Title: Topographic Drama
During it’s 2016 tour, Yes played its 1980 album Drama in its entirety. The first time it had ever done such a thing. More than that, it also played sides one and four from the 1973 double-album Tales From Topographic Oceans. Startling because these are arguably the two most contentious LPs in the band’s entire discography. The first because Trevor Horn was on vocals for the former original album and nearly ripped his voice to shreds trying to be lead vocalist, Jon Anderson, instead of doing what he did best. Being Trevor Horn.
The latter LP was the symbol of so much prog excess that it, quite possibly, single-handedly forged punk. It was also disliked by many rock fans, some prog fans and even former Yes band members. And now both were being played on stage!
This new triple-LP features live performances from 12 dates recorded on the same tour in February 2017, by the current Yes line-up: Steve Howe (guitars), Alan White (drums), Geoff Downes (keyboards), Billy Sherwood (bass), Jon Davison (vocals, replacing Jon Anderson) and additional drummer for this tour, Jay Schellen.
With the addition of And You And I from 1972’s Close To The Edge and Heart Of The Sunrise from 1971’s Fragile, the elaborate gatefold package also arrives with a full size, 6-page booklet.
Mastering is very nice indeed. Despite revealing the give-away spacious auditorium feel the music has been mastered remarkably quietly, prompting a gain boost, further opening up the detail and midrange insight which is both smooth and very pleasant to the ear.
There are a few irritations. The audience gives a standing ovation when anyone so much as lifts an eyebrow while Davison is a pleasant but weak vocalist – he’s no Jon Anderson. He’s too meek and, fragile (sorry) in his delivery. No, um, drama (sorry, again). The lack of emotional uplift and punch harms the songs, I’m afraid and gives the music a tribute band feel making Davison sound like a young Aled Jones.
End of review.
My thoughts continued beyond it, however.
There is something about the lead singer of any band that forges that band’s inherent personality, don’t you think? Instrumental bands have a much easier time of it, in this respect (stand up Tangerine Dream which features not one original member and yet sounds exactly like TD of yore).
Not bands encumbered with singers though. One such band, Yes, has been through varying guitar players and drummers and keyboard merchants and now a new bass player. You may feel sorry and sad that old instrumentalist favourites have left the fold to explore pastures new or they may have sadly passed away but the band has always felt like Yes because Jon Anderson’s vocal was still there, piercing the upper atmosphere with his strong, impassioned, wholly spiritual and rather high pitched vocal stylings. His vocals have always acted as a sort of spine to the Yes sound. A sunlit core around which the music has been formed.
Anderson doesn’t just sing the songs, he believes in each and every word. His unique vocal approach is – has to be – the very personality of the band. If you hear a few words of his sung on the radio then you immediately think, “Yes!” You hear a solo Steve Howe on the radio or Alan White in a different band and you’d respond with, “Hang on…that sounds a bit like…is it…?” And other delaying tactics before a rough, educated guess can be made.
The late and lamented Chris Squire’s bass sound was iconic in Yes terms but you can just – just – about get away with Billy Sherwood as his replacement. Kinda. If you squint a bit. As long as Anderson’s soaring vocal formed the spine of the band’s sound, then it could cushion the tragic Squire loss a bit. Turn that around, though. When Squire was still with us and Anderson was not singing with him, Yes always sounded odd. Unfinished.
With Anderson, there will always be Yes. Without Anderson, there is no Yes. The equation is as simple as that.
You doubt me? Let me give you examples of other bands who thought they could carry on without their main vocal man. Whether those delusions be based on “Sure, it’ll be fine. The fans are too dumb to notice,” or even “You’ll pay us how much if we carry on?” Whatever the reasons, The Doors thought that they could continue being The Doors without Jim Morrison. Hang on, though, this was the same band except for Jim wasn’t it? In terms of personnel, yes it was, sure. Yet, the heart had been pulled from the core of The Doors. In fact, The Doors was all about Morrison’s personality, his delivery, his articulation. As frustrating and annoying and irritating as these important facts might have been to the other three band members, the band was Mr Morrison.
Queen. Freddie dies and the rest of the band haul…Paul Rodgers (?!) into the front man slot. Rodgers? George Michael would have done a far better job, I have to add but George, for once in his life, made the right decision and exclaimed, something like, “No fear, I’m off.” The Rodgers result? Well it wasn’t Queen. I’m not suggesting that Paul Rodgers wasn’t/isn’t allowed to play music with the Freddie Mercury backing band but that collected group of people should never have been called Queen. Even with all of the other original members in tow. It was not Queen. It can never really be Queen.
I could say the same about Thin Lizzy. I could say the same about…well, the list grows. Even Deep Purple have given their band different names when they change their front man but they sneak a silly appellation to it: Deep Purple Mk.I, Deep Purple Mk.II, Deep Purple Mk.III, etc. These are mere twists to the brand name but the band get away with it in that manner.
The only band who can truly get away with changing their front man every five minutes and retain their original band name is King Crimson. The Mighty Crim are unique, though. Their soul sits on a stool at the side of the stage (sometimes in deep shadow), stares at the floor and noodles on a guitar. Fripp, the true leader of that band, is the sole exception.
This is because Fripp constantly and completely reinvents King Crimson. Compare the 70s KQ with the early 80s version. The two cannot be compared. Hence, if Fripp ever leaves for good. King Crimson will die.
Yes find it difficult to reinvent. They find it much easier to clone.
Generally, when all is said and done and in broad terms, you remove the front man? You kill the band. Once you’ve done that, you have to have the guts to start afresh.
Nirvana ceased to exist artistically but also physically, wholly and completely when Kurt Cobain died, didn’t they? You see? Sometimes bands do the right thing.
So, as much as I respect Jon Davison, he does fine work with Glass Hammer, the only reason that he’s in the band is because his name is also Jon and it saves the other ageing band members, whose memories are tending to fade as they approach or reside in their 70s, having to remember a brand new first name. Surely, that’s the reason he’s in the band?
Oh, and I say that I respect Jon Davison? I do. I really do. Much more, it seems, than Yes itself actually does. Why? Because, all joking side, the Yes establishment has, once again, chosen a new lead singer because he sounds like Jon Anderson. That, my friends, is a complete and total lack of respect to the other Jon, Mr Jon Davison. You bring in an independent artist, a human being with his own thoughts and feelings, his own artistic vision and ambitions, likes and dislikes and the only reason, the ONLY reason he is there is because he vaguely sounds…like…another…guy.
Yes, as an organisation and a band, do this sort of thing over and over (i.e. Trevor Horn, Benoît David and now Jon Davison). The only reason that former lead singer Trevor Rabin got away with singing in his God-given voice was because Jon Anderson was standing next to him, at the time. Goodness knows what despicable medical operation Rabin would have had to endure, in order to reach the highest registers, if Anderson would have left while Rabin was still treading the boards with Yes. You need to watch the contract small print, you know.
If Yes is dead without Jon Anderson, as I postulate, then the band should, by all means, carry on but adopt a new band moniker, bring in a new singer (maybe one that has a deep voice? How about that? Something a bit Johnny Cash perhaps?) and produce new work while, if the old songs must be sung, reinterpret them with the new vocalist in a new fashion and allow that new vocalist to impose his creative will on the band not the other way around.
Jon Anderson had the decency to change the name of his new band when he temporarily split with Yes back in 1988. He called his quartet ABWH. Not Yes 2. Or some bastardisation of a classic Yes song title transformed into a band name or somesuch. Just ABWH. Funny thing was, when ABWH were in action they were, arguably, more Yes than Yes were at that time.
So, as far the current band is concerned, just don’t call it Yes. Don’t pretend that we cannot tell the difference. If you want Jon Anderson. Get bloody Jon bloody Anderson bloody. Please do not rope in some poor sap who is acting like some sort of Jon Anderson puppet. A Jon Anderson impersonator. A Jon Anderson doppelgänger. It surely does nothing for Davison’s self esteem, his reputation, his future career or even his dignity to be constantly compared to Jon Anderson. It’s actually distasteful. Davison will never be as good as Jon Anderson because, well, he’s Jon Davison isn’t he?
A message to Yes? Do import top quality band members who are individuals and talented people who will bring new and amazing ideas to the group dynamic. But stop – I repeat, stop – dragging in sub-standard band impersonators. You’ve heard of Fake News? This is Fake Yes. Now there’s a name for a tribute band. Time for a name change Mr White, Howe et al?
Peter Harrison29th December 2017 at 5:56 pm
I agree with your point in principle, but some bands have succeeded without a name change when the key artist has left, although usually by taking the band in a different direction. Examples here are Peter Green leaving Fleetwood Mac, and Peter Gabriel leaving Genesis. Nirvana did the right thing, but has the world been deprived of their unique artistry, or were they really just your average session musicians?
Paul Rigby29th December 2017 at 9:27 pm
I strongly disagreed with Fleetwood Mac retaining their original name when Green had to leave. I felt that it was a marketing exercise. In fact, so does every writer and critic who has ever refered to the band. The earlier version of the band is always referred to as ‘Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac’. Which, by default, is the media/public actually renaming the band on their behalf. In effect, the public demanded a name change. Same with Genesis. PG leaving Genesis crated a wholly different band with a completely different musical direction which was instigated by Collins. Once more, the labels are split by the public using a similar method. That is: ‘Peter Gabriel’s Genesis’ and Phil Collins’ Genesis’.
