Interview With Geoff Downes by John Wenlock-Smith

The release of the first new material from Yes since ‘Heaven and Earth’ has been a long time in coming. During that time there have been many changes to the world of Yes, most notably the sad death of Chris Squire in 2016. There has also been the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic that has wreaked havoc with most people’s plans, a situation that Yes have also been affected by. Here’s what Yes keyboardist Geoff Downes had to say about this period.

John Wenlock-Smith (JWS): Good day Geoff, thanks fore making time to talk with me, how have you been keeping during this time?

Geoff Downes (GD): I’ve not been too bad, I’ve managed to keep myself active. We recorded this new album remotely with Alan (White) and Billy (Sherwood) in the US, Jon (Davidson) in the Caribbean and Steve (Howe) and myself here in the UK, it’s a nice way of working I find.

JWS: Results Seem to be positive, you seem to bring out the best in each other somehow?

GD: Yes, I think it does, it also gives you the chance to sit back and look at it all. We’ve had to do that with this Yes album and I think that we’ve learnt quite a lot by doing it that way. It’s a different approach but, at the same time, it can be creative as well.

JWS: It getting interesting reviews (the album), isn’t it?

GD: Yes, obviously the days of the band being in the studio for months locked away doesn’t really exist these days, as they did in the ’70’s. It’s been difficult with having the rhythm section in California, they were sending us files to review on a regular basis. But, of course, we’re not alone in that we were all locked down for months on end and we’ve had to adapt and respond to that as best as we could. Without the benefit of being able to play any live shows it has put people on a different route forward. It meant taking a more flexible approach to things really.

JWS: I spoke to Steve Hackett recently and he was saying a similar thing, he has had to adjust to a new approach to his music, but at least he is able to go out on tour again now.

GD: Yes, I had an email from Steve asking if I wanted to see him in Cardiff tThe nearest place to where I am in Chepstow) but he was saying I can’t see you though, we do the show and move the whole bubble onwards. So I didn’t get to see him this time, but I’ve seen his show many times at various stages. He always puts on a great show. He really puts a lot into his shows, not just him and his band but in the staging and the lighting and the whole experience and performance really. I’m looking forward to catching up with him again when he comes back round.

JWS: Touring will be happening for Yes again soon though?

GD: Well, yes, we’ve got a tour booked for next May and June in the UK and Europe.

JWS: This is the ‘Relayer’ Tour?

GD: Yes, it’s been postponed twice so we’re hoping it’s third time lucky for it to go ahead.

JWS: Well, the album is very interesting, I’ve heard it all, and the bonus tracks, one of which is obviously a tribute to the Beatles. But the whole album is interesting lyrically, you’re not afraid to tackle some important and controversial issues like ecology and conservation?

GD: I’m not involved with the lyrics per se, Jon was stuck in Barbados for 5 months and I think that’s reflected in his lyrics, global warming, obviously, and I think The Ice Bridge reflects those concerns. There’s nothing worse than musicians standing on a soapbox telling people what they should be doing but, by the same token, it’s true that the band are all getting older which brings its own challenges.

JWS: So what’s happening with the Downes Braides Association? I loved the ‘Halcyon Hymns’ album and wrote a glowing review of it, I thought it was excellent!

GD: Well, Chris has moved back here now from LA and I’m hopeful that we can get together and work on the next one more directly, as opposed to being two oceans apart. So we will have to see how that comes about in due course.

JWS: You also had the Asia albums re-released recently (‘The Reunion Albums 2007 to 2012’) on BMG.

GD: The 40th anniversary of the ‘Asia’ album is in 2022, so those albums are being re-promoted again to mark that event. Those first three albums were very significant and its important to mark those events again fully.

I’ve still got unworked material from a session I had with John (Wetton) before he sadly died so there is potential there to craft something new. I feel that Asia has not run its course and that there is still some life left in the band. Again, we’ll have to see what emerges from those sessions.

JWS: What about a new solo album for you? Surely you must be due for another one soon?

GD: Yes, I have been thinking about doing something, although quite what that will be is very open. I think I’d like to do something in a similar vein to ‘The Light Program’ from 1987, a sort of ‘stream of consciousness’ album of its time but worth revisiting again I think.

JWS: I also read recently that you wanted the keyboards on this new album, ‘The Quest’ to be more analogue than digital, more like earlier Yes albums?

GD: When I was growing up, I was hugely influenced by the keyboard sounds that Tony Kaye used on those early Yes albums. He was a monster on the growling Hammond and when we did the ‘Yes 50’ tour, Tony was a guest on some dates. He still commands the Hammond organ and we became good friends, so that was a big factor for me. Plus, I think the music Steve was making on the guitar leant itself to that classic type of sound, so that’s what I did, and I think it worked okay.

JWS: Tony Has a new solo album out, ‘End of Innocence’, have you heard it yet?

GD: No, but I want to hear it, it’s all about the World Trade Centre and 9/11 isn’t it?

JWS: Yes, it’s a good album.

GD: Does he play lots of Hammond on it?

JWS: Yes, throughout.

GD: I’ll have to ask management to get me a copy then.

JWS: You won’t regret it Geoff, it’s a fine piece of work, very worthwhile. Anyway, my time has gone, I’m afraid, thanks for talking to me.

