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Thread: Billy Sherwood talks about his long history with Yes

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    Billy Sherwood talks about his long history with Yes

    Pretty cool interview with Billy Sherwood on his long involvement (since the late '80s!) with Yes. Some of the stuff they touch on:

    • recording demos with Chris Squire with the intention to be the lead singer of YesWest
    • his work on the Union album
    • playing on the Talk tour
    • producing Keys of Ascension and finding out that Wakeman quit
    • creating the OYE and The Ladder albums
    • being offered the Yes keyboardist role
    • producing the vocals for and mixing Heaven and Earth
    • conversations having begun on the new Yes record







    This is the Talk video that he referenced:


  2. #2
    He's a talented musician, producer and arranger, but I've always found his work to be oddly derivative of what Trevor Rabin brought to Yes.
    No matter what anyone says, you are the decider of how you will listen to music.

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    Member Paulrus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Splicer View Post
    He's a talented musician, producer and arranger, but I've always found his work to be oddly derivative of what Trevor Rabin brought to Yes.
    Yeah, as much as I think Billy's heart is in the right place, musically I don't feel like he really "groks" what classic Yes music is really all about. But for that I'm afraid you kinda sorta need Jon A involved. Or one of them needs to step up and channel him more than they have til now.
    I'm holding out for the Wilson-mixed 5.1 super-duper walletbuster special anniversary extra adjectives edition.

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    Thanks for the link!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Roth View Post
    Pretty cool interview with Billy Sherwood on his long involvement (since the late '80s!) with Yes. Some of the stuff they touch on:

    • recording demos with Chris Squire with the intention to be the lead singer of YesWest
    • his work on the Union album
    • playing on the Talk tour
    • producing Keys of Ascension and finding out that Wakeman quit
    • creating the OYE and The Ladder albums
    • being offered the Yes keyboardist role
    • producing the vocals for and mixing Heaven and Earth
    • conversations having begun on the new Yes record



    He mentions how "Yes is slow".. granted times have changed (plus you add in the whole Chris Squire piece) but the days of touring / writing while on tour / go into studio and record are long over for Yes. (Think of the run of albums from Fragile thru Relayer) And I'm not sure it's a question of the band doing "Too much thinking.. not enough doing".. Steve simply has a different time line than the rest of the band.. Someone mentioned how they need Jon A or someone to channel him in order to bring things back to center.. A visionary pushing Steve along a path he's not interested in wouldn't speed things up..

  6. #6
    If conversations have begun on a new Yes record then I certainly don't hold out much hope of anything better than Heaven and Earth which I found worse than dreadful; it was boring. I'm sure Sherwood's energy and ideas have been in the mix for a while in getting the fire lit under Yes when Squire was involved. As stated above by happytheman, I don't see it having any effect on Howe.

    As an aside, my clearest memory of Sherwood is during the tour they did before The Ladder came out when Khoroshev was in the band. After an intermission, they played "Cinema" with Sherwood on lead. I remember watching him and saying to myself, "Gee, he seems happy, but why is he acting like this is a song he had anything to do with?"
    No matter what anyone says, you are the decider of how you will listen to music.

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    Member Paulrus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Splicer View Post
    If conversations have begun on a new Yes record then I certainly don't hold out much hope of anything better than Heaven and Earth which I found worse than dreadful; it was boring. I'm sure Sherwood's energy and ideas have been in the mix for a while in getting the fire lit under Yes when Squire was involved. As stated above by happytheman, I don't see it having any effect on Howe.
    The process last time around was not constructive either. Sending Jon D around to visit each other band member and working up ideas separately will hopefully not be repeated next time. I always go back to what Chris Squire repeatedly said was the sekrit sauce of classic Yes music: great vocals wedded to great instrumentals. Both were sorely lacking on Heaven & Earth.
    I'm holding out for the Wilson-mixed 5.1 super-duper walletbuster special anniversary extra adjectives edition.

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    ^^^ I think a new Yes album could be much better than H&E. IMHO Sherwood put out the album of his life with Circa in 2015 "Valley of the Windmill". I remember at the time thinking how I wished that was a demo for a new Yes record.

