Real Masterworks (Highland HL517/518)
PNC Arts Center, Holmdel, NJ – July 19th, 2000
Disc 1 (75:24): Intro. Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra, Close To The Edge, Starship Trooper, Gates Of Delirium, Leaves Of Green, Heart Of The Sunrise
Disc 2 (69:30): Ritual, I’ve Seen All Good People, Roundabout. Bonus tracks: radio edit special. KLOS Station, Los Angeles, CA – November 1st, 1999: The Messenger, Lightening Strikes, Face To Face, I’ve Seen All Good People
Yes’ Masterworks tour lasted for thirty shows during the summer of 2000. What was billed as a return to the classics of the seventies, it really meant that two epics, “The Gates Of Delirium” and “Ritual,” were played in full for the first time since the final Relayer tour in 1976. “Starship Trooper” was another song included that had been absent on previous tours, but was a regular part of the set list as recent as the ABWH shows and even made an appearance on some Union dates. Such interesting choices on the internet poll such as “Mind Drive”, “Sweet Dreams”, “Silent Wings,” “South Side Of The Sky” and “Sound Chaser” were ignored for more standard selections and their more recent studio work from Open Your Eyesand The Ladder were ignored. (Yes would include some of those songs in the 35th Anniversary tour in 2004).
The focus of the show was upon the three epics “Close To The Edge,” “The Gates Of Delirium” and “Ritual.” It can be stated that Holmdel set the standard for the Masterworks interpretation of their epic pieces. When Yes released Magnification in 2001 it came with a limited edition bonus disc depending upon which store you bought it from. Each bonus disc had “Long Distance Runaround” and one of the three epics and all of the recordings come from this show. (“Long Distance Runaround” came from the 1997 San Diego broadcast in case you’re wondering). Highland present the complete show from the soundboard in simply excellent sound quality except for the first half of “Ritual” which for some reason sounds very unbalanced and tinny.
The opening tape used is Benjamin Britten’s “Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra,” the opening employed on the Tormato tours before beginning the show with “Close To The Edge.” Probably because this song was included on some recent set lists, Steve Howe stretches out the song a bit more, playing the red Led Paul. He improvises subtle little bits throughout the piece. “Starship Trooper” follows and is characterized by the heaviest “Würm” on record. Chris Squire takes over with a very loud bass solo before Howe comes in with the melody to end the piece.
“This must be New Jersey, yeah? Your energy is so strong” Jon Anderson says afterwards. “We’re going to play some songs we haven’t played for 25 years tonight, which is quite amazing in itself” before introducing “The Gates Of Delirium.” Of all the discussed numbers, this is the one that caused the most discussion. There were reports leading up to the tour that Yes dropped it from consideration. It was included however and they give a very tight interpretation of the piece. The final “Soon” section sounds wonderful in the recording and Anderson himself refers to is as “like an ancient time, an ancient place, it’s a mystery of life.”
“Ritual,” the third massive epic in the set, is played in the Relayer arrangement characterized by the long Chris Squire bass solo followed by the massive “ritual of life” section where all the band members band on big drums. When they come back for the encores Anderson tells the audience, “tonight we did a recording and we thank you for enjoying yourselves this evening. My son Damien just started playing the guitar just a couple of months ago. I showed him these chords and he said ‘Did you ever write a song?’ I said ‘yeah.'” The two encores are “I’ve Seen All Good People” and “Roundabout” sounding very close to the Fragile version.
Disc two is filled out with five bonus tracks. The first is the radio advertisement for the Masterworks tour, lasting a minute long and promises to be a “Yes fan’s dream come true.”
The rest is a radio broadcast of “Jim Ladd’s Living Room” on KLOS. The liner notes say this is from November 1st but is actually from November 2nd 1999, while Yes were in Los Angeles on The Ladder tour. They play four songs, three from the new album and “I’ve Seen All Good People” unplugged in front of thirty people sitting on bean bag chairs. After Ladd introduces them Anderson tells the audience to “turn the TV off, we’re gonna play some music here.”
Hearing songs from The Ladder in a laid back acoustic arrangement emphasizes the beauty of the songs and is essential listening for those (like me) who think this is their best work of the nineties. “The Messenger” in particular is extremely tight as they play the complex melody and this was chosen because Ladd played this song incessantly on his show. At the end Ladd can be heard clapping and saying “oh yeah!!” over and over again.
The same can be said for “Lightening Strikes.” The studio recording (and live performances) relied upon backing sound effects, but this is played stripped down to its essence. Squire even takes his short solo in the middle. “Face To Face” is the last new song played and they are obviously having fun. In the middle Squire shouts “drum solo!” to Alan White. “I’ve Seen All Good People” closes out the broadcast and Real Masterworks. The KLOS broadcast is a nice bonus but is is out of place, coming eight months before the Holmdel recording and from a vastly different emphasis. This would have been better on another Ladder release. But this is a minor quibble. This is a wonderful release all around worth having.