In the latter part of the 80’s, four of Prog Rock’s musicians came together to record and release an excellent album that is in my opinion a great, often over-looked album which is perhaps unknown to a lot of people who are fans of this genre, despite having at least one song which charted fairly well. This Hidden Treasure was simply a self-titled album called, Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman & Howe. Of course fans of classic rock will know those four names from the legendary band, Yes.
I’ve read two different versions of how this band was formed and the album released. One version (the source of which, I can’t recall) wrote that there was a law suit over the name of the band Yes and while this suit was in the courts, these four came together to write and record this album and did a tour to support the album, playing music from it and Yes music as well.
Another version which I read on Wikipedia wrote that vocalist Jon Anderson had become quite dissatisfied with the direction Yes was taking with its music on albums, 90125 and the Big Generator; a somewhat more prog/pop sound which had become popular with the bands Asia, Styx, Supertramp and other such bands which arose in the late 70’s and early 80’s (I know, Styx and Supertramp arose in the early 70’s, but they didn’t really hit their stride till this time era).
Whatever the story, Anderson met up with the other three and they collaborated and released this delightful album. As with Geddy Lee’s, “My Favorite Headache” album, there is a temptation to compare this album with the band Yes. Indeed, in many ways, this album is a hybrid of 70’s and 80’s Yes. They composed lyrics which have a 70’s vibe to them and music which had an 80’s sound. The music though, does have a definite 70’s throwback sound as well. As with most prog bands, many of the songs have several parts to them, sort of songs within song, if you will.
Released in 1989, Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman & Howe has one song on it which charted fairly well and even saw rotation on classic rock stations, called Brother of Mine. The song is broken into 3 pieces: The Big Dream, Nothing Can Come Between Us and Long Lost Brother of Mine. As the studio version is over ten minutes long, I can’t recall if there was a “radio edit version” of it or not, but it did get some airplay as it peaked at number 2 in the Billboard Charts.. This song lyrically is defiantly a throwback to 70’s style Yes; an almost “New Age” type of song.
Another song of note is entitled, Teakbois. Musically the song has an almost Caribbean influence and is subtitled The Life and Times of Bobby Dread, which was a name that Jon Anderson reportedly used when he registered at hotels while on tour. It’s a song about playing live music and is a lot of fun.
A much darker song on the album is entitled Birthright, which is about when the British government in 1954 detonated their first atom bomb at a place called, Woomera and the government didn’t notify all of the Aborigines there and the Aborigines still call the even “the day of the cloud”. To me, it is one of the darkest anti-war/anti-nuke songs this side of Rush’s songs Manhattan Project and Territories from their album “Power Windows”. I personally have always had a disdain for war protest songs which came out during the 60’s and to a small extent the 70’s. To me, those songs almost come across as being written the way they were because it was a fad at the time. Perhaps many would disagree with that notion, but songs such as this, the aforementioned Rush songs and others like them are much more intelligently written lyrically and of course, I love the musicianship.
Another fun tune is the four piece, Quartet. The lyrics make mention of early Yes songs such as Long Distant Runaround, Southside of the Sky, The Gates of Delirium and Roundabout and the song is about friendship and love.
Other songs on the album are Fist of Fire, the soft The Meeting which has just keys, drums and Anderson singing. There is also Order of the Universe and finally Let’s Pretend, which is about the only song I don’t really care much for.
The bassist on this album is one whom I am not familiar with named Tony Levin and while he doesn’t play in the style of Yes’s late bassist Chris Squire, Levin anchors the band without sounding like a clone of Squire.
But the musician who caught my attention on this album was none other than Bill Bruford himself. As anybody who knows me can tell you, I’m a huge fan of drumming legends, Carl Palmer, Terry Bozzio, the late Cozy Powell, Neil Peart and the frequent Yes drummer Alan White. But until this album, I hadn’t really given much thought to Bruford’s playing.
He uses a lot of electronic drums throughout the album, but his playing style is actually very complex and intricate. As a result of this album, I’ve actually paid attention to the stuff he did in the past with Yes and I have to say, I was a bit of a fool for not noticing his work before (he he). His style is actually quite different than most of those aforementioned drummers. Although Palmer, White, Bozzio, Powell and others from this genre are very complex and quite entertaining, Bruford’s style is actually as unique as Pearts.
A final note on this grand album is the artwork for the cover. It was done by legendary artist Roger Dean who has done artwork for Yes in the past. Of the work that I’ve seen of Dean’s, this is by far my favorite one he’s ever done. It looks almost like it’s on another world and like the band and its music; it’s complex, intricate, beautiful but a lot of fun.