Monday, January 26, 2009

SAG Awards, YES Top 41

Hello World Family,
Falcon here to review last nights Screen Actor's Guild (SAG) winners. First of all, I must say a personal congratulations to my girl, Sally Field. We share a birthday, and gosh, she is still at the top of her game on "Brothers and Sisters", and looks incredible! I hope I look that good when I reach her age...I better get to work!

Other winners include the no-surprise "30 Rock" and personal awards for Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey. Other expected winners included Laura Linney and Paul Giamatti for their portrayals of Abagail and John Adams in the HBO series "John Adams". (Just a note: why didn't Stephen Dillane get a nom this year from this series; he is fabulous). Hugh Laurie won again for his role in "House", and Gary Oldman emotionally accepted the Best Supporting Actor for Heath Ledger in his bruising portrayal of The Joker in "The Dark Knight".

Some surprises: Best Ensemble for television went to "Mad Men" in a tough category featuring "Boston Legal", "Dexter", "The CLoser", and "House". Kate Winslet did pull out the Best Supporting Actress in film with a crazy tight battle between other highly qualified thespians Any Adams, Penelope Cruz, Viola Davis (you looked fantastic!), and Taraji P. Herman who did a spectacular job as Benjamin Button's mom.
Meryl Streep was the Best Actress Drama in an equally heavy category. Best Ensemble Cast went to "Slumdog Millionaire", and I wasn't sure it would for the SAG awards...this was nice to see.

How does this effect Oscars? Well, it does give you a better idea of where the pulse of voters may be. Remember, that the Academy now has specialized voting in technical categories, so only those associated with those areas vote on them. this has a good side, and a not so good side. It should mean that the winners are more competent, and not just well liked. The undersside is that outsiders and independents in these technical categories may get completely ignored, and never make the final cut for consideration. I certainly think that happened this year in animation. This is a good year for films of high quality; you can't go wrong with mot of these offerings.

YES TOP 40...41

Well, there have been a couple of these lists on You Tube lately, and actually it is long overdue. The Progressive Rock Band YES is celebrating their 41st Anniversary later this year, and what a four decades they have had!!!

To say that these guys rocked is an understatement. They have created trends, changed radio, changed rock (artistically and technologically) and it seemed that no matter what the changes in the band, they always had something powerful to say.

There are a couple of disclaimers I need to mention before I list the top 41 (one for every year that the band has been in existence).

First of all, I need to say that I bought the very first YES album (entitled simply, Yes) when I was just 8 years old. Some of the songs on this list are the direct result of the times that they were played on the radio, and the impact they had on me as a child, a teen, and then as an adult. I think that’s important because many people will talk about the aptitude of a piece, or its technical degree of difficulty or its lyric value, and all of those are important qualities to discuss when talking about YES. However, their discussion may be retrospective about the quality of the music and its Billboard placement, rather than on a direct experience with the music in its period. Since I have lived four decades plus listening to this music, though, I have to point out some of its impact personally at particular stages of my life, because that is what ultimately helps us love or not love a particular song sometimes.

I also want to point out that some of these songs literally changed my perceptions of the world in which we live. Literally. Some supported beliefs I already had, but some actually helped form them. I know that I have been a better person at times in my life because I could quote Yes song lyrics to my mind to keep it all together in times of challenge and struggle. Songs oftentimes become part of the overall fabric of our lives. Anybody think they are not impacted by art and music is crazy. I am willing to admit that I have been formed and supported by some pretty powerful stuff. It’s also pretty darn good.

Another disclaimer: I did not include any solo music by any of the YES members, or Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, and Howe (ABWH), but I would have loved to. I consider the ABWH album a YES album, and most YES fans probably do as well. That album is so strong that most of it would be on this list, in particular, “Brother of Mine”, I’m Alive”, “Birthright”, and “The Meeting”. Of course, “Quartet”, The Order of the Universe” and “Let’s Pretend” are good tracks, too. The solo material by YES band members or former members over the years would be massive, and maybe we can do a list of the top songs by YES band members when solo or in collaboration with other artists. Nearly all the members have done incredible work away from the band. From Alan White to Chris Squire to Steve Howe and Trevor Rabin…there has been some very strong work done. The most proficient has probably been work by Bill Bruford and of course Jon Anderson. These guys have played with so many fantastic artists; it is hard to keep up.

I also have not included any of YES’ cover songs…so no Paul Simon, Beatles covers, or Richie Havens. They are incredible versions and I would actually rather listen to YES’ version ‘America’ sometimes than the original; it depends upon my mood.