GD: No problem John, thanks for interesting questions and for knowing your stuff, I’ve enjoyed talking to you, thank you!

‘The Quest’ by Yes is released on 1st October, 2021 and you can order a copy here:

The Quest (lnk.to)

Yes Release New Studio Album – ‘The Quest’- on 1st October & Launch Video For ‘The Ice Bridge’, First Track taken From the Album

YES, who are Steve Howe, Alan White, Geoff Downes, Jon Davison and Billy Sherwood, release their new studio album The Quest on InsideOutMusic/Sony Music on 1st October 2021“It is simply an honour for me to have the opportunity to bring together the band members in the development of a well-refined set of songs that capture the band’s true potential,” said Steve Howe, who produced the album. He added “Much of the music was written in late 2019 with the rest in 2020. We commissioned several orchestrations to augment and enhance the overall sound of these fresh new recordings, hoping that our emphasis on melody, coupled with some expansive instrumental solo breaks, keeps up the momentum for our listeners.” Additional percussion was provided by guest Jay Schellen who supplements YES’ live performances.

Label Manager Thomas Waber said “I am delighted to welcome YES to the label and am looking forward to seeing the reaction of the band’s fans to the new album. Being a long-time fan myself, I am really excited by the new material. Steve Howe managed to capture many of the important elements that we all love about YES!”

YES are pleased to reveal the first track to be taken from the album – The Ice Bridge – watch the video here:

Alan White comments: “I’m extremely proud to be a part of this music and believe the video graphics are outstanding. A collaboration of many talents coming together to produce ‘The Ice Bridge’. I hope our fans/audiences will appreciate the creativity put forward. I’m pleased to share it with the world and hope everyone will enjoy the ride.”

Steve Howe adds: “’The Ice Bridge’ opens the album in the dark and moody key of C minor, aided by the orchestra. The rolling bass part kicks things into gear as the vocals and guitars start a winding journey through the various structures till the breakdown happens, where ice breaking is heard.”

Jon Davison was working with Geoff Downes on The Ice Bridge (Davison/Downes), looking at the dangers of climate change. He explained how he sets about collaborating with his band mates.

“Usually what happens is each member is left to write their respective parts and put their stamp on things. Geoff sent me a selection of exciting and often gorgeous snippets he had created and made it clear that he wished I experiment freely and develop as needed. This in turn gave me the confidence to take on the vocal role – lyrics, vocal melody and harmony, how the vocals are presented and uniquely phrased – but all the while striving to stay faithful to Geoff’s initial ideas.”

“Jon’s vocals are fantastic,” adds Geoff Downes, “he’s really come into his own as a YES vocalist. This time he’s started to get the writing side together and working with the other musicians has been developmental for him. I think he’s hit a rich seam on this one.”

Containing 11 songs, 8 on the main CD with 3 extra tracks on a bonus CD, The Quest will be available on Vinyl and 5.1 Blu-ray and CD, all on the day of release.
The Quest – 2CD Digipak tracklisting:

CD1:01. The Ice Bridge 7.0102. Dare To Know 6.0003. Minus The Man 5.3504. Leave Well Alone 8.0605. The Western Edge 4.2606. Future Memories 5.0807. Music To My Ears 4.4108. A Living Island 6.52

CD2:01. Sister Sleeping Soul 4.5102. Mystery Tour 3.3303. Damaged World 5.20

The Quest is released on 1st October 2021. Formats are:Limited Edition Deluxe 2LP & 2CD plus Blu-ray Box-setLimited Edition 2CD & Blu-ray ArtbookGatefold 2LP & 2CD plus LP and booklet2CD DigipakDigital Album

Cover artwork designed and created by the band’s long term collaborator Roger Dean.

Pre-orders will start from 23rd July.

Asia: The Reunion Albums: 2007 – 2012 – Box Set Out Now!

ASIA, the multi-platinum selling English supergroup, formed in London in 1981, celebrate their 40th anniversary with a 5CD boxset The Reunion Albums: 2007 – 2012 through BMG.

Watch the unboxing here:

Buy it here: https://asiaband.lnk.to/reunionalbumsPR

This 5CD deluxe clamshell box set features the 2CD live recording Fantasia, Live In Tokyo together with the three reunion studio albums Phoenix, Omegaand XXX.

ASIA took the world by a storm with their eponymous debut album, globally the biggest-selling album of 1982. The single Heat Of The Moment, a huge soft-rock anthem, reached the top 40 in over a dozen markets, peaking in the U.S. at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart.

The four original members of ASIA – John Wetton (King Crimson, lead vocal/bass), Steve Howe (YES, guitars), Carl Palmer (Emerson, Lake & Palmer, drums) and Geoff Downes (The Buggles, YES, keyboards), reunited to celebrate their 25th anniversary in 2006 and 2007 with a world tour.

A live album from the tour Fantasia, Live In Tokyo was released in 2007 as they returned to the studio together for the first time in a quarter of a century. The reunion would yield three stunning albums Phoenix (2008), Omega (2010) together with XXX (2012) as they celebrated their 30th anniversary.

Of these later albums Carl Palmer said, “The chemistry and energy that comes out when the four of us are working together, is reflected in the new material.” For his part, John Wetton marvelled at how far the band had come. “Each one of us is comfortable as a human being, and the sound reflects the collective maturity of these four people who are not only eager to explore but also relaxed enough to luxuriate in the strength of the material.”

