Purple Pyramid 2018
Friends and followers pay emotional homage to a fallen hero who created a prog framework that all good people try to fit in.
“Forward motion, life promotion – to reverse is to repeat”: a single line from Chris Squire‘s solo song could be the motto of any album wherein various artists present a different view of an oeuvre they love and respect but, thankfully, for all the reverence on display, “Life In Yes” is indeed different. Instead of young, awestruck acolytes replicating the veteran’s familiar repertoire, it proudly presents a solid line-up of seasoned stars reflecting on the late rocker’s legacy. As a result, the great advantage of this tribute is its delving into the less obvious reaches of his rather vast catalogue in order to uncover deep cuts, so those who are not so well-versed in YES-lore may be puzzled with regards to some pieces’ provenance – and immensely surprised, too. The listener wouldn’t need to explore any depth, though, to access “The Fish” – Squire’s showcase that’s given an enhanced muscularity here courtesy of Billy Sherwood, Chris’ anointed replacement and the current homage’s producer, and Sonja Kristina – and see what significant and interesting difference even the slightest change in dynamics can bring. Which, of course, is the whole point of such efforts as well as the root of certain flaws and foibles.
While it’s fairly easy for female singers to fathom the range of Jon Anderson‘s celestial pipes – with only Annie Haslam‘s raga-kissed reading of “Onward” retaining its northern-lights shimmer – it also blurs the lines between original versions and new takes on these classics, yet if Dweezil Zappa’s harmonic curlicues do little to diminish the splash-for-splash bombast behind “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” which is voiced by Nikki Squire, Brian Auger’s well-tempered rhythm-and-blues wigouts on “Don’t Kill The Whale” effectively contrast Candice Night’s folk-pop approach. Still, inviting today’s YES warbler Jon Davison to deliver “Parallels” and “On The Silent Wings Of Freedom” doesn’t feel like ingenious decision, and it’s down to Tony Kaye on the former and Patrick Moraz on the latter to add new, respectively fugue-laced and fusion-hued, colors to these gems – and prove, once more, why one of the keyboard players had to make way for Rick Wakeman and the other was his worthy successor.
As Larry Fast and Steve Hogarth encase “Hold Out Your Hand” – the aforementioned song from Squire’s “Fish Out Of Water” – in an adventurously scintillating swirl of synthesizers and vocal inflections, the album’s unpredictable drift becomes irresistibly arresting, with Steve Stevens and David Sancious roughing up “South Side Of The Sky” before sprinkling elegiac ivories all over this epic. But it’s the airiness two more Steves, Hackett and Porcaro, infuse “The More We Live – Let Go” with and Todd Rundgren’s straightforward rendition of “Roundabout” that project the musicians’ personalities on these numbers in the most impressive way. That’s why this homage is special, and also poignant, especially when Chris’ voice and bass drive the bonus of “Comfortably Numb” to tears – that’s the tribute done right.