27 May 2009, Cliff @ 5:15 am
The Shining: The Word Is Love II (Tarantura TCDY-12, 12, 14)
Tarantura’s latest Yes release presents three concerts in four days from their 1977 tour in support of the LP Going For The One, the band’s first album in two-and-a-half years. The album, of course, saw the return of Rick Wakeman on keyboards and a new, fresher song-based approach. Wakeman had been sent a tape of Wonderous Stories and Going For The One and, as he said, “I thought, ‘Oh, we’re doing songs again – yeah!’”
There are only five songs on the album (as Tarantura’s sleeve notes point out, they are “shorter, but not short”) but compared to what went before this constituted a major change of emphasis. Chris Welch sums this up in his book, Close To The Edge: “After the intensity of [Tales From] Topographic [Oceans] and Relayer many welcomed the new material as a return to the kind of melodic simplicity of the Time And A Word era. It was a breath of fresh air and still sounds dynamic and pristine all these years later.”
These comments are reflected in statements made by band members. Steve Howe referred to Going For The One as “a dynamic piece of music” and Chris Squire called it “a spontaneous-sounding record with a lot of good feeling on it.” These qualities were reflected in the live shows of the period. Lengthy compositions were largely eschewed on this tour (there are no tracks from Tales From Topographic Oceans or Relayer on these CDs), as was extensive soloing by band members. As Rick Wakeman stated, “we didn’t want one guy having a blow while the rest of the guys go off to take a piss!”
This Tarantura release is subtitled The Word Is Love II, indicating that it is the follow-up to the major release of that name which featured Mike Millard recordings of shows at Inglewood and Long Beach in 1974, 1975 and 1978.
As gsparaco writes in his review of that release: “The set focuses upon some of the tapes produced by the famous Mike Millard in Los Angeles in the seventies…My only complaint about this set is that the 1977 shows at the LA Forum and the Long Beach Arena weren’t included. The Tormato shows are great, but it might have been better to have more variety to have a Going For The One show in instead…Hopefully there will be more to come in the future.” Now this new set has rectified that omission.
Having said that, all three shows have previously seen the light of day. As far as I am aware, there has only been one LP release of this material. Yesshows ’77 (Ruthless Rhymes) featured an incomplete recording of the Long Beach concert of 26th September. (The songs included were Parallels, Wonderous Stories, ’Colours Of The Rainbow’, Turn Of The Century, ‘Here In Long Beach’, Going For The One and Roundabout.)
The Inglewood Forum show of 23rd September has appeared on CD as Mike’s Mint (Virtuoso) and on CD-R as Moment’s Delight (SDR); the concert of the 24th has had a CD-R issue as Shines Everyday (Windmill), which makes the Tarantura the first silver release; the Long Beach performance has appeared on CD as Wonderous Master (a title which perpetuates Jon Anderson’s spelling error from Wonderous Stories) on the Sirene label and on CD-R as Gettin’ Plenty of Sunshine on Blue Cafe. As for the concert in between these Inglewood and Long Beach shows, at the San Diego Sports Arena on 25 September, there is, to my knowledge, no circulating tape.
Set One: The Forum, Inglewood, CA, USA – 23 September, 1977
Disc 1: Firebird Suite, Parallels, I’ve Seen All Good People, Close To The Edge, Wonderous Stories, Colours Of The Rainbow [The Beautiful Land], Turn Of The Century, ’Til The Midnight Hour [In The Midnight Hour], And You And I
Disc 2: Going For The One, Fight Jam, Awaken, Starship Trooper, Roundabout
Set One contains the first Inglewood show at The Forum (not, at that time, the Great Western Forum as Tarantura calls it, as that name was not used until 1988). It begins with Stravinsky’s Firebird, and the band begins to play along before it ends. They then launch into an effervescent performance of Parallels, which makes a terrific show opener.
The song demonstrates the point made in the booklet that the music from Going For The One is “more direct and accessible” than what went before. From this first number, also, it is clear that Rick Wakeman has returned to the fold. As Welch says, he demonstrates “that even a church organ can rock.” (On the album version Wakeman plays an actual church organ, that of St. Martin’s Church in Vevey, Switzerland.)
This first song makes it clear that the band were struggling with an under-powered PA system, unfortunately coupled with an extremely loud and vocal audience, one of whom can be heard repeatedly shouting, “louder!” at the end of Parallels. In the first few songs, probably also due to the PA, Anderson’s vocals are very slightly recessed and muffled, although all the instruments can be heard very clearly and distinctly.
The thing that strikes the listener most about the sound, however, is the prominence of Chris Squire’s bass, despite some work being done on the tape. As gsparaco’s review of Mike’s Mint points out: “The remaster was done and posted online and the notes that came with the tapes state: ‘This remaster helps the mix somewhat by pulling up the rest of the band.’” Although the bass predominates, it does not overwhelm the other instruments and it imparts a depth and presence to the sound which is most effective.
The next song, I’ve Seen All Good People, allows us to appreciate the way that Millard’s tape nicely captures the vocal contributions of Anderson and Steve Howe in the slower, quieter opening section of the song (Your Move); the faster second section (All Good People) features some splendid guitar from Howe, complemented by Alan White’s energetic drumming. This is followed by Close To The Edge.
The dissonant and cacophonous introduction boasts an impressive weightiness, due in part to the excellence of the performance, including thunderous drumming from White, but also because of the prominence of Squire’s bass. The vocal interplay between Anderson and Howe in the quiet section (I Get Up, I Get Down) is caught beautifully and Howe, despite his limitations as a singer, nails his part here. The entry of Wakeman’s church organ is majestic and his entire keyboard contribution to this classic Yes number brings back a distinctively Wakemanesque sound after the Moraz interlude.
Anderson’s vocals are clearer and more prominent from the start of the next number, the whimsical and melodic hit single Wonderous Stories, and this greatly enhances the performance of this introspective song. Thankfully the audience quietens down somewhat at this point.
The mood remains relaxed for the short and gentle excerpt from The Beautiful Land, performed a capella by Jon Anderson and used here, as elsewhere on this tour, as an introduction to Turn Of The Century. Universally mistitled on Yes bootlegs and on Yes-related websites such as Forgotten Yesterdays as Colours Of the Rainbow, this is the opening song from Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley’s 1964 musical The Roar Of The Greasepaint – The Smell Of The Crowd. Anderson is evidently familiar with the song from the Nina Simone recording as, like her, he sings only the first two verses at a speed much slower than both the original and Newley’s own version from his album Pure Imagination.
Moreover, he follows her alteration to the first line where red becomes the colour of “a pretty pillow box” rather than “a lot of lollipops.” One wonders whether Anderson is aware that the song originates from a stage work dealing with class conflict in Britain. With its delicate and lyrical acoustic passages and sense of yearning, Turn Of The Century itself features some beautiful guitar and piano from Howe and Wakeman respectively, as well as some tumultuous playing from Wakeman in the louder, more upbeat section of the song.
Surprisingly, the band then responds to an audience request, replacing the Tour Song with a brief excerpt from Wilson Pickett’s In The Midnight Hour (mistitled by Tarantura as ‘Til The Midnight Hour). It is a shame that the band never recorded this as they make it sound quite distinctive here and I feel that they could have produced a version that sounded as idiomatically like a Yes song as they did with Paul Simon’s America. The first disc then concludes with an excellent rendition of my own favourite Yes song, And You And I, which sounds superb.
Set Two: The Forum, Inglewood, CA, USA – 24 September, 1977
Disc 1: Firebird Suite, Parallels, I’ve Seen All Good People, Cose To The Edge, Wonderous Stories, Colours Of The Rainbow [The Beautiful Land], Turn Of The Century, Tour Song, And You And I, Going For The One
Disc 2: Flight Jam, Awaken, Starship Trooper, Roundabout
The second disc bursts into life with a highly energetic Going For The One which delights the audience. This is followed by Flight Jam/Awaken and the sound quality continues to be truly impressive, although there is some tape hiss audible here. Flight Jam (which remains, like The Beautiful Land, unrecorded) is a short (three-and-a-half minute) and atmospheric opening to Awaken. Unfortunately, the effect is rather spoiled by an inadvertent boosting of the sound level of Wakeman’s keyboards at around 2 minutes 40 seconds.
Thankfully, this only lasts for a brief moment. Awaken itself bucks the trend for shorter songs on Going For The One, clocking in at fifteen-and-a-half minutes and the version played here tops seventeen minutes. It is perhaps Yes’ last truly great epic song. John Anderson said of it that, “I loved listening to ‘Awaken,’ at last we had created a Masterwork.” The opening section is given an urgent, driven performance which is propelled by Squire’s booming bass lines and White’s insistent drumming. The reflective and mesmeric instrumental section in the middle of the song sounds wonderful and the emergence of Wakeman’s keyboard contribution, which includes choral effects, is sublime. The vocal-led section which leads the number to its quiet conclusion is simply gorgeous.
The main set concludes with a vigorous rendition of Starship Trooper and it is another performance that demonstrates that the extent to which the band had been re-invigorated by the new album and the return of Wakeman. The band adds a short and uncharacteristaically funky section, lasting little more than half a minute, to the beginning of this number.
The highlight of this version is the concluding section, Wurm, which begins with the simple guitar motif familiar from the album version. On that version the climax is a further guitar part from Howe. On this longer rendition, which takes the song to twelve-and-a-half minutes, the guitar is supplanted by a prominent keyboard section from Wakeman and the end is dominated by the wonderful interplay between Howe’s guitar and Wakeman’s keyboards, all underpinned by Squire’s bass. As so often, the encore is Roundabout and this truly spirited, high-energy performance proves that Yes can rock as hard as any band in existence.
Set Three: Long Beach Arena, Long Beach, CA, USA – 26 September, 1977
Disc 1: Firebird Suite, Parallels, I’ve Seen All Good People, Close To The Edge, Wonderous Stories, Colours Of The Rainbow [The Beautiful Land], Turn Of the Century, Tour Song, And You And I, Going For The One
Disc 2: Fight Jam, Awaken, Starship Trooper, Roundabout
The performances from the other two concerts are similar to those of 23 September. The band plays the songs in the same versions and the set list is virtually identical for the three shows, the only difference being the substitution of In The Midnight Hour for the Tour Song on the 23rd. Obviously the lyrics of the Tour Song are also somewhat different, as they pertain to the location of the venue. At the Forum on the 24th Anderson includes lyrics such as “sun shines every day” and “there’s some wonderful people here,” whereas in Long Beach he refers to “gettin’ plenty of sunshine” (hence the title of the Blue Cafe release) and the presence of ”plenty of pretty girls.” Elsewhere, minor differences are, of course, apparent. For example, the band perhaps rocks a little harder on Parallels on the 24th, whereas they are more energetic during the faster section of I’ve Seen All Good People on the 26th.
Conversely, on the slower section of the latter song, the vocal performance is superior on the 23rd. Starship Trooper expands to thirteen minutes on the 24th and then to thirteen-and-a-half on the 26th; similarly Fight Jam reaches four minutes and then five. Overall, however, the similarities may lead less zealous Yes collectors to acquire one of the releases mentioned above rather than go for this 6-CD set. My advice to them is to go for Mike’s Mint, as the performance of the 23rd has the edge, albeit narrowly, in both performance and sound. Available with this release is a bonus pro-shot DVD-R which features a performance from The Tweeter Center in Camden, NJ on 8 August 2002, which enhances its appeal.
Throughout this set the sound, though not without some imperfections, is excellent. The concerts of 24 and 26 September do not suffer from the initial PA problems encountered during the show from the 23rd, nor do they have the over-prominent bass. There is, however, a low level hum (which at times resembles a human voice) emanating from the right channel during much of the concert from the 24th. It is not too disturbing but is more audible when listening through headphones.
The recording from this show also unfortunately lacks the last minute or so of Awaken, which ends abruptly with a very quick fade out as Anderson sings the words “here we can be.” Overall, I prefer the sound from the 23rd, having a liking for the bass-heavy sound-picture of this recording. I would advise anyone who purchases this set and who wishes to evaluate the sound quality to listen to Close To The Edge from this show. The clarity, depth and presence of the sound is stunning, especially when one considers the complicated and sometimes dissonant nature of the music. When one further acknowledges that it derives from a tape recorded surreptitiously in a large arena over three decades ago, one cannot deny that the sound quality is simply astonishing.
I have not heard the alternative releases cited above, except for Mike’s Mint. Compared with this, the first two discs of the new Tarantura set reproduce the music at a higher volume; otherwise I can discern no significant difference. As gsparaco pointed out in his review of the original The Word Is Love, from 1975 Millard “started using a stereo mic providing the stellar tapes we all love,” and the recordings from the Going For The One Tour presented here certainly fit into this category. As Tarantura’s booklet reminds us, “it was one of the few Yes tours that was never recorded for a radio broadcast, nor have any soundboard recordings surfaced.” Consequently, collectors are fortunate indeed to benefit from Millard’s endeavours.
This release comes in a numbered limited edition of 100. The superb packaging comes in the form of a “shuffle pack” which opens at the top. Once opened, the front of the pack comes forward to reveal three tiered pockets each containing one of the double CD sets in a single sleeve, with the booklet also tucked into the first pocket. The front of the pack shows an artist’s easel on which is placed a canvas depicting clouds in the sky; the rest of the packaging is illustrated with the works of the Dutch artist M. C. Escher.
For some reason the sleeves of set one and set two both show perhaps Escher’s most well-known work Relativity (lithograph, 1953), while the sleeve of set three depicts Palm (wood engraving, 1933). The front of the first inner pocket is illustrated with Other World (wood engraving and woodcut, 1947) on to which “Yesshows” is superimposed in the classic Roger Dean style. The booklet cover, when opened out, features the work known either as High And Low or Up And Down (lithograph, 1947), and contains three sets of notes in English and Japanese.
The discs themselves are also printed with the Escher works. This is beautifully done and the coloured paper sleeves have round plastic fronts which allow the artwork to be viewed. My one concern here is that the outer packaging wraps around the inner pockets very tightly which means much care must be taken when opening and closing the pack. This also results in the front being somewhat bowed when the pack is closed. Other than this it must be said that the overall effect is stunning. There are other, cheaper ways of acquiring these excellent and impressively recorded performances, but those collectors who like their CDs to be works of art as well as a means of listening to great music will obtain enormous pleasure from ownership of this beautifully produced set.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]Yes - The Shining: The Word Is Love II (Tarantura TCDY-12, 12, 14),