This boxset features the original ASIA line-up, reformed in 2006, and brings together, for the first time, all of ASIA’s essential music into one concise collection.

Fantasia, Live In Tokyo, the 2CD live show from their 2007 World Tour, features many of the tracks from their first two albums Asia (1982) and Alpha (1983) and includes Heat Of The Moment and Don’t Cry together with heritage tracks from each of the band member’s musical history. The band also performed live, for the first time, an acoustic version of Ride Easy, a B-side from the debut single Heat Of The Moment.

The boxset collection is completed by the three reunion studio albums Phoenix, Omega and XXX. These represent some of ASIA’s finest moments and allowed the band to explore fully their rock and progressive roots.
These albums are presented together in a superb collector’s edition boxset designed by Roger Dean, who produced all of the original albums’ artwork. The boxset cover image was previously unused and the Fantasia sleeve design has been updated by Roger. 

ASIA, The Reunion Albums: 2007 – 2012 5CD boxset is out now through BMG Records.

About ASIA
ASIA was a true ‘supergroup’ pooling the talents of John Wetton, Carl Palmer, Geoff Downes and Steve Howe and was the logical successor to their collective bands of the 70s.

Moving beyond their progressive roots, ASIA embraced the commercial FM rock sound that dominated US airwaves and took that, and the new MTV video channel, by storm. The single Heat Of The Moment was a world-wide monster smash and their eponymous 1982 debut album spent an incredible 9 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard chart as ASIA became the biggest selling album of the year and world tour dates sold out.

A second platinum selling album, Alpha, was released in 1983. The four original members reconvened in 2006 for a world tour, to celebrate the 25thanniversary of that incredible success, and the album Phoenix followed.

While the members were still heavily involved in other projects, they came together again to record Omega in 2010 and XXX in 2012. Both albums were acclaimed by their faithful fans and supported by more world tours.

Steve Howe stepped back from ASIA to concentrate on his work with YES and he was replaced by Sam Coulson for 2014’s Gravitas. Following this tour came the news of John Wetton’s treatment for cancer, a fight he sadly lost in 2017, just before Asia started an arena tour with JOURNEY, a tour which became a tribute to John’s life and legacy. John had requested that Billy Sherwood YES replace him on bass and vocals.

ASIA supported YES’s 2019 US Royal Affair Tour with Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal (Guns N’ Roses) on guitar and vocal duties. Steve Howe also returned as special guest.
In 2021 ASIA signed a deal with BMG to re-release their reunion albums Phoenix, Omega, Fantasia: Live In Tokyo and XXX, along with Gravitas (with Sam Coulson), to celebrate the band’s 40th anniversary in 2022. They also plan to release a box-set ASIA In Asia, of the first simulcast from 1983, with Greg Lake temporarily replacing John Wetton.

DOWNES BRAIDE ASSOCIATION Launch Third Single Today

Album Halcyon Hymns Out Now!

OUT NOW Downes Braide Association (DBA) fourth album Halcyon Hymns CD. DBA also launch the video and radio edit of the third track to be taken from the album entitled Today – today!

Buy Halcyon Hymns here:
CD/DVD OUT NOW – Pre-order the 2LP White Vinyl out 26th March: https://downesbraide.co.uk/

Today is an anthemic celebration of life and making the most of what we have, here and now, something we have all come to appreciate in these unprecedented times.

Today’s a perfect day, so spend it with me. The sun is high, the wheel of time. It will turn. You know it goes by so fast. No time to dwell in the past. I wish today would never end..

“Today Is about being in love with a moment that can never last,” says Chris Braide, “and treasuring the feeling that fleeting moment, brings. The lyric is truly from the heart.”

Geoff Downes adds: “Today is DBA’s 21st Century take on the romance of spending a perfect day with someone you love. Here’s to more perfect days – today, together and beyond.”

Geoff Downes (keyboards, programming) and Chris Braide (vocals) are joined on the album and Today by Ash Soan on drums, Andy Hodge (bass) and Dave Bainbridge who provides a particularly tasty guitar throughout the track. Today sends out a positive message while the infectious melody promises to make this a radio delight.

Halcyon Hymns is the fifth DBA collaboration and follows their previous critically-acclaimed studio albums Pictures of You (2012), Suburban Ghosts (2015) and Skyscraper Souls (2017). The duo have also released Live In England (2019) recorded at their first ever concert at Trading Boundaries, East Sussex, in 2018.

About Downes Braide Association
Downes Braide Association was formed as a studio-based project by Geoff Downes and Chris Braide and has already produced three acclaimed studio albums: Pictures Of You (2012), Suburban Ghosts (2015) and Skyscraper Souls (2017) together with a live album Live In England (2019). The project draws on Downes’ and Braide’s rich musical heritage to create a delightfully accessible brand of progressive rock.

Keyboard wizard Geoff Downes was thrust into the limelight with the worldwide success of Video Killed The Radio Star in 1979. The single topped the charts chart in 16 countries for The Buggles duo of Geoff and Trevor Horn (vocals, bass guitar). They briefly joined prog legends YES before Downes became a founder member of the supergroup Asia with YES guitarist Steve Howe, ELP drummer Carl Palmer and the late John Wetton (vocals, bass guitar).

