To say that events of the last few weeks, or even months, have been a mixture of unexpected surprise and in some areas, astonishment, would probably be the understatement of the year!
By now I expect that most, if not all of you, are aware that I have rejoined YES for what can be arguably said for the fifth time. I suppose a lot depends on how you view ABVM, as allowing for that set up being a legitimate part of the YES family, then the number rises to six!
There have been various rumours floating about for more than six months now and there has also been much speculation on various websites and in fact I understand that I have even been present in a few chat rooms answering questions!
At this juncture I really have to warn people about chat rooms. I once entered one to find both Jon Anderson and myself present in the chat room having an argument! I knew that Jon was in South America at the time and so it had to be two people masquerading as the pair of us. Stupidity such as this does far more harm than people realise and the unofficial sites have probably done more to delay the reunion happening than anything else.
Once again we warn you all..... unless you can confirm everything on the official rwcc site that you may have read somewhere else appertaining to me, then it probably isn't true!
Now that the official announcement has been made I can fill you in with some of what has gone on over the last six months or so.
The first real possibility of the classic line-up getting back together again happened late last year when the idea was first broached by the YES management whilst discussing a possible YES filming project with Classic Pictures of Shepperton Studios. There have been many rumours over the previous couple of years about my possibly rejoining but nothing had ever been said directly to me and so I had taken all these reports with a pinch of salt especially as YES were constantly touring and so was I.
There was an authorised invitation from Eagle Vision to play with them in Amsterdam on the last tour which I would have done had it not been for the fact that I was already contracted to work on that day a few thousand miles away as it happened!
It did seem up until the end of last year that we would not play together again, but strange things happen and I think for all concerned it suddenly felt right. The reason for the delay in the announcement was purely contractual. I had lots of commitments that I needed to see if I could move or postpone indefinitely and also YES had various contractual obligations of which I was not part of. It's never as easy as people imagine, but the easy part was that we all wanted to work together again and so with that area settled, it was up to the various representatives concerned to sort the rest out!
This took a mere six months, which is very quick when you consider how long a divorce takes these days!!!
The initial plan is to start rehearsing at the beginning of July in Seattle and start the tour on the 15th or 16th in the same city. Touring will continue throughout July and August and some of September.
I have the rather unusual situation of flying back to England on the
l1th for my charity golf day on the 12th and then flying back to Seattle
the following day to continue with the final rehearsals!! Also I will
be flying back on the 4th of
September for my son's wedding, (Oliver), on the 5th and then back again on the 6th.
The only downside of all this is that I will miss the beginning of the football season and my beloved Manchester City back in the Premiership!
I am guessing, but I would imagine that YES will continue the tour into the New Year by visiting Europe and other parts of the world. As soon as I have any information we will let you all know.
A lot of people have been asking what we are liable to play and all I can say is that there are a lot of potential set lists floating about and all would work. I think there will be a mixture of music both old and new and perhaps some stuff that I did not play on originally as well. It will be interesting adding my own musical thoughts to these pieces if it happens.
I've got a pretty new rig for the tour which includes a lot of new KORG stuff, the Karma, BX3, Triton and MR2000 and a wonderful new instrument from General Music called the PRO-MEGA.
The next newsletter will carry a full report from the tour in the form of a Wakeman diary!
It was with deep personal sadness to be told of the passing of John Entwistle, the Who's bass guitarist.
John had been a good personal friend for more than thirty years and was a phenomenal bass player as well as a very special man. I spoke to Pete Townsend just a month ago and he said how much they were all looking forward to the tour.
On behalf of all who knew and loved him, we send our deepest sympathy to his family and Roger and Pete. Their tour will be the fitting tribute that John would have been proud of
For those of you old enough to remember, I had a wonderful year or so back in the early seventies with the Strawbs and from that era grew a very special and strong relationship with Dave Cousins, their founder and mentor.
For years we 'threatened' to do an album together, but our personal busy schedules always seem to scupper any plans we had. On meeting up this year however we decided to make it work come hell or high water and that is exactly what we have managed to do.
The result is a most beautiful album entitled Hummingbird, and is really a case of going back to our Strawbs early days of melodic writing and producing an album accordingly using 21st century technology.
Engineered and mixed by Stuart Sawney and Erik Jordan at Music Fusion Studios in Wembley, the album quickly grew into something very special. With further guests Ric Sanders from Fairport Convention and Chas Cronk and Tony Femandez also adding their weight to a couple of tracks, the end result is really very different from what I imagined we could have done.
Dave's songs are as lovely as ever and I hope that my instrumental passages, introductions and arrangements add the required effects.
Alina (Bencini) has produced a beautiful cover with a red breasted Hummingbird and bright yellow sun and with luck the CD should be on the streets within a few weeks.
There is such a diversity of instrumentation on the album and yet some of the subtleties are quite remarkable. Everything from backwards pianos to dulcimers, from mini moogs to banjos! You name it; it's probably on this album!
The Wizard And The Forest Of All Dreams
This is probably the most financially stupid project I have ever done!!!
It's probably cost about five times what it should realistically been budgeted at, but I really wanted it to be of the highest quality and so that costs money!!!
