WINTER 1999/2000


Following the acclaim of their latest release, The Ladder (Beyond), the Yes group rolled into NYC for three shows at the Beacon Theater on December 7, 8 & 9. A number of the 20th Century Guitar crew were on hand for the December 9th show and the general consensus was that the night was an absolute success. Kicking off with The Yes Album evergreen “Perpetual Change”, Yes took the crowd by storm with their 21st Century progressive rock spirit. As great as the new live versions of “And You And I” (from Close To The Edge) and Awaken” (from ‘77s Going For The One) were, it was the newer numbers from The Ladder that provided the evidence that the men of Yes have even further evolved as master musicians. It was a tad disappointing that nothing was performed from recent albums like Open Your Eyes, Talk and Keys To Ascension, yet it was abundantly clear that the fervent fans on hand that night would go bonkers no matter what the group played. Perhaps the best thing about The Ladder, and about the Yes of the late ‘90s in general is the returning of guitarist Steve Howe to the creative fold. With and without Howe, Yes have always been a formidable sonic force emitting enough power to fuel a small planet, and with Howe regaining the lead and acoustic guitar chores, the band once again revitalize, this time with high-tech accuracy, the early ‘70s guitar-based orchestral prog-rock sound that first brought them such amazing acclaim. In addition to his fine guitar work on late 97’s Open Your Eyes and The Ladder, Howe has also pleased his fans with several fine solo albums in the ‘90s with a special mention going to Pulling Strings, released earlier in ‘99. In the spirit of his ‘94 album Not Necessarily Acoustic, which chronicled his ‘93 American one man concert tour, Pulling Strings is an audio souvenir culled from two dates on Steve’s late ‘94/early ‘95 Pulling Strings tour of the U.S. Released by the U.K.-based Resurgence Records in 1999, Pulling Strings brings back memories of earlier works with Yes (including acoustic excerpts from Close To The Edge and Relayer) and his days with Tomorrow (“My White Bicycle”). Other highlights include innovative Howe takes of the vintage instro chestnuts “Misty” and “Classical Gas” (backing tracks and all!) and a moving cover of the controversial “Blinded By Science” from his mid ‘90s album classic The Grand Scheme Of Things. An essential companion CD to Not Necessarily Acoustic, Pulling Strings boasts good audio, color photos of the master in action and valuable web and guitar tech info. 

King Crimson fans following the group’s ongoing activities should note that their record label, Discipline Global Mobile recently reissued a 30th anniversary edition of the fabled first Crimson album, In The Court Of The Crimson King on CD complete with a unique oversized mini-replication of the original album art, 24-bit remastering and an impressive CD booklet featuring press clippings of early reviews and new liner notes by KC guitar icon Robert Fripp. Improved sound-wise over previous CD reissues of the famed In The Court Of...,the Discipline stamp of approval is all over this one. DGM has also just issued a tasty, 25 track, double disc live sampler set of tracks from a variety of Crimson line ups of years past. Entitled Circus - The Young Persons’ Guide To King Crimson Live, the enhanced CD set is separated into two CDs, Neon Heat Disease - 1984- 1998 (disc one) and Fractured - 1969-1996 (disc two). Disc one, featuring recent live tracks of the current Crimson line-up, is a textbook example of exactly how state of the art progressive rock should be played in concert. 

As far as cosmic instrumental music goes, it doesn’t get much better than the French group Air. The group debuted last year in the U.S. with their critically acclaimed CD, Moon Safari. Their U.S. label, Astralwerks / Caroline Records recently made available a splendid 30+ minute set of early Air singles, B-sides and remixes entitled Premier Symptomes (First Signs). A made for the ‘90s mix of keyboard laden atmospherics with added sampled guitar effects, Air’s ultra-relaxed, smooth ambient groove comes off like Tangerine Dream produced by Henry Mancini! Caroline have also just released a new Air DVD documenting the group’s ‘98 tour entitled Eating, Sleeping, Waiting & Playing. A new Air CD of soundtrack music will see release on Astralwerks in early ‘99. 

Biggest disappointment of 1999: Had to be the aborted U.S. release of Bali, the new CD from the fabulous L.A. pop group The Wondermints. Considering The Wondermints’ June ‘99 concert tour supporting Brian Wilson, the pending release of Bali, on the N.Y.C.-based Big Deal Records, looked like a sure thing. Well, lo and behold the album never materialized. This writer was fortunate enough to procure a CD of Bali, a Japan-only release, from Wondermints member and pop wiz-kid Darian Sahanaja, who, together with bandmates Nick Walusko and Mike D’Amico have created a work of true pop brilliance with Bali. What a shame their American fans still have to wait for the CD’s (hopefully?) imminent stateside release. 

Attention Artists and Record Companies: Have your CD reviewed by Send to: CD Reviews Editor Robert Silverstein, P.O. Box 630249, Little Neck, N.Y. 11363-0249




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