As for the Nirvana thing? There’s been absolutely no deprivation as the member of the band who actually wanted to carry on has and does.
Yes Fan30th December 2017 at 6:53 am
The PG FM thing refers to their first album to differentiate from the first one with LB and SN. No one calls the band that unless they are uneducated.
Mitch Baron30th December 2017 at 8:14 pm
Paul , nobody on the bloody Earth could or would have been as honest as you.I couldn’t agree more. However, I think the motivation base to be MONEY. It certainly is not creativity. I do believe the same thing applies with with replacing Jerry Garcia… even if they
Call it Dead & Co.,… Some things need go with Dignity!
Paul, I have to thank you for such a brilliantly written piece that shows amazing insight.
Have a great New Year… Mitch Baron
Paul Rigby30th December 2017 at 11:19 pm
Absolutely Mitch. Dead on. Money. It’s a pension plan. Why import a Jon Anderson impersonator otherwise? Thanks you for your kind words, incidentally.
Yes Fan31st December 2017 at 4:22 am
They should have a singer who sounds like Barry White maybe? Do you have ANY actual experience playing music?
Paul Rigby31st December 2017 at 12:07 pm
Well I certainly don’t approve of JA clones. And I’m also familiar with many (thousands) of popular songs successfully reinterpreted by (thousands) of top quality singers. Yes refuse to do this because money is upper-most in their vision.
Peter Collins19th February 2018 at 10:46 pm
Genesis stayed in a Gabriel direction for 3 or 4 albums before they changed direction. In fact, early Collins-era Genesis (Trick, Wuthering, Three, Seconds) sounds more like classic Genesis than anything Peter Gabriel was doing at the same time.
And when they did finally change, all prog bands were moving to shorter, stripped down songs to stay current, so that’s hardly a Collins imprint.
Paul Rigby20th February 2018 at 9:56 am
Collins himself stated on several occasions – I myself distinctly remember him saying this on the children’s Saturday morning ITV programme Tiswas – that he was fed up singing about fantasy worlds that related little to real life (as in the PG Genesis variant) and wanted to direct his creativity to the latter.
From his perspective – possibly because of what was going on in the background – that meant relationships between a man and a woman.
Yet Collins is and was no fool. He was running a band and a business. He wasn’t about to shoot himself in the foot so he knew that a sudden change would be commercial suicide. His tenure did begin immediately with a transition though. Collins was never ever as hard core as PG in terms of the musical direction of Genesis.
I remember clearly the outrage, the sheer outrage that rose up from the Genesis faithful when PG left the band. The accusations that Collins had ‘watered down’ the original Genesis ethos were heard far and wide. The issues were with those very albums you listed.
Collins’ own pop-related influences were just a happy accident in terms of the band’s later commercial success. I would like to bet, at some point during that time, that Collins turned to the other band members and declared, “There, I told you so.”
Yes, his tenure did retain elements of the original band’s signature sound but to please the old fogeys and to retain as much of the original core audience as possible (again, I remember Mike Rutherford was also interviewed on TV defending the pop ‘sell out’ before a gig I remember, stating that the band still played long, more complex pieces for the older fans).
John Grant12th May 2020 at 8:12 pm
What a great article, the truth has been needing to be told on this matter for quite some time. They are in their current form a joke, and Davision is a poor substitute for Anderson. Listening to him singing some of the Yes songs would bring a tear to a glass eye. I cannot understand for a moment why Yes fans continue to support them as they do. I for one don’t and wish they’d pack it in and end this torture. Bottom line is it’s all about money than anything else. Howe you should be ashamed of yourself.
Tom30th December 2017 at 9:31 pm
I think it might have worked for Genesis (brilliantly) because Phil was able do a pretty good Peter Gabriel at first to ease fans in, and was already singing quite a bit, whether in his two little ballads or in unison with Peter. Though I also do think his transition to lead also was a season of reinvention, and in the end they became a brand new band. But Genesis always were innovating, even in the midst of PG and PC periods. Yes have always kinda been the same (“Owner of a Lonely Heart” era excepted).
Paul Rigby30th December 2017 at 11:17 pm
I always saw Genesis as two bands under the same name, Tom. To my mind there should have been a band name change and there wasn’t because it would have ‘lost the audience’ or ‘hurt the figures’ or some such. Saying that, I’ll give Phil this: he was his own man. He didn’t pretend to be PG. He did things his way. I wish Yes had that same courage.
Karlo Berkovich24th December 2018 at 7:20 pm
the interesting thing is, I’m age 59, for many people of my age group their favorite Genesis album is A Trick Of The Tail, the first one with Collins on lead vocals, then we went back to the brilliance of the Gabriel years but as someone else pointed out here, and it’s true, after Gabriel left Genesis essentially stayed true to the prog ethos with Trick, Wind and Wuthering and …And Then There Were Three (with much shorter songs but still prog-ish) but Gabriel’s first solo album, 1977, was not prog, was more pop, really. So perhaps he would have taken them there, too. And as Collins said, Genesis would not have survived had it stayed a true prog band as Yes found out although it later returned to prog. the only band that seems to be able to do this is King Crimson. And as much as I tend to go ‘yecch’ even freaking Invisible Touch has its moments.
Paul Rigby28th December 2018 at 2:51 pm
Good point on the ‘survival’ issue, Karlo. Thanks for your thoughts.
Pete31st December 2017 at 6:53 pm
The real change in direction for Genesis came with the loss of Steve Hackett. Peter wrote much of the lyrics, and contributed ideas, but the rest of the band did the music–Banks was always core to the music, but listen to Steve’s solo stuff–he thinks outside the box, sees unconventional ideas. I think he was the ‘wild side’ to their music–IMO.
Will Willows22nd May 2018 at 5:24 pm
I agree Pete. I do enjoy the current Hackett Genesis Revisited band and Steve is still a master guitarsman. I think Nad Sylvan does a good job on the vocals and find his voice somewhere between Peter and Phil. His solo albums are good Prog. But as to Yes. I have to agree with the author, No Jon Anderson, no Yes. Like the Beatles with Klaus Voorman on bass and hmmm vocals?
Gustav28th May 2022 at 7:40 pm
That’s true, I remember Rutherford in an interview said that Hackett was the one in the band who was most serious about advancing in music. Look at his works after leaving Genesis, and his accomplishment of becoming a competent classical guitarist.
d chaton29th December 2017 at 6:47 pm
please correct the identification below the pics of the two Jons. that will add a bit of credibility to your article, which btw, I tend to agree with
Paul Rigby29th December 2017 at 9:18 pm
No. No I won’t, I’m afraid Mr D. I did that for a very real reason. Have a think. 🙂
Paul Rigby31st December 2017 at 12:36 pm
I think the issue was a problem of page design – I’ve corrected that now. The ‘mis-caption’ is a standard point of irony, first used by the political weekly, Private Eye. I think the design tweak makes more sense now. Thanks for the kick though 🙂
AlexD.29th December 2017 at 7:17 pm
Kind of ironic that in the midst of this commentary about these two singers, you mixed their names up underneath their pictures.
Paul Rigby29th December 2017 at 9:18 pm
You say that I mixed up the names?
Give it a bit of thought and you might realise why 🙂
Paul Rigby31st December 2017 at 12:36 pm
Hi Alex D – I think the issue was a problem of page design – I’ve corrected that now. The ‘mis-caption’ is a standard point of irony, first used by the political weekly, Private Eye. I think the design tweak makes more sense now. Thanks for the kick though 🙂
Dr Bill Rhodes29th December 2017 at 9:40 pm
about time ( and a word?) someone remarks on the varied monikers vis a vis impersonators of the YES dynasty…Wakeman will always be Rick…just like Keith will never be surpassed ( albeit I’m always composing in that vein..and since 1971)…Jon will always be Jon… and Chris well,he was the second Jon regarding his choral abilities whist being the consummate bassist of all time… And Howe is dramatically one of the most stylistic guitarists of many epochs…So YES is not YES now but MAYBE? btw I have been using the Squire bass sound for many years in my compositions …. also composed the Keith Emerson /YES suites of 2017…there are over 300 youtubes of mine of many genre’s..btw Rick and I did a dbl CD on Arcade Records Germany circa 1992
Paul Rigby29th December 2017 at 9:46 pm
Thanks for your interesting points Dr Bill
Woody29th December 2017 at 9:46 pm
As for Fleetwood Mac,they still have the 2 band members whose names the band’s name are derived from…….and famously one of Rock’s best rhythm sections.
Paul Rigby29th December 2017 at 9:48 pm
True Woody – and I take your point which is well made. Peter Green was the soul and the direction for that band, though. To such an extent that, when he left, that band changed completely.
Nick ..29th December 2017 at 9:49 pm
Opinions, opinions, opinions. Everyone’s got one…
Paul Rigby29th December 2017 at 9:58 pm
Nick – I would have respected your own opinion on this topic but posting over 1,000 words of comment from, what, 13 other critics [now edited] tells me nothing about you and your own thoughts. That’s all I care about, not them. If those critics actually want to post their thoughts here (and nothing tells me that they do at this time) then they are welcome but I cannot accept second hand reviews here, I’m afraid. Please post again and tell me about your views.
