Q&A With Jon Davison of Arc of Life – by John Wenlock-Smith

John Wenlock-Smith partakes in a Q&A with Jon Davison about the new Arc of Life project for which Jon is the vocalist.

1/ Arc of Life is a new project, how did to come into existence?

While on the road with YES a few years back, Billy and I found a mutual inspiration to start writing during the long drives on the tour bus. Jay was soon involved, supplying his creative input and positive perspective. We then unanimously felt Jimmy was a natural fit.

2/ Who suggested Dave Kerzner for the keyboard role?

Again we unanimously agreed, as with Jimmy, that Dave would bring the perfect musical ingredients into the Arc fold. We were all thinking the same thing in a sort of collective consciousness, but to answer your question accurately, I believe it was Billy who first gave voice to the idea.

3/ What are the main themes to the album?

The most prominent theme is the evolution of mankind. The concept of an arc of life signifying the rise in man’s consciousness and eventually leading to a far greater understanding, passed all political power play and the greed and indifference which plague and sustain the inequalities of our world. Through this ascension of evolution, man’s intelligence will become highly developed, revealing technological advancements beyond our wildest imaginations.

4/ Were you tempted to get a named producer in for the album or Roger Dean for the cover? 

We did seriously consider both at one early point.  We discussed the idea of working with Hugh Padgham, but eventually agreed that producing ourselves, with Billy’s skills at the helm, meant ultimately having complete creative freedom.

By choosing to not work with Roger Dean we thought we might minimize the Yes comparisons. I suppose they are inevitable anyway, but we certainly didn’t want to add to them (lol.)

5/ Aside from Yes, what other influences are apparent?

Back to Padgham and The Police sound. Another influence was Peter Gabriel, particularly in a song like, Talking With Siri.

6/ Is this a one off project or can we expect to hear more new material and, if so, is there a time frame for this?

We actually have a lot more material already in the works that will eventually surface on the next record. We have no time frame as of yet for ARC II. More importantly for now, we have so much to look forward to with this record.

7/ This band could have great potential for the live arena, could there be live shows post covid? Could you tour with Yes for example?

We want to be out on the road, sharing our music with as many people as possible, worldwide. We are totally keen to the idea of opening for a bigger arena type band. The only way it would be right touring with Yes is if each member of Yes also performed in the context of their respective solo and side projects. An event highlighting the current day Yes family tree, if you will, followed by a headline performance by Yes.

8/ I think the overall response has been overwhelmingly positive?

That is great to hear. The album has been a long time coming and it’s rewarding to finally witness its coming to light and the enthusiastic reaction of so many.

9/ What’s happening with Yes, is there any progress on new material yet?

We’ve been creating and recording since the pandemic hit and have our sights set on a new album. The rest I’ll leave as a surprise.

10/ What’s the story behind the album cover?

The album cover is symbolic of the dawning of enlightenment just off in the horizon as mankind perceives its light at the end of the long and treacherous tunnel through which we have journeyed – to reach at last the exit of the deep cave of darkness and ignorance. What can I say… I’m an optimist (lol!)

‘Arc of Life’ was released on February 12th 2021.

Order the album here:

ARC OF LIFE – Arc Of Life – CD Jewelcase | Frontiers Music Official Shop

Review – Arc of Life – S/T by John Wenlock-Smith

Lockdown in the UK, and indeed across the world, has brought significant change to all of us. It has also decimated musicians from being able to perform live and has cost them in funds they would have expected to earn from touring and the merchandise sold at shows around the globe. This has meant that many artists have had to adapt to new ways of maintaining contact and, in many cases, using the downtime to work on new or hitherto abandoned projects.

 The upside to this time is the growing number of releases that have emerged and are really something of worth, Steve Hackett’s ‘Mediterranean Skies’ album, Transatlantic ‘The Absolute Universe’ , Lifesigns’ ‘Altitude’ and now this new offshoot from the Yes stable, Arc of Life, featuring current Yes members, Jon Davison and Billy Sherwood, along with some talented friends.

