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Geoff Downes on #Yes50 and Topographic Drama – 305

YES-Topographic Drama
YES-Topographic Drama

Produced by Michel Arsenault, Wayne Hall, Preston Frazier and Bill Govier.

We had the absolute pleasure of welcoming Yes keyboard player Geoff Downes onto the show this week to talk about the forthcoming #Yes50 celebrations and the wonderful, new Topographic Drama – Live Across America album. Geoff shares his thoughts on the inclusion of Tony Kaye in the concerts on the 50th Anniversary tour and how he expects it to work. We also listen in depth to the new live album and share our thoughts on that.

  • What does the new album sound like?
  • What are the performances like?
  • How does Geoff see the Tony Kaye special guest situation working?

Listen to the episode then let us know what you think!

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Karl Hilstrom’s Alan White video:

Dave Watkinson’s Olias portrait:

Jon Anderson Olias
Jon Anderson Olias Portrait

Show notes and links

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Yes Music PodcastYMP patrons:

Preston Frazier | Bill Govier | Wayne Hall | Michel Arsenault

Joseph Cottrell | Jeffrey Crecelius | Michael O’Connor | Paul Tomei | Geoffrey Mason | Lobate Scarp | Fergus Cubbage | Robert Nasir | Steve Dill

Paul Wilson | Jamie McQuinn | Miguel Falcão | Ken Fuller | David Pannell | Brian Sullivan | Joost Doesburg | Jeremy North | Tim Stannard | David Watkinson | Steve Roehr | Geoff Baillie | William Hayes


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Theme music

The music I use is the last movement of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. This has been used as introduction music at many Yes concerts. My theme music is not take from a live concert – I put it together from the following two creative commons sources: thanvannispen and

34 replies on “Geoff Downes on #Yes50 and Topographic Drama – 305”

Alan only played for the drum solo and after on “Ritual.” You can watch videos on Youtube where this is clearly visible. This is based on the 2017 shows only. In 2016, Alan didn’t play at all on the Topographic/Drama tour, as he was injured during the 2016 UK tour of Fragile/Drama.

Wow! Great interview! Geoff is such a great guy! I love Dave’s portrait of Jon. Is he selling signed prints? Can this be discussed? Thanks. Laura

Hi Laura

The original image is even better than my poor photo. I haven’t drawn the image, I’m not sure on copyright. At some point when i find the right moment I hope to show all the material for this image. It is amazing and quite incredible, plus Yes/Jon fans have never see it. Crazy but Olias is 40 years old!!! Dave

You should make prints and sell in these Yes pages….I think a lot would be interested Dave if the prints weren’t too expensive. It is beautiful work, Dave!

Thanks again for another great episode. I’m excited about the already-ordered Topographic Drama. The GD interview was wonderful.
(One very minor nit to pick for Mark. “Mesa” is pronounced MAY-SA.)

Hey Bob,
Noted. I will get right for next time. The live album is worth every cent. Thank you for your kind words and support.

Great show again. Thanks.
Wasn’t there word that Tony Kaye was too ill for RRHOF ceremony travel? Glad we get to see him on the Cruise! Did you preview new DBA also? Really looking forward to the new live album after those rave reviews. I saw the show three times and it was a great set. 50 years and Onward we hope.

Hey Jeffrey,
Yes the original word was Tony couldn’t make it to the RRHOF due to illness…glad he is fine now.
Yes we got a copy of the DBA album. I’m sure our thoughts will be shared soon.

Great, GREAT interview with Geoff – I’m just curious whey the Downes Braid Association album wasn’t mentioned at all!
The review of Topographic Drama makes me really excited, since I’ve dropped some unsubtle hints that I want that as a Christmas present.

Kevin – Had you thought of this: Yes ALREADY has two bass players – Billy and Jon D. I can’t figure out why they haven’t exploited this opportunity yet; it would be amazing to see Jon grab a bass and join in at the end of ‘Does It Really Happen?’

listening to the new Bruford set today, with another “Yes” bassist Jeff Berlin-maybe review this Mark? It is very nice.

Hey Jeffrey,
Yes I’m curious to check it out. I will probably order it and review it…mainly because I’ve heard great things from you and other group members..but on message boards like the Steve Hoffman board (audiophile people) they haven’t had much good to say about it. So I’d like to check it out for myself.

Excellent pod chaps. Even I will buy this album on the strength of the discussion. It certainly is packed with music.
The Geoff Downes interview was a nice surprise. He actually sounded enthusiastic!

