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GTR
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written by: Nigel Camilleri
update: 12 August 2001


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A Brief History1
Album Reviews2
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A Brief History

Genesis and Yes are possibly the two foremost classical progressive rock bands, both of which had at one point or another two of the genres finest guitar players, namely Steve Hackett and Steve Howe. The concept of these two musicians playing together would have been a dream come true for any progressive rock fan, and the eighties for all its drawbacks as regards musical tastes, was the ideal setting for such an occasion. The result was the formation of the group GTR. As practically always happens with super-groups, no matter what the intentions of its members, the supergroup is a short lived experience and sadly this was the case with GTR too.

The name for the band was the standard studio abbreviation for guitar, and the name for the group was also an indication of the reason why the two guitarists had joined forces. Both had become disillusioned with the overwhelming dominance of keyboards within the progressive rock genre, and the two wanted to create a band that was orientated towards projecting a guitar sound. Strangely enough, the recordings made by the group would result in them having a relatively dilute sound with little of the sound the two had originally hoped to achieve.

The first contacts between the guitarists started in 1985 via Yes manager, Brian Lane. Steve Howe had just left another supergroup, Asia, mainly because of his continuous friction with bassist/vocalist John Wetton. One of the main subjects of contention was the musical direction towards which the band was heading, which had a more keyboard orientated AOR sound. However he still remained on good terms with Geoff Downes, so much so that Downes ended up producing the band's album and contributing towards one of the tracks, The Hunter.Completing the lineup were vocalist Max Bacon (Nightwing, Bronz), session bassist Phil Spalding and former Marillion drummer Jonathan Mover. Over here one must add that Hackett was never too enamoured of the fact that he would be in a band setup once again after having been for so long a solo musician. However the prospect of financial dividends, especially since his own finances were not too healthy then, was a deciding factor into him forming the band with Howe.

The choice of musicians might be somewhat of a surprise when one considers the pedigree of the the two guitarists involved in the album. The vocalist, Max Bacon, was a relative unknown whose previous musical stints had been within the hard rock/heavy metal genre with little or no success. Rumours state that he had little faith in succeeding with GTR and maintained his job as a milkman when recordings where taking place! Drummer Jonathan Mover had a background within the progressive rock genre since he had played with Marillion, though he was nothing more than an average drummer. Bassist Phil Spalding seems to have been the only member with a degree of pedigree having played with various musicians including Mike Oldfield, though he has blighted his c.v. of late in the eyes of progressive rock fans for having appeared as the bassist for Right Said Fred!

Somewhat surprisingly the group signed with Arista, a label known for relatively mellower acts, and in May 1986 released the band's debut album, GTR (Arista, AL8- 8400). A number of singles were also released to coincide with the album release. First released was When The Heart Rules The Mind/Reach Out (Never Say No) (Arista GTR1; picture sleeve, Value BS4:00) which reached Number 11 in the US Billboard charts. The 12" single also had Sketches In The Sun/Hackett To Bits (Arista GTR 121, picture sleeve, value BS7:00) on the B-side, while a guitar-shaped picture single (Arista GTRSD 1, value BS8:00) was also released with similar tracks. The second single from the album to be released was The Hunter/Sketches In The Sun with the 12" B-side also including The Hunter (Special GTR Mix)/Hackett To Bits. The single reached Number 85 while the third single, Here I Wait/Here I Wait (live version) failed to chart.

The album was a success reaching gold sales, and the group embarked on a US Tour enlisting the help of Matt Clifford on keyboards for the tour. Further promotion of the album involved the release of a video called The Making Of GTR (RCA 60633), and it seemed that for once a supergroup was destined to go beyond a single album! A live recording for the King Biscuit Flower Hour (Arista 70710-88021-2) from that same tour was released on CD in 1997/8. A number of bootlegs also exist of this one and only GTR tour with the most notable being the Japanese released double LP Roundabout 86 that also has featured in it two acoustic sets by Steve Howe and Steve Hackett. In fact it was customary for Hackett and Howe to perform acoustic sets within the GTR concerts, sets which featured highlights from the two guitarist's chequered career.

