While giant music festivals continue to bring in huge crowds to cities like Chicago (Lollapalooza) and even right here in my hometown of Miami (Ultra), more niche acts with dwindling followers who are growing more affluent are taking to the high seas (see my Weezer Cruise coverage). One of the more recent groups of musicians trying out the cruise music festival circuit are a batch of progressive rock bands who both started the genre and followed in their footsteps. The Cruise to the Edge tour sails from Fort Lauderdale, Florida next week, headlined by Yes, the band who produced one of the great early ‘70s prog albums: Close to the Edge.
While my more youthful colleagues at “New Times” covered the hanging asses and same-old beats at Ultra, I had an opportunity to speak to two prog legends who will be on this cruise: Yes drummer Alan White and U.K. bandleader Eddie Jobson. Both have landlocked shows, which I wrote about in the two “New Times” publications that cover South Florida.
We covered a lot of territory on the phone. Including his memory of stepping into Bill Bruford’s shoes, when he left Yes for King Crimson in 1972. He remembers having to learn the early albums quickly. Close to the Edge was the last album Bruford recorded with the band. White came to Yes at just 23 years of age with some high-profile studio experiences with John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band and George Harrison. “I had three days to learn the repertoire including the new album they had just recorded,” White told me via phone, from a tour stop in Aspen, Colorado, “so I had to learn a lot of stuff in a few days.”
Up to that point, this was some of the most complex music White had to learn, as Bruford had made a name for himself in prog as one of the genre’s most complex rhythm men. “Bill’s obviously a different drummer than me in certain ways, in certain ways not,” White noted. “I can do the technical stuff, but I can also do the rock ‘n’ roll background. I had my own band that was a rock/jazz type of thing for a long time before I joined Yes, so I was kinda prepared for all the time signatures, and that kind of stuff, which I got into and picked up on, and changed them a bit, to a degree, but kept most of the parts that made the music what it is.”
To read more of my conversation with White, jump through the link above. I plan to attend Yes’ live show and review it for the “New Times.” White said the band plans to play three of Yes’ more important albums from the ‘70s live: the Yes Album (1972), Close to the Edge (1973) and Going for the One (1977). The show will take place at the same venue where I caught the Genesis tribute band the Musical Box, as it re-created that band’s acclaimed 1974 prog masterpiece the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway live (Genesis tribute band The Musical Box’ take on ‘The Lamb,’ and this writer returns to “New Times”). I shall up-date this post with a link to that review when it is published, so, Yes fans, take note and bookmark.
Meanwhile, my interview with Jobson in “Miami New Times” music blog “Crossfade” will also appear shortly, I’ll link here when that post appears. We spoke more in depth about the formation of U.K. and what he considers the last of the ‘70s prog rock groups and the place of prog in the ever-shifting landscape of popular music. He was quite insightful.
Update: Jump to the Jobson interview here (it has a link within it to more of our conversation and lots of vintage images and videos):
Eddie Jobson of U.K. on popular music: “Everything’s been superficialized;” my interview in “New Times” and more
Update 2: Jump through the image below of the band performing at the Hard Rock Live on Sunday night for the live review: