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
Tracklist: Side 1: When The Heart Rules The Mind (5:29), The Hunter (4:58), Here I Wait (4:57), Sketches In The Sun (2:33), Jekyll and Hyde (4:44) Side 2: You Can Still Get Through (4:58, Reach Out (Never Say No) (4:06, Toe The Line (4:30), Hackett To Bits (2:10), Imagining (5:53)
All Tracks written by Hackett / Howe except for: The Hunter (Downes), Sketches In The Sun (Howe), Jekyll & Hyde (Hackett / Howe / Bacon), Imagining (Hackett / Howe / Mover) and Hackett To Bits (Hackett)
Lineup: Max Bacon (vocals),Steve Hackett (guitar, synthesizer, vocals), Steve Howe (guitar, synthesizer, vocals), Jonathan Mover (drums, percussion), Phil Spalding (bass, vocals)
Produced by Geoffrey Downes
Engineered by Alan Douglas
The first (and only) studio album from GTR is far from a perfect album. In fact it is one of those albums that has its very good points that are immediately nullified by the negative situations. Despite the intentions of Hackett and Howe to move in a more guitar orientated direction (hence the name GTR), this album seems to be a more progressive hybrid of bands such as Asia and Foreigner. One of the plausible reasons for this is the use of Geoff Downes as producer, whose work with both Yes and Asia did little to promote the guitar theme! Furthermore the era in which this album was released was one which was set in the middle of a musical scenario which was heavy on the image and use of synthesizer-laden ear-friendly tracks with little or no attention paid to virtuosity. Thus the album sounds too slick and, like the majority of music from the eighties, does not stand the test of time, sounding very outdated.
The album opens with When The Heart Rules The Mind which is possibly one of the better tracks on the whole album. Released as the first single, it managed to reach the top fifteen in the US charts. Ironically for all Hackett's dismission of GTR, this single is still his only Top 40 hit in the United States to date! It seems that the band knew that this was to be the first single off the album and when hearing the track one gets the feeling that this is the track on which they try hardest. Max Bacon is at his best sounding similar to Dennis DeYoung (Styx) with both Hackett and Howe contributing their customary guitar licks and duets, especially during the bridge section. On the other hand, as an opening track, it is an eye-opener because anyone who was expecting a seventies sound is instead regaled with an eighties AOR-sound.
The Hunter was the second single released by the band, and the only track penned by Downes that appears on this release. AS can be expected, nothing too progressive about it all, though there are those fleeting moments that barely save the day for this track, especially Hackett's Faces-like guitar ending and Phil Spalding's bass playing. Apart from that the track is a bit bland with that slick Downes trademark sound, which I must admit is too polished for my liking. Here I Wait comes as a complete contrast to The Hunter with its heavy sounding guitars,though the duetting between Hackett and Howe comes as a relief, and a reminder that these guys can play when they want to!
Sketches In The Sun is the first instrumental on the album and is Howe's showcase. Actually this is one of the few valid reasons why one should buy this album as this rates as one of the best solo performances given by Howe. Featuring an uncharacteristic time signature, this short instrumental highlights the fact that both Howe and Hackett could have offered something so much more with regards to GTR.
Jekyll & Hyde has the band returning to the same musical style that characterised the first tracks of the album. One must admit that there is a slight improvement in musical creativity when compared to the first tracks but once again it is just a whole load of synthesisers and guitars with a sound very much like the sound Yes created when Howe left the band!
Side 2 opens with You Can Still Get Through and changing over the vinyl does not result in a change of style. Possibly one of the worse tracks on the album, once again we have that eighties keyboard sound and it seems that the band have run out of ideas. Very little stands to differ between this track and Jekyll & Hyde and it is a sad notion to think that guitarists of the caliber of Hackett and Howe, were not capable of creating something a bit more diverse.
With Reach Out (Never Say No) it seems that the guitars are given a chance to speak, and it is the guitar work that manages to save the day for this track from becoming another run of the mill AOR track. Toe The Line is a different story altogether and was primarily written by Howe. In fact there is a song on his album called Against the Tide, which is a demo version of Toe The Line. Lyrically it is a disaster (as is all the album!) yet there is a decent amount of acoustic guitar work with some delightful guitar licks, making it one of the better numbers of the album.
