1989 (Arista Records)
Albums from the 80s often have the reputation of being a child of their time. Mostly a technocratic band sound is the cause. I don’t mind, especially since such albums, when you listen to them, create a trip through memory lane. For example, the 1989 “Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe”, the eponymous album by the band that was not allowed to call themselves Yes, always takes me back to the time when I lived with my girlfriend in our porch apartment.
Although I played the album a lot at the time, it has fallen into oblivion with me. Because I regularly have the album played in my CD player as part of this review, it is actually striking that everything is so beautifully laid out.
Jon Anderson sings in any color you want, from tender pink to passionate red to sunny yellow and bright blue. Listen to how passionately he brings Quartet, split into four parts. I think his performance on this album is above average anyway and that makes sense because initially it was going to be his solo album. Who also rises above himself sometimes is guitarist Steve Howe. From where he gets his lyrical Licks time and time again has been a mystery to me for years. Subtly, he swings his parts through the music again this time. The qualities of keyboardist Rick Wakeman are also skyhigh again. His piano playing is beautiful and since many tracks on the album have piano-oriented passages, Wakeman is the man. His synth runs and additional brass sounds are also fine, although they sometimes seem a bit dated. Still, that doesn’t hurt a song like Order Of The Universe. This is the band at its strongest and it looks good on them.
It’s up to Bill Bruford to keep it all together with his drums on this album. It goes without saying that this is the ideal music for his characteristic playing. What a muzzo. The way he frames opener Themes and then lets it swing is so personal. The bass parts are provided by Tony Levin, they couldn’t have made a better choice. His playing fits perfectly into the picture.
The album has nine well-varied songs, three epics of around ten minutes and six shorter songs around it. It is clear that we are not talking about a complex album like “Close To The Edge”, but you can clearly hear that almost the same musicians are working here. In Brother Of Mine this is best highlighted, beautiful melodies, great vocals and a blissful guitar solo at the end of the second movement.
Of the other songs, the fiery Fist Of Fire, the ethnic-sounding Birthright and the Jon And Vangelis-like songs The Meeting and Let’s Pretend create a well-oiled whole. Teakbois, decorated with a Caribbean rhythm, feels like an outsider that many will zapp away. Although the song has had over thirty years to mature with me, I have only gained a little more appreciation for the second part. Oh well, everyone makes a mistake sometimes.
“Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe” is a beautiful album that was made at exactly the right time. How nice it is that good deeds have been done in the past!
© Dick van der Heijde 2022