Going under the banner of ‘Arc of Life’ this new album is of interest to most Yes fans and to lovers of the band’s current output. In the continued absence of the full group and any new music from them, this is a more than adequate consolation and has great potential, showing much promise for possibly another band in a similar vein to, and influenced by, Yes.

I say influenced by because this is not a ‘Yes by numbers’ trip, this is a new band making its own way. Admittedly it wears its influences clearly on its sleeve and shows similar characteristics at times, but it is most definitely not a new Yes album under a different name.

This album has ten tracks and each of them have something worthy of listening to, some bearing similarities to Billy’s earlier work with Chris Squire on ‘Conspiracy’ and with Tony Kaye on the ‘Live in Japan’ album, although the presence of Jon Davison does makes a huge difference. Also noteworthy are the other band members, Jimmy Haun, Jay Schellan and Dave Kerzner, who are all vastly experienced and talented musicians in their own right and have all floated around the edges of Yes circles.

The album is a mixture of some shorter radio friendly AOR type songs and three longer tracks that allow for some stretching out. The album opens strongly with Life Has A Way which has a strong chorus to it and lots of keyboard flourishes from Dave Kerzner. It has echoes of a Yes type of sound but it is also subtly different. One thing I will say is that it sounds awesome in the car played at a decent volume, it fair powers along with great bottom end and a very unlike Steve Howe guitar solo from Jimmy Haun. As to be expected, Jon Davison is in fine voice here too.

The next song is a bit more laid back. Talking with Siri is about communicating on an i-Phone, an interesting comment on how we communicate these days but, overall, it is a little bit throwaway in my opinion. You Make It Real is far better with a fine chugging rhythm to it. The song is about nervousness when meeting a potential significant other and about when we can resume meeting face to face again, the song ends on a sustained keyboard tone and is highly effective.

Just In Sight is the first of the longer songs at 6:15, this one has lots of keyboards and sound used throughout with some Chris Squire-like bass lines along with a recurring guitar line and tone to it. This track shows the talents that these guys possess clearly. Especially good is the interplay between Jay Schellan and Billy Sherwood which impresses as you listen and there is a good guitar section at the 3:30 mark that harks back to Steve Howe’s playing before returning to the main song at 4:42 mark. This is definitely one of the stronger songs on the album.

I Want to Know You Better reminds me, sound wise, of Love Will Find A Way from Yes’ ‘Big Generator’ album with its marriage of prog and AOR tones. This is rather a catchy little number, all told with a great keyboard motif in the middle, the chorus also being memorable all making this track ideal for a good radio cut.

Locked Down is the second longer track at 9:46 with compelling Lyrics and a superb bass section running alongside a great guitar solo from Jimmy. It has great vocals from Jon and Billy with fine harmonies too. In fact throughout the entire album the contrast between Jon and Billy is incredibly special and enticing. The song also has very strong and prominent bass lines from Billy, all adding up to what is a very good track indeed.

The penultimate song, Therefore We Are, is a real classic number and one which stamps class all over its 9:30 running time. The bass is again very prominent and, in this song, there are lots of processed and layered vocals in this song but don’t worry, it all sounds excellent and is not overly compressed. The musicianship on this song is epic with another brief guitar flurry from Jimmy and some call and response vocals between Jon and Billy. I think this might be the best track on the album, along with Just In Sight.

The closing number on the album is The End Game which opens with some really strong guitar chords and more of Billy’s cultured bass as Jon sings about the endgame. This is quite a muscular track to conclude the album with and it works well overall and finishes what has been an interesting and varied listen.

Certainly musically this one is a very strong album with lots of good songs, memorable and well recorded and produced. Only Time will tell if this is a one-off or just the first outing of a new band, we will have to wait and see I guess.

Released 12th February 2021.

Order the album here:

ARC OF LIFE – Arc Of Life – CD Jewelcase | Frontiers Music Official Shop

ARC OF LIFE release second single JUST IN SIGHT

Arc of Life is Jon Davison, Billy Sherwood and Jay Schellen (additional drummer) from YES together with Dave Kerzner on keyboards and Jimmy Haun on guitar.

The new band release their debut, eponymous, album on February 12th and have just released a video for the second single from the album, ‘Just In Sight’.

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