Multi-instrumentalist Billy Sherwood and keyboard player Tony Kaye are two big names in the progressive rock scene. Both have a background in Yes, but as far as I know they never were together in the same line up. However they do play together in Circa: and have just recently released a new album with this band, titled Valley Of The Windmill (see review). What most people don't know is that they did a tour together in Japan several years ago. A souvenir of this tour was just released recently, named Live In Japan.
The package includes three discs, two CDs and a DVD. When you hear the audio of both discs you get the impression you are listening to a full band. But this is not the case at all. In 2011 they were on tour in Japan as a duo. Kaye played keyboards, Sherwood sang and provided the electric guitar parts. The bass and drum parts were pre-recorded by Billy himself. The use of those backing tracks gives you the impression you are listening to Circa:, Conspiracy, Toto, Yes and World Trade or any other act they played songs from. Maybe not in exactly the same way, but they come very close to the original versions. As for the musicianship of both players I can only be positive. Tony's keys sound very modern and he sometimes uses different sounds then you might expect in certain songs. This way the songs have a great live feeling. The same goes for Billy's playing. His guitar parts are very strong and he certainly knows how to play a great solo. Also his vocal parts are of a very high level. Sound wise the audio discs sound pretty cool, but I didn't expect anything else from a man like Sherwood. As for the songs you might discuss the fact certain Yes classics were done on which both of them did not play. I am referring to the compositions such as Wondrous Stories and Roundabout. As for me, I didn't care at all they did not participate on the original tunes because I loved them as much as the Yes covers (Owner Of A Lonely Heart, Your Move, Time And A Word, I Am Waiting, No Way We Can Lose and The More We Live) they were on. I enjoyed Kaye's keyboard solo a lot, where he also used parts of Yes compositions he collaborated on. Also the other material they perform is very enjoyable to listen to. I just could not spot any weak parts. So bravo to both for getting all those tunes so well played together!
Unfortunately the quality of the footage of the tour on the DVD is of a totally different order. Everybody who sees it might be rather disappointed. It almost looks like a film people shoot with their camera while they are on vacation. There are a lot of blurry images. You might think it was partly recorded with smartphones or cheap disposable cameras. You sometimes get the impression they used snippets of various concerts, filmed by themselves or by their Japanese road manager or even taken from shots by fans in the audience. I guess they never intended to release it for a larger audience. This simply can be labelled as a homemade video, for domestic use only. The footage slightly becomes more interesting by using videos shots taken on the road, in the streets, in the hotel room or on the airplane. The footage of the news items that ruled the world while they visited Japan will tell you how the audience felt while watching those great musicians. In 2011, a few days after the devastating tsunami, former Yes founder Tony Kaye and present Yes bassist Billy Sherwood did a tour of the ravaged Japan, in small intimate settings, bringing them comfort and set their minds on different things for a little while. I guess the extra DVD that comes along with this release is just a bonus. Nothing more, nothing less!
As already stated, it is too bad the picture quality is sometimes inferior to the audio recordings. They certainly would have gained another star in my verdict if everything was of the same high quality. Nevertheless I really enjoyed the whole package and I can recommend it to everybody who likes the music of Circa:, Conspiracy, Yes, World Trade and Billy Sherwood.
*** Henri Strik (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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