Album Reviews

Issue 1999-012

Reviews in this issue:

Yes - The Ladder
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Eagle Records
Catalogue #:EDL EAG 236-2
Year of Release:1999

Tracklist: Homeworld (9:32); It Will Be A Good Day (4:53); Lightning Strikes (4:35); Can I? (1:31); Face To Face (5:02); If Only You Knew (5:12); To Be Alive (5:07); Finally (6:01); The Messenger (5:12); New Language (9:19); Nine Voices (3:22)

After the highly critisized Open Your Eyes, Yes knew it would be difficult to regain the confidence of their fans. But, with a new, talented keyboard-player, an experienced producer and a return to the wonderful paintings by Roger Dean, they already added three essential ingredients that had sadly been missed. The Ladder was the result. Question is: is this the way up, or the way down for Yes? Here's my opinion:

Homeworld (The Ladder). This track was originally titled The Ladder, but this changed at the final stage of production, maybe because it's featured in a PC Game with the title Home World. A nice demo of this game is also featured on this CD (see end note). I think Homeworld is a great song and really a yes-classic. One of their best in years. It sounds great, features many changes, great bass-lines, a remarkably nice keyboard-part by newcomer Igor Khoroshev and a wonderful Jon Anderson. The song starts very atmospheric and end in a romantic way with just a piano and vocals, but in between this song build to a great climax, with bombastic choruses and room enough for solos.

It Will Be A Good Day (The River). This song starts very nice with a repeating theme and a romantic atmosphere. The vocals, especially the combination with the backing vocals are very nice. It's not a very special song, just a love-ballad, but it's done in a nice way. It has all classic Yes-ingredients, including Howe's sweeping guitar and the classic 'give me one good reason'-phrase. As I said: simple but effective and nice.

Lightning Strikes. This song starts off in a strange way with flutes and a cha-cha-cha rhythm, but after a few seconds a guitar comes in a faster rhythm and an echoing voice. After one verse, the rest of the band joins in and this turns out to be a fun Caribbean-track including a brass section. This may sound awful, but to be honest I really love the song. In the middle there's a break, followed by a great bass-line and a return to the main theme. It reminds me of 'Teakbois' a bit, but this is much better. One of the best tracks on the album, but I'm sure opinions will differ on this one!

Can I?. This is a short bridge with 'vocal'-exercises and ethnic sounds (including a didgeridoo). This funniest thing is the 'We Have Heaven'-part (from the Fragile-album) that returns. This track leads into Face To Face.

Face To Face. It starts with a funny electronic loop. It's fun to hear Yes experimenting with these kind of things. There's a great bass-riff on top of it. At first sight this isn't a very special song, but there are some interesting things in this up-tempo track. There are some breaks (where the loop returns) and some 'shake me up'-parts that really remind me of old-time Yes. An a-capella bit starts a part that sounds very Yes-album-like.

If Only You Knew. This song is another love-ballad, with "Anderson" written all over it. I think the band really supports him here with a beautiful tapestry of sounds. You can hear how important good production is. All instruments are very audible and yet they form a wall of sound. This song is a lovely sing-a-long ballad, with a string-like key-part towards the end, which keeps the song interesting just when you thing it's getting boring. A nice love song, but not the kind of song classic Yes-fans are waiting for, probably.

To Be Alive (Hep Yadda). Despite the (again) promising intro, including sitar, this song doesn't really move me. It's almost a gospel song, but it hasn't the melodic strength of 'If Only You Knew' and 'It Will Be A Good Day'. Khoroshev's pile of strange sounds doesn't mask this deficit. 'Hep Yadda' isn't a new Star Wars character but the kind of words that make up the choruses. I think I've said enough

Finally. This aggressive song really grabs me by the throat! Squire's wonderful bass and Howe's guitar remind me of Dangerous (from Union) a lot. But at least this is 'real' Yes. This is a very straightforward rock song with everything you want: riffs, breaks and solos. But halfway the song this changes dramatically it turns into a very atmospheric, romantic part, in the vein of 'Soon' or 'Awaken'. The combination of these two opposite moods in one song is really nice.

