YES Announce UK Dates For The Relayer Album Series Tour 2023

Progressive legends YES have announced UK dates for their long-awaited Album Series 2023 Tour featuring their 1974 Relayer album in its entirety together with a selection of other classic YES favourites. Tickets are on sale from 10am on Friday 14th October.

The Relayer Tour was originally planned for 2020 but postponed due to the pandemic and last year’s highly successful 50th anniversary of their legendary Close To The Edge album. The Royal Albert Hall was the original choice for the tour’s London show but has no availability, so the band will make a nostalgic return to an old haunt, the former Hammersmith Odeon.

The coming tour features Steve Howe (guitars), Geoff Downes (keyboards), Jon Davison (lead vocals, acoustic guitar), Billy Sherwood (bass guitar) with Jay Schellen (drums and percussion) stepping into Alan White’s shoes following his passing in May 2022.

The show will comprise of two sets by the band. The first will feature favourite classic tracks from YES’s extensive catalogue. YES will perform Relayer, their seventh studio album, in full in the second set. Relayer marked a slight change in direction bringing an edgier feel to this album. At almost 22 minutes in length, the opening track Gates Of Delirium included a battle scene between keyboard and guitar. The battle gives way to the beautiful closing ballad Soon, a prayer for peace and hope.

Relayer continues with Sound Chaser, a prog-rock-jazz fusion experiment demonstrating the power of Alan White and Chris Squire, and To Be Over, a calm and gentle conclusion to the album, based on a melody by Steve Howe and Jon Anderson.

Released in late 1974 on Atlantic Records, Relayer continued YES’s success reaching number 4 in the UK album chart and number 5 in the US Billboard chart.

The UK Relayer Tour dates for 2023 are as follows:

Saturday 10 June Birmingham Symphony Hall

Sunday 11 June Southend Cliffs Pavilion

Monday 12 June York Barbican

Wednesday 14 June Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Thursday 15 June Gateshead The Sage

Friday 16 June Liverpool Philharmonic Hall 

Saturday 18 June Manchester Bridgewater Hall

Tuesday 20 June London Eventim Apollo

Tickets from Yesworld.comBookingsdirect.com and all usual outlets.

About YES

Steve Howe: guitars, backing vocals (1970 –1981, 1990–1992, 1995–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)

Jay Schellen: drums and percussion

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.

YES released their 22nd studio album in 2021, The Quest, which went to No. 1 in the UK Rock Albums Chart and entered the Official UK Album Chart at No. 20.

In May 2022 came the sad news that drummer Alan White, ever-present in the YES line-up for 50 years, had passed away. The news came shortly before the band embarked on their 50th anniversary tour marking the release of their classic, genre-defining album Close To The Edge.

Review – Glass Hammer – At The Gate

Time crawls when we are very young; the older we grow, the more it hastens. If you’re living out a normal span of years, you know this to be true. “Where did the years go,” remarks the elder for whom the long night draws near. “It seems like just yesterday…”

But what of the man who lives beyond his years, who finds he cannot die? Does time fly by at ever accelerating speeds? I am asked this often, for I have passed my thousandth year upon the wretched earth, most of it wandering cursed Andorath for a dream I once cherished but lost.

At The Gate’, is the third album of the Skallagrim trilogy. This new album follows ‘Dreaming City’ (2020) and ‘Skallagrim – Into The Breach’ (2021), bringing the story of the ‘thief with the screaming sword’  to its conclusion.

Vocalist Hannah Pyror is back to front the group and is joined by bandleader Steve Babb, keyboardist Fred Schendel, and drummer Aaron Raulston. In addition, vocalists Jon Davison (Yes) and John Beagley (Life In Digital) both contribute, as well as guitarist Reese Boyd.   

Steve Babb says, “For those who love our newer, edgier sound, they won’t be disappointed. But I’ve brought back the pipe organ, the choirs, and the sweeping ballads for those who miss the sounds of our earlier albums.