Whilst Side 1 had a Steve Howe solo number, Side 2 has a Steve Hackett number, Hackett To Bits. For those who have indulged in Hackett's back catalogue, they would immediately realise that this is no new piece of music but a revised and re-recorded version of Please Don't Touch. The fact that Hackett seemingly could not be bothered to come up with something new for this recording is possibly an indication of Hackett's non-belief in the whole GTR project. It seems that Hackett knew that the album was to flounder and thus was reluctant to put in any new material of his own.
The album comes to a close with what could be deemed as the track that could possibly save the day for this album! Where Toe The Line was more of a Howe composition, Imagining has more Hackett input and has been included in his live shows as part of his medleys. It is one of those rare moments on the album where one can make a certain amount of progressive rock connotations, though the track features a style that is more indicative of post-Hackett Genesis and Asia with touches of Marillion, especially in the introduction. The acoustic guitar work is a delight while the percussion and vocals blend in well making this track the only one on the album that can be listened to without sounding outdated.
Basically, this album can be best described as a fairly decent AOR album. The only problem is that it was (and still is a disappointment to all progressive rock fans who felt that the collaboration of Steve Hackett and Steve Howe could possibly lead to a revival in classical seventies progressive rock. The fact that these two guitar legends succumbed to the whims of the music industry shows the sad state of affairs music is in!
Tracklist: Jekyll And Hyde (5:47), Here I Wait (5:55), Prizefighters (5:16), Imaginings (7:12), Hackett To Bits (2:21), Spectral Mornings (3:56), I Know What I Like (6:23), Sketches In The Sun (2:44), Pennants (4:30), Roundabout (8:38), The Hinter (6:44), You Can Still Get Through (6:54), Reach Out (Never Say No) (5:53), When The Heart Rules The Mind (6:03)
Band Members: Max Bacon (vocals), Matt Clifford (keyboards), Steve Hackett (guitar, vocals), Steve Howe (guitar, vocals), Jonathan Mover (drums, percussion), Phil Spalding (bass, vocals)
Recorded Live on 7/19/86 in Los Angeles, California, at the Wiltern Theatre
Executive Producers: Len Handler, Steve Ship
Recorded at the Wiltern Theater during the band's sole tour in 1986, this album was released thanks to the re mastering and release of the King Biscuit Flower Hour archives. The album is a strong indication of the power and virtuosity this band possessed and which was not truly reflected on the debut album. With the exception of Toe The Line, the whole of the debut is presented in a live format with, of course, additional material. Both Hackett and Howe have their individual spotlights in Spectral Mornings and Pennants respectively while their past is also resurrected with I Know What I Like (Genesis) and Roundabout (Yes).
The lineup on this album (and on the tour) is the same as that which recorded the debut album with the addition of Matt Clifford on keyboards. The fact that Hackett and Howe could dedicate themselves 100% to playing their guitars and not be distracted by adding extra synthesiser effects and what not seems to have given the band, and subsequently this album, that extra kick.
When one listens to the live album one has to admit that the live GTR is very different to the studio GTR. First of all the hand of Geoff Downes is thankfully not present, thus allowing the guitar sound to really come to the forefront and not be drowned in wave after wave of synthesiser sounds and effects. Even Max Bacon's voice manages to sound better than in the studio!
With some great soloing from the guitar legends, the whole band manages to play through a great concert with even the two seventies classics, Roundabout and I Know What I Like, played in a great rocking manner. The album also features a previously unreleased track, Prizefighters. In fact it was a track Hackett wrote for GTR prior to him leaving the group and which was then recorded by the solo Steve Hackett with Chris Thompson and Bonnie Tyler on vocals.