    If he can write another album as good as Windmill and inspire Steve and Geoff to get creative and Tony maybe as well it could be a very strong record.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by happytheman View Post
    He mentions how "Yes is slow".. granted times have changed (plus you add in the whole Chris Squire piece) but the days of touring / writing while on tour / go into studio and record are long over for Yes. (Think of the run of albums from Fragile thru Relayer) And I'm not sure it's a question of the band doing "Too much thinking.. not enough doing".. Steve simply has a different time line than the rest of the band.. Someone mentioned how they need Jon A or someone to channel him in order to bring things back to center.. A visionary pushing Steve along a path he's not interested in wouldn't speed things up..
    This^

  10. #10
    The rumour is work in the latter half of this year for a new Yes studio album to be released summer 2020. Howe's been pretty negative about H&E: I don't think we'll get something like that again. What we will get... I don't know.

    Henry
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  11. #11
    I liked H & E. I know I'm in the minority with that opinion. Having said that, I do realize H & E is not without some issues. Mainly, I think Yes could have been more aggressive with the music. That's something I hope Sherwood will help remedy. I think Davison has gained much more experience with the band and that will help. It's a fairly stable lineup now and they seem to be getting along quite well so I think they can make a good if not great record. We will see.

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  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Adm.Kirk View Post
    I liked H & E. I know I'm in the minority with that opinion. ... Mainly, I think Yes could have been more aggressive with the music. That's something I hope Sherwood will help remedy.
    If only Barry Manilow wasn't so busy when they were making that record. That would have rocked it up a little.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by yamishogun View Post
    If only Barry Manilow wasn't so busy when they were making that record. That would have rocked it up a little.
    Perhaps Air Supply could have made an appearance as well.
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    cunning linguist 3LockBox's Avatar
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    FFH wasn't a great album but it was better than it deserved to be because it did exude a bit of energy. Classic Yes always had a palpable energy, even when they started doing the symph thing. Even '80s Yes had it. H&E was nursing home prog. The addition of the young pup did nothing to raise a spark in the old dogs. The only good thing about H&E is that they can't make a worse album, another bad one.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bondegezou View Post
    The rumour is work in the latter half of this year for a new Yes studio album to be released summer 2020. Howe's been pretty negative about H&E: I don't think we'll get something like that again. What we will get... I don't know.

    Henry
    But who tries to make Heaven & Earth and how would they actually know if they’ve made another or not? Bad records happen, but it isn’t like somebody sets out to make a bad record. If artists could control whether or not they make a bad record then there wouldn’t be any bad records, ever.
    "It was a cruel song, but fair."-Roger Waters

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Adm.Kirk View Post
    Perhaps Air Supply could have made an appearance as well.
    Of course, Barry Manilow has worked with one Yes member, and Air Supply with another.

    Henry
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  17. #17
    I liked Billy's interview - I just wish he had complete freedom to tell things as they really happened when discussing the more controversial episodes. At least he's now open about the extent of his instrumental contribution to "The More We Live" - when I interviewed him some 20 years ago he was apparently prevented from being that specific about it. The transition from "Keys To Ascension" to "Open Your Eyes" is still told very much from the band's point of view, with no mention being made of record company interference, and the account of recording "Open Your Eyes" is almost surreal in its implausibility. At least he stops short of claiming that Howe had a great time adding his parts to the album. This being said, the part at the end re: Squire was heartfelt and I do think Billy is doing Chris (wherever he is) proud with his bass playing on recent tours.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Splicer View Post
    If conversations have begun on a new Yes record then I certainly don't hold out much hope of anything better than Heaven and Earth which I found worse than dreadful; it was boring. I'm sure Sherwood's energy and ideas have been in the mix for a while in getting the fire lit under Yes when Squire was involved. As stated above by happytheman, I don't see it having any effect on Howe.

    As an aside, my clearest memory of Sherwood is during the tour they did before The Ladder came out when Khoroshev was in the band. After an intermission, they played "Cinema" with Sherwood on lead. I remember watching him and saying to myself, "Gee, he seems happy, but why is he acting like this is a song he had anything to do with?"
    What is the appropriate set of mannerisms for someone playing a song he didnít record? Did he look like he was enjoying himself too much-playing in a band he loved?

    I get that Billy is somewhat divisive here, but this seems like an odd criticism to me.