Great to hear that Topographic Drama is of such high quality. I wish there was a DVD as well! I have to strongly disagree with both of you about the encores. A live CD of a tour should be a document of the show(s), so I want all the music included, even if it isn’t as good as the rest of the show. When I saw them on the tour the energy was fine and the audience was giving some back by dancing/singing along.
As I recall, people were disappointed with the Like It Is CDs for leaving off some of the non-album songs–you can’t have it both ways! 🙂

I have a feeling that with Tony Kaye joining them (please be on the North America tour!) they will avoid Rabin era tunes as that’s kind of ARW territory. Even if they do, I rather they do songs from Yes and Time and A Word with Tony Kaye.

Thanks Brian. I’ve no doubt the encores you heard were great as were the ones I heard in Birmingham most recently but see what you think of the ones on this collection. We could be wrong!

They may have lagged a bit, esp. after playing Ritual! But there’s s big difference between being there live and listening to a live recording. There is an energy to the place and time that no recording tech can capture. Can’t wait until Nov 24!

Finally had a chance to listen to part of Topographic Drama with my best headphones and, yes, the sound is excellent!

Today I bought the album (at my local independent record shop Badlands, in Cheltenham) I’m listening to it as I write this review.
Machine Messiah is awful. The vocal ensemble is all over the place. The Drama material is better after that opening though throughout, the lead vocals are pretty bad. Even though Trevor Horne didn’t think himself to be much of a singer he was far better than Davison. The Widor Toccata section by Downes was drowned out by guitar which was disappointing. The overall acoustic is like it was recorded in a village hall. Clear yes but with no sense of a concert atmosphere.
And You and I was better if slightly slow. Nice to hear it played with acoustic guitar in the right places. Good work from Howe and Downes.
Heart of the Sunrise yet again, well done to Downes and Howe. Davison’s vocal performance is woeful & warbly. Does he know how to project an atmosphere? He sounds like a cross between Neil Young and Geddy Lee. Is he Canadian? Billy Sherwood tried too hard to fiddle with the iconic bass lines on the introduction which was a pity as he is otherwise immaculate.
Revealing Science is slow to begin with but gets into the groove. Turning up the volume gives it a little more presence . Yet again Davison’s going through the motions spoils the mood. I’d prefer a singer who didn’t try to emulate Jon Anderson but sang with his own voice sincerely. This pastiche is pathetic. The music is great though. I’ve not mentioned it but the drumming throughout is excellent. The band as it stands at this point is playing at its best on this song. I didn’t see the real Yes perform this song live but this is how I’d have imagined it apart from the lead vocal. The Keyboard solo is a little less than exciting compared to the Wakeman moog at its best but otherwise a solid performance from Downes with some nice Mellotron sounds.
Ritual I did see live in 1975 when they were at their peak. This version is good though not up to Yes in its pomp. The central percussion part sounds like a pub band version. Nous somas du soleil is fine but for the boomy acoustic. I wish I’d been in that village hall.
Roundabout is well performed but for the weedy vocal. Yes it is a bit slower but hey, it’s Roundabout. The same can be said for Starship Trooper. Downes and Sherwood really get into their parts. The best version ever of this song was on Yessongs. That will never be bettered.
Yes should get rid of Davison and get Jon. Yes is Jon now that Chris has gone.

Thanks for the really thoughtful comments, Jeremy. I think we will have to agree to differ about Jon Davison who I think is a great asset to the band. I would be very happy indeed to see (and hear) Jon Anderson back but I don’t think it will happen now. It’s a great shame the 50th Anniversary will not see a proper reunion but I think Kaye and Moraz will be amazing to see, especially as I have seen neither perform.

I am glad you found some positive aspects to this record – I enjoyed it a lot as I said in the review.

I wish I could have seen Yes in the 70s or 80s but I’m really glad I’m still able to see them in the forms they currently inhabit.

I imagine you won’t be joining me in Birmingham next year but I do hope you will one day! It would be great to have you there.

Magnanimous as ever Kevin. I do judge them from the very highest point of their achievement. For me the biggest surprise on this recording was Geoff Downes who played really well.
I’d not have bought this album had I listened to it first, however I think I see why you gave it such a thumbs up.
I suppose it does stand out compared to their other recent output.
While I may not join you to see them in Birmingham, I’ll always be happy to meet up to put the Yesworld or any other world to rights. It seems ages ago that we last did so yet we are neighbours.

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