The Messenger. A deep bass and a wah-wah guitar open this song. An acoustic guitar plays on top of it. This time, unlike the Open Your Eyes-album, Yes managed to let Howe and Sherwood play something different. They have their own position now, and they're not longer fighting 'against' each other.
This song is, again, a slower song, but different from the others. This seems a typical powerful Squire-ballad to me. Think of 'Hearts' (from 90125) and 'Saving My Heart' (from Union), that kind of songs. After 4 minutes the song changes, and multi-vocal part ends the track. I'm sure this is a great one live, because of its bombastic nature.

New Language. This track is the other epic on the album and it's almost as great as the first one (Homeworld). It start with a church-organ, followed by a very fast and hectic instrumental part. Yes, they still can do these things! Squire and White form a perfect base for Howe and Khoroshev to play solos. It almost seems as if these guys have heard Spock's Beard's latest album. After two minutes a nice organ-sound accompanies Anderson when he comes in to 'tell his tale'. From this point, New Language builds to the 'chorus', which features Squire on backing vocals very prominently. Howe plays a very typical solo. After another chorus, Howe returns to do what we all love to hear: play a fast acoustic solo on top of very strange chords. Don't try to "air-guitar" this: you'll fail! Squire's bass leads us back to the chorus. Great!

Nine Voices (Long Walker). This sounds pretty much as a remake of Your Move (from The Yes Album), even including the typical 'doo-doop-doo-doop'-phrase. This time it also features and sitar and the melody changes a bit, but overall there's strong resemblance. It's for you to decide whether you like it or not.

This is not a return to classic Yes and it's not a classic new Yes-album, but it's certainly a step in the right direction. Personally I wasn't very enthousiastic (to say the least) about Talk and Open Your Eyes. Both albums missed too many essential Yes-ingredients. On the other hand, there were the (sometimes) brilliant compositions on Keys To Ascension (I & II), such as Mind Drive. I still regret the fact that Yes didn't release all studio-track on KTA as one, new album.

The Ladder is somewhere in between. It has the same clear way of production as Keys To Ascension, but also is very song-oriented. Some tracks could have been on one of Anderson's solo-albums. The Ladder combines some great songs like Homeworld, New Language, Finally and Lighting Strikes with more 'ordinary' love-song like It Will Be A Good Day and If Only You Knew. But also these tracks are made to beautiful ones by the strong production of the album by Bruce Fairbairn, who died during the mastering of the album. With a powerful Anderson, a great-sounding Squire and a remarkably good Khoroshev. Yes is back on it's way.. up The Ladder! But I think they can even climb higher than this.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10.

Jan-Jaap de Haan

End note: Seemingly there are different versions of The Ladder. The CD with catalogue number EAGCD088 features the demo of Home World. The version with number EAGLT088 is a limited edition European version without the demo but with a carton slipcase (like the two Keys to Ascension albums) and a small poster of Fairnbairn's track list drawings.

ReGenesis - Here It Comes Again
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Mystic Records
Catalogue #:MYS CD 126
Year of Release:1998

Tracklist: Back in NYC (6:17); The Musical Box (10:57); The Return of the Giant Hogweed (8:20); Dancing with the Moonlit Knight (7:51); Afterglow (4:54); The Cinema Show (13:48); Los Endos (5:53); The Knife (9:48)

When I heard about ReGenesis for the first time a few years ago, I knew I had to see them. What they brought, was beyond my imagination. Not many cover bands are so good, that they can release a CD. ReGenesis is that good. Here It Comes Again is their second live-recording.

Here It comes Again starts with an aggressive version of Back IN N.Y.C.. Singer Glyn Protheroe sings at the top of his voice, but to be honest I think this song never was Gabriel's strongest performance as well. Drums (Nigel Appleton) and keyboards (Doug Melbourne) are very close to the original, the latter being much more audible than on the original. The weird interlude is very nice as well. Next is The Musical Box. This is 'prime time' for Steve Marsh, who does a great job on the guitars, both in the softer parts and the heavy ending. This is a great version, which builds from romantic to aggressive, just the way it should. It's nice to hear the audience as well indeed: "here it comes again".

The Return of the Giant Hogweed shows how well these boys play together, every single instrument has its own place and yet the inter-play between the band members is perfect. The middle, instrumental part is really delicious and has a certain drive I hadn't notice before.

In Dancing With The Moonlit Knight, Guy Protheroe shows that he really sounds like Gabriel at some points, especially in the slower, softer parts he is very convincing. But I think it's not honest to just compare ReGenesis with the original. They have something of their own and that's OK, because if it was only a copy of the original, there wasn't something surprising. And with all the costumes (pity you cannot see those on a CD) they create a very special Genesis-atmosphere, without losing their own identity.

