Mike’s Mint (Virtuoso 006/007)
Los Angeles Forum, Los Angeles, CA – September 23rd 1977
Disc 1: 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 (In The Midnight Hour), And You And I, Going For The One
Disc 2: Flight Jam, Awaken, Starship Trooper, Roundabout
Yes’ tour in support of their 1977 album Going For The One produced some of their most clean and crisp concerts in the archives. Inspired by the re-joining of keyboardist Rick Wakeman, the set list and the new music was devoid of ego trips and long solos. Rather, it was a time where all of their genius, talent and virtuosity were sublimated into some of their most sublime and glorious music on record.
Mike’s Mint contains the Millard tape from September 23rd, their first of two concerts in Los Angeles. This tape received minimal circulation until recently and doesn’t appear on many trading lists. The recording is in excellent stereo but the tape is faced with a quiet PA and a very loud and vocal audience surrounding the microphone. There are several shouts for the sound to be turned up during the performance along with many requests (one of which is unpredictably granted). The frequencies of the tape favor the bass and Chris Squire predominates the sound.
The remaster was done and posted online and the notes that came with the tape state: “This remaster helps the mix somewhat by pulling up the levels of the rest of the band. A number of small dropouts were eliminated and one big speed variation in ‘Awaken’ was flattened out with a little creative editing. The recording was equalized to brighten it up a little. I must report that there were some howler monkeys in the audience on this particular evening. One was especially close to the microphones and tended to emit a loud G sharp for extended periods when excited. At the beginning of one particularly stimulating song, his pitch increased to A natural. To reduce his dominance, I set the parametric equalizer for his frequency and reduced the volume of his howling by -10 db. But he is still quite audible. I wonder if this sound was the poor creature’s mating call, and if he was successful in finding a mate on this evening. I rather doubt it.”
At 2:38 someone at the PA pushes Wakeman up very loud momentarily during “Flight Jam,” and at 9:04 in “Awaken” there is a tape wobble.
The tape beings during the pre-taped introduction of Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite” which the band plays along before kicking into “Parallels.” This song, that proves that a church organ can rock, has always been one of their strongest openers and it’s a shame it was dropped after this tour, only to remerge with disastrous results during some of the dates on the Drama tour.
But the height of Anderson’s vocal over the strength of the organ propels this song. After some shouts of “louder” Anderson says, “It’s great to be with you. Is this the Forum? Okay this is for you then” before the band play “I’ve Seen All Good People.” Playing this remnant from the hippy era brings the set back down to earth before they pummel the audience with a twenty-minute version of “Close To The Edge.”
These shows are the first time in three years this song was played with Wakeman on the keyboards and sound much more focused than the Moraz versions from 1975. “We’d like to carry on with some music from the new album Going For The One. This is little song thing called ‘Wondrous Stories'” Anderson says before a glorious version of their hit single from that year.
Before “Colours Of The Rainbow” and “Turn Of The Century” someone close to the stage requests “In The Midnight Hour” and afterwards, instead of playing their “Tour Song” they play the first verse of “In The Midnight Hour.”
“These two guys right here were shouting, ‘do the ‘Midnight Hour’ ya’know?” This is the first time the band played the Wilson Pickett R&B song since their show in Fresno, California on August 3rd, 1976 at which show, according to the Forgotten Yesterdays website: “I’m sure many people were surprised (even shocked) to hear Yes play a snippet of ‘In the Midnight Hour’ during the encore. My high school friends, Roger Meyers and Jim Hazelwood, had driven up to Fresno from Encino in the San Fernando Valley region of L.A., being total Yes fanatics. Roger had read in Melody Maker or NME that ‘Midnight Hour’ was one of Jon’s favorite old soul/R&B songs or that it was one of the first songs the original members played during initial rehearsals in the late 60’s. Roger and Jim made a big sign with the song title on it and shouted ‘Midnight Hour’ repeatedly from their close-in floor seats until, to their utter amazement, their wish came true. I assure you this is the truth behind this obscure occurrence.”
One wonders if Anderson was referring to the same to guys in this concert? In any event it is true spontaneity by a band who adhered to a rigid set list on this part of the tour (things would loosen up a bit in Europe). After “And You And I” Anderson makes a strange introduction before “Going For The One” by saying, “Here’s a song a little bit later. This is, we’re actually gonna play it a little bit backwards. This is a little thing here…yea it’s a backwards way and we’re gonna try it.”
The flight jam serves as an introduction to the beautiful “Awaken.” At this point Squire’s bass becomes more noticeable in the mix although not distracting. The first encore is an excellent version of “Starship Trooper” that features a breathtaking duet between Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman during “Würm.” The final encore is the expected “Roundabout” which at that time hadn’t outlived its welcome.
The first copies came with a bonus DVDR titled Multi Camera Spectacular. This is a three camera, professionally filmed document of the August 8th 2002 show at the Tweeter Center in Camden, New Jersey. The soundtrack to this film was released in late 2002 on In The Presence Of America (Audio Publisher AP-003/004), but this is the first time the video has been issued. It’s a shame this wasn’t given a proper release because this is a very clearly shot, excellently recorded concert whose only flaw is that the right hand camera often misses Wakeman.
Mike’s Mint is the first Yes title issued by the new Virtuoso label and is packaged in a double slimline jewel case with glossy paper inserts with relevant tour photos in the design and is limited to three hundred copies. It is understandable that some may question the use by labels of tapes that have been remastered and posted online and it would have been good if Virtuoso had credited the work done by others. By the same token, releases like this make excellent tapes like this available to those who don’t have the ability to download these tapes. With that said, this is a great Yes release that is worth having.