Long Beach Arena 1977: Mike Millard Original Master Tapes (Virtuoso 418/419)
Long Beach Arena, Long Beach, CA USA – September 26, 1977
Disc 1 (62:08) Firebird Suite, Parallels, I’ve Seen All Good People, Close To The Edge, Wondrous Stories, Colours Of The Rainbow, Turn Of The Century, Tour Song, And You And I
Disc 2 (52:55) Going For The One, Flight Jam, Awaken, Starship Trooper, Roundabout
One of the first recordings to surface directly from the Mike Millard Master tape series is his recording of Yes from Long Beach Arena on the incredible Going For The One Tour in September of 1977. Mike would record Yes a staggering 12 times from 1974 to 1980 and many of these recordings would feature some of the most vivid recordings in the unofficial Yes catalog.
The recording featured here is the third of three Yes concerts Mike would do in 1977, the previous two would be from the Great Western Forum on September 23rd and 24th. While not as famous as the superb September 23rd recording, Mike’s capture of the Long Beach concert was hot on its heels, a glorious stereo recording that captures not only a vivid document of the music played, but the electric atmosphere inside the Long Beach Arena as well. This recording has seen a few previous releases, Wondrous Master (Sirene 197), The Shining: The Word Is Love II (Tarantura TCDY-12,13,14), and Hail To Mike (Virtuoso 101/102) all feature this recording. Most recently Moonchild has thrown their hat into the ring with Long Beach Arena 1977 Mike Millard Tapes (Moonchild MC-207).
For comparison I will be using the only version I have in my collection of this concert, discs 5 and 6 of the Tarantura box set The Shining: The Word Is Love II. At the time the Tarantura box set was renowned for its sound quality, this new version cut directly from a modern transfer of the master tapes is easily its master (no pun intended). It is not as loud as the Tarantura and you can tell that title has compression applied to it as it has little tape hiss and really does sound nice, however this title has a natural, warm analog sound and a much wider frequency range, so much that the old T title sounds almost flat in comparison, one can easily assume it was from at least a second or third generation tape. The clarity and detail of this new title is incredible, the transfer and mastering done by the JEMS collective is a work of beauty, I am both a Yes fan and a Millard enthusiast and my appreciation of this new title is immense. As with my other reviews, let’s get Mike’s close friend and taping cohort Jim R’s recollection of this magic evening:
“Mike and I together attended the Yes concert at the Long Beach Arena on September 26, 1977. I pushed Mike in the wheelchair. We sat 7th row center on the floor, toward the back of our desired “sweet spot”.
Yes was one of our favorite bands of all time (Rob included) and deserves to be at the forefront of releases of newly discovered Millard master recordings. Mike and I attended every Yes show we could. In fact, I met Mike at a Yes concert at the same venue, Long Beach Arena, back in March of 1974. And here we were 3 1/2 years later.
Mike and I also attended and recorded the two previous shows at The Forum a couple days before, on the 23rd and 24th. The band seems to be a little tighter on this night, possibly because of playing in a smaller venue. At the time, the Long Beach Arena sat about 3000-4000 fewer than the Forum. As usual the sound quality at the venue was excellent. Yes used Clair Brothers, a premier sound company.
What made this tour special was the return of Rick Wakeman to the band. The previous tour in 1975 had Patrick Moraz on keyboards—sorry Pat but you do not cut it. I’m sure many Yes fans agree with this statement.
I took photos at the show, but the pictures were damaged just like Fleetwood Mac pictures taken less than a month before included in our previous volume. Same Kodak lab. We restored the Yes images as best we could. In a couple of the group shots you can see how the stage layout is reflected in Mike’s stunning artwork on the cassette spines. A masterpiece. This kind of elaborate artwork is something Mike did often early on.”
