Almost Famous (Tarantura TCDY-9)
Actuel Festival, Amougies, Belgium – October 27th, 1969
No Opportunity Necessary No Experience Needed, tuning problems, Then, It’s Love, Every Days, I See You, Something’s Coming
Last year when the audience tapes from the Actuel Festival surfaced, it caused a bit of comment with collectors. Although the event was filmed, not much had circulated and nothing from the two sets at the center of interest: Pink Floyd and Yes. The Floyd set, complete with the jam with Frank Zappa, was pressed and released earlier this year.
Now Tarantura pressed the Yes set on Almost Famous. This tape is important because, not counting recordings for the BBC, previously only three tapes were in circulation from Yes’ first full year as a band including the August 20th Star Club in Hamburg, October 9th in Essen, and December 21st in Sheffield (and all can be found on the one disc title In The Beginning (Highland HL055#Y12)).
The Amougies tape is the third oldest and longest in duration. Tarantura give a warning on the cover that this is a poor audience recording. It is a thin sounding and distorted but is surprisingly the best sounding of the four 1969 tapes. There is a cut at 1:28 in “Then” eliminating the second verse, at 1:51 and 4:41 in “Every Days,” and cuts in “I See You” at the beginning and end, which omits the first and second verses.
What is present is a good and rare document of the original band playing one of their biggest shows to date. The Actuel Festival was originally scheduled to be in the heart of Paris, but after it was cancelled by the city the organizers moved it across the border into Belgium. It lasted for five days, between October 24th to October 28th and Yes appeared on Monday evening.
Of all the songs they play, only “Then” is a group original with all the others being covers that comprised their current repertoire including two songs, “No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed,” “Then,” and “Every Days” that would be recorded the following month for their second LP Time And A Word. The tape cuts in right at the beginning of the organ fanfare of “No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed” and it is a fantastic rocker which includes the “Big Valley” interlude in the middle.
This is followed by five minutes of tuning problems. Bill Bruford says, “this one is a custom. It’s called ‘tuning up.’ Because our bass player is an old, old Islamic, we have to tune up.” Jon Anderson introduces “Then” by saying, “This is a song about a time…watching a football match over there…about a time that’s gonna come…when you go to a theater to listen to music, a time that is very close to us. A song called ‘Then.'”
After a first attempt the song breaks down and Bruford explains to the crowd, “we’ve got a problem with our organ.” Anderson then says, “The electricity is so fantastic here that every time we try to tune up the electricity blows up and the organ blows up and goes out of tune. So we have to tune up after every number.” The second attempt is a bit more successful with the band playing the whole introduction before the organ cuts out again and the song comes to a halt.
Bruford says, “don’t go away, we’ll be right back. We just got to sort it all out. Islamic organs, Hindu guitarists, it’s all gonna be sorted out.” There is a small cut in the tape and when the tape comes back in there is some clapping and Bruford says, “we’re sorry about all this” and Anderson talks about the organ going out of tune. The third attempt is successful and they play the track in its entirety. Even with the cut the song lasts for more than five minutes.
“When we came in, around nine o’clock we heard a lot of people banging things and making very good noises enjoying themselves. We’d like to do a song about love and we’d like for you to join in the bass solo.” The play The Rascal’s hit “It’s Love,” a cover tune that would last in their set list for another two years. It begins with the band singing a bit of the melody to “Firebird Suite” in harmony as an introduction and features Chris Squire handling vocals and playing a long bass solo. This is the first live reference to the early “Bass Odyssey” which would later mutate into “The Fish” on Fragile two years later.
Of particular note is the appearance of “I See You.” This is a cover of The Byrds’ tune and is Peter Banks’ big solo spot in the set. Fifteen of the twenty minutes are still on the tape and the long guitar solo includes bits of J.S. Bach’s Jesus, Joy Of Man’s Desiring, the French national anthem La Marseillaise, and Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. The only other live recording of the song is from the December show in Sheffield. The show closes with a cover of “Something’s Coming.”
Almost Famous is a good release to hear the famous progressive rock band when they were exploring their sonic vocabulary. At this time their jazz fusion and folk roots were predominant and would be superceeded later by the classical element broght in later by Howe and Wakeman. The title is packaged in a single cardboard sleeve, is limited to one hundred numbered copies and includes an insert with extensive liner notes by Glenn Gottlieb.