Paul Watson30th December 2017 at 1:19 am
How many times can you say the same thing over and over and over? Just ask Rigby because he’ll tell you, over and over and over… We get it. You don’t like Davison singing in Yes. You don’t like Davison singing in Yes. You don’t like Davison singing in Yes. You don’t like Davison singing in Yes. Not sure whether you’re trying to convince yourself or others that very point. Guess what? They’re Yes. Officially and in the heart of many of us fans. They have the name, and you don’t, so your opinion is worth sh*t. Enjoy your denial.
John Grant12th May 2020 at 8:16 pm
I don’t either, surely you don’t!
This is not Yes, it’s a sham and I cannot understand why people like you continue to support them.
Rob Coe30th December 2017 at 2:08 am
“Jon Anderson had the decency to change the name of his new band when he temporarily split with Yes back in 1988. He called his quartet ABWH. Not Yes 2. Or some bastardisation of a classic Yes song title transformed into a band name or somesuch. Just ABWH. Funny thing was, when ABWH were in action they were, arguably, more Yes than Yes were at that time.”
Erm, perhaps because A = Jon Anderson; B = Bill Bruford; W = Rick Wakeman & H = Steve Howe; the “Close To The Edge”/”Fragile” line up of Yes, minus Chris Squire, in other words … just saying 😉
Paul Rigby30th December 2017 at 8:41 am
Thanks Rob – yes indeed. I was pointing out the irony.
Garrett L.30th December 2017 at 3:31 am
Just go see Yes featuring Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman. I’ve seen them four times and have been moved to tears at points during their shows. And that happened because of this writer’s contention that Jon Anderson doesn’t sing these songs…he wears them like a cloak and embodies them. And you just can’t go wrong with Rick Wakeman. As for the naysayers that “Trevor Rabin is no Steve Howe”…correct…he’s not. He is his own musician! He’s not trying to immitate anyone. And that’s why Yes with ARW completely works and moves this middle-aged guy to tears.
Paul Rigby30th December 2017 at 8:47 am
Blimey yes, I can just imagine because Yes as a band has brought me to the brink of tears on many occasion.
Mark30th December 2017 at 6:00 am
Minor quibble, but when Paul Rodgers sang with two of the surviving members of Queen, the act was billed as “Queen + Paul Rodgers”, not Queen, and they performed his songs as well as theirs.
Paul Rigby30th December 2017 at 8:46 am
Bang on Mark, good point and thanks for the clarification. I’d quibble even further though and question why the Queen brand was made at all. I notice the Rodgers uses his name and doesn’t call himself Free 🙂
If Led Zeppelin can dissolve its band after losing its drummer (I’d argue that that tragic loss was not as severe as losing a lead singer) then Queen can do the decent thing too. Or is it a money thing?
Yes Fan30th December 2017 at 6:50 am
This review is pure garbage and even contains factual and grammatical errors.
Paul Rigby30th December 2017 at 8:50 am
Thanks Yes Fan. You are allowed to say such a thing, you know. Your opinion is as valid as anyone else’s here. Please let me know your name, though – or shall I refer to you as ‘None’? (from your email address)
Roy30th December 2017 at 6:52 am
I’ve been a passionate Yes fan for over 40 years, and it’s as if you’ve read my innermost thoughts. Yes just isn’t Yes without Maestro Anderson; in fact I find it rather depressing to see or hear them play with a different singer. Nothing in the world has brought as much joy to my life as the music of classic Yes as a whole and Anderson’s voice in particular. If I listen to the current incarnation of the band at all now, I do so only out of curiosity, not because I expect to be pleased or enlightened. And, with regards to what you say about ABWH being “more Yes than Yes” was, those are the EXACT words I’ve also used to describe ARW, a wonderful act in their own right with Anderson at the vocal helm.
You might be aware that Steve’s version of Yes recently relaunched its fanzine. If you read between the lines of the publication’s “mission statement,” you probably won’t fail to notice an attempt to create false propaganda–that is, an alternate reality in which Anderson never existed and Davidson has, in a sense, been the “real” guy all along. Such a slant is insulting not only to Davidson (as you point out) but also to Anderson (though he, fortunately, appears magnanimous enough to not let it bother him) as well as to true Yes fans (“maybe they’ll be too stupid to notice,” as you additionally point out). Steve is also a true maestro–one of the greatest (and perhaps underappreciated) guitarists ever–but I wish to God he would finally get over himself, reconcile his beef with Anderson, and come together with him again. Even at the Hall of Fame Induction he couldn’t resist being a little snarky near the end. He’s 70 years old, for God’s sake. Why is he still acting like he’s 7?! (On a related note, please pardon the pun, Geoff Downes, although talented, is NO Rick Wakeman. He couldn’t even stay in the same room with him. Do Howe and the magazine’s publishers also think true Yes fans wouldn’t recognize that reality??)
As for your point more generally about band leaders being irreplaceable while other members are more expendable, I can think of at least a few exceptions in addition to the Mighty Crim (who, by the way, I just saw perform a stupendous show here in Washington a couple of months ago): Led Zeppelin, who Robert Plant concluded couldn’t go on after John Bonham died, even though Bonham didn’t sing; and Pink Floyd, who were obviously an amazing band for decades after Syd Barrett drifted away. In fact, Floyd even centered what was arguably their greatest album–Wish You Were Here–around that very loss.
Paul Rigby30th December 2017 at 8:55 am
Great point re Floyd. Need to think about that one 🙂 Yes, I made a similar comment Led Zeppelin point too elsewhere here in the Comments section. Interesting views there and some enlightening ones too. What exactly *is* the issue between Howe and Anderson, incidentally? I get the impression that Howe believes that Anderson doesn’t do enough song-writing work or offer enough creative input – although that view is based on a single wayward quote that I heard from Howe (which may or may not be true).
Paul Watson30th December 2017 at 10:26 am
What planet is Roy on? Where on Earth did he get this garbage that Yes are creating false propaganda? Nowhere has Steve tried to deny the history of Yes. ” Steve is also a true maestro–one of the greatest (and perhaps underappreciated) guitarists ever?” What rubbish! Steve has been voted many times in the Guitar HOF as the best guitarist in the world. Who on this planet under-appreciates his playing????? And as for that rubbish about Steve’s reaction at the HOF shows Roy has no knowledge on what was going on there. The behaviour of Anderson and Wakeman towards the members of Yes. BTW, it isn’t Steve’s version of Yes. Chris started Yes with four others (not just Jon as some would think). Before he died he asked Steve and Alan to keep the band going. That band is still going. Anderson and Wakeman and Rabin are doing their own thing. They can play Yes music but they can’t call themselves Yes. As for Howe and Anderson and the whole “that Howe believes that Anderson doesn’t do enough song-writing work or offer enough creative input – although that view is based on a single wayward quote that I heard from Howe (which may or may not be true)” is untrue. Maybe you meant where Jon was boasting he wrote all the Yes songs in an Rolling Stone article last year, and Steve on his own FB page countered that by showing examples of some of his lyrics he wrote for some of their popular albums like CTTE and TFTO.
Paul Rigby30th December 2017 at 11:30 pm
Thanks for that Paul. And thanks for the clarification. Very kind of you to pitch in.
Roy30th December 2017 at 7:31 am
PS You also seem to have read my mind with regard to what you said about Punk arising as a rebellion to Yes. I once had a girlfriend who was much younger than I, and, when I tried to explain this very piece of music history to her, she literally laughed at me. She was a very smart, talented, sophisticated young lady, but on this point she just wasn’t buying it. Well, now you seem to have vindicated me: Prog rock as a whole, Yes in particular, and Topographic Oceans most of all were indeed the unwitting inspirations for punk (along with English cultural alienation itself).
That said, I’m decidedly NOT among those who disdains Topographic. On the contrary, while it has its flaws (side 2, for example, seems to contain some filler), I’ve always felt it to be a beautiful, sonorous album to which I never tire of listening, especially sides 1 and 4 (4 most of all) and Howe’s acoustic solo on side 3. And isn’t it funny how Eddie Vedder, a famous punk-inspired singer himself, eventually remarked that he wished he could make an album as perfect as Tales from Topographic Oceans…
Paul Rigby30th December 2017 at 8:43 am
I’m with you on the TO album, Roy. Thanks for your comments.
Victor Chewning28th September 2018 at 10:26 pm
Tales was a masterpiece, only surpassed by the Tales live performance.
Paul Rigby29th September 2018 at 6:56 am
Thanks for you comment, Victor.
Mike30th December 2017 at 9:58 am
Here’s more irony… seeing as though squire passed away is Steve Howe’s yes really yes at all or is it jons? Jon and Chris were the only two original members left with the rights to the name. Now that Chris is gone that leaves Anderson with sole rights. That is why he reclaimed the name. Just proves that wherever Jon goes yes goes and i for one wouldn’t want it any other way.
Paul Rigby30th December 2017 at 11:39 pm
Indeed, Mike. Although I believe that Alan White is the only official Yes band member with rights to the Yes trademark.
Yes Fan31st December 2017 at 12:04 pm
both of u need to do some homework. White, Howe and Squire’s estate own the name. Howe owns the main logo with Roger Dean. Anderson is only allowed to use the name, at all, because he still owns 1/5 of the Yes UK Touring Co Ltd (or something of that almost exact nature). It’s utterly ridiculous and shameful for Anderson to steal the name from his fallen mate’s band which is the real Yes. ARW is just ex members who keep quitting Yes and shall never be in Yes again. Rabin is the only one from ARW with any cred left.
