Archive for the ‘Roger Dean’ Category

critterSOUNDTRACK: YES-Close to the Edge (1972).

Yes-closeHaving such success with Fragile, the same line up toured that album and then planned a tour for the successful follow-up Close to the Edge.  This album is the first one to feature their now iconic logo and a clearly designed by Roger Dean album cover (even if it’s fairly plain).

This is also their first album to feature a side one suite, the title track “Close to the Edge.”  It also features only two other tracks (10 and 9 minutes each).  And despite (or because of that) it was a huge success.

“Close to the Edge” opens with part I “The Solid Time of Change.”  The opening is soft and then blam, some crazy guitar lines over a fast and complex bass line.  There’s so much going on it’s near cacophony for 3 minutes (I’m not even sure how they did it).  Until a beautiful soaring guitar riff breaks from the noise.  I love that Howe plays the riff a second time with slight variation to it—really keeping it interesting and complex.  And at nearly 5 minutes we get to the “close to the edge” chorus, or at the first part of it (I also love that the chorus gets bigger as the song progresses).  I don’t really know where the “parts” begin, (confusingly they sing the titles of the sections through the song).

Ok, so Wikipedia tells me that part II “Total Mass Retain” begins with the big thudding bass at around 6:04.  And part III “I Get Up, I Get Down” evidently starts right after the keyboard solo around 8:28 which begins with the slow washes of keyboards.  It is the mellow section with the multiple layers of vocals and the gorgeous church organ.  Part IV “Seasons of Man” starts with the reprise of the earlier music (in a weird key change).  There’s a lengthy keyboard solo here and then more vocals reprising all of the section with a slightly different feel. Until it all fades out much like it faded in.  It’s a dynamite track and never feels 18 minutes long.

Side two has two songs.  “And You And I” is only 10 minutes long but it too has 4 parts.

Par I “Cord of Life” opens with what is more or less guitar tuning (although it sounds lovely with his guitar).  And then there’s some very pretty acoustic guitar playing.  I really like when the bass notes come in around 1:15 and then there’s Wakeman’s keyboards.  It gets big and bassy just at the end of part 1.  Part II “Eclipse” starts around 3.48 right after the “call” when the big orchestral instrumental kicks in. This part lasts for 2 and a half minutes.

The opening guitar returns and then part III “The Preacher, the Teacher” begins with a new guitar section (and more keyboards) this is more or less a reprise of the other verses.   Part IV “The Apocalypse” is just 52 seconds long and is the reintroduction of the “and you and I theme” (and is not apocalyptic at all).

“Siberian Khatru” is 9 minutes but only one part. It opens with a fast cool guitar riff and then adds a fast cool keyboard riff.  The bass rumbles through and the guitar floats over the top.  There’s a great guitar riff that comes in around a minute in, which is the main riff of the song.  And then there’s some harmony vocals   After the harmonies, the song sort of resets and we get another verse with more great harmony voices.  The keyboard solo is on a harpsichord and sounds very classical.  Then there’s a trippy guitar solo.  A new section of song starts around 4 and a half minutes.  Around 6 minutes the song switches to the ending coda, a smooth cool riff with a guitar solo floating over the top.  The band jumps in with a sung staccato  “doh dah doh” bit which sounds like it would end the song, but they’re not done, there’ another refrain of that cool keyboards section with a neat noodly guitar solo.

This was a band of soloists that were at the top of their game and not only did great work by themselves but played very well together.

Since almost every Yes album had different personnel, I’m going to keep a running tally here.  Two albums in  row with the same lineup!:

Chris Squire-bass
John Anderson-vocals
Bill Bruford-drums
Rick Wakeman (#2)-keyboards
Steve Howe (#2)-guitar

[READ: June 30, 2015] The Flying Beaver Brothers and The Crazy Critter Race

I love the Flying Beaver Brothers.  And even though the last couple haven’t been quite as awesome as the first ones, this one has definitely brought the series back on an upswing.

The book casually mentions the baboons from the previous book and what they did to Beaver Island (don’t ask) and then gets right into the action.  A local businessman is having a race.  Everyone is invited to replant the trees that the baboons destroyed and the winner will win a houseboat.

Turns out the entrepreneur is named Crazy Critter (they assumed that was the name of the race) and he is super gung ho about getting the race started.  In Crazy Eddie tradition, he calls himself crazy a LOT. (more…)

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staticSOUNDTRACK: YES-Fragile (1971).

fragileComing out just nine months (!) after The Yes Album, Fragile (which included new keyboardist Rick Wakeman) was a brilliant classic rock album that (depending on how much you like Wakeman) eclipses The Yes Album in greatness.

This was the first Yes album with a cover by Roger Dean (not up to his usual style for the band and prior to his creating their iconic logo).

Some might argue that Fragile is a better album than The Yes Album, and I might be one of them, but it’s really close (and depends on the day).  Fragile has bigger hits in “Roundabaout” and “Long Distance Runaround” (at only 3 minutes an actual radio song!), but it also has a number of weird little “solo” items.