One more thing, these songs are not in any particular order. That would be impossible. Falcon has said in the past that “The More We Live” may be my favorite song of all time. After doing this assignment, I am still strong with that although as a hard core YES fan, I have to say I could easily also say that at the end of my life, if I could pick a song to be playing as I breathe my last sighs, it would probably be the “Soon” portion of “The Gates of Delirium” from Relayer. That is just such an outstandingly beautiful capsulation of the reason for our existence and our divine participation in our hope, whatever your faith (or lack thereof). Although, I honestly don’t know how someone without faith could get to the end of “Soon” without becoming a weeping believer in something higher. Music just sometimes reaches a special chord in all of us, and this is one of those songs for me.

Falcon is not perfect, and it is quite likely I left your favorite YES song off of the list...I didn't mean to, but I could only put 41 on the list. I also probably made a mistake on a least one of these on which album they came from and which year. That's because I actually lived this stuff...and my own personal RAM disk is full (aka, my brain). I am lucky I can recall what I had for breakfast...what did I have for breakfast? Oh, yeah...I remember...

The songs are listed below in bold with the album they originally appeared on in parenthesis. So as not to confuse those who may want to explore YES music, and may not be familiar with album titles, let me explain: the first three albums are called, in this order, :Yes, Time and A Word, and The Yes Album. In 1983, there was an album whose title was its catalog number (not anything deeper, really…no mystery numbers to the universe). It is called 90125. That’s its name. I know, that’s weird, but it’s true. It was the reason long time friend, Eddie Van Halen teased his buddy Trevor Rabin with Van Halen’s 1985 album title: OU812. Hee-hee.

Without further ado…here they are:

Sweet Dreams (Yes)- I loved this song when I was a kid, and it’s theme has always given me hope…”Sweet Dreams control the future”.
It is not outstanding musically, but you can hear where the band would go in the future with some undercurrents of future themes that appear on The Yes Album in songs like “Yours is No Disgrace”, etc.

South Side of the Sky (Fragile)-this entire album could be on the list, and should be on anyone’s top album lists of all time. This is such a strong, diverse album. It does have some very strong “American” themes, but I also think it’s great how they combined some local flavor into the mix to make this piece very interesting musically. Some of what eventually became fusion years later can give a nod right here to this piece, as well as other YES songs.

Survival (Yes)-this is such a bright, pleasant piece with rolling melodic vocals and strong harmonies. Good message.

Silent Spring (Talk)-This album was not what you would call warm and fuzzy. It reflected the times of the mid 1990s and this song title is personal to those from Pittsburgh, since Rachel Carson, the author of the book by the same title in 1963 was born in Springdale. This is a powerful song, in segments that are reflective, yet unflinching. It is not an easy song to listen to, but a necessary one. It is not a summary of the book’s themes, but touches on some of the same concerns.

The Remembering (Tales From Topographic Oceans)-This was a double album with 4 songs on it, one for each side of vinyl. At the time, many in the music industry thought this project was professional suicide. They were all wrong. This project stands alone as one of the reasons the term ‘progressive’ was applied to rock music like this.

This double album pushed the limits of classification off the scale. This music was rock, was classical, was jazz, was fusion (that barely existed as a genre in 1973), was new age (that didn’t exist as a category until the 1980’s), and something other than we have a category for… and was written in about 22 hours of intense collaboration while playing shows in Japan. It completely, mind-blowingly rocks! This particular piece, referring not only to honoring our ancient, indigenous roots as people with ancestry, but our spiritual ‘remembering’, is a colossal piece of percussion (both drum and keyboards, as well as accessory instruments), guitar and bass blowout, yet is articulate and intelligent. This entire album, 36 years old, is still ahead of its time. It turned radio on its head, and this along with other Yes albums, made the AOR (Album Oriented Rock) genre have real teeth.

Saving My Heart (Union)- Okay, this is not musically deep, but it is a lot of fun. The reggae-touched piece is bouncy, completely danceable, and was very popular during the live tour in 1991 when the 8pc YES toured the Union project (on a rotating stage). This brings back a lot of happy moments with many friends when our children were young and they loved this song. It’s just an adorable little piece.

Madrigal (Tormato)-I cannot find another popular song (except in the Harry Potter “Prisoner of Azkaban” soundtrack) where a Celeste was used on a modern piece of music in the latter half of the 20th century. Rick Wakeman’s articulation on this song as well as it hopeful lyrics are why it’s on the list. Yes, I remember the reference to ‘celestial travelers’ in the song, but that doesn’t discourage me from it. My favorite line in this song is “cast off your garments of fear, replace them with love”.

Owner of a Lonely Heart (90125)-This was a huge hit, of course, and was a combination of lyrics and music written by the YES members who had reunited after a repast in 1980; they were going to call the band “Cinema” (which actually became the title of a Grammy Award nominated instrumental on the album) until Jon Anderson re-joined the foursome, making the sound unmistakably YES. Jon changed the lyrics a bit. Trevor Rabin said he composed this piece during an ‘extended visit’ to the privy. Pretty funny. Great video.

