Yes – Soloworks (Highland HL323/324)

Soloworks (Highland HL323/324)

Disc 1 (71:48):  Rick Wakeman,  BBC Session February 1st, 1973:  Anne Of Cleves, Catherine Howard, Catherine Parr.  Rick Wakeman, Steve Howe & Brian May – Goldon Giltrop ’94:  Heartsong.  Rick Wakeman unreleased sessions ’92:  Data Base, Lytton’s Diary.  Rick Wakeman, KORG demo ’92:  Catherine Howard.  Steve Howe, Danbury, CT – October 13th, 1994: Turn Of the Century,  Sketches In The Sun, Mood For A Day, Beginnings, The Gates Of Delirium (Featuring “Soon”), The Clap, Close To The Edge, Heat Of The Moment

Disc 2 (74:40):  Jon Anderson, Royal Albert Hall December 1st, 1980:  YES Medley (Intro, To Be Over, Perpetual Change, The Prophet, Long Distance Runaround, Wounderous Stories, Rejoice, I’ve Seen All Good People, Revealing Science Of God, The Remembering, Ritual).  Jon Anderson, Steve Howe & Rick Wakeman – Montreux Jazz Festival – July 19th, 1979:  Harp & Piano Intro, Leaves Of Green, Flight Of The Moorglade, Montreux Jazz Festival Jam.  Jon Anderson “Mothers Day Unique Show” Paso Robles, CA May 12th, 1996:  Time And A Word (incl. “Soon”), Owner Of The Lonely Heart, And You And I

Soloworks is a curious collection of tapes.  Spanning twenty-three years, it presents solo work by Rick Wakeman, Jon Anderson and Steve Howe.  There are several tapes used for these appearances.  All are very good and many come from professional sources but others from audience tapes.  It is a mixed bag like any other anthology but in general there is nothing poor sounding.

Disc one begins with a Rick Wakeman BBC session from February 1st, 1973.  Even though he was in Yes at the time, he still spent time on his solo project and this recording comes in a break during their long tour for Close To The Edge.  The sound quality is very good to almost excellent mono taped off of the radio.  The three tracks don’t differ much from their counterparts on The Six Wives of Henry VIII.  The middle solo in “Anne Of Cleves” is a few seconds short.

The radio session is followed by “Heartsong” in pristine sound quality.  Wakeman is credited along with Steve Howe and Brian May of Queen, recorded in 1994.  Wakemen worked with May when he took part in May’s Guitar Legends guitar festival in Seville, Spain on October 19th, 1991.  “Heartsong” is a four and a half minute instrumental with a breezy acoustic guitar on rhythm and May’s familiar guitar sound playing a very catchy melody.  Howe’s contribution can be heard too in the solos.  This is the second time May and Howe appear in the same song.  Howe first played Spanish flamenco guitar “somewhere in the middle” of “Innuendo” on the final Queen album.  

This is followed by a rare Rick Wakeman single.  “Theme To Lytton’s Diary” with the b-side “Database” are theme songs to two British television shows written by Wakeman in the early eighties.  The single was released in 1985 (not 1992 as listed) and has never appeared on compact disc.  “Theme To Lytton’s Diary,” according to Rick Wakeman, “came about after I was asked to compose the music for the TV series of the same name which starred Peter Bowles. The series was about a gossip columnist at a major newspaper. The series bombed and so did the single.” 

The b-side is “Database” which was the theme for ITV’s Eighties computer show Database.  Both are fast tempo tunes which work well as catchy theme music but are ultimately forgettable.  The final Wakeman song is a version of “Catherine Of Aragon” which was issued free on compact disc in 1992.  The free CD came with the purchase of a Korg 01/W workstation synthesizer or the Korg 01/W Rack.  It offers, in the words of one collector:  “Incredible explorations of the full potential of the 01/W, excellent effects, deep bass, atmospheric melody line.” 

The rest of disc one is devoted to a Steve Howe solo concert.  This dates from the Pulling Strings tour in 1994 (not 1993 as listed on the cover) and is a soundboard recording of the appearance on October 13th at  Tuxedo Junction in Danbury, Connecticut.  Highland offer only a fraction of the show but enough to know that it is a very warm performance in an intimate venue.  Howe keeps the show moving along at a fast clip with many witty and funny comments between the songs. 