Realistically, the album would have to sell about 75,000 units in order to become a viable proposition and that, (when you consider that only English speaking countries with people who love pianos and choirs .... oh yes, and wizards are likely to consider buying it), is not going to happen!!
Never mind, I am really really pleased with it and it even took Erik Jordan four different lots of mixing before he came up with a final mix that he was happy with!! A special note should be made for Erik here as he really did work above and beyond the call of duty in getting this project to final fruition.
The cover (entitled 'Mr Wizard') depicts a wizard (who bears a remarkable resemblance to an aging rocker who wears cloaks himself, climbing up a keyboard into a forest within a galaxy.
The booklet contains all the words for each of the choir parts (soprano, alto, tenor and bass) and so you can follow which parts you wish to.
The CD will be released by the beginning of August and will only be available in the UK initially. We'll have plenty in the shop at the website which will be available before general release as well.
Out There is finally finished and became a real marathon at the end. I can honestly say that this album is true prog rock in every respect.
I have always 'billed it' as a sort of follow up to No Earthly Connection and in many ways it is. The album deals with the unknown out in other galaxies, space and time and also the connection with music and the music soul.
There are great vocals from Damian and no backing vocals although the English Chamber Choir do make an appearance on three tracks.
The album has many surprises including retro sampled mellotrons and PPG synthesizers amongst other things. Lots of new sounds were used without and the playing from the guys is of the highest standard.
Just to show that I do listen to what people say to me, (well sometimes anyway), there is a goodly chunk of church organ on board as well.
There is an incredible launch planned for America for this album, more of which will appear, with photographs, in the next newsletter in September, (which will also carry the tour diary report).
It is hoped that we will be able to play at least one show when the album is released, in England. The release is due for October. There are also plans for a DVD which will be released by Classic Pictures.
It is a real tragedy for me that it is unlikely that we will ever be able to show the English Rock Ensemble in the UK as I would really like.
To do the show in the manner it really deserves, we need to be playing venues that hold one thousand people upwards in order to bring in the revenue. I've been losing hand over fist, as many of you are aware, by putting on shows in smaller venues and dubs. This I love doing, but just cannot afford it and so I think the demise of the UK gig really has come, unless of course the odd miracle happens. There will always be the one offs here and there, but I get so frustrated with this country's promoters and agents who I really think want life so wonderfully easy on themselves that the general public miss out.
Anyway, we did manage some shows this year. A cracker in Indonesia where we played in Jakarta and were treated royally by all concerned.
We then came back to the UK and performed four shows, all of which were excellent. We returned to the Limelight Club at Crewe which I think is a great venue and then we did Stourbridge, (The Rock Caf@), then Rotherham for the Classic Rock Society and finally, a fabulous show in Perth, Scotland where we played at the Perth Festival, and what a wonderful festival it was too.
I got a great kick out of this particular show and even climbed up the back of the stage to play their in house church organ!!! A classic night and one full of energy. The audiences everywhere were as lovely to us as ever and this really does help the performance.
Dave Colquhoun on guitar has done a fabulous job in standing in for
(who is making great progress you'll be all glad to here and fighting away as we all expected him too).
1 really don't know what other shows will be done in the UK in the coming months and years. Perhaps we should organise coach trips to come and see us play abroad!!!!!
Television And Radio
I appeared on a great fun Quiz programme called You Never Had It So Good and continued my losing streak on quiz games!!! I also appeared on a show about the seventies and found that I couldn't remember anything at all!!!!
1 have also stood in and deputised for some programmes on Radio 6 which I really enjoyed as well. Television has really dropped off in recent months which is sad as I really enjoy doing them. The new producers of Countdown apparently don't like me at all and therefore there will be no more appearances on my favourite programme! The Generation Game has finished as well and so my regularly haunts have now left me for ever!!!
The second part of The Two Sides of Yes is due out shortly and I hear a rumour that they intend to release a CD just of the piano variations of the YES music which I am pleased about.
It is intended to do a lot of re-releases, re-mastering and rethinking of a lot of the current Music Fusion catalogue but this won't be put into action until OUT THERE and the WIZARD AND THE FOREST OF ALL DREAMS have been released.
I'd love to make another Christmas album, but I'll have to see what time there is left for this year before any firm commitments can be made as regards this.
OUT OF THE BLUE has had the lettering redone on the cover and an improved insert. It has also been re-pressed.
The Treasure Chest finally made its way into production and from the masses of e-mails we've received, it seems that we have done the right thing. We have a second volume ready and waiting in the wings, but it's doubtful if it will be put into production, as the costs of production are so high.
1 have signed a new publishing agreement with RW Music, which will at last allow me to publish my music in piano form so that others can have a bash at playing it! Unfortunately this will only apply to new music, but at least if s a start.
The Wizard and the Forest of All Dreams will be the first to be done, followed closely by OUT THERE if sales merit its printing.
My Golf Tournament this year is on July 12th, which means I have to fly home mid rehearsals with YES from Seattle, play golf and then fly back again. This is truly the farthest I have ever had to fly to play golf!!!
What can I say about my beloved Manchester City, except to say...
'Watch out United ... we're back with a vengeance this time!!!!!!