Lift Me Up (Union)- Maybe it was because there are eight YES musicians featured in a variety of ways on songs on this album, and in the video you had all eight singing and playing (from a live show I believed that was filmed in Ohio), but this just makes me feel good when I hear it…even though it is thematically kind of a bummer. An indictment on the state of homelessness, it is a sensitive piece that asks for a humble hand in recovering strength, compassion, and love from those in a position to deliver it. It’s anthem like refrain puts it on the list.

The Ancient (Tales From Topographic Oceans)-Another side of this incredible album that uses ancient melodic approaches complimented with modern themes to make this piece all at once gritty, pounding, rousing, and progressive…all at the same time.

Shoot High, Aim Low (Big Generator)-this song’s lyrics follow an actual incident that happened to the band members. It was real (and real scary). The song documents the incident and personal feelings while searching for answers to some of the world’s most complicated dynamics. Listen carefully, you will get it.

Long Distance Runaround (Fragile)- ever have a long distance argument with your sweetheart? Well…then you get it. This song features wicked bass! It also has Chris Squire’s magnificent instrumental “The Fish” attached to it. (Trivia: why is it called, “the Fish”…well, Chris Squire is a Pisces. He also called his solo project, Fish out of Water.

Looking Around (Yes)- A nice piece on their debut album. This reminds me a little of period ELP; I guess it’s the Hammond organ. Nice little love song. I wore this one out as a kid.

Spirit of Survival (Magnification)-This is fierce New Age! Think that Nouveau Age cannot be strong? Listen to this song.

Miracle of Life (Union)- Trevor Rabin does a fine job on this song, and it is a really dynamic piece. This was one of the best tours ever. I would love to see those eight guys again as YES: Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Bill Bruford, Alan White, Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman, Tony Kaye, and Trevor Rabin.

Mood for a Day (Fragile)- I always loved this piece, and can listen to it anytime. I also like “The Clap”, and it was hard to decide which one to put on the list. Steve Howe is a master guitarist, and his influence runs wide and deep.

Shock to the System (Big Generator)- This song is hard and nasty and I love it! The lyrics are particularly poignant to our recent politics (the end of an error) as well as the crooks of the financial markets. The fact that this song was released on Big Generator in 1987 shows how some things had not changed. Of course, this song ends optimistically…YES doesn’t do songs that just complain. There is always hope.

The Revealing Science of God (Tales From Topographic Oceans)
This is another magnificent piece and is the opening song from the double album. It is a powerful peace and should leave you feeling very good afterwards.

Roundabout (Fragile)- This is the biggest hit YES has ever had, and it’s just a simple song about a picnic atmosphere on a lake with mountains and a few profound observations included. Interesting introduction, breaks, coda…it simply rocks!

It Will Be a Good Day (The Ladder)- Simply beautiful, Asian influenced piece. It will inspire you every day that you hear it.

Turn of the Century (Going for the One)-This is one of the most bittersweet, tender, heartfelt songs that I have ever heard anywhere. Its storytelling is intimate and engaging. It is hauntingly gorgeous. The message: that love never dies. I personally know this to be true.

Close to the Edge (Close to the Edge)- Incredible song! Some YES members (including Jon’s son, Damien) did a rap version of this, and it hysterically worked! I don’t even know if you can buy that…but, listen to the original, see what you think. Oh, yes…another loooooong piece. It is worth every minute.

Wonderous Stories (Going for the One)-this album is another one of those that the entire album is a series of best songs. No, I did not misspell the title. I love this song, always have from the first moment I heard it. I used to sing it to my daughter when she was a baby and rock her to sleep. It just seemed like one of those songs. I have heard it in dreams and things always turned out well at the end.

Heart of the Sunrise (Fragile)-Transcendental movement of a singular individual through crowds in the city. Surrounded by herds of people, yet lost in an aloneness. It was so strong a piece that you could see the film playing out in your head…way before we had the technology to actually play out what you saw. One magnificent piece of music.

Changes (90125)- Describes the YES experience to a ‘T’. This band changed line up more than some people changed socks, yet it always sounded so good. The 1983 album 90125 sold a million copies upon its September 25 release in just 3 days. Every song on this album is good. It was extremely popular and summarizes the fact that everything indeed changes.

Yours Is No Disgrace (The Yes Album)-the first song that I can recall (written in 1971) that supported the position of troops sent to war, but not the war. Back then, everything was pretty black and white; you either supported the Vietnam War or you didn’t. I was amazed how this song was completely alone in its ability to acknowledge that those who have to go to war for governments and leaders are not the ones who are responsible for its ills. It was a song that separated the war from the men and women who fought it. Instrumentally suave in its construction, it was one of the best songs on an album filled with best songs. It is a masterpiece.