Paul Rigby31st December 2017 at 4:39 pm
There is lots of confusion here. I believe that Howe has a share in the LLC but not the Yes name. Anderson, the Squire Estate and White own the name. The problem here is that the rights issue is splintered all over the place, causing lots of misinformation.
Al Barnett30th December 2017 at 9:58 am
Great article Mr. Rigby. I have been a Yes fan since the beginning and have seen and heard every different variation of the band over the years and have determined that you cannot under any circumstance, replace Jon Anderson and Steve Howe is a bit daft in thinking that true fans don’t notice or don’t care. He thinks we just want to hear his guitar and the fillers are just there to keep the beat.
All bands have gone through changes over the years and it only works in certain cases. Santana is one. Carlos knows he can’t sing, but he never said he could. He would write classic music and the find the voice that suited it and no one said a word because it worked for him. Hearing someone try and be Jon Anderson is the most insulting thing you could do to a Yes fan, the same applies to replacing Steve or Rick or Chris. Tony Kaye was a good keyboard player at the time, but, I cannot even imagine him playing Close to the Edge on his one piece keyboard.
I wish all these different bands would just suck it up and remember that the fans put them in the financial comfort position they are in and play together. They don’t have to talk to each other, just get on stage, give us what we deserve and go about your business. It’s frustrating that most of Yes are still there and would sound amazing together, but petty crap has to get in the way.
Super trump is another one with an idiot screwing it up. Get off the pot Rodger isn’t playing the casino tour getting tiresome? Suck it up, get back with the boys and you’ll pack a stadium in a second……… Sorry, just had to say that……. Great article again Paul.
Paul Rigby30th December 2017 at 11:37 pm
Good point and a timely reminder to turn the spotlight back to the fans. I know that Yes fans are split in terms of their support or otherwise with the current Yes line-up. Twas ever thus with any band, of course.
That said, it’s difficult for any fan to have a cogent and coherent debate, when the Yes management brings in Anderson clones. We should be talking about the relative merits of real artists and their God-gven talents and how those unique abilities add (or otherwise) to the Yes view of prog rock. We should never…ever…be discussing how Singer A sounds more like Jon Anderson and Singer B sounds less like him. To return to your point. It is, indeed, an insult to the fans.
Paul Hilton30th December 2017 at 12:45 pm
Great points raised, some of them I have been thinking myself. I think you are correct that the only reason they picked Jon Davison was his resemblance in looks and sound to Mr Anderson Having listened to the new album I can’t help but feel that there’s something missing, a bit like making a pasta sauce without Garlic it almost tastes right but the flavor is not quite right.
Paul Rigby30th December 2017 at 11:29 pm
A valuable gastronomic metaphor Paul!
Joseph30th December 2017 at 1:51 pm
YES will never be YES without Jon Anderson,if YES featuring Howe wants to stand on their own merits then why don’t they produce new music,they simply preform songs that are attributed to mostly Jon Anderson they offer nothing new except Fly From Here that totally fell flat,I just don’t see the logic in what Steve is doing these days,no Chris no Jon how on earth is that YES,to play Tales without Jon, Chris or Rick there I find well insulting to a TRUE YES FAN and why Roger Dean still keeps doing their covers,guess money talks but that a piece for a later date,thanks for letting me vent sir
Paul Rigby30th December 2017 at 11:28 pm
Yes, it comes back to money Joseph. But also I wish that peace was made and the guys would get back together (i.e. Yes and ARW). They surely don’t have that many years left. Let’s be realistic here. If they continue to snipe at each other (I read Howe take a poke at Anderson recently) then they will lose their magic for good.
Yes Fan31st December 2017 at 12:07 pm
ARW is the fake Yes. Zero releases and zero cred and zero class. That’s why Dean won’t work with them but DOES still work with the real Yes.
Fran Hunt30th December 2017 at 2:07 pm
Yes is Jon Anderson…plain and simple. While I have listened to Heaven and Earth and Fly From Here, I do like the music. But I can’t watch Davison. He tries to hard to emulate Anderson and it irritates me.
Paul Rigby30th December 2017 at 11:26 pm
Thanks for you thoughts Fran.
Rich Goetz30th December 2017 at 2:23 pm
I d rather have them than not. Chris was yes. He is the only one to have played on every studio album. He also hand picked his replacement and gave his blessings. I’m just enjoying all of these talented people still with us.
Paul Rigby30th December 2017 at 11:26 pm
I’d rather have them than not too. I agree with you, Rich. But I’d rather that they stopped this childish in-fighting, got back together like good little boys, grew up a bit (how old are they again?) and did what they did best. My piece was a moan and a groan but also a plea for sanity.
Sean Geist30th December 2017 at 2:30 pm
Well done, sir. But you do fail to mention Yes indeed exists with Jon Anderson: “Yes featuring ARW” just recently changed its name from the shorter, and less succinct, ARW. That’s the Yes band currently touring. I saw them earlier this year, and they bloody are yes, as you might say.
The Steve Howe lineup is indeed the Tribute band.
Paul Rigby30th December 2017 at 11:24 pm
Thanks Sean – well I did mention ABWH to make a point and I thought that, bringing in ARW would be to only labour the same point. Thanks for your message, though. Appreciated.
Dolph30th December 2017 at 3:37 pm
Haters gotta Hate….
Paul J30th December 2017 at 5:02 pm
What is most frustrating as a long time Yes fanatic is that the original players and members if Yes minus St. Christopher are still touring in dual watered down versions of the original classic lineup. I could take a Billy Sherwood bass replacement if the remaining classic lineup of Howe, Anderson, White and Wakeman would put aside whatever personal or legal obstacles prevent the song writers of the classic material from reuniting. After listening to a rendition of Perpetual Change live performed by the Anderson Wakeman Rabin lineup with virtually no distinguishable guitar solo, i realize it would be much more enjoyable to watch a lineup with Howe easily performing Rabin’s solos on later material than listen to Rabin fail at his attempts at Howe’s virtuosity. And please, not another Union tour with its redundancy.
Paul Rigby30th December 2017 at 11:22 pm
I’m with you on your points Paul. What did Rick Wakeman call Union…Onion was it? Because every time he remembered it, he cried? Oh and that was a money thing – and no-one looked good on that one – that was all about record labels flashing the cash. A black day for Yes, no-matter what your name was.
William30th December 2017 at 7:41 pm
What is your point, besides the teeny bopper quote? No Jonathan Swift, but the other, not so swift. Suckers gotta suck taint.
I saw the yes show last summer. It was a sad spectacle. It needed a hospice visit. There were scores of elders leaving in disgust. The place wasn’t even half full to begin with. I would Love to see the real Yes show with Anderson, Rabin, and Wakeman. I was greatly impressed by the youtube clips I saw so far, along with reviews. Other than Howe’s brilliance and witnessing the legendary Alan White, the show friggin’ stunk. Todd Rodgren and his great band of ex-Cars and Tubes folks were right on, along with the Master, Carl Palmer. Jon Davison should go back to his cacao drum circle bullshite gutter. Haters gotta hate. Man pray for a pandemic with that dumbed down and innane ball less squirt of diarrhea.
Loved the review. You actually took time to think and reflect. Thank you.
Paul Rigby30th December 2017 at 11:21 pm
Goodness gracious William, you right mails with the same passion that Anderson sings his songs 🙂 Thanks for that.
Yes Fan31st December 2017 at 12:12 pm
William, if you want to see utterly train wrecked versions of all your fave Yes songs, then by all means, go see ARW. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. LOL. (moral of the story: all bands need to rehears BEFORE going on tour. The real Yes knows this. ARW does not.)
Paul30th December 2017 at 10:16 pm
I can’t listen to this album, it’s flat, performance-wise, compared to the very first Yessongs album. Some of the guitar parts are much weaker than the original recordings and just for comparison, I listened to Machine Messiah on this recording and then on the original studio album – and for some reason, the studio one sounded more live. Certainly more lively. Thankfully I was lucky enough to see them on the original Drama tour with the Buggles & then again in the round with “All Of Them” – the jokingly called “Union” tour. Truly amazing experiences for me – not reflected in this latest offering sadly. I miss those days as I’m sure everyone does but this album just proves they are perhaps gone for good.
Paul Rigby30th December 2017 at 11:15 pm
Thanks for your thoughts, Paul.
Tim30th December 2017 at 10:47 pm
I have been a Yes fan since 1974 and while disappointed they haven’t been able to keep the group together I still enjoy going to both current versions of the band. I just saw the Anderson Rabin Wakeman version in a beautiful setting in Colorado. Granted Howe and Squire weren’t there but it was enjoyable nonetheless. I saw the Howe, Squire and White version a few years ago and my16 year old son, who had just seen Styx as the opening act was blown away by thay lineup. Granted Anderson wasn’t there but it still brought back great memories. I have seen them in various form 8 times now and never am disappointed. Why, because I realize that each incarnation is just that, a separate one from the early group which in its own right seemed to be constantly changing. Perhaps that is what has kept them relevant all these years and reaching new fans. I will continue to see both as they travel separately even while wishing they could reconcile but in the end is life not constantly changing….
