Now Hear This: Andy Burns on Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe Remastered

What happens when four old friends and colleagues get together after years apart and try to make music again? In the case of former Yes members Jon Anderson, Bill Bruford, Rick Wakeman and Steve Howe, you get a self-titled album that tried to update the progressive rock sound of the 70’s with a late 80’s sheen. More than 20 years later, that album has been rereleased in a deluxe edition that I recently spent some time getting reacquainted with.

Released back in 1989, on the heels on Jon Anderson’s departure from the pop leaning sounds of 80’s Yes, Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe was the first time this foursome had worked together since Yes’ groundbreaking Close To The Edge album and was as close to progressive rock on the charts as you were going to get at the time. Most of the prog rock bands of the 70’s had either dissolved (ELP) or changed their sound to fit the era (Genesis), so there were some great expectations as to what sort of progressive music ABWH would deliver. In that regard, Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe was a success as an album. Most of the songs go past the six minute mark and are divvied up into mini-suites, much like Yes songs were in the early 70’s. But with that nod to the past also came a full jump into the (then) present. Rick Wakeman was playing epic fills with the most modern of keyboard sounds while Bill Bruford, one of the greatest drummers on the planet, had fully immersed himself in the world of electronic drumming. At the time it was the cutting edge of technology, but in 2011 it’s hard not to think that the entire sound of the album is pretty dated.

That doesn’t mean Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe is a bad listen; far from it if you’re a fan of this style of music. Songs like Brother of Mine, Fist of Fire and Birthright are all strong pieces of music that clearly demonstrate the power of the best progressive rock. This album also feels (to this Yes fan) like one of the last time vocalist and lyricist Jon Anderson was writing material that was original and compelling. While he’s had moments since, I think his reach and ambition reached their final heights here.

The second disc of this deluxe version of Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe features the truncated single versions of songs released to ensure the album found airplay – there’s multiple versions of Brother of Mine and Order of the Universe, none of which I need to listen to more than once but that will be treasured by fans that really enjoy this stuff. There’s also the decent hard to find track Vultures In The City, along with three live songs from the ensuing tour. It’s definitely strange to hear bassist Tony Levin play the licks created by original Yes bass player Chris Squire on the classic track And You And I; I don’t really like it or Bruford’s drum sound on the song, though it is interesting to hear. As much as I’m a fan of Levin’s work (if you’ve never listened to 80’s King Crimson, do yourself a favour and track it down now – or click here to hear the amazing Sleepless), Squire will always be the only bass player to deliver Yesmusic the way its supposed to sound.

My two main criticisms on this deluxe ABWH package are that the album wasn’t remixed (guitarist Steve Howe has stated that his work is often missing on the finished mix of the album) and that the liner notes only offered up the original lyrics and production notes and not some sort of essay to give the reissue some context. I suppose that’s what this article is for, but for a historical release I definitely think more was needed.

Upon it’s release, Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe would go gold, receive radio play and produce a successful tour. But before the band could go on to record a second album, fate, managers and a hefty pay day led the group to reform with the other members of Yes for a horrible album called Union and a wonderful tour, which you can read about here. However, if you were there back in the day or are simply interested in what prog rock sounded like in 1989, Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe the album is as fine a snapshot as one could ask for.

You can order the deluxe edition of Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe from Gonzo Multimedia here.

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4 Replies to “Now Hear This: Andy Burns on Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe Remastered”

  1. Lame. Jon Anderson's songwriting peaked in '89? Tony Levin's bass with ABWH isn't up to Squire's because it doesn't sound “like it's supposed to”? You have tin ears that want live performances to mimic and recreate the studio versions — only you don't like the studio versions much to begin with. You so easy dole out negativity toward the artists and their hard work that one has to wonder what great albums you have recorded and released. It's people like you that give reviewers a bad rep by arrogantly speaking down to your readers with brash and thoughtless diatribes in a feeble attempt to appear smarter than the artist(s) you critique. Go back to school.

  2. Thanks for the feedback, Anthony, but I think youe totally misread the entire piece. So for some clarity 1) while Jon has written some strong lyrics since ABWH (Talk and Keystuido have tellar moments), to me he hasn't been as consistent since 1989. 2) I love Levin and Squire – both have unique sounds, but seeing as how Squire has been the one constant in Yes for more than 40 years, I think most fans would prefer his playing in the context of their music. 3) i''m not sure what makes you think I don't love Yes' studio versions – I'm writing about them, after all. As for the review itself, I think it's fairly positive about the album and the band. Sorry you seemed to miss that.

  3. Okay, so I’m almost four years late in reading this. I don’t have the rereleased version of Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe but I’ve had the original since its release and I’ve had the two-disc live album from that tour since its release in late 1993. The live album is entitled “An Evening of Yes Music Plus” and although I have no proof that the 3 live tracks on the 2011 edition are from “An Evening of Yes Music Plus” I think it’s safe to assume that they are, unless some better sounding bootleg versions of these songs found their way onto the album. So why am I pointing this out? Because the bass player on “An Evening of Yes Music Plus” is Jeff Berlin, not Tony Levin. I wish it was Tony Levin. I have nothing against ex-Bruford bass player Jeff Berlin, but I really, really like Tony Levin’s work with King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, and others. Levin did play on the majority of the ABWH tour but he was ill during the concert recorded for the live album. So, before you go saying, “I didn’t like it” in reference to someone’s playing, make sure you at least get your facts straight. Of course, being a musician myself, I would prefer that you not use that phrase altogether but that’s just me.

  4. I’ve yet to purchase the rereleased version of Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe and I doubt I will but I’ve had the original since its release and I’ve had the two-disc live album from that tour since its release in late 1993. The live album is entitled “An Evening of Yes Music Plus” and although I have no proof that the 3 live tracks on the 2011 edition (Brother of Mine, And You And I, Order of the Universe) are from “An Evening of Yes Music Plus” I think it’s safe to assume that they are, unless some better sounding bootleg versions of these songs found their way onto the album. So why am I pointing this out? Because the bass player on “An Evening of Yes Music Plus” is Jeff Berlin, not Tony Levin. It’s right there in the liner notes of the double-cd live album. I wish it was Tony Levin. I have nothing against ex-Bruford bass player Jeff Berlin, but I really like Tony Levin’s work with King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, and others. Levin did play on the majority of the ABWH tour but he was ill during the concert recorded for the live album. So, before you go saying, “I didn’t like it” in reference to someone’s playing, make sure you at least get your facts straight. Of course, being a musician myself, I would prefer that you not use that phrase altogether but that’s just me.

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