Earlier this month, progressive rock band Yes released their new album, Topographic Drama: Live Across America. It captures the group in all their live glory, as they perform their now-classic 1980 album Drama in its entirety, along with with Sides 1 and 4 (and a bit of 3) from their 1973 divisive double album Tales From Topographic Oceans. In a band where line-up changes have been a way of life, the group on Topographic Drama features Steve Howe (guitars), Alan White and Jay Schellen (drums), Geoff Downes (keyboards), Jon Davison (vocals) and Billy Sherwood (bass).
In 2015, former member (1997-2000) Sherwood was given the ultimate request. Yes founding member Chris Squire had been diagnosed with cancer, and asked his longtime friend to take his place in the band until he regained his health. Sadly, Squire never recovered, and passed away on June 27, 2015. Under truly heartbreaking circumstances, Billy’s risen to the challenge of standing in the shadow of a giant of a musician.
I had the chance to talk to Billy Sherwood about the new live album, celebrating the music and memory of Squire, the 20th anniversary of Open Your Eyes, his first album as a band member, and much more. Read the rest of this entry
2017 has been a banner year for Yes fans, with the group finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after far too a long a wait. While there has been some band turmoil, with two factions touring at the same time, the legacy group featuring Steve Howe, Alan White, Geoff Downes, Jon Davison and Billy Sherwood have let their music do the talking, with their Yestival tour that has seen the group on the road with Carl Palmer’s ELP Experience and Todd Rundgren.
Yes, joined this time out with second drummer and Steve Howe’s son Dylan, has been playing music from the first decade of the band’s existence, beginning with their self-titled 1969 debut through 1980’s Drama. As the online videos and fan raves can attest, the band is delivering on all fronts. As Yes make their way north for Canadian dates, and on the heels of the Yes 50 European Tour announcement that also sees the band preparing a new live album and more, I had the chance to talk to keyboardist Geoff Downes about the state of the band, and his own experiences touring with Asia alongside Journey earlier this summer, which came not long after the passing of Asia founding member/bassist/singer John Wetton.
Andy Burns: You guys have been on the road for Yestival. How’s it been going?
Geoff Downes: Yeah, it’s going really good. The audience response has been really nice.
Andy Burns: You were on a pretty extensive tour with Asia opening for Journey before regrouping with Yes. How was that tour for you? I would think a little bittersweet.
Geoff Downes: Yeah, we had lost John (Wetton) earlier this year, and that was a real blow to all of us. We had committed to the tour even while John was ill, we were all hoping that he would make a recovery, but sadly that didn’t happen. I think it was important to go out and do that tour, we had a really great opportunity to get Asia’s music out into the open, and that’s what John would have wanted. We did a nice tribute to John in the show, and we were very well received by the Journey fans. It was just very sad that John wasn’t there to share that with us.
Andy Burns: Bringing Billy Sherwood into the Asia fold as bassist and vocalist, that was at John’s request? Read the rest of this entry
A new album from a classic group can often be problematic – nobody sells albums anymore, especially bands of an older ilk who are faced with an aging fan base that solely wants to hear the hits of yesteryear delivered live. Try as I might to convince someone that the Rolling Stones A Bigger Bang was a solid addition to their catalogue, or that The Who’s Endless Wire was a consistently strong piece of art, there’s a good shot it will fall on deaf ears. The same can be said for prog rock masters Yes, who, in 2011, put out Fly From Here, an album I consider to be their best since 1980’s Drama. Some of their unrelentingly vocal fan base may agree with, while others would take the absence of founding member and lead singer Jon Anderson as reason enough to dismiss that effort.
If that’s the case, there’s no way I’ll be able to convince you that the band’s latest album, Heaven and Earth, is even better than Fly From Here. Or that, in my humble opinion, Yes has delivered a modern masterpiece.