Tracks that on the studio album came across as drab AOR tracks with little life, seem to have been injected with a breath of fresh air. Without any shadow of doubt, I would recommend the first time listener to hear this live album before going on to listen to the studio album. The sound of the band on this album further reaffirms my belief that the main flaw with the GTR debut album was in its production which came across as being too polished for the guitar work of Hackett and Howe.
Tracklist: Young Hearts (5:46), These Eyes (4:07), Loneliness (3:53), Young Blood (4:26), You Can't Do That (4:07), Endless Nights (4:17), Young Hearts (4:36), Hungry Warrior (4:12), Away (also called No One Else to Blame) (4:59),Sharp on Attack (instrumental) (3:26), Listen to the People (3:52), Running the Human Race (4:43), This World's Big Enough (3:47)
Lineup: Steve Howe (guitar), Robert Berry (guitar, vocals), Max Bacon (vocals), Phil Spalding (bass), Nigel
Robert Berry sings lead vocals on the first six tracks while Max Bacon sings on lead vocals on the last six tracks, excluding Sharp On Attack which is an instrumental.
Though never officially released, the second album from GTR, or Nerotrend as they were now called, has long been in circulation amongst collectors. Japanese label Elements Of Crime also released the Nerotrend album as a CD on the market and can still be obtained via the net.
If GTR was a disappointment, then do not expect anything better from this album. overall it is more of the same with a heavier leaning towards AOR and it is no surprise that the whole project was shelved. As I mentioned before, most of the tracks have been made available in one version or another on various solo albums by the band protagonists.
Of further interest to Steve Howe fans is the fact that many of the tracks on the album include guitar licks that Howe would eventually re-use on his solo albums as well as with Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe. Musically the album is of little or no appeal for the casual progressive rock listener unless he/she is also an AOR fan, and even then this album is a very poor example of AOR. On the other hand this is a must (only) for those who collect Steve Howe material!
Tracklist: Sketches In The Sun, Hackett To Bits, When The Heart Rules The Mind
Interviewees: Steve Howe, Steve Hackett, Brian Lane, Geoff Downes, Jonathon Mover, Phil Spalding, Max Bacon
Executive Producer: Abbey Konowitch
Producer: Paul Flattery
Director Jim Yukic
Filmed entirely at Town House Studios, London
The Making Of GTR is an inside look at the evolution of a major new band, GTR. You'll be in the studio when two legendary British guitarists, Steve Howe (formerly of Yes and Asia) and Steve Hackett (formerly of Genesis) "get acquainted" as they "develop" the sound of GTR, interfaced with bits of rock classics. you'll be there as they write and work out songs with other members of the band: Phil Spalding (from Mike Oldfield); Jonathan Mover (from Marillion); and their incredible new lead singer Max Bacon. You'll also meet producer Geoff Downes (Yes and Asia) and discover just how it was this giant of a band came to be. Included in this program is the complete video of GTR's initial single release "When The Heart rules The Mind." Presenting GTR from inside out.
Liner notes from The Making Of GTRAs can be imagined, the hype that surrounded the formation of GTR and the subsequent album release generated much hype within the musical world. Thus Arista Records together with the GTR management arranged for the making of this video which was created for MTV purposes and was made available to the public for a very short while.
In truth it is a terrible documentary with interviews with all band members as well as Geoff Downes and Brian Lane, all of which are at an extremely superficial level and full of contradictions. The opening segment with the fanfare appearance of the band logo is in itself a good indication of the eighties pastiche that is about to happen!
The video itself can be divided into six segments. The appearance of the band's logo is The Beginning while The Band gives a brief overview of the other three band members, all of whom seem to be unable to keep up with an interview! The Studio is a short piece which shows the members in studio while Imagining is being mixed, nothing else, while The Songs is possibly the best part of the video. In this section we get a glimpse of the recording of Sketches In The Sun while we also have a segment of Hackett to Bits. The Tour is taken over by Brian Lane while the finale of the video is the video of when The Heart Rules The Mind.
All in all a very drab affair with just the filming of Sketches In The Sun worthy of note.
Related WebsitesGTR do not have their official website.
Should you have any further information regarding GTR that could be added to the site, do not hesitate to contact me.