Paul Rigby30th December 2017 at 11:14 pm
Hi Tim – I agree, life does not stand still. Everything changes and evolves. I have no problem if Yes wish to do that too. IN fact, I’d encourage it. It’s a shame that the Yes management doesn’t see this too. They seem stuck in time, with a sad attempt to offer us Jon Anderson clones. I have nothing against Jon Davison. I just wish he could be his own man. Not someone else.
Robert K31st December 2017 at 6:26 am
Jon Anderson, solo, on stage all by himself, performing Yes songs with only his guitar, was one of the best concerts I have EVER seen/heard. I attend over 40 live concerts a year and I saw Yes live on many occasions at their peak and in most of their reincarnations. While I still treasure the original recordings & the oppotunity to have recently seen Howe up close playing all the old tunes note-for-note, at this time to hear Anderson’s re-invention of the old music was unforgettable.
Paul Rigby31st December 2017 at 12:10 pm
Thanks for the Robert.
Stu Harris31st December 2017 at 9:44 am
My personal view is that the music itself is transcendent and the most important thing. I view it in the same way now as I would opera. It doesn’t matter who performs it as long as it is done to the highest standards possible. The classic lineup set the benchmark. This does not mean it cannot be performed better or differently take Todmobile for example. I love to hear female vocalists sing the lead parts as it adds a new dimemsion. I got over the constant personnel changes when Moraz joined, he was like a breath of fresh air.
Paul Rigby31st December 2017 at 12:08 pm
I totally agree with you Stu. Every word.
Yes Fan31st December 2017 at 12:08 pm
Also, I will be boycotting any and all sponsors here and will be telling my approximately 500 Yes fan friends to do the same.
Paul Rigby31st December 2017 at 12:33 pm
I think emotions may be running unnecessarily high, Yes Fan. Let’s take a deep breath or two, eh?
Roy1st January 2018 at 3:10 pm
As it appears that your question about the original rift hasn’t yet been addressed, I’ll do my best to answer it now. When Yes were on the eve of their 40th anniversary tour in 2008 (“Close to the Edge and Back”), Jon suffererd, as you might know, a nearly fatal respiratory illness that resulted in the tour’s cancellation. He evidently realised how sick he was becoming but tried to hide it from the rest of the band, apparently believing he could beat it. My understanding is that the only band mate who knew about it was Rick, who urged him, to no avail, to inform the others. Alas, Jon ended up quite literally close to the edge and unable to perform, or even sing at all, for at least 6 months, which resulted in the tour’s cancellation. Steve and Chris were incensed and fired him, though it’s also my understanding that they were already harboring some lingering resentments toward him related to an unequal percentage of revenue he had received from the ’04 tour. Hence, Howe, Squire, et al might actually have had some legitimate complaints, but (a.) those incidents were a long time ago; (b.) Anderson has, as I alluded to in a previous post, tried to be conciliatory; (c.) Howe is well known for having a difficult personality that dates back well before this particular rift (though he also can be very funny, as you know if you’ve ever attend one of his solo shows); and (d.) as one of your other readers remarked about Rodger Hodgson and Supertramp, all of Yes would likely be doing themselves a big favor by reconciling their differences and reuniting.
I also agree, by the way, with the reader who stated that Anderson puts on a fine solo show. He does some nice renditions of Yes tunes along with music of his own–and he too is very funny, especially when he talks about his experiences with the band. Yes featuring ARW has, however, definitely been the most exciting and re-moralalizing development of all since the ’08 split.
Paul Rigby1st January 2018 at 4:01 pm
Thanks for spending time penning that narrative, Roy. That’s very kind of you. Sometimes work demands that I exit the loop and, while I heard about the Anderson illness, I wasn’t aware of the other info. I’ve heard Howe and Anderson solo shows and agree with your thoughts on that 🙂
Linda O1st January 2018 at 6:07 pm
I have to agree with you on this! I couldn’t have said it better. As a Yes fan since my first concert in 1973 I was so broken-hearted when Jon was out of the band. I was desperate to hold onto the fragments of the band I had always loved. I attended the concerts with Jon Davidson and even met him in person. He was so gracious and appreciative. I knew his work as the bassist from his previous band, Sky Cries Mary. I also watched him sing onstage with Foo Fighters once. His voice was strong, he was being himself! I have to wonder who the REAL Jon Davidson is. After seeing this Yes tribute band live a few times, I sensed the loss of Mr. Anderson so much, it was uncomfortable. As a fan of the other members I could enjoy watching them and that was my only reason for being there. But the music without Anderson became too disappointing and I eventually lost interest. Fast forward to 2017 to Anderson, Wakeman, Rabin concert – the chills and tears returned! Incredible and so refreshing! I just wish we could meld both bands together! It’s been difficult being a YES fan (sigh!) 🙁
Paul Rigby1st January 2018 at 7:19 pm
Welcome to the site Linda and thanks for your considered thoughts. True too – being a Yes fan is a bit of a rollercoaster. 🙂
rodrigo5th February 2018 at 12:50 pm
agree… 🙁 Yes sin Anderson no es Yes, Yes sin Howe no es Yes, si ambos están en el escenario, es lo más cercano a Yes que podría verse ahora que no está Squire…
rastronomicals3rd March 2018 at 1:08 am
The list of bands who have had commercial or artistic success after changing their singers is a long one, and only begins with Genesis. I think of Van Halen, who did it *at least* once. No disrespect to Michael Anthony,, but that band is Eddie and Alex and whoever they want to play with.
I think of Anthrax, who fired an iconic lead singer in Joey Belladonna, hired a reasonable but hardly exemplary replacement in John Bush, and went on to make one of their best albums.
I think of Black Flag. Some people think that the band was best before it hired their longest serving vocalist.
Or if you want me to get back to prog, how about Can? Their recorded output is just about split in half when you file either by vocalist Marvin Mooney, or vocalist Damo Suzuki.
Thinking about it, I’d say that often in a band there is an irreplaceable link, without whom the band loses its identity, no matter how much the remaining members might wish it were not so. Sometimes that band member is a vocalist. Sometimes it’s not.
Beyond that, I am a little surprised at the romanticization of Jon Anderson in the article and in the comments. Iconic voice, sure, and you can argue that he is the irreplaceable link–he might be. But the whole ‘I won’t sing Drama songs’ was childish and to the touring band’s detriment. I think that his firing was sort of poetic justice after he tried to run the band as an autocrat for so many years, after he fired so many keyboardists 🙂
Paul Rigby3rd March 2018 at 11:36 am
Thanks for your thoughts. Lots of good examples in there. For myself, if Band A fires its lead singer, it effectively becomes Band B (*most* of the time – not always I know, depends on who launched the band and who is the leader). If Band B then has success well that’s fine and dandy. But it’s still not Band A. It’s just a successful Band B. I agree, there is that link, the soul of the band, the core which does create exceptions – only a few though oddly. I think I gave the King Crimson example in the feature. As long as Robert Fripp noodles his guitar on the side of the stage, KQ still is KQ, no matter who the singer is. In fact, KQ doesn’t even need a singer to be KQ. And that’s the point of Fripp and his band.
I think my romanticisation, as you call it, stems from what Anderson does to a Yes song when he sings it and how the magic drains away when Anderson-imitators have a go. I agree, band politics are so much childish spats and tantrums. I don’t think I’d last 5 minutes in a band myself. Most bands are horribly immature and its always a welcome relief to hear a balanced and intelligent voice from any of them. Just read the Bill Bruford biog, he’s definitely one of those.
Stephen15th April 2018 at 12:30 pm
A bit late to this one but completely agree with your analysis of Yes (JD version). It’s all about the money and Steve Howe should be ashamed. I have been a big Yes fan since the early 70s and have seen them many times over the decades but was heartbroken to hear the Buggles bloke sing with them c 1977. Yes without Jon Anderson are not Yes. I saw him with ARW at Lloerley festival last summer and he was superb( despite recent health issues) , he was energetic ,on point and entertaining. So , to the other lot, quit while you are ahead, your not doing your reputations any good.
Paul Rigby15th April 2018 at 2:38 pm
No deadline on comments Stephen 🙂 Many thanks for your thoughts.
Jijimbo28th April 2018 at 9:40 pm
They suck big time, maybe if they got away from drama, niggles sound and played more upbeat songs.
Donna21st June 2018 at 11:22 pm
I enjoyed your article and I agree that it is, in most cases, nearly impossible to replace a lead singer, as he/she embodies the persona of the band so strongly. But, as I point out in my own review, I think in some, albeit few, cases it works. Genesis being a case in point. I think Jon Davison is another example and find his voice perfectly suited for the lineup with Steve Howe. In brief form, I think there’s room in the universe for both lineups. But on a deeper level, I feel that like all art, its beauty is defined by the sincerity and authenticity delivered…and Davison, to my ears…brings this quality, together with his clear falsetto. I also think that because of the timeless nature of Yes’ catalog, it is bigger, even, than the members themselves, and thus can possibly find its delivery in new bodies. I saw Howe’s lineup two nights ago, and plan to see Anderson, as well, this summer. I like to think about things like art and why we can’t or cannot replace a lead singer…And so, I have expounded on this more fully in my own writeup. I hope you don’t mind me mentioning it, but I think it adds to this conversation and besides music fans may like another point of view…all in good spirits, of course! Cheers…Donna
My write up (in support of Davison): fiftyyearsafter wordpress.com/
Paul Rigby22nd June 2018 at 12:32 pm
Many thanks for your note, Donna. Interesting points made here. Firstly, I wouldn’t connect the Genesis change-over to what’s happened with Yes. Mainly because, when Collins replaced Gabriel, Collins forged his own style and song-writing approach. He was an independent artist with a strong mind and will. While he initially tried to retain a strong prog style element, that didn’t even last that long because pop quickly infused the Genesis pathway from there on in. What you can hear, in effect, is the Collins influence when he fronts the band. Both in terms of his vocal style and in the songwriting. With Yes, there is none of that. I feel that Davison is an employee, not a creative equal. He has no real say in the band’s direction or style. It sounds like he is there to mimic Anderson and no more. He’s there to do a job. To maintain the status quo. Collins never tried to mimic PG, he was able to promote his art and impose his own creativity.