The first song presented occurs right by the end of the first half, “Turn Of The Century.”  Howe sings the tune but with bare competence.  Someone in the crowd requests “All’s A Chord” from The Steve Howe Album, but Howe instead plays the GTR tune “Sketches In The Sun.”  There is a very loud yell and Howe says “please shout if you find it therapeutic.”  

Howe plays an acoustic version of “Beginnings” from his first solo album in 1975.  He gets into a long story about how Patrick Moraz helped with the original arrangement and a second one they did as a duet that has been buried by the British Film Institute.  After “Clap” he does an acoustic reduction of the “I Get Up I Get Down” section of “Close To The Edge” with vocals.  

He followed this with “Blinded By Science” from The Grand Scheme of Things (unfortunately omitted) and finally a two minute version of Asia’s “Heat Of The Moment” on which Howe plays electric.  This is a really nice sample from the concert and enough to wish the entire show (or any show from the tour) were commercially available.

The second disc begins by focusing upon Jon Anderson.  The first part is a slightly muffled but clear audience tape from the December 1st 1980 show at the Royal Albert Hall in London.  The complete show is available on Royal Event Eclipse (NK006) but Highland chose to use only the half hour Yes medley from the middle of the show. 

Reminiscent of the big medley from the Tormato tours, this is interesting for the addition of a horn section (something never done by Yes) and the playing of “The Prophet” from Time And A Word.  It was one of the singles from the second Yes album but never was played live.  The complete Sheffield show recorded four days later was released and is still available on Live in Sheffield 1980 which is the bests way of hearing what the show was like with Anderson’s solo material from Olias Of Sunhillow and Song Of Seven.

Next is another curiosity.  Two weeks after finishing the Ten True Summers Tour, Wakeman, Anderson and Howe all participated in the Montreux Jazz Festival on July 19th, 1979.  The entire sets have been taped, but Highland focus upon the jamming they do together.  Rick Wakeman played a set that included generous selections from his best known solo albums. 

Highland utilize a good audience recording and begins where Wakeman is introducing Anderson, saying:  “It’s a nice surprise.  A very good friend of mine. In fact really my best friend.  He’s come in from south France where he lives.  We’re gonna do a special encore type thing.”  Wakeman plays piano and Anderson the harp in an unorganized jam.  Nothing really goes anywhere until they play “Leaves Of Green,” Anderson accompanying himself on guitar and Wakeman on piano.  “Here’s a song I bearly remember writing, it was so long ago” Anderson says afterwards and they play “Flight Of The Moorglade” from his solo album Olias Of Sunhillow.

Afterwards a second tape is used, a mono radio broadcast complete with DJ giving commentary in French.  He shuts up when Wakeman and Anderson jam on electric piano and acoustic guitar and play the “Montreaux Festival Jam.”  This is simply the tour song melody they have been using on tour for two years with Anderson singing:  “Sunshine – you got it.  Moonshine – you got it.  Music – you got it.  Claude Knobs – you got it.  Montreux Jazz Festival is the place to be.  Montreux Jazz Festival has got to be the place to be.  Sunshine – you got it.  Claude Knobs – he got it.  Weather Report – they got it.”

Wakeman introduces his band on and Steve Howe joins in.  There is a drum solo and they all get into a funky melody.  The entire jam session lasts for fifteen minutes.  At the end they left the stage for Howe to play his set featuring his Yes solos and songs from Beginnings and the just released The Steve Howe Album.  It exists on tape but Highland chose not to include any of it.  It would be great if someday the entire Wakeman and Howe sets were all released.

The final selection is several songs from Jon Anderson’s Mother’s Day concert in San Luis Obispo on May 12th, 1996.  This is a very intimate and enjoyable show set in a winery with some of his friends accompanying him including a children’s choir.  The entire show has since been released on The Mother’s Day Concert (Opio Media/Voiceprint). 

At the beginning of this recording Anderson is talking about the upcoming release Keys To Ascension and how the new music is just as good as anything they did in the seventies.  “Time And A Word” includes a reference from “Soon,” and “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” is augmented by the choir.  It’s a fun little set. The Voiceprint release of the complete show is recommended above this one.  Overall Soloworks is an interesting collection of rarities worth having.

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