The Wetton-Downes composition Heat Of The Moment became a world-wide hit in 1982 heralding many years of success for Asia with their FM radio-friendly brand of rock. Downes later returned to YES in 2012 and remains with the band alongside Steve Howe.

British singer-songwriter-pianist Chris Braide has recently returned to UK shores after many years based in California. He enjoys enormous success writing and producing music for film scores, advertising campaigns and working closely with artists including Toni Braxton, Sia, Lana Del Rey, Marc Almond, Christina Aguilera, Beyonce, Paloma Faith, Britney Spears, David Guetta, Chris also co-wrote the music with Hans Zimmer and Sia for Seven Worlds One Planet – David Attenborough series.

Downes Braide Association release both the single Today and CD version of Halcyon Hymns, today 5th February.

Downes Braide Association: Halcyon Hymns buy it here:CD/DVD Out Now – Pre-order the 2LP White Vinyl out 26th March: https://downesbraide.co.uk/

Review – Downes Braide Association – Halcyon Hymns by John Wenlock-Smith

If there is anything positive or good that has come out of this tough time of the deadly coronavirus pandemic then it is that many musicians have been able to utilise this difficult time and lack of touring activity to create and craft a whole slew of new albums.

Many of these surfaced in autumn, like ‘Halcyon Hymns’, the new album from Geoff Downes and Chris Braide and the next chapter in their fantastic collaboration that has thus far yielded three albums, including the fabulous ‘Skyscraper Souls’ along with the excellent recording of their live debut concert at Trading Boundaries in East Sussex in 2018. 

Geoff had been working on music for Chris to work into complete songs and he used the suspension of activities with his main band Yes (who were due to play full shows highlighting the Relayer album from 1975) to finalise these ideas.

Well, this album is really impressive stuff with a fantastic set of songs and opens with Love Among The Ruins, which pretty much sets the standard for all that follows. This is a very fine track indeed, the video brings things to life with its portrayal of days gone by and how we look back with much fondness. The song is very upbeat with a great chorus that stays in your mind, there is also a fabulous guitar solo that elevates this from excellent into truly spectacular.

This followed by the more sedate but ever building burn that is King Of The Sunset, with its evocative imagery of England, Avalon. I must commend these two for the surreal and complex soundscapes that they evoke so well. Also worthy of note are the fabulous vocals by Chris Braide who really shows his class on these performances. This track will appeal to modern day followers of Marillion as they might see a similarity to that fine group. There are lots of interesting tones and textures that run through this song, along with some superb and striking guitar lines. Also adding to the mesmerising brilliance of the track are the dulcet tones of David Longdon of Big Big Train.

Your Heart Will Find The Way is next and this one has a great bass line that propels the song along with a lot of funk! Indeed, the bass on the whole album is exceptionally fine indeed, right on the beat, upfront when needed and very fluent and supportive throughout. There are lots of fine keyboard flourishes from Geoff that add to this heady recipe that they have concocted.

Then it’s onto the first of the three longer songs that this album offers. The first is called Holding The Heavens and, again, there is a prominent bass line that really drives the song along. The great lyrics make this song exceptionally fine too with another great vocal from Chris and good backing vocals that create a great sound. This is a fine album vocally and one that sounds good on headphones too. The chorus is also both very compelling and strong. and the song also has a good acoustic guitar section before returning to the chorus. A distinguished spoken section adds emphasis to proceedings while there is also a recurring chunky guitar riff that really adds value to this song.

Beachcombers is the next song. Shorter and opening with a brief spoken section, this one has a drum patter that percolates and brings the song to life. There is great imagery too as Chris tells of nightingales singing in the night, this is all topped with another spectacular soaring guitar break.

Warm Summer Sun opens with sounds of summer including church bells chiming and bird song, it is all very English and pastoral even before some strong keyboard sounds are introduced. The velvet tones of Marc Almond of Soft Cell fame are a brilliant addition. This is another shorter song but is none the worse for it with a great chorus. This track really shows off Geoff’s excellent keyboard sounds, textures, and tones fabulously.

I think this album will also appeal to fans of Big Big Train, not least because David Longdon appears on this album but also because of its pastoral imagery that will resonate with those fans. Today is the second of the longer tracks and speaks of summer days gone by and very evocative imagery and fond memories are voiced. This song is pure escapism, the lyrics are interesting, speaking of friendship and shared experiences and the desire for the day to never end. The song then moves into another spoken section from Joe Catcheside before another fabulous guitar break appears. David Bainbridge is a phenomenal guitarist on this entire album, playing with a good feel and soaring solo lines that really add to this fantastic ensemble piece.

Hymn To Darkness is a shorter track with mandolin playing throughout. There is rather a darker tone to subject matter as the song talks of putting the darkness to sleep, it is a nice mellow song with some more great acoustic guitar lines woven throughout.

She’ll Be Riding Horses speaks of a love gone by and a memory of her riding horses somewhere where they do not have telephones, they lose touch but find each other in later years. This is another very upbeat song, happy even, although the lyrics seem to suggest that she has gone and yet great memories of her live on in his mind. Another brief but very satisfying song. This is followed by another shorter piece, Late Summer. This is another song of memories asking why cannot it not last?