That said, on the other side of the coin, the breakaway group is by no means perfect. While Anderson and Wakeman do a great job, I dislike the guitar style of Rabin – when Rabin attempts to tackle classic Yes songs. Rabin is far too brutal and muscular in his guitar approach and has none of the delicacy or subtlety of Howe. So, for example And You and I is a disaster in the hands of Rabin. Rabin is perfect for 90215-era tracks but, there again, he had a creative say in that album.
What Yes should have done was to become Davison’s band. Support *his* vision not impose *their* vision upon Davison. Change and respect Davison’s interpretation of what Yes should be through his eyes. Allow, in effect, an evolution through Davison’s approach to a Yes template. Too revolutionary for you? Fleetwood Mac did exactly that when Peter Green left. They evolved. They didn’t suffer too much from the change.
Gabriel Daigle21st November 2018 at 8:33 pm
Such a sad state of affairs. For a band that touched my heart so deeply, they certainly have torn at it nearly as much. We all have our opinions. Mine is no Jon Anderson, no Yes. They should have packed it up so many times. Especially after the 35th anniversary in 2004. The feelings were so contentious towards one another at that part. But it’s always about the money. This is the biggest paycheck for any of these guys. Much more so than anything they do on a solo level. Every time Steve Howe’s Yes goes out on the road, I’ll head up to YouTube to see if it’s worth going to the show. And with every successive tour, the music sounds worse. Most especially the tempos, which are insufferably slow. I have seen Jon Anderson’s Yes twice since they reformed and everything is spot-on. But it’s still not Yes. It never will be. I will never see my favorite band live in this lifetime again. Because that Yes only exists in recordings. And I enjoy that… and the memories of my attending Yes shows for some 35 years.
Paul Rigby22nd November 2018 at 9:23 am
Thanks for your points, Gabriel and I echo your, “Yes only exists in recordings.” statement.
Gary19th December 2018 at 1:50 am
So true. I don’t want to add ad nauseum to the diatribe but to merely say please retire Steve and put it to rest. The current version of YES is bad. ARW is great but it only represents one album in their catalogue. They will live on in my dreams and records. My favorite band YES. Thanks for the music guys.
Paul Rigby19th December 2018 at 9:26 am
Thanks for that, Gary.
Samuel Roy23rd December 2018 at 4:57 pm
Jon Davison sings falsetto which makes his singing weak. I totally agree with this article except it gets dicey when you start talking about bands survival after a singer leaves. AC/DC and Van Halen soldiered on just fine. Jon Anderson seems to be a different story especially when weigh the amount of composition credited to him and his influence on the direction of Yes.
Royce23rd December 2018 at 7:01 pm
Hi Paul and all the commentators! I read this article last year when originally posted and saw your point of view clearly. I’m one of the ones that disagree, though. As a Yes fan from 1970 onward I’ve enjoyed all the lineups and the differing music for what they are, not what they could have been “if only x y or z.” Having said that, I’ve seen every tour since Chris’ untimely passing and feel that the current lineup is getting better and better together with JD meshing with them better with every outing.
I’ve seen ARW and while they brought a freshness to the arrangements and I loved the show, bought the DVD, and will go see them again if they do another tour and come close enough for me to get there. I have no problem loving both bands *for what they are* and not for what they could or should be.
Looking at this in hindsight, I can say with no ambiguity at all that the Yes50 tour was one of the best Yes shows I have seen in years. They were tight, hitting on all cylinders as it were, and sounded great, regardless of the current personnel. I only wish Alan were in better health but that can’t be helped and Jay Schellen is a worthy drummer in his own right and can play Yes music perfectly. (As did Dylan Howe when he played with them on the Yestival tour.)
Now to Jon D…his voice has a different timbre to Jon A, I have no argument there. But very few singers could come as close as he does to Jon A singing the classic Yes tunes. I wish they would make new music and have pressed Billy on this many times as he is a more than worthy writer and could create some wonderful tunes for the band. I think that he, more than anyone, would be the catalyst for new, fresh music for Yes. His collaboration with Chris is proof of that. (The More We Live Let Go comes right to mind)
With the current lineup I feel like there’s a lot of life left in this band as long as health and age doesn’t catch up with the older members, God forbid.
A band with 50 years has to play the songs that made them. A new singer that can’t hit the notes is not an option here. Trevor H couldn’t really do it for any length of time and even Benoit tore his voice up. Jon D can do it and do it well without damage. So he sounds a little different. I think he sounds great and he’s very accessible to the fans, as are they all, really. Jon is very humble and truly appreciates where he is and it shows in his interaction with fans. Billy and Jay, also. Just nice guys who are very talented and appreciate the music they are making and the fans that love it also. Steve, Alan and Geoff are the real veterans and they, too, are very accessible at the M&Gs. I ran into Geoff before a show and he stopped, shook my hand, remembered me from previous after-shows and took the time to casually chat. You just can’t put a price on that!
OK, so that’s the off the top of the head ramblings of a long-time fan that loves both bands for what they are and hope they both live long and prosper!
Peace, y’all. 🙂
Paul Rigby28th December 2018 at 2:45 pm
Thanks for taking the trouble to pen your thoughts, Royce. Appreciate the contribution.
Patricia Nordstrom29th January 2019 at 4:32 am
I think you under estimate Jon Davison. He is a gifted musician, singer and composer. Plays muliple instruments brilliantly. How can you judge him based on seeing him in concert. Your words are hurtful and not based on the talent or the mam. Shame on you.
Paul Rigby29th January 2019 at 11:29 am
Hi Patricia – I’ve never underestimated any artist: singer, author, oil on canvas, whatever they may be. It’s because I hold his talents in high esteem that I wrote my piece and asked why he cannot have direct input in the creative output of the band. Please re-read the feature. If you’d rather not then allow me to quote my own text, “Oh, and I say that I respect Jon Davison? I do. I really do. Much more, it seems, than Yes itself actually does. Why? Because, all joking side, the Yes establishment has, once again, chosen a new lead singer because he sounds like Jon Anderson. That, my friends, is a complete and total lack of respect to the other Jon, Mr Jon Davison. You bring in an independent artist, a human being with his own thoughts and feelings, his own artistic vision and ambitions, likes and dislikes and the only reason, the ONLY reason he is there is because he vaguely sounds…like…another…guy.”
Kelly3rd February 2019 at 12:40 am
Frustrating times for the fans. I won’t likely buy this. I would like to hear/see a well produced a live version of Drama tour from 1981. Probably not out there. Trevor Horn made that album his. The previous Yes material probably didn’t work well for him…so what. Maybe Jon had a hard time making the Drama material work for him. Maybe the band new that. If they didn’t try, could be cool. There’s time…. or not.
We’re just people. If those core people in the bands can see it, it might be thoughtful to consider time and possibilities of a true farewell. Seems Alan needs a little help these days, so ask Mr.Bruford to get in shape for a partnership. Steve, Jon and Rick could consider what is left in the engine. Sherwood might step aside (just my personal add) and let Mr. Levin add his flavor…..not required. If money is the key, maybe this is something to consider. If the music is the key, maybe this is something to consider. No matter what, all those hard headed guys (Bill has some pretty high ideals too), need to like the thought of “Getting back on the bus”. However, I am 52. I am already tired of struggling to get things done well (my way or the wrong way). Its a tall order for the 70 somethings. Its amazing what they are doing already.
I initially did not like the direction or tone of your commentary because it felt like you were not giving Steve his due credit. Really wasn’t about that and as I went through and read your great attention the comments, I noticed what appears to be your overall appreciation for a band so many here love. You kept your point strong as a good writer should.
YES has been and should be a culmination of a lot of hard work by very strong musicians. Head strong makes the work harder and less likely, but far richer when complete. We may never get that magic ever again with these men.
By the way, commenters be careful about YOUTUBE depictions of live shows. I decided to take my family to see Ozzy this past September. I spent a lot of money for good seats. Almost didn’t because of one of those youtubes, but decided since he’s not here for long, give it a go. Didn’t expect perfect, but the crowd was delighted to be there, he fed on that (no bats, heh) and did his best. There was magic, as made by those ingredients. (Adam Wakeman had a blast).
Cell phone video or sound capture doesn’t pick that up.