Though sales were encouraging, musically speaking one must admit that the album was somewhat of a disappointment for those progressive rock fans who were hoping for something much more classical, possibly a reflection of the music Hackett and Howe were responsible for in the seventies. By the end of it all the album was a reflection of the eighties with a resemblance more akin to Asia, though the music was of a rather more complex nature.

The longevity of GTR as a supergroup as not to be too prolonged as Steve Hackett began to argue with the other band members during the tour and by late 1986 he left GTR. It seems that too many years as a solo artists had left there mark on the guitarists who seemingly was unable to fit in with other band members sharing the limelight, as well as having a say in all matters. Steve Howe, on the other hand was still interested in pursuing the same musical direction that GTR were going in. A guitarist/songwriter came to his and Brian Lane's attention, Robert Berry. This Californian musician was in England, trying to form a band with Carl Palmer, and was "poached" by Howe and Lane to join GTR. Before entering the studio there was to be another casualty. Jonathan Mover was dumped from the band and his place taken by Nigel Glockler, a drummer known mainly for his work with heavy metal band Saxon.

What is definite is that Arista were still interested in the band and they entered the studio to record a new album, with Downes once again poised to take over production duties. However Howe was also aware that the group could not continue under the same moniker and several options for a new name were brought up such as Steve Howe and Friends! It seemed for a time that the new band would be called Nero And The Trend but this was abbreviated to Nerotrend. However trouble was brewing due to internal disputes within the band. Newcomer Berry seemed to be getting too much of the spotlight and he clashed with Max Bacon. The main reason for this was that Berry was intent on singing on the tracks he composed, and hoped for a guitar-orientated album. However this was not to be the case as the album (once again!) was diluted when it emerged from the production stages resembling more of an AOR-style album.

The second album was never officially released, though copies of the tracks that were recorded have long been in circulation amongst collectors. Furthermore a CD was released on an unknown Japanese record label, Elements Of Crime simply titled Nerotrend that featured the tracks that had been laid down by the band. Officially there has been no release with rumours stating that the master copies were in the hands of Steve Howe with no imminent release of them in sight. However most of the tracks have appeared in one format or another on various albums that the members of Nerotrend (GTR) were involved in, in later years.

Thus some of the tracks can be heard on official releases, and they are as follows:
Steve Howe has used two of the tracks recorded on his solo albums. An instrumental version of Running The Human Race appears on his solo album Turbulence while Birthright and Red And White are both derived from This World's Big Enough. Birthright, which is co-credited to Max Bacon, would also appear on the Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe album.
Max Bacon's solo album, The Higher You Climb (1995, Now And Then, NTHEN23), has the actual demo recordings of Hungry Warrior and No One Else To Blame while Robert Berry has re-recorded four of the tracks he actually wrote while with Nerotrend and they are No One Else To Blame (on Pilgrimage To A Point), these Eyes (on In These Eyes), Young Blood (on Takin' It Back) and You Can't Do That (on Back To Back). Max Bacon's album also had two live tracks, I Know What I Like and Roundabout which were recorded on the GTR 1986 tour.

What became of the members of GTR?
Following his departure from GTR, Hackett has never had too many nice words for the short time he spent in the project. In fact interviews he has released have him stating that the only reason for his joining was to be able to have a source of income due to the disappointing sales of Bay Of Kings and Till We Have Faces which had left him in a precarious financial situation. Thus as he has termed it, GTR was just a source of income for him to finance his next acoustic project!

On the other hand Steve Howe has returned to the Yes fold following solo releases and another Asia album. Max Bacon worked on the Phenomena II project as well as with Geoff Downes in Rain prior to the reformation of Asia. Apart from various session work he also recorded one solo album called The Higher You Climb in 1995. The album is now out of print and Bacon has left the music business and runs a pub called The Farmer's Arm in Cheshire, England. Jonathan Mover went on to play with Joe Satriani while Phil Spalding and Nigel Glockler resumed their work as session musicians. Robert Berry did get together with Carl Palmer and together with Keith Emerson formed 3 and released To The Power Of... He also went on to release a number of solo albums.

written by: Nigel Camilleri

 

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