It Can Happen (90125)-One of my favorites; the light and dark of what can happen to people when they don’t participate in their own enlightenment. Take the tips from this song and be strong.

I’m Running (Big Generator)-“A simple peace just can’t be found; waste another day, blasting all their lives away…I heard the thunder underground, tunneling away at the very soul of man”. My God-son used to recite this particular passage when he was three. I asked him what he thought it meant. He said,” War breaks off pieces of man’s heart. You shouldn’t do it.” Out of the mouths of babes…
This piece has Chris Squire on a five string bass playing an opening lick that made grown men cry. Including xylophones along with the regular smorgasbord of instruments, this song is impossibly complicated as well as inspiring. By the end... “all the world will Race as One this time” (as in human race). This is progressive rock at some of its most dynamic. It’s hard to believe that this is on the same album as “Rhythm of Love”. No, it’s not one of my favorites. I didn’t like the video, either.

Hold On (90125)-Hold on contains…dare I say it…sarcasm. I love its construction! It points out some of the problems, gives someone the proverbial bird at the end of the second verse, and then ends on a bright and happy note about sunshine. What more could you ask for from a Yes song?

Starship Trooper (The Yes Album)-Yes concerts used to end with this song for good reason. It rocks out! Words will not do it justice. Just listen.

Onward (Tormato)-composed by Chris Squire for his wife, Nikki, simply one of the most beautiful pieces every written. Hear it, and it will move your soul.

Perpetual Change (The Yes Album)- The more things change…
Great song; loved it when it came out, and I still love it. It used to make my fingers bleed when I played the bas part on this one over and over again. I know why Chris Squire uses a pick!

Parallels (Going for the One)- One of my favorite songs ever, period. Self love, and universal love rises in a really cool hard rock song with an organ recorded in a magnificent church in Switzerland.

I’ve Seen All Good People (The Yes Album)- A strong, diverse piece that so many people love…me, too. A moving song about love, self love, and a chess game.

Ritual/Nous Sommes du Soleil (Tales from Topographic Oceans)-This is the fourth side of the double album on the universal truths of life. This song is a musical battle between the forces of negativity and pure love. Sexual love, Tantric love…the kind that heightens our consciousness when experienced with someone we truly adore. Love wins.

Hearts (90125)- Another top ten song in my book. Beautiful, strong, rocks out, then decrescendos into a beautiful, powerful conclusion that floats into the celestial. This song live is a truly magical experience.

Time and a Word (Time and a Word)- I love the organ introduction, the vocal range of Jon Anderson, and the simple yet poignant lyrics…all wrapped up in one package. I will never get tired of this song. As a child, I broke up a fight in a class singing this song.
The power of music should never be doubted.

The More We Live (Union)-One of the most beautiful life anthems I have ever heard by anyone, anywhere. It is encapsulated and complete in its message of hope and love.

And You and I (Close to the Edge)- One of the best YES songs ever. I have thought for months what I would say about this song. I cannot articulate how thought provoking it was for me as a girl of 12. Of course, then Tales and Relayer came out. Talk about mind blowing…and I was not doing any botanicals. I was sure that the Doobie Bros. borrowed the Preacher and the Teacher line in ‘China Grove”. I think everyone comes away with different interpretations and impressions of all YES songs, and this one you just have to experience for yourself. You smile, you sigh, you think. It’s a cool piece.

The Gates of Delirium/Soon (Relayer)-I have already mentioned what I think about the end section affectionately called “Soon”. Listen to the entire song to get the full effect. The song runs the range of sound, expression, and genre in a heavy, then rugged, then climatic, and finally ethereal experience. Your eyes may betray you and you may weep without really knowing why. A raw, engaging, and beautiful composition.

Awaken (Going for the One)-the most existential YES song ever. You may visit another dimension while listening to this one. Live or studio version, this is a top song in my book. Is it the top YES song ever? Well…I said I wasn’t going to qualify them that way, so I still won’t. I will admit though that as I was preparing this post, I changed the order of some of my songs, and was surprised that this was the last one left. I guess to my subconscious, that means something.

There they are: forty-one songs, one for each year of YES…FOR THE MEMBERS OF YES:

I don’t know if I have said it enough times, but…thanks, guys. I really, really mean it. Thanks for the late nights, the discussions over 2 or 3 notes in a bar…the changes and the affirmations. Thank you for the long road trips and the impossible tour schedules. Although you are masters at your craft, you are forever humble students, and that is what makes your music so special. We wish you the best, and we love you all, always.

Falcon and Dove

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