For those fans of fantasy literature, like myself, this new Sword & Sorcery storyline that began with 2020’s ‘Dreaming City’, and the excellent music that accompanied it has really hit the mark and has seen Glass Hammer reach new heights and become even more popular and venerated than before.

I have always been very lucky in that I get to hear the albums before most people and every time I am even more impressed with the creativity and musicianship that these US prog rock titans deliver. Well, to quote Michael Caine, with ‘At The Gate’ they’ve only gone and blown the bloody doors off!

“Lonely years roll by, Leaves me wondering, Don’t ask me why…”

The final part of the Skallagrim trilogy is wide screen music at its most impressive, opener, the ballad The Years Roll By, does see a return to the band’s earlier, classic progressive rock, style but beefed up with added layers of sophistication and skill. It immediately puts a smile on my face as soon as I hear the ever so stylish organ intro and Hannah Pryor’s voice is just magical. To hear Steve channelling his inner Chris Squire again is just a joy to these ears too and the guitar sound is just utterly compelling, giving the track a wonderfully symphonic style.

“There is a road, Hidden well but search, You may find it, There is a gate at the end, And only time can unlock it…”

Savage is just that, a slow burning, ominous opening is blown apart by a huge riff and Hannah’s voice takes on a darkly delicious tone. The symphonic moves aside for pure hard rock with a Led Zeppelin edge, the intricate guitar and keyboard parts are so precise that they make me smile and Aaron Raulston shows he’s lost none of his skill behind the drum kit. The musicianship on display is just dazzling but it’s that hard-edged, fuzzy riff that gets me every time, what a superb track this is!

“Lirazel! I found her name in a song, the melody of which cured me of all forgetfulness. Lirazel! They took you from me and hid you away, but the memory of love will not—cannot die.”

let’s go all 80’s and electronic shall we? North Of North is a really chilled and laid back instrumental that has a feel of Tangerine Dream to its wistful synthesised notes and I am a total sucker for a bit of old school electronica. You feel yourself getting lost in its pulsing rhythm before Fred lets loose with some super stylised keyboard licks, backed by some vibrant guitar and drums. This track is as uber-cool as they come.

“There’s gonna be hell to pay, When all is said and done, So many years have come and gone, And now I’m left with none…”

Prepare for a monumentally heavy aural assault as the blues-rock intro of All Alone makes way for the heaviest riff on the album, what an absolute beast of a song. Imagine King’s X and Metallica getting together for an anything goes jam and you won’t be far wrong, this track absolutely rocks and rocks hard. You can just imagine the band having the time of their life on this and it would be an absolute monster live, Hannah’s vocals once again giving substance to the down and dirty music. Creativity and songwriting prowess are both at an absolute zenith on this album!

Fred Schendel, Hannah Pryor, Steve Babb, Aaron Raulston

“You know where to find her, You know where to start, But only fools would go down, To the mountains heart…”

That ever so stylish hard rock feel continues with the funky grooves of All For Love, another edgy riff and some crunching bass lines from Steve adding some shadowy grunge to proceedings. The distorted guitar solo is a clever addition, as is Fred’s excellent, Deep Purple inspired, keyboard blast. It’s a hell for leather rollercoaster ride of immense proportions.

“I kinda thought this would be done soon, But I was born beneath a black moon…”

Snowblind Girl powers into focus on another thundering riff, the lengthy opening grabbing your attention before Hannah’s vocal begins, strident and demanding. There’s more a feel of symphonic metal to this song but it’s still bombastic and mightily heavy. Another verdant solo brings a smile to my face once again as these consummate musicians deliver yet another memorable track, the instrumental interplay is just jaw-droppingly good!

“Zagzagel, Here, the sorcerous city is buried now, Beneath a frozen lake For the king did justly curse it…”

Discordant and chaotic, the jarring opening to Standing At The Gate (Of Zagzagel) instantly grabs your attention, the crashing guitar chords and keyboards almost fighting each other for supremacy. Hannah’s authoritarian vocal delivers each line in a clipped manner before things calm down a bit for the memorable chorus,

“He’s standing at the gate, He’s pounding at the gate, Of dread, and now it opens.”

