The Living Tree in Concert Part One
Gonzo Multimedia HST097CD
For their latest studio album and recent tours, Yes opted to recruit vocalist Benoit David instead of continuing with signature singer Jon Anderson, who at the time of their decision to change personnel was sidelined with health issues. While one won’t wade into the the long, storied, and myriad interpersonal dynamics of Yes personnel, it’s nice to know that Anderson has recovered and rejoined music-making, releasing Survival, a stirring solo album. He’s also reunited with keyboardist and fellow Yes alum Rick Wakeman for another studio effort, The Living Tree.
A live outing, The Living Tree in Concert Part One, shows both in fine fettle. If some of the songs are now transposed down in deference to Anderson’s sexagenarian status, and if Wakeman’s playing now focuses on lyrical lines and stalwart harmonic support in favor of pyrotechnical displays, both display consummate musicality and a dynamic rapport that only comes with decades of association. Their delicate handling of the material, both new songs and works from their back catalog such as “And You and I” and “Long Distance Runaround,” emphasizes the melodic strengths and rich imagery of the lyrics, lending the set considerable poignancy. And, there are occasional surprises, such as bouncy, reggae-tinged version of “Time and a Word.” It is a recasting that might chaff the principles of Yes purists, but it’s jaunty fun all the same.
Thus, while one wishes Yes’s main contingent well, it’s not bad to have two groups out there inhabiting this body of work. As a bonus, Anderson and Wakeman present convincing new music – and a “wondrous story” of the rekindling of a longstanding musical friendship.