Chris Squire

REVIEW: Yes – Drama (1980) – The Meat Challenge

The Meat Challenge:  Listen to an album we’ve never heard before, and write about it while listening for the first time on headphones.  I was given Drama by Yes.

YES – Drama (1980 Atlantic)

Because context is always important, a quick glance at Wikipedia tells us that Drama the first Yes album “to feature Trevor Horn as lead vocalist, as well as keyboardist Geoff Downes. This followed the departures of Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman after numerous attempts to record a new album…Drama was recorded hurriedly, because a tour had already been booked before the change in personnel.”

Heavy-footed “Machine Messiah” begins like a metal epic, with a dense, galvanizing guitar riff, and then goes through multiple lighter sections of acoustics and keyboards.  Regal and bouncy, “Machine Messiah” is uplifting despite (and because of) its complexity.  Clouds form about halfway through the song, darkening the landscape, but that guitar returns for second round.  Tricky bits are three-dimensional, snakelike and winding, but satisfying.  An enticing start!

After a 10 minute opener, you’re fairly warmed up for anything, but “White Car” is surprising nonetheless for its lushness and brevity.  It sounds like there should be more, but then Chris Squire brings the bass of “Does it Really Happen”, reminding me that he’s truly one of the all time greatest four-stringers in history.  His fingers gallop.  What a crisp, tight bass sound.  Hard to describe this track — it moves, and it’s full, but not immediate.  Builds nicely up with organ, vocal layers and guitar chords though.  I dig the bass licks right after the false ending.  Chris Squire was the man!

Drama‘s second side starts with “Into the Lens”, and another bass pulse by Chris Squire.  Bouncing from section to section, it’s hard to pin this song down to one style.  It’s easy to say it’s great though.  It’s a big song, always interesting and going someplace.  From the camera lens, we “Run Through the Light”, opening with gentle acoustic picking and elegant singing.  Then the electric guitar and keyboards lay down the hooks.  This is my favourite song so far.  Trevor Horn’s vocals are enticingly catchy with a Police-like chorus, but then there’s a squirrely and cool Steve Howe guitar solo.

We end the set on “Tempus Fugit”, the only track I was previously familiar with.  Like a space race with time, this song goes into hyperspace with engines powered by Chris Squire.   In a flurry, the album is over.  Drama.

That wasn’t a bad first listen.

4.5/5 stars

R.I.P. Warren Murchie

WARREN

I woke up this morning to find some sad, unexpected news: my friend, contributor and former customer Warren has passed away.  I know he had been sick in hospital in Switzerland.  I have only seen him once since he moved there many years ago, but we kept in touch.  He read my site regularly and contributed a lovely piece on the late bassist Randy Coven.

Warren loved the bass.  Actually he just loved music, period.  He was passionate about it, it was his life.  That and his wife, whom I know he loved very much.  As the tributes to Warren pour in, I find myself at a loss for words.  I know Warren loved the bass playing of Chris Squire, so the best I can think to do is post this, for my friend Warren.  I can’t believe we’ll never talk about music together again.

Rest in peace, Warren, and thank you for all you’ve done.

 

REVIEW: Rock Aid Armenia – Smoke on the Water: The Metropolis Sessions

ROCK AID ARMENIA – Smoke on the Water: The Metropolis Sessions (2010 Edel CD/DVD set)

When some of the biggest names in both British and Canadian rock combined together to re-record “Smoke on the Water”, as a mega-collaboration charity track, I don’t care who you are:  You gotta listen!   Originally released as “Smoke on the Water ’90” on The Earthquake Album, it didn’t garner the attention of, say, a Hear N’ Aid, but it’s definitely a noteworthy track.  The Earthquake Album contained just the radio mix, which was an edited down version lacking Paul Rodgers.  This package on the other hand is a CD/DVD combo set including all 4 versions of “Smoke ’90” and a documentary.

The region 0 encoded DVD is 40 minutes long, and filled with incredible behind-the-scenes footage and candid interviews.  First, an explanation of the cause:  rebuilding a children’s music school in Armenia, destroyed in a 1988 earthquake.  Then, the musicians arrive!  Roger Taylor (Queen) is first in the door.  Can’t do anything without the drums!  He shows off his considerable chops while warming up.  Chris Squire (Yes) is next, who reveals that all egos have been dealt with in advance of the recording.  Brian May turns up with a broken arm (skateboarding accident) to offer his support; he would return to record after the arm has healed.  The recording takes place over five separate sessions.  One benefit of this arrangement was that it enabled Ritchie Blackmore to show up, without having to see Ian Gillan!