The guitar solo that follows is one of the best, flowing beautifully and full of passion and emotion in every single note and the song closes out with Hannah’s voice repeating the chorus as it fades into the background.

“There’s no life without you, There’s no life, If I walk this life alone, If I never find a home…”

In The Shadows sees the start of the final chapter in the album and the story and is also a complete sea change from the bombast and heaviness of most of what has gone before. It is an utterly captivating, ethereal track led by a gentle piano and Hannah’s haunting, sublime vocal. A wistful, melancholic song that bleeds sentiment through every note, the contemplative, almost mournful, music really gets you in your very soul and leaves you with a feeling of regret. The extended instrumental section is genius, utterly captivating and brings time to a standstill as it holds you in its thrall.

“Forgotten joy, the feel of sunshine, touch of summer sun, Don’t you know, my love…”

The album closes with the uplifting joy and charm of It’s Love, a fantastically inspirational song that sees Glass Hammer returning, once again, to the symphonic, orchestral prog for which they were well know. It is a perfectly constructed track, almost Queen-like (just check out that guitar!), that brings this mighty tale to a wonderful close.

Melodic, symphonic and, at times, monumentally heavy, ‘At The Gate’ is a superb, majestic leviathan of an album that enhances the band’s legacy as masters of the genre. This final instalment in the impressive trilogy brings things to a triumphant and proudly pompous conclusion, this is Glass Hammer at their finest, hugely expressive and sonically brilliant.

Released October 7th, 2022.

Order direct from the band here:

Glass Hammer official website




Live Review – YES At Manchester Bridgewater Hall – by John Wenlock-Smith

This was a particularly good show, if not just a little strange at times. The evening started with a few words from legendary album cover artist Roger Dean, who has worked with Yes for over 50 years, a true gentleman and very enthusiastic about the works he has created for the band over the years.

He started off by talking about the loss of Alan White and played a short sequence of images of Alan’s time with the band, then Yes came onstage and started their first set with On the Silent Wings of Freedom from the ‘Tormato’ album, a song that rarely gets played live. The band were up for it though with Steve Howe especially energised for the proceedings.

There were a few gremlins sound wise but the band got through it very professionally. Billy Sherwood’s Bass was a huge sounding behemoth, very Chris Squire like in tone, and he played some exceptionally good lines throughout. Billy has a certain air about him, like a rock god from a bygone age with his long flowing hair and his boots very much an image, but he can certainly play that bass like a master. New drummer Jay Schellan kept things very tidy at the back, solid and uncluttered, much like Alan White used to really.

This latest incarnation of Yes is very much orchestrated, led and driven these days by Steve Howe, who was constantly issuing instructions to the other band members with his hands or voice. Steve is the last member with a connection to their golden age (of which ‘Close To The Edge’ is a major capstone of course). Sure, you could moan about the lack of the presence of either Rick Wakeman or Jon Anderson, however the integrity of this band stays true under Steve’s guidance. Jon Davison may not have the presence of Anderson but he is a very fine singer for this version of Yes.

The band then played Yours Is No Disgrace, which was the first of several longer pieces performed tonight. This song was obviously a long-time favourite of many of the audience who’s average age was sixty plus. It is very strange being part of a crowd this old and you definitely know it is odd when the toilet queue is twice as long for me as it is for women!

We then moved onto No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed, from the ‘Time and a Word’ album, one that no one onstage had been a part of but still played it with much gusto, making it one of the highlights of the evening so far. This was followed by a rousing version of Does It Really Happen from ‘Drama’ and Geoff Downes’ keyboards really shone making it really stand out. We were then treated to Steve Howe’s solo guitar piece, The Clap, which he delivered to much acclaim and a rapturous response.

The latest Yes studio album is ‘The Quest’, which got a mixed critical response. Well, here tonight ,the two tracks they played, The Ice Bridge and Dare To Know, were both very well received, with Steve howe really on fire with his playing, he gave the recurring riff and melody some real oomph! This led to Heart Of The Sunrise from ‘Fragile’, another lengthy workout for all the members again with the thunderous bass from Billy really made this memorable, it was another highlight for me.