Progressive rock giants Yes are currently touring across Canada with their 3 album tour, playing their classics Close To The Edge, Going For The One and The Yes Album (in that order). Reviews have been stellar, and the band is on fire (you can read my review of last year’s Toronto show here). In the meantime, the group have announced a summer tour of the U.S. along with their new album, Heaven and Earth, the first to feature new vocalist Jon Davison and second in a row to include keyboardist Geoff Downes.
Downes has got to be one of the hardest working men in music today. Along with his commitment to Yes, he and his colleagues in Asia have just release their new album, Gravitas, a memorable collection of songs that once again highlight the special songwriting tandem of Downes and bassist John Wetton. Geoff was kind enough to talk to us via email about Asia, Gravitas, being on the road with Yes and much more.
Andy Burns: Thanks for taking the time to talk to Biff Bam Pop again, Geoff! 2014 is already shaping up to be a big year for you – the new Asia album Gravitas is about to drop, you’re continuing the Yes Three Album tour, and there’s a new Yes album in the pipe. First question – how do you manage your time?
Geoff Downes: This year is particularly hectic, and it’s a credit to the management teams of both Yes & Asia for managing my time in this regard. Despite the tough schedule, it’s really exciting for me to have the two albums coming out, and of course performing on the tours as well. I think I can adapt to each band fairly quickly, but this year will certainly raise a few challenges.
Andy Burns: The new Asia album, Gravitas, is big and bold and confident, which is great considering you have a new, young guitarist in the band. How did you discover Sam Coulson?
Geoff Downes: I think it’s a very strong album, and both John & myself are really pleased with the way our compositions turned out. It’s always something of an unknown area when we start writing an album, but eventually the bits all start to fall into place. Having Sam (who was recommended to us) on board has also helped really bring the project to life.
“Biff Bam Pop, right. You were in the front row tonight. Are you going to review the show?”
So asked Geoff Downes, keyboardist for legendary progressive rock band Yes when I reintroduced myself at the band’s meet and greet following their sold out performance at Massey Hall Thursday, April 11th. Last summer, Geoff and I had met at the band’s summer tour opener after he and I had conducted an email interview about the band. I told him I would indeed be writing about this stop on Yes’ three album tour, where the group was performing their classic albums The Yes Album, Close To The Edge and Going For The One in their entirety. This was the first time the band was attempting something like this since the early 70’s, when they toured their double album Tales From Topographic Oceans. It’s an ambitious undertaking, but one that is paying off nicely for the group. Shows have been selling out and reviews have been positive.
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Can a band that’s been around more than 40 years really hit the heights of yesteryear?
In the case of Yes, the answer is…well, you know.
Last night in Rama, Ontario, the band (one of my favourites) kicked off their summer tour, which also serves as a North American introduction to their new lead singer, Jon Davison, who has some pretty big shoes to fill. Did he do it? Find out after the jump?
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For over 20 years I’ve been a diehard Yes fan. If you’re a regular reader of Biff Bam Pop, you probably know this, since we’ve featured the band on many occasions. But today marks a first for the site – an interview with Geoff Downes, the bands current keyboardist, who first played on Yes’ fan favourite album Drama back in 1980 and who rejoined the group in 2011 for their most recent studio release, Fly From Here. With a pedigree that includes being a founding member of both The Buggles and Asia, Downes is one of rocks greatest keyboard players. From a completely biased fan standpoint, he also happens to be my second favourite Yes keyboardist of all time, only topped by original member Tony Kaye (I’m sure Downes would agree he’s in great company). This being the case, I’m thrilled that Geoff was able to answer some questions via email for Biff Bam Pop in this exclusive interview. Yes kicks off their summer tour tomorrow with a show at Casino Rama in Rama, Ontario, their first Ontario show in nearly four years, their first since Downes rejoined the band, as well as their first in the area with new singer Jon Davison. I’ll let you know how the show is on Wednesday; in the meantime, enjoy my chat with Geoff Downes about Yes, touring, Asia and more!