Nods to the past: Yes, Presley, Dylan

By Tom Von Malder | Sep 07, 2018
Photo by: Eagle Vision The version of Yes performing here consists of, from left, Trevor Rabin, Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman.

Owls Head — Yes: Live at the Apollo (Eagle Vision, Blu-ray or standard DVD, NR, 119 min.). This is a terrific concert video. To my mind, singer Jon Anderson was always one of the two or three most prominent members of Yes, so I was shocked when he was forced out of the group in 2008 (illness had forced him off the road for four years). After all, Anderson co-founded the band with bassist Chris Squire in 1968. (Squire regretfully died in 2015.) In 2010, Anderson began touring with keyboardist Rick Wakeman again; Wakeman had served five stints with Yes between 1971 and 2004, starting with the classic "Fragile" album. The version of Yes performing here also includes guitarist Trevor Rabin, who played with Yes from 1983 through 1995, contributing to the band's big hit, "Owner of a Lonely Heart."

With Squire's death, the Yes name became available to share; Squire had had proprietary rights to it.  Guitarist Steve Howe and drummer Alan White are touring with their own version of Yes. The Anderson-Rabin-Wakeman version began as ARW in 2016. The trio claimed back the original band name and this tour was celebrating Yes' 50-year legacy. This concert was filmed in early 2017 at the Apollo Theater in Manchester, England. (There also is a two-CD and a triple-LP edition.)

The disc has excellent sound and is visually appealing. (Anderson stands on a platform while singing; I guess to make him appear taller.) The set list ranges wide,  from relatively obscure deep cuts like "Rhythm of Love" (from 1987's "Big Generator) and "Lift Me Up" (from 1991's "Union") to the classics,  "I've Seen All Good People," "Perpetual Change" (part of an opening three-part montage) and the tour de force, "Heart of the Sunrise," which opens with a bass solo and features the oh-so-familiar guitar riff. The bassist, by the way, is Lee Pomeroy (It Bites, Headspace) and the drummer is Louis Molino III (a longtime player with Rabin).

The band also plays the epic "Awaken" ( 1977 "Going for the One" LP), with Wakeman's churchy organ on the long instrumental section. Wakeman, as usual, wears  a bejeweled cape. (Wakeman reportedly has made about 90 solo albums during his brilliant career.) During "Owner of a Lonely Heart," Wakeman, playing a shoulder-strapped keyboard, goes up and down the aisles among the audience, to be joined briefly by Rabin near the end. The encore is the band's other big hit, "Roundabout," a fitting way to end a marvelous concert. There are no bonus features. Grade: A+

Elvis Presley: Where No One Stands Alone (RCA/Legacy CD, 44:17). Despite having died 41 years ago, Presley keeps churning out records. The last few, including this album of 14 gospel songs, feature his original vocals set to newly-recorded instrumentation and backing vocals. Here, those backing vocals include Presley alumnae Darlene Love, Cissy Houston, The Imperials and The Stamps. There also is a manufactured duet with his daughter Lisa Marie Presley on the title track.

When Presley rocks, it is all good, as on Andrae Crouch's "I've Got Confidence," and Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller's shout-and-response "Saved." Classics include the ballad "Crying in the Chapel," "How Great Thou Art," "You'll Never Walk Alone" from "The Sound of Music," and "Amazing Grace," complete with choir. The backing vocals are especially nice on "Bosom of Abraham."

Of the backing vocalists, Love first sang with Presley on his 1968 NBC television special, while Houston, with The Sweet Inspirations, sang with Presley on-stage starting in 1969. Imperials members Terry Blackwood, Armond Morales and Jim Murray sang on Presley's "How Great Thou Art" album, with the title song winning the 1967 Grammy for Best Sacred Performance. Also heard are Donnie Sumner, Bill Baize, Ed Hill and Larry Strickland, members of Presley's longtime backup group, The Stamps.

In the liner notes, Lisa Marie Presley writes that gospel "was his favorite genre -- no question about it. He seemed to be at his most passionate, and at peace, while singing gospel. He would truly come alive -- whether he was singing just for himself and me at home, or on stage in front of thousands of fans."