Nice article/thread Paul. Thanks
Paul Rigby3rd February 2019 at 10:29 am
Thanks for your considered comments Kelly and thanks for taking the time to pen them. You mentioned Bruford but I hear that he’s retired now, I’m afraid. A shame – he’s an intelligent and articulate man/musician and I see him as a benefit to any group. On that point, I heartily recommend his book. You can find it in a few places on Amazon but elsewhere, I’m sure. Here’s one: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bill-Bruford-Autobiography-Crimson-Earthworks/dp/1905792433/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1549189651&sr=8-3&keywords=bill+bruford
Guido15th March 2019 at 9:19 pm
Hi Paul. You said: “Jon Anderson had the decency to change the name of his new band when he temporarily split with Yes back in 1988. He called his quartet ABWH. Not Yes 2.” Jon Anderson now CALLED his band YES FEATURING RABIN & WAKEMAN, which is more sad. Yes without Jon Anderson is also Yes, and Steve Howe is much more important to the sound of the band than Trevor Rabin and sounds a lot better. I love Jon Anderson but he isnt Yes, Yes is THIS BAND like it or not.
Paul Rigby16th March 2019 at 3:05 pm
Hi Guido – It’s interesting that Anderson did actually add the ‘Featuring…’ bit, though 🙂 The original Yes band don’t even do that and, what do you think, should they? Should they be labelling it as ‘Yes featuring Downes, Sherwood and Davison’?
Sergio R. Lopez15th April 2019 at 10:56 pm
I like the premise of your article. While I am not opposed to people covering beautiful music done by others, people creating new original music or very innovative covers of others creations is still a much nicer proposition. Sometime back I heard a very interesting cover of the Beatles’ What goes on by Sufjan Stevens; it made me think that it was the kind of cover that YeS used to do. Sufjan sounds nothing at all like Jon Anderson. I was left, however, fantasizing of what YeS would sound like with Sufjan as their lead singer. Don’t get me wrong; he could not cover the classic YeS songs and sound like JA; however, maybe he could make sweet new music with some of those talented musicians.
Paul Rigby16th April 2019 at 3:25 pm
I agree, Sergio. Covers are fine and revisiting past glories of an established band doubly so. To maintain an artistic vitality, though, that artist has to move forward and create anew. If they do not, then they are consigned to the cabaret/hits circuit and have lost that creative element.
Arvid Larsson2nd June 2019 at 11:26 am
Paul, I would like to offer an alternative take on view that Anderson is the main supporting pillar of the Yes-sound. The executive summary is: I don’t think he is.
And now I’ll explain the experiences that led me to that view.
I neither love nor hate the ‘Drama’ album. It’s no masterpiece, but I’ve ive heard much worse from Yes, and I find some bits quite good. The first time I heard a song from ‘Drama’ (Tempus Fugit), I was fully aware I would not be hearing Anderson’s vocals, and I wasn’t expecting it to sound like yes.
But to me, it did sound like Yes.
The other side of the coin is ABWH. I watched their live concert video expecting it to sound like Yes, but to me it didn’t.
Anderson’s solo work does not sound like Yes either, in my opinion.
From the above experiences I realized that, to me, the most important pillar the ayes sound was Chris Squire, especially his backing vocals. Squire’s harmonizing with Horn on ‘Tenpus Fugit’, sling with his bass, is what made that song sound like Yes to me. The absence Squire on ABWH is what made them not sound like Yes, to me.
The second pillar, closely following Squire, is Howe. He is such a unique guitarist that his sound can not be mistaken for another guitarist. One only has to listen to a Rabin-era live recording of a 70s Yes song to realize his importance. Yet, Squires prescience still makes it sound “a bit like Yes”, but not completely.
Bruford, off course, deserves a mention. He is a unique drummer, in the same way Howe is a unique guitarist, but his tenure was so long ago that I won’t consider him in this discussion.
To me, you could replace Wakeman, Anderson and White, and it would still sound very much Yes.
I do not think that Wakeman’s absence on the 1998-2002 tours (‘Open Your Eyes Tour, ”The Ladder Tour”, “Masterworks Tour”, or “Symphonic Tour”) took anything away from the shows musically. Neither do I think his prescience on the 2003-2004 tours added anything musically, although his personality and presence were a bonus. Khoroshev and Brislin did a fine job.
Although I would prefer to have Anderson on vocals over anybody else, i would rather replace him than Squire or Howe.
I always thought they should have tried to bring in a mature female vocalist to replace him rather than find another “Anderson Clone”
At the time of Squire’s sad demise, I had already stopped taking an interest in Yes’s live performances, despite Squire and Howes presence. Not because Anderson was not there, but because they no longer had that “wow-factor” impact of yore. The song tempos, energy, enthusiasm on stage, and technical musicianship had all declined. Age sadly does this.
I’ll end on a tangent, referring to your comments on Paul Rodgers replacing Mercury In Queen. My take is that Rodgers didn’t replace Mercury. The entity going on tour in 2005 was not called “Queen” or even “Queen featuring Paul Rodgers”. The entity was was called “Queen + Paul Rodgers”, ie a partnership between two individual acts.
Queen was careful to choose a partner that was very different from Freddie, so ensure that it did not come across as an attempt to replace Freddie. Stylistically Freddie and Rodgers come opposite ends of the scale. Freddie was grounded in melodic classical traditions and Rodgers was a blues-man, through and through.
May and Taylor was always the core of Queen. They partnered with Staffel in Smile, then with Mercury in Queen, then as “Queen & Ben Elton” for the “We Will Rock You” theater project, then “Queen + Paul Rodgers” and “Queen and Adam Lambert”.
A drummer and a guitarist can’t do much on their own, so they need external partners to work with. But no new members have ever been admitted to the Queen family since Freddie died.
Paul Rigby3rd June 2019 at 10:00 am
Thanks for your considered reply Arvid. I appreciate you taking the time.
Actually, I feel that you’ve proven my case in terms of Yes. For Drama, when Horn was brought in, the rest of Yes didn’t say, “Thanks for helping us out, Trev. Right, let’s make this new album utilising your talents and your style with your unique input. OK? Right, 1…2…3…4.” Oh no, they said, “Trev, can you sing as high as John Anderson please?” Which nearly ruined his voice and is one of the reasons why he ducked out in the end because he couldn’t hack it.
Next? Don’t forget that Rabin *was* Yes at one point. If it wasn’t for Rabin, the Yes concept may very well have shrivelled on the vine. Rabin got Yes into the charts. Imagine that! Unthinkable! Rabin is a case in point. And maybe it’s because Rabin is a strong character that he appears to be unique in this fashion. The case being, this is what happens when a talent is brought into the group and is actually allowed (or demands?) to do his own thing. He’s not bullied to sound like Steve Howe. He is allowed to sound like Trevor Rabin. Which is why Rabin-era Yes sounds so, so different to Howe-era Yes. We should surely be saying that about Davison shouldn’t we? Why isn’t there a Davison-era Yes? Why aren’t we arguing about which era of vocal Yes sounds best? Because he sounds too much like Jon Anderson, that’s why. He’s copying another man’s style. Trevor Rabin never did that. Not once. Still doesn’t.
Now, I agree with you. Howe is a unique guitarist. When Rabin tries to play And You And I, its a disaster. Only Howe can do that. He has the delicacy and the touch. Only Howe translates the fragility of that song to the listener. Rabin is too muscular. Hence, when you hear the current Yes spin off, the Rabin-infused spin-off, most of the Yes stuff they play sounds wrong. Because Rabin cannot interpret the Howe guitar. Wakeman and Anderson are also damaged when Rabin plays early Yes. The balance is off. When Rabin plays 90215 stuff, though, well that’s a different matter. Which, again, proves that he was able to infuse the band with his own unique talents.
In terms of who sounds/doesn’t sound like Yes when solo, etc. That surely proves my case further. That each individual has their own talents and should be able to have the freedom to sound like themselves and to sound unique. John Davison has his own talents too but is forced to sound like Jon Anderson in Yes. Instead of sounding like John Davison and infusing Yes with Davison ideas and Davison styles and Davison techniques. As Rabin did.
Willard Snow22nd September 2019 at 8:38 pm
We reasoned Squire is indeed irreplaceable as a vocal partner for Jon Anderson. Squires choir boy vocal training helped make Yes a powerhouse vocal band. His counterpoint to Jon is one of their stylistic high points. Squires bass wasn’t his only gift he was a phenomenal vocal arranger. but also he was Chris Squire one of rocks greatest stylistically and technically. it is my opinion that Anderson and Squire are the foundation of Yes music with how tied closely because of his chord structures and choppy rhythms. Rabin gave Yes their biggest hits and all the fantastic vocal things that the 80s years Yes created was pure Chris and Jon. It didn’t hurt that Trevor is an outstanding singer in his own right. I feel like the writer has a good point with Davison. He lacks depth and charisma and Jon is one of the loveliest people on earth and he has power in that high Tenor voice that Davison lacks. I did get goose bumps from Jon Davison’s “Awaken” he hist the notes he respects and loves the music he is also a lovely singer. He just doesn’t grab me by the heart in the way Jon does.