The last, and longest, track is called Remembrance and this opens with a spoken section that again evokes memories of the long summer of 1976 and the remembrance of passion walking along the Dorset coastal path. The song mixes vocal and spoken passages to great effect as it talks of loving this dirty old ground, ice creams, love in open places, holiday romances and many other seaside attractions. This song unleashes a treasure trove of memories, a memento-mori if you will, of one who has gone as have the days as it ends with a sad goodbye.

This is a truly sensational album, one that really deserves to reach as wide an audience as possible as it is truly worthy of that acclaim. Downes Braide have really made and delivered a very well realised album with lots of references to the past. Along with lots of imagery about death (which is a theme that runs through much of the album), this makes the memories bittersweet at times yet it is still an album to make you smile in these days.

‘Halcyon Hymns’ will reach into your soul and touch your emotions. It is very moving, well-conceived and produced. I think it is the best album I’ve heard this year but, then again, it’s only January so there is lots of time for more great releases this year. However, for now, this is definitely a strong contender, I urge you to listen to this if you can as you will find much to enjoy on this excellent album.

CD/DVD Released 5th February 2021

2LP White Vinyl is out on 26th March.

Order from Cherry Red Records here:

Downes Braide Association: Halcyon Hymns, CD/DVD Edition – Cherry Red Records

John Wenlock-Smith Interviews Chris Braide of Downes Braide Association

Geff Downes, Chris Braide

Chris Braide of Downes Braide Association talks about the new album ‘Halcyon Hymns’.

John Wenlock-Smith:  Good day Chris, are you well?

Chris BraideYes, I am fine thank you getting on as best as we all can in these times.

JWS: I do like the new album (‘Halcyon Hymns’), I think it is quite positive.

CB: That surprises me as other friends have asked if anything has happened and am I okay? I think lyrically this album is a lot darker than its predecessor (‘Skyscraper Souls’), that album was like evening whilst this is more of an afternoon album, colour wise. I would say this one is orange where ‘Skyscraper Souls’ was a deep blue, this one has some rather dark songs, like Remembrance for instance.

JWS: How did this album even come about?

CB: Well, with the virtual shutdown of the industry and tours being cancelled etc. it was very much a case of ‘right what can I do now then?’. This album came out of that period, Geoff (Downes) had sent me some ideas and I got to work on them. I chose to look at the world as it was when I was younger, the endless summer days, cycling around everywhere, pure rose tinted nostalgia for a world that had been but suddenly was not available to us now.

JWS: This album has some guests too?

CB: Yes, we have David Longdon on one track, Marc Almond on another, Ash Soan (my colleague of 20 plus years) on drums and a few others too, it makes for a nice mix.

JWS: So how did you and Geoff originally meet?

CB: I met Geoff at a one-off Buggles reunion in London. I was part of a group called The Producers with Trevor Horn who was, of course, the other Buggle and he asked me if I’d like to be an honorary Buggle for the evening, I said yes very enthusiastically and we had a great time of it. I met Geoff and enjoyed his company and felt we had a good connection.

I was due to move to Los Angeles shortly afterwards, when I told Geoff he said that it was no problem as he was due to be in LA himself soon as Yes were due to record the ‘Fly From Here’ album. Geoff and Trevor were back in the Yes camp for that project and when he was doing that album, he would come and visit me at my home. We started to write together songs that would become the first Downes Braide Association album.

JWS: I have the live album and DVD set and I will be reviewing this latest album for Progradar too.

CB: Cheers for that. We enjoyed that gig at Trading Boundaries, did you go?

JWS: I wanted to be but it was a bit too far to travel to East Sussex I am afraid but I did enjoy the album and the DVD. If you had been playing locally in Stoke or Crewe, I would have been there

CB: Well, hopefully when everything gets back to normality then we can start gigging again, I have other musician friends who have also been unable to do anything this past year!

JWS: So Chris, I know you have a long musical history but what sort of music really gets you?

CB: I’m a huge Marc Bolan and T-Rex fan have been seen I was a kid really. I also like Yes, the whole spectrum of their sound and, of course, the fantastic covers. Which is why we enjoy working with Roger Dean who crafted those fabulous sleeves that you could lose yourself in whilst listening to the albums.

I also really like Kate Bush who surely must be a really unsung progressive icon with the stuff that she has done for the past 40 years or so. If I was stuck on a desert island I’d take Marc Bolan, Yes and Kate Bush’s music to sustain me.

JWS: I saw Kate on her only UK tour in 1979 in Birmingham, she was quite remarkable. It was the ‘Wuthering Heights’/’Lionheart’ albums tour, if I recall correctly?

CB: Wow, what a fantastic memory! She stopped touring as that tour was cursed when a lighting guy fell (Bill Duffield) to his death at the warmup show in Poole. It was later coined ‘The Tour of Life’ and Kate did a benefit concert for Bill in London as the end of the tour, it must have been amazing.

JWS: I can remember if being very visual and extremely exciting to a young 19-year-old, as I was then. So you have also been involved with loads of modern “Pop” acts along the way, I believe?