Shop.Graceland.com has exclusive, limited blue vinyl and cassette versions of the album. Grade: A-

Elvis Presley: The Searcher (The Original Soundtrack) (RCA/Legacy, 3 CDs). In April, this box set was released to accompany the 2-part documentary directed by Emmy and Grammy award-winner Thom Zimny. The 3-CD deluxe box set includes 75 tracks, with the third disc consisting of 20 original recordings by artists who influenced Presley during his formative years. They include Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, Joe Hill Louis, Wowlin' Wolf, The Blackwood Brothers, Bill Monroe, Odetta, The Staple Singers and Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, among others.

The Presley tracks go from his early roots and influences to his 1976 "Jungle Room" recording sessions at Graceland. Rather than a greatest hits collection, it is a curated portrait of an artist. The set comes with a 40-page booklet with rare photos and an essay by Warren Zanes. Additionally, there is a one-disc edition with 18 essential Presley hits, performances and rare alternative versions. Grade: box set A

Bob Dylan: Live 1962-1966: Rare Performances from the Copyright Collections (Columbia/Legacy, 2 CDs, 2:26:31). This is a special Japanese Tour edition, now released worldwide by popular demand. Many of the performances in the 29-track collection have been previously available only on the extremely limited edition "50th Anniversary Copyright Extension" albums, three compilations released in 2012, 2013 and 2014 of rare early Dylan recordings.

The album features seminal recordings from Dylan's coffeehouse era (Gerde's Folk City, 2 tracks from 1962), his mythic breakout concerts at New York's Town Hall and Carnegie Hall, a duet with Joan Baez on "When the Ship Comes In" at the historic March on Washington in August 1963, definitive performances from his European and world tours of 1965 and 1966, and moments from the 1964 and 1965 Newport Folk Festivals, including early electric performances. On" Maggie's Farm," he is backed by Robbie Robertson and Levon Helm of the future group, TheBand, and Al Kooper on organ. For "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry," it is Michael Bloomfield's (guitar) group, with Kooper on bass this time. The future The Band backs Dylan on fine performances of Baby, Let Me Follow You Down," "I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Have Never Met Before)" and "Ballad of a Thin Man" (with Dylan, rather than Richard Manuel on piano for the latter). Then, it is just pianist Manuel and Dylan on "Desolation Row" and "Visions of Johanna."

The music is arranged chronologically, with the second disc much stronger. One note is how relevant Dylan's lyrics from "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" regretfully remain today, what with random shootings for no reason popping up everywhere. Grade: A-

Gary Chang: Firewalker, Original MGM Motion Picture Soundtrack (Varese Sarabande CD, 38:35). For the 1986 film, Chuck Norris was paired with Lou Gossett as he made an attempt to go for comedy as a change of pace from his tough guy image. It was the 50th film for director J. Lee Thompson ("The Guns of Navarone"). Chang has scored at least 70 films, including "The Breakfast Club" (1985) and "The Island of Dr. Moreau" (1996).

Here Chang uses an electronic score, with only the guitar and bass parts played live. There is a Mexican flavor to "Bar Fight" and "Mariachi Bar," while "In the Cave" is eerie and "Max Beaks Bottle" is lighter. "Desert Chase" opens with an Arabic-sounding synth flute. There are military-style drums on "Banana Field Chase" and "Cave Adventure." The music was engineered by Ken Caillot, who produced Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours" album. There is a 12-page booklet. Grade: B+

Nino Rota: Hurricane, Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Varese Sarabande CD, 38:54). This was the final score by the great Rota (the first two "The Godfather" films and Federico Fellini's "La Strada" and "The Nights of Cabiria," among dozens of others), who died prior to the film's premiere. The film stars Mia Farrow and Hawaiian surfer Dayton Ka'ne in a mixed-race romance on the fictional island of Pago-Pago (filming was done on Bora Bora, where producer Dino De Laurentis liked to vacation). The film also stars Jason Robards, as Farrow's character's father, and the title hurricane for a quarter of the film. The director was Jan Troell ("The Emigrants") of Sweden, as previous choice Roman Polanski was having the legal trouble that caused him to flee to Europe. Farrow had starred in Polanski's "Rosemary's Baby."

At times, the music is wonderfully exotic, such as the percussion on "Coronation Percussion" and "Moana's Dance." The "Main Theme," which opens the disc, comprises of three themes Rota wrote for the score, including one each for the two lovers. "Love in Blossom," with its violin and mandolin, recalls his brilliant ballads for "The Godfather," as does "Delusion." "Pago-Pago Jazz" is a nice track and "Joy of Love in Alava" is pretty and adds late choral singing. There really is not any storm music. The disc comes with an 8-page booklet. Grade: A

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