Alan4th September 2019 at 11:57 pm
Although I am not an insider by any stretch of the imagination, I believe that the reason we are not seeing a reunion between the two versions of Yes currently out there stem from an unwillingness to embrace Yes material– All Yes material– on behalf of Jon Anderson. No one has ever heard Jon Anderson sing any of the songs off of the Drama album, and this is because I believe he refuses to do so as he was not a part of its creation and probably looks upon it with a degree of condescension. Steve Howe, Chris Squire and Alan White wrote these songs with Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn, and they have become a part of the Yes canon, like it or not, and they are good and appropriate for the time in which they were created; they are not the masterworks that Jon was been striving to create in the 70s, but they still rock and have their place in Yes history. I think the current lineup makes a definite point to play songs from all of the eras (I saw Yes on this last “Royal Affair” tour), including the early days before even Steve was in the band. True, Yes did not play “Owner of a Lonely Heart” on this tour, but Steve and the band has played it on past tours, and Steve played Bass on the song at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so I do not think it is a general unwillingness on his part to play that material, as it is also part of the Yes canon. I think there are other issues that tend to make a reunion unlikely (I think that Rick Wakeman is probably still upset at the treatment his son Oliver received when he was in the band, even though Oliver himself has been very gracious about the whole matter), but I do think that Jon Anderson’s unwillingness to do all eras of Yes music is the main sticking point with Steve Howe, and as both men are in their seventies, this will probably not create a good atmosphere for any type of reunion. Of course all of this is speculation, but I do believe that both versions have something to offer, and are playing well, but when you compare both to each other, it is easy to reminisce about when the band was in its heyday; each version brings something different to the table. As it is, I truly enjoy both versions, and the attitude of both bands seems to be, the more Yes music out there, the better. As a fan for over 40 years, I am also embracing that philosophy. Sure, I understand that many of these decisions to reform, tour, etc. are based on the finances rather than the integrity of the music, but if it was ALL about the money, the price to get them all back together again could be negotiated and paid. While a reunion of the two versions would be great, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame performance was so palpably tense that it affected the performance, and I would prefer not to see that happen again. Although weird, I think the world is better off with two versions rather than a “Union” version that cannot get along with each other. Yes music has always been greater than the sum of its parts to its fans, and that is why I think they are not like other bands and can survive the loss of Jon Anderson, and are doing so. I will not argue with what others have posted, as some great points have been made… My comment is an attempt to answer the question about why a reunion would be unlikely going forward.
Paul Rigby5th September 2019 at 5:58 pm
Thanks for you comments Alan – I hadn’t heard the talk about the Drama, etc, music disagreements before, I must admit.
Jamie Moore19th September 2019 at 2:24 am
surprised you didn’t mention Roger “Syd” Barret and the Pink Floyd while you were at it.
Paul Rigby19th September 2019 at 12:26 pm
Hi Jamie – I see PF as a different entity. Two groups of equal stature and strength of output. Pre- and post-Syd, I felt, took two different creative pathways. Both as creative, both unique and innovative, both offering their own inherent styles, both offering strong and bold voices and both appealing to core fans.
Willard Snow22nd September 2019 at 8:25 pm
Jon Anderson’s Band on the 1000 Hands tour kills all the Yes material they do. There are horns and violin, completely new arraignments with killer band members reinterpreting the classics of Yes and Jon’s catalogue. Jon said recently in an interview that he has new material for a Yes record and would love to record a last Yes album with Steve. here is hoping they can overcome their personal and economic hurdles to playing together.
Paul Rigby23rd September 2019 at 10:46 am
Thanks for your thoughts, Willard.
Gustav28th May 2022 at 7:56 pm
No surprise, Jon is also into classical and contemporary classical, he mentioned he studied Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.
Adrian13th November 2021 at 7:11 am
Old article, I know, but the central points of the article remain relevant. When a band hires a soundalike, as Yes did with Jon Anderson and Styx did with Dennis DeYoung, you can be assured it’s a business decision, designed to keep filling the seats on the summer shed tours in hopes that the casual fans won’t notice the difference — or at least won’t be too put out by the replacement, so long as they get to hear the hit songs. I mean, the remaining band members obviously have every right to keep milking their legacy and pad their nest eggs, but it’s just sad to see all that great old music being reduced to a commodity, played half by creaky old musicians who struggle to play what they did in their prime, and half by faceless replacements who are playing a role as much as they’re playing an instrument.
Yes took a gamble and altered their sound by hiring Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman. Neither one tried to mimic their predecessors, Peter Banks or Tony Kaye, and thank God they didn’t. Otherwise Yes would never have evolved past the sound of their embyonic first two albums and developed the classic Yes mystique we all know and love. Then along came Trevor Rabin, who sounded nothing like Steve Howe, and Yes released their most successful album ever.
Of course, Trevor Rabin didn’t join Yes; he joined a band that morphed into a reunited Yes. But the point remains that Yes thrived, more often than not, when they brought in someone who put his own signature on the band and didn’t just try to sound like someone else. I realize Yes is just catering to nostalgia now, but it would be nice to have seen them try, say, a female singer in place of Jon, instead of a guy who just checks all the marks for sounding enough like Jon Anderson to be passable.
But as sad and dispiriting as it all is, it doesn’t really matter much to me anymore. I’ve been a fan for more than 30 years. I’ve seen Yes in concert with Jon and Chris onstage. I have the memories, and I can always pull out the albums. Part of me is glad Yes is still around, but I have no interest in ever seeing them live again. Even if Jon and Steve did manage to mend fences long enough for one last album and/or tour, Chris isn’t there, and Alan is a shadow of his former self (not his fault, but the point remains). Even if Rick came along for the ride, it wouldn’t be enough for me. Yes represents a moment in time that’s fading away, and that’s OK. All things must pass.
Incidentally, I got a good laugh out of the poster who insinuated that Rabin can’t hold a candle to Howe. Rabin is a classically trained virtuoso, probably the most technically accomplished musician Yes has ever had. Howe’s forte was always his eclecticism and originality, which is certainly nothing to sniff at, but from a purely technical standpoint, Rabin can play circles around Steve Howe. He could probably play anything you set in front of him with incredible ease. I realize a lot of Yes fans don’t like him, but at least give credit where it’s due.
Paul Rigby14th November 2021 at 10:27 am
Thanks Adrian – and good point re. the keyboard players.
John Grant14th November 2021 at 11:09 am
Thanks Paul. Hard hitting but all true sadly.
What are your thoughts on the current situation?
I thought the latest album was dreadful.
Paul Rigby16th November 2021 at 1:21 pm
Hi John – I’ve drifted away from the group now (as a current entity, that is) and am looking elsewhere but very happy to revisit their earlier works and listen to older live recordings. If there’s ever a reissue or issue of rarities, etc then I’ll be there, of course 🙂 The band still and always will have a special place in my heart. The recent shenanigans won’t damage that feeling. I still enjoy their earlier works.
John Grant16th November 2021 at 5:00 pm
Thanks for getting back to me, your piece was very apt and I couldn’t have said it better myself. I feel the same way you do about their music from the past though am saddened and quite angry at the current state of affiars with what they call Yes. All very sad and a lot of it due to blinkered die hard fans who would accept anything thrown at them, along with Mr Howe’s stewardshp.
Gustav28th May 2022 at 7:49 pm
I agree with Paul Rigby. With Alan White passed away, it is really Steve Howe & Friends, ‘Yes’ ?
Richard8th October 2022 at 11:03 pm
Just fell on this thread accidently…
It’s always interesting (for 2-3 minutes…) to read about people who at some point became ex-fans of a band that they use to love, and especially when those ex-fans decide that the band should retire, quit, or change musical direction (!), or even change their name, and what not…
What I find more interesting, and so simple to see, is that when that band still exists, tours, sells tickets, and that their actual fans still love it, well it just works for everyone. Oh, except for the ex-fans of course… 😉
Of course any band would die if nobody was buying tickets and albums, and merch, and so on. By the way I highly prefer the older Yes for their energy, their drive, their sound, and pretty much everything I guess, and also the line-ups. But we’re now in 2022 and they are still around, and still playing and touring, and that’s 14 years after Jon Anderson has been gone from Yes. 🙂
Paul Rigby10th October 2022 at 12:54 pm
Thanks for your thoughts, Richard.
I think there’s a point (and I’m not necessarily talking about Yes here) when a band/artist – an ageing band, a band whose members, some or all, are no longer with us – flick from becoming a creative entity to merely the focus of a teeming love fest. When the few remaining members struggle to hit the top notes (or any notes, in some cases), when they haven’t flexed their creative muscles in decades, when the new kid drafted in on guitar plus the other other teenager on bass, both do acrobatics all over the stage to give the illusion of energy and vitality (while the original vocalist stands stock still because his knees are playing him up and besides, he’s too busy reading the autocue because he can’t remember the words).
At this point, the ‘real’ fans take over. They become the most important people in the room, they utilise such concerts/tours as a sort of rallying point, a place of celebration, a place to cheer and to celebrate the legend and the memory, no matter what sort of quality emanates from the stage. The crowd cheer because the band are there at all: although in Yes’ case, in skeletal form (both in numbers and in physique, especially Steve Howe).
Such concerts and tours *will be excellent, dammit*. They will be filled with affection, and tenderness and warmth.
Even if that band is no longer fit for the purpose as a creative entity.
To me, there’s a point, when a band changes from this creative collective, bubbling with ideas, to the combination of a pension plan and a way for the remaining band members to get out of the house and to stop them staring at the walls and going mad (what are they going to do at home, put up book shelves?) Yes hit the latter point a long time ago.