First we had Yes, but at the end of the eighties we had Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman & Howe, a project of four musicians who all played in Yes once. At the time, they wanted to re-create the music Yes made in the seventies. ABW&H consisted of singer Jon Anderson, drummer Bill Bruford, keyboardist Rick Wakeman and guitarist Steve Howe. The band released their eponymous debut album in 1989 followed by An Evening With Yes Music Plus in 1993, a live recording from their subsequent concert tour. However, the band never recorded a second studio album, because they all reunited in Yes and together they recorded Union in 1991. But as always, people come and people go and currently Bruford, Anderson and Wakeman no longer participate in Yes, all because of different reasons.
Then suddenly we have Anderson & Wakeman ; Jon on vocals and the acoustic guitars and Rick on the keyboards. The duo started to perform live in the UK in 2006 playing classics from the Yes-catalogue and selected tracks from their solo albums. In 2010 Anderson & Wakeman recorded The Living Tree (see review), a collection of newly written songs. In the same year it was announced that they went on tour again. This tour appeared to be very successful; they performed material from Yes, but also music from the album they made together. For people who couldn't attend one of these shows there's good news, because they now released a live album from this tour featuring a collection of highlights compiled and overseen by both musicians.
The album is called The Living Tree In Concert Part One and it consists of twelve tracks. As the title already indicates a second part will be released later on. Part One contains about an hour of live music and just as he did for the album The Living Tree, the cover has been designed by Mark Wilkinson. When I played the album for the first time, I deliberately didn't look at the track list; I just wanted to be surprised by the content. Did it contain some old Yes-favourites and how did the material from the debut album sound without the studio facilities? Well, I was really surprised that I enjoyed the live versions of the songs from The Living Tree more than the studio versions. Songs like Just One Man, The Living Tree, part 1, 232411 and House Of Freedom sound very strong in a live setting. They sound less clean and sterile compared to the studio versions. This is just the way I want this tracks to be performed!
As far as the Yes-tunes are concerned they all got strong renditions. These songs are mostly played by Mr. Wakeman on the piano and string synthesizer occasionally supported by Mr. Anderson on the acoustic guitar. It seemed that neither his health problems nor his age had any harmful effect on Anderson's vocal cords. He still managed to properly sing the old Yes-classics like South Side Of The Sky, And You And I, Time And A Word − containing a short medley of The Beatles − and Long Distance Runaround. This also applies to The Meeting, the only track from ABW&H. A new arrangement of this piece ends part one of the Living Tree In Concert in style.
The live recordings of the duos concerts have a unique atmosphere. It shows that the veterans of prog rock can still entertain an audience. Yet many people would have wanted them to be members of Yes, but unfortunately that's not the case. Listening to this album I don't think they need their former band members to perform all those beautiful Yes songs. They succeed very well as a duo and therefore I guess this live album will be highly appreciated by the strong fan base of Yes.
***+ Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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