CB: I was originally a solo artist signed to Dave Stewart’s ‘Anxious’ label (on which he released his debut solo album ‘Chapter One’ in 1996). This was before I moved to LA and began working with the likes of Sia, Christina Aguilera, Pixie Lott and Yuna, amongst others, getting into writing these songs for these different artists, I am a writer, that is what I do.

JWS: But your love of music stretches a lot further than just Pop?

CB: It certainly does, it’s far wider than that. I love the progressive stuff and I like to combine that with certain Pop sensibilities, if I can, and DBA gives me a vehicle to do just that.

JWS: I think that when this album is released it needs to get to a far wider audience, if possible, as lots of people of my age and younger will find much to enjoy here.

CB: Yes, indeed it is but it’s getting it out there that is the hard part!

JWS: Well you need to get your DBA Songs onto mainstream media. Get it onto Good Morning Britain for instance or get Clarkson to use it on the Grand Tour etc. Obviously we will try what we can but it’s only scratching the surface really, the album is out on the 5th February in the UK?

CB: Yes, the day before my birthday.

JWS: Oh wow! well, Happy Birthday for the 6th then, dare I ask how old you will be?

CB: Well, I feel like I am still 19 really but I will be in my 40’s. I’m actually really enjoying my 40’s, its even better than the 30’s were and the 20’s were too! In fact, I think every decade has just been better for me.

JWS: Well I’m 61 now and my best decade was my 50’s. A lot happened, I got divorced, started writing reviews and did interviews with people like Keith Emerson, I’ve even interviewed Geoff once. I started dating and eventually got remarried again so it was a great decade for me, you have this to come, I guess. Anyway, Chris, my time has gone so thank you for talking to me, I appreciate it and all the best with the new album!

CB: Thank you too, I have enjoyed it.

DOWNES BRAIDE ASSOCIATION Announce new album Halcyon Hymns

CD/DVD Released on 5th February

Downes Braide Association (DBA) announce the release of their new album Halcyon Hymns. The CD/DVD is out on 5th February 2021, and 2LP White Vinyl edition on 26th March 2021. 

The first track to be taken from the album, Love Among The Ruins, is out now:

Halcyon Hymns will be the fifth DBA collaboration and follows their previous critically-acclaimed studio albums Pictures of You (2012), Suburban Ghosts (2015) and Skyscraper Souls(2017). The duo have also released Live In England (2019) recorded at their first ever concert at Trading Boundaries, East Sussex, in 2018.

Pre-order Halcyon Hymns: CD/DVD https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/downes-braide-association-halcyon-hymns-cd-dvd-edition/

2LP White Vinyl:  https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/downes-braide-association-halcyon-hymns-limited-edition-2lp-white-vinyl/ 

Following two more successful and enjoyable evenings at Trading Boundaries in February of 2020, Geoff Downes returned to Wales and his projects while Chris Braide returned to LA and struggled to find motivation with the unfolding events in a world of lockdown. Inspiration would return following a call from a close friend.

“Marc Almond suggested I ‘get stuck into another DBA record’ to lift the malaise,” say Braide. “Somehow It was hard to muster any enthusiasm for it. We had all been so upbeat at the recent shows and now here we were in a collective, creative void. It’s odd the way inspiration strikes though and it never ceases to delight and surprise me when the muse comes to play and it can happen at any time and without warning. 

“I opened up a folder of new DBA ideas Geoff (Downes) had sent to me a while back and which I’d listened to briefly and had made a note to do something with them at a later date. I can’t say why it happened but one day in the studio as I listened to the bits and pieces of ideas suddenly the songs started tumbling out as if by magic. I’m not exaggerating or being melodramatic. These new songs sounded like personal reflections, they just wrote themselves. It was so easy, so enjoyable and so meant to be. Like a gift.” 

A few words from Geoff: “It was so great to witness Chris’s creativity making my fundamental ideas come alive. He took the bare bones of melodies, harmonies and textures I sent him, and somehow crafted these into something way beyond my expectations or imagination. ‘Love Among The Ruins’ is one of the many examples on the album of his rare genius at work.”

Love Among The Ruins is a delightful and uplifting love song, reflecting memories and tributes of a long lost halcyon time in life. The first track to be taken from the new album, Love Among The Ruins, is out today 4th December.

Halcyon Hymns also features contributions by Marc Almond (ex-Soft Cell) and David Longdon (Big Big Train).

The CD/DVD package also includes video footage of legendary artist Roger Dean’s painting sessions as he creates the album cover artwork for Halcyon Days together with lyric videos for three tracks from the album.

Review – Yes – The Royal Affair Live – by John Wenlock-Smith

I think most people will concede that 2020 has been a somewhat challenging year, especially with the world wide impact and devastation that Covid 19 has bought, along with the subsequent lockdowns that have been enforced on different countries, affecting both world trade and travelling in particular.

Musically, tours and shows have been cancelled or postponed; often indefinitely. However, this has allowed artists time to record new music, albeit socially distanced or even remotely.

Yes were to have been performing their latest run of complete albums featuring ‘Relayer’ but that has inevitably fallen by the wayside and been postponed till 2021. To whet the appetite, they have elected to release a new live album recorded at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, documenting last year’s Royal Affair Tour .