After a short break and queuing for the toilets the show recommenced with the main event of the evening, legendary album ‘Close To The Edge’ in its entirety.

The three songs, Close To The Edge, And You And I and Siberian Khatru are possibly the very essence of Yes, they were certainly different to much that was around in 1972. These pieces both retain and contain all that makes Yes so loved, mystical lyrics and driving and unorthodox time signatures where musicians really worked and stretched a piece of music to the maximum. This evening the songs did just that, with an especially fine rendition of And You And I. With some dramatic and effective pedal steel guitar from Steve at the end, it soared out over the audience and was again very well received. Siberian Khatru was also well received and was an excellent finale to proceedings, with the crowd up on their feet clapping along with the music.

Then it was encore time and what could it be but Roundabout and Starship Trooper, both of which really rocked out, sending everyone home extremely happy and satisfied at what they had seen, Yes doing what they do best, remembering a lost colleague and progressing onward as only they can. It was an astonishing and wonderful evening and performance plus, to top it all, Roger Dean signed my copy of the Topographic Oceans CD!

You can buy tickets for the remainder of the shows at this link:

https://yesworld.com/live/

Interview With Steve Howe by John Wenlock-Smith

In this piece I talk to Steve Howe about about both the forthcoming Yes UK live dates, why they are not playing ‘Relayer’ this time around and about the ‘Asia in Asia’ box set that is due out in June.

John Wenlock-Smith – Good afternoon Steve, are you keeping well?

Steve HoweYes I am, thank you.

JWS – You are in Devon today then?

SHYes, in a secret location! I moved here some 26 years ago from London and, whilst I still live in London, I visit as much as I can as my studio is here.

JWS – Fair enough. I have spent many happy times in Devon. It is a lovely area.

SHYes, well I certainly like the slower pace as opposed to the madness of London!

JWS – So the tour that you are doing in June, how come you are not going to do the ‘Relayer’ album, as originally announced and intended?

SHWell, with it being a shorter run of dates, as we cancelled the European leg, it’s now just the ten shows in the UK. We felt that it was better to postpone that particular album, especially as ‘Close To The Edge’ is 50 years old this year, and perform that in its entirety instead. We will also do a few other favourite songs and some of ‘The Quest’ album, although I’m not saying which we will play, keep it under wraps as it were. 

So that is the plan now, and save ‘Relayer’ till next year when we can give it the treatment that it deserves, so we chose to concentrate on playing CTTE this time around, to give it a good airing and celebrate the anniversary in this manner.

JWS – Yes, because you have had Patrick Moraz along for some shows doing ‘Gates of Delirium’ ?

SHWe had Patrick play Soon with us on a tour that Tony Kaye had joined us for, the celebratory tours. We like doing that sort of thing, although we have no plans on that as yet, not that to say that that it’s out of the window but, at the moment, we are concentrating on getting back out on the road after three years enforced time away.

Also, that is why coming back after 3 years away, we are doing what we are comfortable with and can do to the standard that is required and that Yes fans warrant and demand.

JWS – Yes, I can understand that way of thinking, plus it leaves the way open for a further tour with ‘Relayer’ being featured.

SHExactly…

JWS – I am glad that tracks from ‘The Quest’ will be featured, as I really enjoyed that album. I thought The Ice Bridge was exceptionally fine, reminiscent of Fanfare For The Common Man in the keyboard sounds, and also your solo Album ‘Love Is’, with Jon Davison on vocals.

SHThank you.

JWS – Well I thought it was a good set of songs, well performed.

SHYes, Jon did a wonderful job on that, didn’t he?

JWS – I also really enjoyed the ‘Homebrew 7’ album.

SHThank you, that was quite different for me in that it did not have the usual Homebrew story but was mostly unreleased tracks and ideas that I was able to work to fruition and completion. It was a retro album of music that was unreleased so thank you again for appreciating that.

