Off-Ramp

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Peter Stenshoel reviews Chris Squire's 'Fish Out of Water'

When Yes members each decided to release solo LPs, all roughly in 1975, one of the stronger creations was Chris Squire's "Fish Out of Water." Composition has always been Squire's strong point; that and a muscular electric bass technique. This album readily features both.

To begin the record with strains from London's St. Paul's Cathedral organ and the inclusion of a full orchestra could be warning flags for that sorry state known as rock and roll pretentiousness. Of course, from a strict punk point of view, all progressive rock is condemned as pretentious, but for those who embrace the ideal of a highly developed, through-composed, and cereberal rock music genre, Squire and his orchestrator Andrew Pryce Jackman make these out-sized collaborations work.

Instead of the typical pointless sweetening, the symphony orchestra and Squire's bass coalesce expertly, in service to the music rather than ego. The Cathedral organist, Barry Rose, also wields the church organ as an improvisational tool, contributing a lovely and powerful solo over the driving rock sound.

The Punk vs. Prog Hegelian dialectic can also be applied to choice of lyrics and worldview, if you will. Punk band names like The Damned, The Stranglers, The Dead Boys, and so on, could be said to present a proudly burnished nihilism, however artistically accomplished. "Yes" is the rare affirmative amidst a sea of negatives, and one without saccharine overtones. As a founding member of Yes, Chris Squire's spiritual brand of optimism informs every lyric he writes. Our example is "Hold Out Your Hand." A portion of the words could have been penned by Rumi:

You can hide it, lose it
But it's always found
You can laugh it off
But it always comes back on you
...the treasures of the universe
Are lying at your feet.

Punk and New Wave eclipsed Yes' early period shortly after this album was released, and the band has gone through transformations and multiple personnel change in order to remain fresh. Chris Squire is the most constant member connecting the Yes years together. They are due for a 2013 tour.

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