IOMMI MAYOh, to be in that room…

Soon to arrive:  Tony Iommi.  Paul Rodgers.  Bruce Dickinson.  David Gilmour.  Alex Lifeson.  Two keyboardists:  Keith Emerson and Geoff Downes.  Even Bryan Adams sings some backing vocals, after he turned up just to check out the recording studio!  (Gilmour can’t help but take a stab at Rogers Waters during the interview segments.)  Incidentally, I found it cool that Rodgers recorded his vocals with a hand-held mike.

I’ve always been a fan of this version of “Smoke”; in fact this was the first version of that I ever heard, 23 years ago.  The band was dubbed Rock Aid Armenia.  They got together in late ’89, and recorded this updated sounding cover.  Gillan, Dickinson and Rodgers handled the lead vocals, in that order.  It’s great to hear Iommi playing those chunky chords again.  Chris Squire’s bass work is fairly simple, but perfect.

The CD includes an updated 2010 remix that cuts down a lot of Keith Emerson’s cheesey keyboards.  Emerson stated that he wanted to put his own stamp on his parts, based on ELP’s “Fanfare for the Common Man”.  He probably wouldn’t be happy to be mixed down on this version, but his keys always stood out like a sore thumb to me.  The 2010 mix adds in a lot more previously unheard guitar fills instead. Other extras include a previously unreleased version of the song, with an entire Ian Gillan vocal take.

This is a great little-known recording, and I’m glad an obscurity like this has finally been reissued properly.

4/5 stars

Footnote:  In 2011 and 2012, Gillan and Iommi followed this with a single and compilation album under the name WhoCares; also featuring Nicko McBrain, Jon Lord and Jason Newsted!

Part 201: Warren

RECORD STORE TALES Part 201:  Warren

Trevor told me about Warren first.  “He’s a big guy,” he said, “With big, blonde Sammy Hagar hair and glasses.  Nice though.  He was friends with my mom when I was growing up.  I used to call him Wookiee!”

Warren was bringing in some promo CDs to sell, and Trevor was giving me a heads up and asked me to treat him right.  Warren is a fan of a lot of the same musicians I am (guys like Ritchie Blackmore and Steve Morse) but his passion was bass.  His favourite bassist was Chris Squire of Yes.  So obviously Warren and I were going to get along.  We did, and he frequently came to me as his first stop for selling music, buying music, and making conversation.

Warren was trying to do a few music magazines.  He originally worked on a country music mag, but that wasn’t his thing and soon he started up Global Bass Online.  Warren needed help with some of the interviews.  He was really excited to be speaking to Victor Wooten, but he needed someone to interview Eddie Jackson, from Queensryche.  Queensryche were promoting their new CD and DVD, Live Evolution.  Warren gave me copies of each, and asked if I wanted to write the Jackson piece.

“Are you kidding?” I said, stunned.  “You want me to talk to Edbass?”

A pause from Warren.  “Who?”

“Edbass,” I replied.  “That’s how Eddie Jackson credits himself on the album.”

“Oh!” said Warren.  “Yes, Eddie Jackson.  I know you can do it.  Here’s a cassette deck you can plug into your phone.  And here’s Eddie’s cell phone number.  He’s expecting your call, he knows what’s going on.”

Wow.  Eddie Jackson was expecting my call.  Cool.

Warren and I collaborated on some initial bass-related questions, but he left the rest up to me.  He gave me tips, but told me that I was a good conversationalist  and that I would be fine.

I called up Eddie that night, keeping in mind that Seattle was 3 hours behind us.  Eddie answered, we had a brief chat and set up an hour the following day to do the interview.

The results of my very first interview are still there in the November 2001 installment of Global Bass!

Warren ended up following his dream and moving to paradise (Switzerland).  And we still keep in touch.  And maybe I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now if it wasn’t for his confidence.

nov2001cover

EDDIE JACKSONThe full, transcribed text of the Eddie Jackson interview can be found by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

Next time on Record Store Tales…

You meet the most interesting people!