“Roundabout is a staple in classic rock—not bad for an 8 minute song.  The opening notes are iconic, and then the bass comes in, big and round and heavy.  And there’s so many little fiddly bits-the keys, the guitars, even the bass, that it’s not even that clear to me how they did it all.   But there’s also the “in and around the lake” part that has such simple guitars and is so catchy.  It’s also the first time you really get to hear new keyboardist Rick Wakeman who is insanely talented and full of all kinds of interesting notions (and evidently a rack of 12 keyboards). And sure, the end of the song is mostly a chance for everyone to show off their skills and that’s pretty cool.  The final section has some great harmonies ala Crosby, Stills and Nash.

According to Bruford: “I said—brightly—’Why don’t we do some individual things, whereby we all use the group for our own musical fantasy? I’ll be the director, conductor, and maestro for the day, then you do your track, and so on.’  And that’s why there are five tiny pieces of songs scattered between the longer songs.  The first one is by Wakeman and is called “Cans and Brahms” a piano and organ piece.  Wakeman later described the track as “dreadful” as contractual problems with A&M Records prevented him from writing a composition of his own.  The following solo piece is by John Anderson and has multiple vocal lines overlapping over a simple musical base.  I never knew the lines were “Tell the Moon dog, tell the March hare.”  I love that it ends with footsteps running away and a door slamming—to what?

“South Side of the Sky” returns to a proper 8 minute song. It opens with a cool drum fill and some great guitar lines (all with Squire’s rumbling bass underneath–or actually in front).  After about two minutes there’s some interesting piano sections, including an almost spooky solo section of high notes.  There’s a pretty section of “la las” after this until the song comes bouncing back to the noisy part nearly 6 minutes in.

“Five Per Cent for Nothing” is a Bruford composition.  It’s staccato and all over the place and was, evidently his first composition (all 38 seconds of it).  Then comes “Long Distance Runaround,” another classic with an iconic guitar intro.  There’s some more unusual guitar lines (and a lot of open space) in this song.   It segues (and when I grew up the radio station often played both parts) into the next track written by Squire: “The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus).”  Even though it is Squire’s it does not have a lot of crazy bass in it, well, until the end when he gets to really fly.  This isn’t really a solo song since the rest of the band plays along.   The final solo piece is Howe’s flamenco guitar piece “Mood for a Day” which is lovely.

And then comes “Heart of the Sunrise” one of my favorite Yes songs.  It has one of the most amazing  introductions to a song.  It’s incredibly fast and intense riffage followed by a very slow section that has complex drumming an interesting bassline and keyboards.  It’s great how Squire and Bruford keep the steady beat amidst all the flourish.  The chaos goes on for nearly 3 and a half minutes before it totally mellows out to a delicate section sung by Anderson.  Then as you settle into this more mellow (and very pretty) section, around 7 minutes in we get a wholly new section of some wild keyboard.  And then some interspersing of weird keyboard and that awesome opening riff.  And although it sounds like it’s going to fade out, there’s more to come—another delicate section with repeats of the great guitar riff (not the opening heavy riff, the other one).  The song slowly builds to a climactic section that then switches back to the wild riff for a quick end.  It’s exhilarating  But that’s not exactly the end.

The disc ends with the door opening again and “We Have Heaven” reprising for a few seconds before fading out.

It’s outstanding and is unquestionably a classic.

Since almost every Yes album had different personnel, I’m going to keep a running tally here.  Our second change occurs with this their fourth album:

Chris Squire-bass
John Anderson-vocals
Bill Bruford-drums
Rick Wakeman (#2 replaced Tony Kaye)-keyboards
Steve Howe (#2)-guitar

[READ: January 15, 2015] Static Shock: Trial by Fire

In the old DC vs Marvel war I have clearly become a Marvel guy.  In fact, when asked to name some DC guys, after Superman and Batman I fall flat.  And, unlike the Marvel Universe, Superman and Batman are never really seen together.  Let’s say that Marvel has done an awesome job at marketing.

So here’s a DC book, and I was pleased to give it a try. I was also pleased to see that the superhero is black–an all too rare experience in graphic novels.

The back of the book says that Static Shock is the “hot new animated series on the Kids WB!”  I wasn’t sure if Kids WB was still on, but that’s irrelevant because this book was published in 2000 (! why are we getting it now?).  The book was printed in 1993, so nothing in the introduction (which talks about the Kids WB ) is at all relevant.

Not to mention that the TV show was clearly adapted from the comic to make a much more kid friendly show.  I didn’t realize that when my son grabbed this and started reading it.  He put it down after a few pages.  I don’t know if he got to the point where the boys in high school call each other fag and queer or the black kids are called monkey, or what.  I had to apologize to him and he declared it “weird” so I don’t know what he actually thought.

Suffice it to say that this book is not for kids.  It is a harsh look at racism in high school and the opportunity for a black nerd (who is into comics) to actually fight back against he white playas (who are way too into the hip hop scene). (more…)

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