JWS – I enjoy listening to latest music, especially music that you have released, so what are the chances of having your two original Atlantic albums (‘Beginnings’ and ‘The Steve Howe Album’) being re-released again?

SHWarner’s, Rhino, Atlantic or whoever have been so nice to me, they are officially releasing those albums, so I will investigate that. I think it’s marvellous to be part of the story of Ahmet Ertegun (Atlantic label founder).

Howe Sound, the label that releases many of my albums, is quite diverse really and I feel comfortable with what they release for me, plus I like to do things differently and not be stuck in a treadmill way of things.

JWS – I do not blame you, variety is the spice of life, or so they say.

SHIndeed.

JWS – Now Asia, that new Boxset (‘Asia in Asia’) that is coming out in June (10th) is very impressive…

SHBMG have released the Reunion albums, with Fantasia releasing the DVD but this one is even nicer. That is, I especially like the diligence, I like detail anyway and this set really has an elevated level of detail to it, making it worthy of attention. When we did those shows some forty odd years ago, Greg (Lake) was really inspiring in that he was singing John’s (Wetton) parts, playing his bass lines too and doing it all with dignity and aplomb.

The Asia story is all told within those sets really, the two original albums, ‘Go’ and ‘Asia In Asia’ and then the years where Geoff was holding the banner, keeping the flame alive as it were, with various people drifting in and out including myself. Then there’s the reunion and subsequent albums and tours, it’s all in those albums and the ‘Asia In Asia’ especially shows a period where Greg really rose to the occasion magnificently as the set testifies in such a great way.

JWS – The only criticism I have, and it is a minor one really, is that, in the booklet, it mentions a documentary filmed around that time in which each member traces their Asia journey and, although mentioned, I cant see it on the Blu-Ray?

SHWell, I thought it was there, but I will investigate that and see. Although Blu-Rays are notorious for not being easy to find things on, I know that from experience, so I will check into that for sure.

JWS – I agree that Greg did an outstanding job. This is borne out in the remixed audio on the CD’s where he sings, albeit in a lower register on some tracks, but in a very accomplished manner and his bass playing is equally as inspiring too.

SHWhen I heard the audio for the mix, it was good until we got to the last two tracks, Heat Of The Moment and Sole Survivor, where they sounded awful. So I took it up with the label and they said Steve’s really on the ball, those two tracks hadn’t been remixed. I insisted that they were brought up to the same standard and I’m glad to say that they did just that and now they sound fantastic.  

JWS – Good, I am very much looking forward to seeing you in Manchester on the tour.

SHGood, well I love the Bridgewater hall, I played a solo concert there several years ago and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It reminded me of those early shows where I learnt my craft, like the one when I played support to Delaney and Bonnie along with Eric Clapton and George Harrison etc, remarkable times and music.

JWS – Have you heard Geoff’s Downes Braide Association stuff at all?

SHYes, I have heard that it is an exciting outlet for his music.

JWS – Plus Roger Dean participates in the artwork for that.

SH – Yes, well Roger is a big part of the Yes story, he will be on the tour too.

JWS – Well Steve, my time has gone, so may I just thank you for your time today and I will hopefully see you in Manchester next month.

SH – Thank for talking to me and for your interest in my music and of Yes too, thank you John.

Order the Asia boxset here:

Asia – Live At The Budokan, Tokyo, 1983 [VINYL] (lnk.to)

YES launch video for ‘Future Memories’; ‘The Quest’ hits charts worldwide

YES, who are Steve Howe, Alan White, Geoff Downes, Jon Davison and Billy Sherwood, recently released their new studio album The Quest on InsideOutMusic/Sony Music The album was produced by Steve Howe. “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,” said Steve.

Today the band are please to reveal a video for the track ‘Future Memories’, watch it now here: 

‘The Quest’ also sees its physical release in North America, as of today.