The first of the two post-Gabriel songs on this album is Afterglow, personally one of my all-time favourites. I don't know if it's also Protheroe singing here, but it certainly isn't Collins. However the essence of the song - the on-going crescendo - remains. The bass (Andy Hyam) in the beginning is wonderful and the keyboards towards the end are superb.

Cinema Show regrettably isn't sung along by the audience, which normally gives great atmosphere live. Or maybe it is, but the people are a bit low in the mix in this song. But if you would hear only the middle part of this track, you'd swear it's the original, but despite a genuine drum-duet it isn't. But don't let this spoil the fun, because this is a another highlight of the CD. Leading into the drum duet, which leads into Los Endos, this version is pretty close to the Seconds Out version. Sweeping guitars, heavy bass, it's all there! Simply great. As an encore, you get The Knife. If anyone is in doubt if Genesis was a rock-band, you're sure he's never heard this song. Great organ, powerful guitar, and aggressive vocals and, on top of that: the whistle! Perfect ending to this CD.

Of course you can always ask: why should I buy an album with Genesis-song played by a different band? Well, there are several reasons. Personally, I just wanted to have it as a souvenir to remember the great gig they played. Second, these guys need all the support to make these kind of revivals possible and finally: it's a great album by really talented guys. To be very honest: I prefer these guys to the originals nowadays.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10.

Jan-Jaap de Haan

Porcupine Tree - Stranger by the Minute
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:K-Scope
Catalogue #:SMASCD 107
Year of Release:1999
Time:11:15 plus enhanced CD section

Tracklist: Audio: Stranger by the Minute (edit) (3.44), Even Less (part 2) (7.20).
Video: Piano Lessons (3.30).

As far as I can remember this is just the second time that a CD Single gets a review on DPRP. Normally CD Singles are not that interesting because they just contain songs that are already on the album and furthermore there's not a lot of prog rock bands that release them.

This new Porcupine Tree CD is an exception. Taken from the Stupid Dream album, which was released early 1999 and has since grown to be my favourite disc of the year so far, this is the second single taken from the new album (the first one being Piano Lessons).

Assuming that you already have the album, Stranger by the Minute itself is probably the least interesting thing about this CD. It is an edited version which is almost a minute shorter than the original.

The real treat on this CD is Even Less (part 2). Those of you who have seen certain concerts during Porcupine Tree's 1998 and 1999 tours will remember a marvellous long song of about 15-20 minutes long. This song, Even Less was supposed to be included on the Stupid Dream. In the end only the first half made it on the album since such a long track it would probably be out of place among the shorter ones.
I personally was a bit disappointed by that but the promise of a mini CD which would feature the full length version did a lot of good. This plan also turned out a bit different and the second half of the tune ended up on this CD Single.
The first four minutes feature an incredible instrumental section where one by one keyboards, drums, bass and guitar build up the tension, followed by a typical Wilson guitar solo. Then the song proceeds with lyrics which are even darker than those of the first half (Fuck you and your book too, you can have it back). The vocal part and riff sounds even harsher than in part 1. Great stuff ! (Even though it should have been one track).

And then there's another extra surprise on the disc. For those of you with a CD-Rom drive (which are probably most of you) there's an enhanced section on the CD. When you start it you first ar treated to the video of Piano Lessons, the edited version of the previous single. The video is a bit tedious to watch since it's one of those 'a shot per second' things. It probably takes a while to get used to. Fortunately, the screen has been equipped with buttons which enable you to pause, slowly rewind and slowly forward the video, so you can explore it a bit.
As far as the video itself is concerned, it features the band with weird masks, holding signs which tell you that your listening to the guitar solo, chorus, etc as well as signs that, together with the visuals, seem to be meant as puns on marketing terms like 'target market' and 'positioning'. The guy in the radiation suit with the CD that appeared on the cover of Stupid Dream is present as well (just like on the cover of this CD Single).

After watching the CD you get a menu with options to view 9 artistic photographs of the band, scroll through their discography, read the lyrics of the three songs on the CD (including both parts of Even Less) and see the addresses of various Porcupine Tree related web sites. Quite useful for those who are relatively new to the band.

