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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Chris Squire

Fish Out Of Water Deluxe Expanded Edition

Review by Bruce Stringer

Quite possibly the most satisfying of Yes-related solo efforts, Fish Out Of Water has many of the elements of greatness that were hallmarks of the early ‘70s Yes output. Although the album was a product of the end of the Relayer-era Yes lineup, it is a grand opus with an orchestra and lengthy compositional passages that allowed Patrick Moraz the ability to work his magic in a subtler musical arena. Bill Bruford appears on drums and does what he does best: play the sideways time signatures straight but with a twist. Squire’s vocals are on form and his bass playing is excellent. The packaging of this release is excellent and well thought out with superior quality over many re-mastered sets and a dual digipak design that includes artwork from the original LP release.

Interestingly, there is almost no guitar on the album and – thankfully – Squire handles the vocals himself making this an album of many definitions. One can hear Squire as Yes, as the solo artist, the composer, the bass player "extraordinaire" and sideman to the (at times) unforgettably haunting arrangements. Compared to the other Yes solo albums of the time, this would have to be the most Yes sounding and grandest achievement in their back catalogue. Whilst comparing the original Japanese CD release of this album I have noticed very little difference in quality apart from the new version being "toppier" and having clearer definition between the bass and other instruments. This is obviously no fault on behalf of the newly re-mastered product: it is proof of how well the original release was recorded and produced back in ’75. This album was only about 6 years after the "Concerto For Group And Orchestra" by Deep Purple and 5 years after "Time And A Word" by Yes, which produced their own unique problems in dealing with the classical music fraternity. So – not withstanding the Moody Blues material with orchestra – it is interesting to note the difference in attitude at this project, which married the orchestral to rock group with such confidence and class.

 

The original promo clips for "Hold Out Your Hand" and "You By My Side" are included on the bonus DVD and offer a different manner of appreciation due to the visual stimulus. These clips, filmed in 1975, include a full orchestra set-up along with former Yes drummer, Bill Bruford (who had left the band after Close To The Edge), and keyboard player, Patrick Moraz. The impression is of a live performance of the pieces although they are miming but the sheer scale of heads on stage makes for an impact so close to live that it defies belief. Bruford is dressed very much of the day and Chris Squire’s own clothing is suitably horrid in a way only outdone by Rick Wakeman’s attire of the mid-70s. The interview with Chris Squire, filmed in 2006, has some very interesting anecdotes that fans will be interested in as Squire takes us back to the time when he was planning the recording stages of this album and building his own studio. There is very little I can go into here without giving away too much and I wouldn’t want to spoil it for those that would like the pleasant surprise of hearing the, at times, humorous stories from the man himself. Much of the Fish Out Of Water audio commentary by Chris Squire (also from 2006) concerns the production techniques and facts surrounding the equipment used, which may baffle the non-musician but there are enough anecdotes concerning Yes to make it all worth while for the fan. I was very interested in his recollection of time signatures and systems of obtaining particular effects, some of which were pioneering for the day. As this is possibly the very first of its type, seeing Chris talk over the recordings with headphones on (in front of the stained glass window from the LP sleeve) makes for a great new experience. One might imagine this as the best chance in ever getting to sitting down with your favorite artist and have him / her talk you through it as it plays. Great one, Chris!

Track by Track Review
Hold Out Your Hand
The opening track is a great Yes style piece that shows off Chris Squire’s indelible bass work and multi-tracked vocal parts. It simply belts through the speakers, no lead-in, no warning for the overall band sound is enormous, thanks largely to the orchestrations of conductor Andrew Jackman (who also plays piano on the recordings). Bill Bruford’s drums are top-end, crisp and always very tight sounding. The numerous little melodies and backing nuances make for a very grand wall of sound taking the Yes sound to the next level. The track builds to some interesting Rickenbacker solo work before a thematic organ solo – which calls forth to the future work on Yes’ Going For The One album. The orchestra builds to a crescendo before diminishing to segue into track 2.

You By My Side
"You By My Side" seems to begin mid-stream (thanks to the segue), which offers up some intriguing motifs on the flute and continues in the vein of "Hold Out Your Hand", albeit broader and less heavy. The 6/8 time signature allows for the organ to peek through in the mix as the tightly arranged drum and bass parts strictly adhere to the staccato nature of the rhythm section. Throughout, the wind and string sections smooth over with a soft padding effect. This track, sandwiched between to more up tempo numbers, has an almost contemporary pop flavor which, although interesting to hear on this project, would sound worlds away from the Yes of that era.

Silently Falling
A gentle flute and woodwind introduction leads into the piano and bass arrangement. The flute solo that hovers above the other instruments flutters about before the track slides headlong into the sideways timing of the verses. I’ve always noticed how intricately the weave of Squires time signatures are worked into the tapestry of his compositions, in this case 4/4 and 3/4 interchanges. During the commentary section on the DVD Chris points out a technique little used in this day and age, that of quickening / speeding tempos which simply adds to the dynamics of this excellent song. There is a return to the original verse structure after a lengthy instrumentation, then a melancholic piano reprise of the chorus. "Silently Falling" ends the original Side 1 and carries over many of the devices from the first two pieces in much the same way as if these three were but one song.

Lucky Seven
As Squire himself suggests, this is probably the jazziest of tracks on the album and, incidentally, the track used as the US single. The electric piano begins with a 7/4 chord structure that, although quite simple, merely teases as Squire and Bruford’s chemistry synchronize the off kilter time play. The orchestral work is tastefully minimal countering the sax solo work of Mel Collins – in particular, the strings are dynamic and cutting when needed. The whole track consists of the piano basis and numerous theme devices that alter as the arrangement plays through varying tension-building moods. Squire’s backing vocals are stunning as he sings along in soothing harmony to the action of Collins and Bruford, who vie for attention in the mix. Clocking in at just under 7 minutes, "Lucky Seven" draws to its inevitable close.

Safe (Canon Song)
Possibly the most adventurous undertaking on the album, Mr. Squire attempts to utilize the full spectrum of the orchestra with several movements and changes that both highlight his compositional prowess and the incredible musicianship by all on the album. Some interesting effects are employed over the horn sections as the bass solos over the piano and drums. For what I believe is the second time on the recording, some 12-string electric guitar from the man himself can be heard. Apart from this, there is no guitar on the album.

A false ending takes the ensemble back into a verse and then the ultra-long outro. This consists of a cyclic bass riff that plods over 11/8 time and provides sections for each division of the orchestra with their unique phrases. There is again a tempo shift before a dynamic build-up much in the way that Pink Floyd’s "Atom Heart Mother" builds to its crescendo, though this is merely a false start as the track returns to square one and begins the tension once again (in the "Siberian Mines" passage). There is so much going on in this track that even the kitchen sink sounds great and the employment of dissonance drags the piece into the realm of scariness.

To end, Squire plays bass on his double neck with the pick-up selector to the upper, guitar neck making for that submarine sound that his fans have become so familiar with. At a length of 14:56, "Safe" manages to take the listener on an intense musical journey that includes all the great destinations that only Yes could provide.

Lucky Seven (US-only single edit)
This is the single version of "Lucky Seven" that was used to promote the original album release back in 1975. The fading at the end – at the halfway mark of the original album version – does little to satisfy and leaves the listener in a kind of void, especially after being used to the LP length of the track. Having said that, the track obviously served its purpose in drawing fans via the medium of radio. The edit is clean, unlike some of the early Yes singles that are truly hack jobs.

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