Pick up your copy here: https://yes-band.lnk.to/TheQuest
The album has also been hitting charts worldwide, find a selection of them below:
#7 German Album Charts

#20 UK Album Charts

#1 UK Rock Album Charts

#5 Swiss Album Charts

#8 Japanese International Weekly Charts

#23 French Physical Album Charts

#37 Belgian National Album Charts

#54 Dutch Album Charts

#60 Italian Album Charts

The Quest was recorded across the globe, The sessions took place in the UK with Steve Howe, Geoff Downes & Jon Davison, while Alan White & Billy Sherwood got together in the studio in the US. “Billy Sherwood and myself did all the rhythm sections, bass and drum, in America,” says Alan White, “down in Los Angeles at Uncle Studios, where he works a lot. It helps when you’ve got a good place to work,” Alan laughs, “and Billy’s really good on the recording desk, so we got things down relatively quickly. I spent quite a while studying the music before I went down to LA so I was prepared.”
The Quest is also now available for pre-order on various formats, including a Limited Deluxe Box-Set that features a Gatefold 180g 2LP on exclusive coloured vinyl, 2CD+Blu-ray Digipak (featuring 5.1 mix & backing tracks), 36-page perfect bound booklet, enamel pin badge, 60x90cm poster, slipmat & hand-numbered certificate of authenticity, all housed in a rigid lift-off box.

Containing 11 songs, 8 on the main CD with 3 extra tracks on a bonus CD, The Quest will also be available as Limited 2CD+Blu-ray Artbook, 2CD Digipak, Gatefold 2LP+2CD & as Digital Album. Order now here: https://yes-band.lnk.to/TheQuest

The Quest – 2CD Digipak tracklisting:
CD1: 01. The Ice Bridge 7.01 02. Dare To Know 6.00 03. Minus The Man 5.35 04. Leave Well Alone 8.06 05. The Western Edge 4.26 06. Future Memories 5.08 07. Music To My Ears 4.41 08. A Living Island 6.52

CD2: 01. Sister Sleeping Soul 4.51 02. Mystery Tour 3.33 03. Damaged World 5.20

Formats are:Limited Edition Deluxe 2LP & 2CD plus Blu-ray Box-setLimited Edition 2CD & Blu-ray ArtbookGatefold 2LP & 2CD plus LP-booklet2CD DigipakDigital Album
Cover artwork designed and created by the band’s long term collaborator Roger Dean.

YES Story
For half a century YES have been the definitive band of the progressive music genre, the band by which all others are judged. Their ground-breaking albums of the 70s set the standard for the genre and influenced countless others who followed in their wake.

The current line-up of YES was completed in 2015 when Billy Sherwood replaced founder member Chris Squire, at Squire’s insistence, as he bravely fought a losing battle with leukaemia. Since then, YES have concentrated on touring with their Album Series tours, each featuring a classic YES album in its entirety. During this period YES have released three live albums Topographic Drama – Live Across America (2017), Yes Live 50 (2019) and The Royal Affair Tour: Live in Las Vegas (2020).

The music of YES has endured over the years and has been handed down through generations of music lovers.

Review – Yes – The Quest – by John Wenlock-Smith

‘The Quest’ is the first new Yes music in seven years. During that time much has happened with the death of founder member and bassist extraordinaire Chris Squire. Chris wanted the band to continue without him and had readied a replacement in Billy Sherwood. Sherwood was already known to Yes fans as he had been involved with the ‘Open Your Eyes’ and ‘Live at the House of Blues’ albums from the early 2000’s.

After the somewhat disappointing ‘Heaven and Earth’ album from 2014, this album needed to be a significant improvement over that somewhat lacking release and I can say that, whilst it may not be the absolute triumph that was needed, it is at least a far better and more convincing album all round. When you consider that the album was created across various continents and times, all whilst in the midst of the Covid pandemic, I think you will agree that this is a very worthy effort by the band to move onwards once again.

The release comprises of the main album and a second disc with 3 bonus tracks, although with the main CD running at 47 minutes, quite why they needed a second disc is a bit of a mystery as the 3 bonus track could have all fit on the main disc, quite odd really.  Another big difference here is that Steve Howe has produced the whole album. I have to say that he has done a good job too, giving plenty of space for each instrument and the vocals to be clearly separated and heard, giving a good clear sound throughout.