This is a single disc affair but with a new Roger Dean cover and an interesting set list including Yes’ own version of John Lennon’s Imagine (a song Alan White actually performed on prior to joining Yes), the track also includes John Lodge of The Moody Blues on guest vocals. The balance of the tracks are staples of the Yes canon, mainly focused on their prime years i.e. pre 1980’s, although time is made for a rare version of the Simon and Garfunkel classic America, which gets a decent dusting down here.

The album opens with No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed, which also includes the main theme from The Big Country (which is an interesting twist). It sounds very impressive and allows Steve Howe to vamp things up a little. The band sound on good form, relishing the experience and playing very competently indeed, in fact seldom have Yes sounded as on form as they do on this recording.

Geoff Downes’ keyboards continue the theme with lots of orchestrated sounds filling the sound scape out before Steve Howe delivers a fiery solo. But this album is more about ensemble playing than solo flights and those excesses are tightly reined in, this album is about Yes as a band it and plays to that strength very well.

Next track is the powerful Tempus Fugit from the ‘Drama’ album. Again, it is delivered with much bite and flair, Billy Sherwood’s bassline sounding especially muscular and fluid throughout, Steve is on on rampaging form too with strong drum support. This performance reveals just what a monstrous track Tempus Fugit really is and how its status has grown as the years have gone by, so much so that now it is an integral part of any Yes show and rightly so too. Next comes a familiar pedal steel lick that heralds Going For The One with Steve’s interjections taking this song soaring to the heights as it plays as another fabulous performance. Strangely the audience do seem a bit restrained here and they do not really roar like a great Yes crowd can, thank goodness that this performance was captured on tape and is now available for us non-Americans to enjoy at our leisure.

All Good People follows in this fine set of crowd pleasers and, again, Yes deliver an excellent version of this great tune. I know the band have become a bit polarising these days, with lots of detractors but, let’s be honest, this version carries the flame just as well as any others do and they seem to still be enjoying performing these pieces, so, on that basis, long may it continue! Any Yes is better than none at all in my view. Back to the track, which is a genuinely great performance and one that allows some delicate guitar lines from Steve to work in concert with some thunderous bass and powerful drums.

Siberian Khatru follows and represents another classy example of the current line up, still having the classic Yes sound The band give an excellent reading of it, with all its excellent parts sounding as strong and good as they ever were. We are then treated to a short version of Onward from ‘Tormato’, an album where Yes faltered and fell apart, however, this was one of its better songs.

The audience are then treated to the first real epic in the form of the rarely performed (these day at least) America, made famous by Simon and Garfunkel. I first heard this song on an Atlantic sampler LP, ‘The New Age Of Atlantic’, where it shone out as a remarkable reworking of a great tune and it still has the power to impact some 48 years after first being released. I have always liked this song and here Jon Davison brings this song to life wonderfully. It is a fabulous retelling of a great song, Jon’s voice is strong and warm and he brings new life to this version. Some great guitar work from Steve and fine contributions from all quarters make this a superior version of a great song.     

Imagine is a new version of the Lennon track performed by Yes with John Lodge on guest vocals. It is a more than adequate version but, really, adds nothing new to a well known and loved song. Then it is into the home stretch with Roundabout and Starship Trooper, both of which are well received. They are excellent versions, despite the fact that they had been covered many many times now. Then again, these are classic songs that everyone know and love and always want to hear played. It’s an excellent way to bring the show to a finish, everyone going home happy and the legend is preserved, credibility is maintained and Yes live to tour another day.

This album is a fine collection, nothing new or essential but certainly a fine and worthy memento of an interesting tour, all for less than the price of a T shirt! Highly recommended and certainly worth a listen in my view.     

Released 30th October 2020

Order the album here:

https://yesband.lnk.to/RoyalAffairPR

YES Announces UK Tour The Album Series 2020

YES, one of the most innovative of all prog-rock bands, and true legends of the genre, have announced a 8-date UK tour for May and June of 2020. The Album Series 2020 Tour will feature their 1974 Relayer album in its entirety together with a selection of other classic YES favourites. An extensive European tour will be announced soon.

This tour follows their 2018 highly successful #YES50 Anniversary tour and again features the line-up of Steve Howe (guitars), Alan White (drums), Geoff Downes (keyboards), Billy Sherwood (bass guitar and backing vocals), Jon Davison (vocals) and Jay Schellen (additional drums and percussion).

The show will comprise two sets by the band with full production and a high definition video wall. The first will feature favourite classic tracks from YES’ extensive catalogue. The second will feature
Relayer, the seventh studio album by YES, and one of the band’s most distinctive. Relayer marked a slight change in direction as Patrick Moraz replaced Rick Wakeman on keyboards bringing an edgier, avant-garde feel to the album. This was perfect for the opening track Gates Of Delirium, almost 22minutes in length, with its battle scene featuring the keyboard of Moraz and Steve Howe’s guitar. The battle gives way to the beautiful closing ballad Soon, a prayer for peace and hope.

The album continues with Sound Chaser, a prog-rock-jazz fusion experiment heavily influenced by Moraz’s style and To Be Over, a calm and gentle conclusion to the album, based on a melody by Steve Howe.
Released in late 1974 on Atlantic Records, Relayer continued YES’ success reaching number 4 in the UK album chart and number 5 in the US Billboard chart.