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by calyx View Post
    I liked Billy's interview - I just wish he had complete freedom to tell things as they really happened when discussing the more controversial episodes. At least he's now open about the extent of his instrumental contribution to "The More We Live" - when I interviewed him some 20 years ago he was apparently prevented from being that specific about it. The transition from "Keys To Ascension" to "Open Your Eyes" is still told very much from the band's point of view, with no mention being made of record company interference, and the account of recording "Open Your Eyes" is almost surreal in its implausibility. At least he stops short of claiming that Howe had a great time adding his parts to the album. This being said, the part at the end re: Squire was heartfelt and I do think Billy is doing Chris (wherever he is) proud with his bass playing on recent tours.
    Agreed with all that. What happened around Talk remains perhaps the biggest mystery.

    His wording around the initial writing sessions with Squire for Open Your Eyes are interesting: in the same sentence, he says their motivation was to keep Yes together but that the sessions were not necessarily intended for Yes.

    Henry
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  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by 3LockBox View Post
    H&E was nursing home prog.
    He he...Ö.good one.!!!!
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    cunning linguist 3LockBox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by arturs View Post
    "Valley of the Windmill". I remember at the time thinking how I wished that was a demo for a new Yes record.
    This is what I thought when I heard this album... better vocal harmonies and some Steve Howe sprinkled over the top and you have the best Yes album in 30 years.

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    Thanks to the OP for putting this up. Quite enjoyed listening to Billy. What he says about 14 minutes in about the time of Heaven and Earth he saw as happy Yes when he was working on the backing vocals makes sense to me. Maybe that's why I've always liked the album. It is a piece of time in Yes's history that reflects that happy band vibe. H&E is a mellow, happy record. I liked it from day one. I'd be happy to get one more studio album of all new material.

    Also, I saw the Talk tour and I don't remember seeing Billy come out on stage for that double bass part. I saw that tour at the Greek in Los Angeles. I was happy for that clip from Chile. Very cool. Memory has probably just forgotten that moment live given it was 25 years ago now.

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    Quote Originally Posted by abhorsen View Post
    Thanks to the OP for putting this up. Quite enjoyed listening to Billy. What he says about 14 minutes in about the time of Heaven and Earth he saw as happy Yes when he was working on the backing vocals makes sense to me. Maybe that's why I've always liked the album. It is a piece of time in Yes's history that reflects that happy band vibe. H&E is a mellow, happy record.
    Which just goes to fuel the opinion that it's the internal conflicts and tensions within a band that lead to the best creative results. I can recall from the YesYears documentary Bill Bruford saying "We ONLY ever disagreed." And ironically, perhaps that's a contributing factor of why so many vintage bands can't reproduce the brilliance of their glory days; they've gotten themselves to a place where everything is happiness and sunshine and they don't have to fight for their ideas anymore. Add to that you've reduced the band down to 2 or 3 long time members and the new, younger guys aren't going to fight for their ideas.
    I'm holding out for the Wilson-mixed 5.1 super-duper walletbuster special anniversary extra adjectives edition.

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Splicer View Post
    I'm sure Sherwood's energy and ideas have been in the mix for a while in getting the fire lit under Yes when Squire was involved.
    "Chris, any ideas for songs?"

    "Well, Billy was over last night and we drank from the same glass, and now I think we should write some corny songs with underdeveloped arrangements."

    Quote Originally Posted by Splicer View Post
    As an aside, my clearest memory of Sherwood is during the tour they did before The Ladder came out when Khoroshev was in the band. After an intermission, they played "Cinema" with Sherwood on lead. I remember watching him and saying to myself, "Gee, he seems happy, but why is he acting like this is a song he had anything to do with?"
    I assume Igor looked appropriately dour while playing all these songs he had nothing to do with, and Alan was careful not to look like he "had anything to do with" Roundabout, yes?

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by Paulrus View Post
    Which just goes to fuel the opinion that it's the internal conflicts and tensions within a band that lead to the best creative results. I can recall from the YesYears documentary Bill Bruford saying "We ONLY ever disagreed." And ironically, perhaps that's a contributing factor of why so many vintage bands can't reproduce the brilliance of their glory days; they've gotten themselves to a place where everything is happiness and sunshine and they don't have to fight for their ideas anymore. Add to that you've reduced the band down to 2 or 3 long time members and the new, younger guys aren't going to fight for their ideas.
    I also recall Bill telling of how Anderson was constantly on everybodies backs to write stuff.. Somewhere along the way I've heard it said Jon would come in bashing about on a guitar 2-3 chords saying.. "this is what we're going to do until someone else comes up with something better.. all but forcing the bands hand to getting involved.. I will agree with you that sometimes conflict ends up bringing the best out of a group of people shooting for a common answer..

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