Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman & Howe, sometimes referred to as ABWH, was a project of four musicians who all played in Yes once. The band consisted of singer Jon Anderson, drummer Bill Bruford, keyboardist Rick Wakeman and guitarist Steve Howe. ABWH released their eponymous debut album in 1989 and in 1993 the live recording An Evening With Yes Music Plus from their subsequent concert tour. In the meantime, Arista Records had decided in favour of the material the band had written for their second studio album. This was a reunion album of ABWH and members of the Yes line-up around bassist Chris Squire, who owned the rights to the name Yes. This album, released as Union (1991) didn't contain the same musical level as the debut album, which made me interested again in the Yes-music of the seventies. However, this review isn't about the history of Yes, but about the limited edition that was released lately of the ABWH-album. This edition includes the remastered album on CD1. On CD2 you'll mainly find the recordings used on CD-singles meant to promote the album.
The ABWH-project started in 1988. At the time Jon Anderson began to feel artistically limited in the band's format. He then regrouped with Howe, Wakeman and Bruford to a classic Yes line-up. Bruford, who had been a member of King Crimson at various times, recruited Crimson band mate Tony Levin as the group's bassist. This formation couldn't use the name 'Yes' for legal obligations, so they used the first letter of their surnames to release the recorded music. The group rehearsed and composed the music in Paris and recorded it on Montserrat, an island in the Caribbean. That's probably the reason why many tracks contain Latin and Caribbean influences. The artwork was created by artist Roger Dean, well-known for designing the album covers for Yes in the seventies. The album featured a front painting titled Blue Desert and a back painting titled Red Desert. AWBH, lasting for almost sixty minutes, was one of the first recordings that took advantage of the extended time length on compact discs.
In the eighties my interest in Yes-music had reached an all-time low. I had almost lost all interest in the band until I saw a video of Brother Of Mine on MTV. I loved it right from the start and the next step was to buy this single and the album that was released at the same time. The opening piece Themes contains strong performances of Wakeman and Howe. Although the drums sound computerized at the time it didn't matter that much to me. The second track Fist Of Fire is in the same vein as the opening piece with again a lot of keyboard firework by Mr. Wakeman. Bruford also proves to be a very modern drummer on this track using different rhythms on his electronic kit. Next the 'single' Brother Of Mine, but this time the extended version divided into three parts. This epic piece contains more relaxed moments than the first two pieces. In a way this song explains the need for Anderson to play with Howe in Yes just as in the music they made in the seventies. Birthright has a strong intro on the acoustic guitar. For the first time we hear the Caribbean influences in the music. This song is rather mellow and dominated by orchestral keyboards and a classical guitar. The song is about the British nuclear tests at Maralinga. The concern of the band can be clearly heard toward the end of the track when Wakeman and Howe become more aggressive on their instruments. The Meeting is a short mellow track that sounds like a typical Rick Wakeman-piece with many classical influences performed on the grand piano and a string synthesizer.
Quartet is another piece divided into four parts. Part 1 starts as a typical soft Howe-Anderson song performed on the acoustic guitar. In part 2 the music gets a bit faster and the keyboards join in with a Bach-like trumpet solo. Several Yes-titles are mentioned in the lyrics such as Longdistance Runaround, South Side Of The Sky and Awaken. The last part is again very slow with many classical influences. Teakbois contains the most Caribbean and Latin-influences on this release. It doesn't fit the music actually compared to the rest of the material. Sometimes the song reminded me of Anderson's solo hit Surrender. Order Of The Universe returns to the sound and style of the first two pieces of the album and has also been divided in four parts. Once more Wakeman's keyboards dominate this epic piece that belongs to one of the strongest tracks of the album. The final track Let's Pretend was co-written by Vangelis in 1986, and is a previously unreleased piece by Jon & Vangelis. It's a short mellow tune that ends the album in style. The string synthesizers and acoustic guitars accompany Jon's pleasant voice in a pleasant way.
The bonus disc contains almost seventy minutes of music. The disc starts with a short spoken intro by Rick Wakeman. The music that follows couldn't have been chosen any better. The sound of a gong starts an edited version of Brother Of Mine used for the CD-single version. It's followed by an even shorter version of this track. This three-minute long radio edit has nothing to do with the album version, because they left out seven minutes of essential music. Vultures In The City appeared on the CD-single version of Brother Of Mine and again the Latin-influences are present here. This mellow piece of music would have fitted perfectly on the album since it has the same atmosphere as songs like The Meeting and Quartet. Next are the single version and the long edit of Order Of The Universe. The single version of Quartet (I'm Alive) differs from the album version; they added some extra drums to the song. The second disc ends with l ive recordings from the band's British leg of the tour. I heard fantastic live versions of Brother Of Mine, And You And I and Order Of The Universe. It's a bit strange that the live version of Birthright that appeared on the CD-single of I'm Alive didn't appear on this release. That would have brought the total length of the album to almost eighty minutes of music, which is possible nowadays!
On the bonus disc Rick Wakeman compared the album to albums as Close To The Edge and Fragile. That's just what I thought when I heard the album for the first time. The use of modern instruments and technology made ABWH the Close To The Edge-version of the eighties. For me, this release has always been a masterpiece and many people regard it as the thirteenth Yes-album. I couldn't express my opinion in the early days because I didn't write reviews then. However, for me it's evident that only the highest rating will do justice to this album.
***** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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