Compared to normal CD Singles the packaging is done very well. The CD comes in a normal jewel case including transparant tray and back cover. The artwork features a couple of stills of the Piano Lessons video.

All in all a very nice release. How often is it that you see a prog video and get such a marvellous bonus track ? The CD Single will be released on the 4th of October.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10.

Ed Sander

Desforme - Souk Souk
Country of Origin:France
Record Label:Musea Parallele
Catalogue #:MP 3032.AR
Year of Release:1998

Tracklist: Souk Souk (4:00), Brake Blues (11:57), Rien Encore (7:45), Be D'Enfer Pop (9:09), Rue De Jade (8:09), Virginie (7:06), Ysapelpas (7:48).

"Jazz is not dead", Frank Zappa is quoted on the cover of this disc. Desforme try and prove that. It's not a very encouraging invitation when you expect to be reviewing progressive rock CDs. The line-up holds players (four guys with the surname Desforme) for drums, keyboards, bass, and saxophone. No vocals, no guitars - I'm up to something weird here!

And what's so strange about this?! I've heard a lot worse. I could even say there are some very nice things in the music of Desforme. The opening track is an up-tempo piece, that reminded me of some old Van Der Graaf Generator, for example Killer. Bombastic, pumping, and full. Mind you, Killer is not VDGG's best song - it takes a lot more come near a momument like Lemmings. A Moog solo also raises my interest in hearing this again!

Brake Blues is jazz. Some structureless parts, with piano and saxophone whistling and screeching. Too jazzy for me. Other parts are real slow and quiet. The end of Rien Encore has that busy, frantic play that VDGG also has. However, in the case of VDGG, things are more diverse, while Desforme are leaning too much on the saxophone, the sound of which I do not particularly enjoy for too long. The influence Desforme took from Frank Zappa is also not the thing I like best in the man' music. Seemingly hitting piano keys at random is not my idea of prog or symphonic music. It's simply too jazzy for me.

Musea Parallele has released some very strange CDs. I remember a CD full of saxophone music, which got a very low mark from a fellow reviewer. I haven't heard that one, but Desforme certainly have something. Not your typical prog, obviously, but when Desforme start playing loud, things are getting interesting. Not for too long, however, according to those prog-minded ears of mine.

Conclusion: 5 out of 10.

Jerry van Kooten

Tibet - Tibet
Country of Origin:Germany
Record Label:Musea
Catalogue #:FGBG 4115.AR
Year of Release:1994
Info:Musea web site

Tracklist: Fight Back (4:59), City By The Sea (4:24), White Ships And Icebergs (6:15), Seaside Evening (4:13), Take What's Yours (7:23), Eagles (6:05), No More Time (5:30)

Aha, this is my cup of tea! Old rock, heavy guitars, pumping organs... The kind of music you heard in the late Sixties and early Seventies. In the booklet it's said that the original LP didn't do a lot, which is not surprising, considering the fact that it was released in 1979, a great year for punk music. Does that affect my review? Hm, not really. Why should it? Like anybody else's music, it is made through influences, and unlike some other music, Tibet's music is not copied from others'. But now at least you know what kind of music to expect. Sort of...

Musea re-issued this disc in 1994. Quite a long time ago. That was even before DPRP ever started, so we could never have done a review. But we received this CD, even five years after its re-release, so we're going to review it. Why shouldn't we? It's our job to keep you informed of music, especially music you have not heard before. And I guess there is a fair chance you haven't heard this one.

There are some very positive things to say about this album. The first is very subjective, and that is that I simply like this kind of music. Based on blues / rock, powered by guitar riffs and organ boosts. Another thing is less objective, and that is that the singer has a very clear voice, the songs are quite diverse, and the musicians enjoy their playing.

The singer knows what he is singing, has no accent, and knows his limitations. He has a clear and high voice, a difference when compared to some othe bands in the same genre, where the vocals are deep and sometimes growling. Some vocal melody lines are quite inventive, but overall, the vocals get a bit long-winded, because it's too much of the same. I also have to say that the music is not as powerful as some other bands that moved in this field of music. The music is very nice indeed, but does not manage to maintain my interest throughout the CD. It could have used a bit more power.

In short, this is a good CD with fine playing and singing, but it is also obviously an album by a young band (at the time of recording). At the moment, twenty years after its first release, a second Tibet album is in the making, and I am very interested in hearing the result.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10.

Jerry van Kooten

Album Reviews