“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Geoff Downes

You have to respect his crystalline keyboard playing. He's very very gifted. Yes, I'm talking about Yes, again. Really wonderful harmonies. I'm a sucker for that. But also just perfectly tuned sounds. Modulating from rock to pop to sheer ugly to ambience, as the need requires. 

Again, sorry for all those who like Wakeman and Kaye, I love them too. Kaye with his incredibly powerful Hammond sound. Wakeman with his slightly frightening virtuosity. But Downes, on this one and Drama, is just vast. 

For a very brief taste listen to the first thirty seconds of the first track, the first part of “Fly from Here” (of which more soon, it's incredible). Downes begins with submerged atmospherics. Then the same riff, slightly urgent, more focused. Then the same riff with outrageous, jarring pop intensity. Again, Mahler springs to mind. Ruining the aesthetic distance through ugliness and corny beauty, then displacing that into genuine beauty that is all the more haunting for it. 


Henry Warwick said...

Downes is very good. I like his playing. I like his playing more than Kaye's. I always found Kaye adequate but not really mindblowing. Wakeman is truly a master of the keyboard. I remember when he quit and Moraz took his place, and they could no longer tour Close To The Edge because Moraz couldn't hack Wakeman's insane playing on that piece. I like Moraz's playing, though. I saw the Relayer tour and it was really something else. But Downes is really very very fine.

My biggest problem with the latest Yes album are:
1. Squire's playing just isn't as melodic as he used to be.
2. Squire is mixed too far back and not "clanky" enough.
3. The keyboards are too continuous and present - everything has this cheap synthy buzz going on. Also, the "strings" tend to be synth not samples or mellotron. Synth strings eat space and make for a very mushy sound. That they are omnipresent and mixed forward as much as they are, it makes for a fairly dreary mix.
4. The compositions on this record are the best they've done in years, but not as good as Pre-Relayer material. I would put it ahead of Drama though. Never liked that record.... That and Tormato - yikes!

Karl said...

i kind of noticed everything from the above comment on the first couple listens. that said, its still an amazing record for them at this point in their lives. lots of great "early" Yes feeling in it.

also, one of Squire's most dynamic parts isnt any of the melodic noodle bass stuff, but at the end section of "we can fly" where he drops to low percussive E strikes, while everything else is octaves higher. epic and dark. that part hit me immediately. great use of tone-spectrum dynamics.

Paul M said...

@Henry Warwick "I remember when he quit and Moraz took his place, and they could no longer tour Close To The Edge because Moraz couldn't hack Wakeman's insane playing on that piece.:

Just fact checking here.
Yes with Pat Moraz played Close to the Edge on the Relayer tour from Nov 74 - July 75.