The audience anticipation when Firebird Suite is being played over the PA perfectly sets the scene, they are ready for Yes and once the band take the stage, almost drowns out the opening music, a loud explosion from a firecracker sets the stage, this will not be a mellow Monday night crowd. Parallels is an excellent opening number, the vocal harmonizing by Jon Anderson and Chris Squire is perfect, speaking of Chris, his bass is extremely clear in the mix and has very nice bass frequencies as well, something essential in Yesshows. By the time the band begin Close To The Edge, the recording is classic Millard quality, clear and detailed with a rich sound, incredible to here the Jazz fusion beginning of the piece in this quality, makes the version found on Yessongs sound like mud. This song showcases the joyous return of Rick Wakeman in all his glory, his playing throughout is superb, the chemistry between this line up is magic. I love the ending, tranquility as the birds chirp in rapture.
Jon Anderson seems to address that sentiment, “Thank you very much. I was thinking that…uh it brings back a lot of memories. This is a song which we recorded earlier this year for our new album Going For The One which we will be playing for you. This is one of the songs, it’s a little song called Wondrous Stories”. The song is so melancholy and quite beautiful, the melody is typical Jon Anderson, his voice is Yes. Colours Of The Rainbow is like a precursor to Turn Of The Century, a children’s song fitting so perfectly into the set. The mellow interlude concludes with a bit of crowd appreciation in the form of Tour Song, “Making our way here, down the road apiece, Get to Long Beach, where the Queen Mary lies…Here in Long Beach, getting plenty of sunshine…Here in Long Beach, plenty of pretty girls you know…yeah…Came in this afternoon to be here to play to you…Get a good ride, lots of traffic from LA…But we’re going to Long Beach California…Long Beach California…We’re going to Long Beach California…Near LA…Near LA…Near LA”. A cool little piece the band would play and really make each concert a bit special.
And You And I is simply a gorgeous version, it is warmly greeted by the audience as the song begins, washing over them in waves of sound. This song hits on all marks, vocals are perfect, keyboards are lush, guitar is lyrical, and perhaps the best are the Chris bombs, absolutely thundering (bombs are deep bass lines, a term used by Deadheads…aka Phil bombs). The quality of the recording is so vivid a soundboard could not possibly be its better. Going For The One is a get up and boogie style of song and apparently motivates Rick Wakeman so much he does the twist, again Steve Howe’s playing is so versatile, his guitar is as colourful as Rick’s keys.
Flight Jam is an ambient prelude to one of Yes’ best songs, Awaken, challenging for the listener with its changes being distinct and musically evokes spirituality. Like all great Yesmusic, it draws you in on all fronts, the musical soundscapes are only limited by the imagination. Rick’s playing is just incredible, this piece is a showcase for his ability to blend multiple styles into a cohesive statement, the songs reaches for the sky, pulling the listener up with them…like And You And I, just a stunning piece of music. The ovation is massive as the band leaves the stage and shouts of “more…more…” fill the arena.
The first encore is Starship Trooper, the audience is really into it and follow the band through the songs many changes, there is also a great dueling jam between Steve and Rick where both musicians “spar” with each other with the listener being the winner! Afterwards, Steve gets to the proper solo, it builds in intensity then leads to the finale that nearly brings the house down. Roundabout is the song that is the culmination of the evening, a joyous expression of the band and the audience.
The packaging is typical for Virtuoso, full color inserts with the front cover using Going For The One record cover graphics. Sadly Virtuoso did not use any of Jim R’s photos that accompanied the torrent, they have used pictures from the concert taken by another photographer. It should be noted that Moonchild used one of Jim’s photos for their cover of their version, Long Beach Arena 1977 Mike Millard Tapes (Moonchild MC-207). Hopefully this is something Virtuoso rectifies with future releases, I can see that they may not be cover quality but certainly to have them on the interior as well as the ticket stub scans would be a nice way to better package the music, plus they are free with the torrent. Of course you get a numbered sticker and picture discs, the typical fare. Stunning quality, props go to JEMS for making these incredible recordings free to all, Mike Millard’s attention to detail and love for the music he loved shines through in his tapes, what an incredible legacy he left and how wonderful it is to be able to enjoy them. All Hail to Mike the MIC!