“We are really looking forward to playing ALL of the Relayer album” says Steve Howe. “Having premiered The Gates Of Delirium this year, we continue by expanding our Album Series with all the tracks: The Gates Of Delirium, Sound Chaser and To Be Over.” Howe goes on to say: “During the first half of the evening we’ll be performing a refined selection from Yes’ enormous 50 year + repertoire. See you there!”

Alan White comments: “I always enjoy coming home to England so I’m especially looking forward to Yes’ upcoming “Album Series 2020” tour. “Relayer” I believe, is one of the most creative and interesting musical compilations in the bands repertoire. Challenging and extremely enjoyable to play, I’m happy to be bringing this music back to live stages throughout Europe. I hope all who attend our shows will enjoy these cuts as much as we like performing them for our audiences.”

UK dates are as follows:
Tuesday 26 May Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

Wednesday 27 May Nottingham Royal Concert Hall

Friday 29 May York Barbican

Saturday 30 May Gateshead The Sage

Sunday 31 May Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Tuesday 2 June Birmingham Symphony Hall

Wednesday 3 June Manchester Bridgewater Hall

Friday 5 June London Royal Albert Hall

Tickets go onsale at 10.00am Friday 11th October and are available from: 24hr Ticket Hotline: 0844 249 2222 bookingsdirect.com Meet & Greet packages available, for info go to yesworld.com Showtime is 8pm.
Roger Dean will attend every show on the UK and European dates, and will have an exhibition of his iconic art, will be available to chat with fans front of house and sign merch, plus will be in the VIP meet and greets.

ABOUT YES
Steve Howe: guitars, backing vocals (1970 – 1981, 1990- 1992, 1995 – present), Alan White: drums, percussion (1972 – present), Geoff Downes: keyboards (1980 – 1981, 2011 – present), Jon Davison: lead vocals, acoustic guitar (2012 – present)Billy Sherwood: guitar, backing vocals ((1994, 1997 – 2000), bass guitar, backing vocals (2015 – present)

Formed in 1968 by Jon Anderson and the late, and much-missed, Chris Squire, YES have been one of the most innovative, influential and best-loved bands in rock music history. Their 1970s albums The Yes Album, Fragile, Close To The Edge, Yessongs (a triple live album set), Tales From Topographic Oceans, Relayer and Going For The One were ground-breaking in musical style and content. Their music also became synonymous with artist Roger Dean whose distinctive YES logo design and artwork adorned the lavish gatefold presentation sleeves of many YES albums.With sales of over 50 million records, the Grammy-award winning YES were inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2017 where they performed Roundabout from the album Fragile and the FM radio-friendly Owner Of A Lonely Heart from the 1985 album 90125.

UK www.yesworld.comwww.facebook.com/yesthebandwww.twitter.com/yesofficialwww.youtube.com/user/yesofficialwww.instagram.com/yesofficialsoundcloud.com/yesofficial

Review – Yes – Fly From Here: Return Trip (Actually by “Yes – The Drama Line-Up”) – by Roy Hunter

I’ve been a fan of Yes (in it’s many guises) since I bought their 1st album back in 1969… I discovered King Crimson at The Rolling Stones’ “free in the park” concert, July 5th 1969 – and avidly sought out any music in this new as yet unidentified genre we now lovingly call “Prog”… So the ‘Yes Album‘ (the black cover) was maybe my third or fourth proggy purchase…

Oh what a joy, nearly 50 years on, to get my hands on this “new” release from one of my much-loved bands!

So what do we get here? A revamp of the 2011 release – the much maligned “Fly From Here” issue – the one with Canadian Benoît David as lead singer. I’m not reviewing THAT album per se, but obviously one can’t help compare it with this new release.

‘Fly From Here: Return Trip’ – sees the return of Trevor Horn as lead vocalist. No, his voice doesn’t have the range of Jon Anderson, Benoît David or Jon Davison, but as he wrote most of the material, I defy anybody to say he shouldn’t be the lead singer on this album! He does a creditable job, you can hear every word, and the differences in the production actually make this the better album in my opinion.

The fact that Chris Squire (R.I.P) is a feature of this line-up brings a sense of continuity from that far off ’69 Yes album… And of course the much admired (and often denigrated) “Drama” album of 1980… This re-release of “Fly…” is almost like a Drama, part II

There has been some tweaking of the tunes here and there, the production has shortened some by a few seconds, and if you listen closely you’ll pick out the changed/upgraded moments throughout the “Fly…” suite.

Also included on the album is an extra track, but the highlight for me is the doubling in length of the piece called Hour Of Need… Originally 3 minutes 7 seconds, thin voiced and low production has metamorphosed into a full-on prog track of 6 minutes 44 seconds!! Once the vocal part concludes we get Steve Howe in a display of just how great a musician he is! Brilliant, and it makes the second half of the album march on… literally!!

The extra track?? Don’t Take No For An Answer… It is a good bonus track, but some weakness in the vocal does show up here. Am I being super critical? I don’t think so, as the tune itself is so much better than a lot of pulp we get thrown at us these days.

In conclusion, of the 2 albums, this is the superior release, and I would have bought it, in my hour of need, for the re-vamped Hour Of Need.

That aside, it is a completist’s delight!

Released 25th March 2018

Order ‘Fly From Here: Return Trip here

See Yes on BBC Breakfast: