussed before, there were not many high profile Yes-related releases in 2013, but let’s see how they did anyway with the 431 voters.

One might wish to count Steven Wilson as part of the Yes camp now he’s remixing the band’s back catalogue, and Wilson dominated the results. The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories) won Best Album. Tracks from the album were 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th in the Best Track category! Wilson and band came top overall for concerts, although in terms of individual shows, they were only 2nd and 3rd equal, with Camel’s 26 October show in the Netherlands winning. Wilson’s album and tour was 3rd in Biggest Happening (topped by Camel’s return). The album also did well in terms of individual performances, topping the list for Best Guitarist (Guthrie Govan, with Wilson himself also 11th), Best Bassist (Nick Beggs) and Best Drummer (Marco Minnemann). Adam Holzman was 2nd Best Keyboardist (won by Andy Tillison for The Tangent’s Le Sacré du Travail) and Wilson was 5th Best Vocalist (won by David Longdon for Big Big Train’s English Electric (Part Two)). The Raven… was also second in the Best Artwork category (won by Fish’s A Feast of Consequences). Wilson’s DVD “Drive Home” made 7th in Best DVD; Anathema’s “Universal” won.

Otherwise, however, the Yesmen were little to be seen. Rick Wakeman made 11th in Best Keyboardist for his guest appearance on Ayreon’s The Theory of Everything. The album itself was 8th in the Best Album category and 9th in Biggest Happening, although it was also 3rd in the Biggest Disappointment category (won by Dream Theater’s eponymous release).

The rise of prog cruises made 10th in Biggest Happening, with Cruise to the Edge specifically at 14th. Also notable is Tony Levin at 9th for Best Bassist (for Levin Minnemann Rudess).