The album opens with a very strong start in The Ice Bridge, which bears a passing resemblance to Fanfare For The Common Man, especially in the keyboards of Geoff Downes. Yet, even so, this is a good strong opening track that sets out the stall for what is to follow. The song has a definite Yes groove to it, offering a first glimpse of Billy’s take on Chris Squires‘ legendary bass playing and he gets it bang to rights. Jon Davison is on top form, still sounding like Anderson-lite but adding his own touch in the vocals. The song also has a great ascending riff from Steve Howe that really works well, adding much pace and drive to proceedings. This song also allows for some good interaction between Steve’s guitar and the Geoff’s keyboards, all very ably backed by the rhythm section of Billy Sherwood and Alan White, it’s all very fine indeed but, can it continue? is the question here.  

Dare to Know follows and opens with a sprightly guitar line from Steve Howe and some good bass that underpins the music most satisfyingly. The song is quite mellow and laid back really but, even so, still manages to impress and, once again, Jon Davison’s voice sounds fabulous and really suits the sound, which is very full and impressive. 

I will say that I think this album is a grower and familiarity will reveal its treasures as you listen to it, so be prepared to invest some time with it to really get the most out of it. It’s not a bona fide classic but it certainly has enough moments of brilliance to make it worthy of hearing. Yes have been around for fifty two years now, so they have little to prove these days and really we should just be glad that they still are around and still making music in the twilight of their years. 

Minus the Man has a certain something to it, especially in the chorus and the lovely and eloquent guitar line that weaves its way through the song so gracefully. The track is very pleasing and sets you up well for the epic Leave Well Alone that follows. This one has touches of Asia and also has some delicate acoustic and steel guitars from Steve Howe. The song is in three parts which all work well together and, as the longest track on the album, it really does impress. As it gives room for some stretching out, I imagine this would be a good live track for the band when they tour next year.

The Western Edge is the next track and this has a broad sound palette to it with more of Howe’s guitar lines adding great sound touches to proceedings. The pace of is brisk and rather urgent in places and it benefits from that energy, as well as the synths from Geoff that are littered throughout this song. It is the shortest on the main album and it does not overstay its welcome at all. Future Memories is a gentler song driven by Steve’s acoustic guitar and interlaced with his electric guitar lines as well. It is also graced by a very fine vocal from Jon, who I have to say really sings well on this album, he has grown into his role in the band and, whilst he is clearly influenced by Jon Anderson, his own unique voice has emerged, as is clearly shown on Music to My Ears, the penultimate track on the main album.

The final main album track is the Caribbean inspired A Living Island, inspired by Jon enduring lockdown in Barbados for five months, yes, some folks suffer for their art don’t they ? The song is graceful and moves from a Caribbean lilt to a more conventional ecological tour de force again, there are lots of Steve Howe’s delicate mandolin and guitar on this track.

This track closes the main album but I’ll do a short summary of disc two with the three extra songs. Sister Sleeping Soul is another Howe driven track with gentle guitar tones and a good vocal from Jon. Mystery Tour is a tribute, musically and vocally, to the Beatles and gives the chance to cram as many Beatle references into one song as they can, it’s still an interesting song though and has some merit to it i feel. It is also good to hear Steve playing such fluid guitar lines and tones and has a lovely guitar break from Steve along with great dynamics. This shorter track is very worthy of hearing as it has much happening throughout. Damaged World is another good track again with an environmental bent to the lyrics but the groove is strong and, musically, it is a good song. It is not as good or strong as the songs on the main album but, even so, it is always good to have Yes music in whatever form it may come.

This album set has caused lots of different views and opinions amongst fans both old and new but, in conclusion, I would say that, as an album, this is fine if you place it in its context and bear in mind how it was compiled. On that basis it is a worthy addition to the Yes canon and should be judged as such. There is much to enjoy here if you open your ears to this particular version of the band.

Released 1st October, 2021.

Order from the link here:

The Quest (lnk.to)

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.

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