April 19, 2018
Number 9… Number 9….
Ok, folks – first let me give you a little update on a few things from the Steeling Time/Tunnel 18 side of things, beginning with the band name. Steeling Time was always a little bit of a name of convenience, and a poor one at that. I (Chris Steele) didn’t just want to put stuff out under my own name as I want to turn this back into a band project at some point. I don’t need to have everything under my own name for my ego, and I just like the band aesthetic a lot more than the solo artist one. Tunnel 18 was the name of the band that always felt like home to me. There were a few personnel changes over the years, but this is the group I was in from about 1987-1993. I’m in the process of getting approval from all of the former members before I make the final name change, but I see the current songs as a very logical progression from what we were doing then and – therefore – as appropriate to add to the Tunnel 18 catalogue.
On top of the songs you can already find at Soundcloud, there are 3 or 4 more that are in process and are likely to be posted soon. In particular, look for “Deep” and “By the Side,” both of which are in final retakes and mastering.
Now, on to the next in our list of top 10 most influential albums:
#9 – Fragile (Yes, 1971)
By 1971, Yes had gone past the concept of harmonies and incredible musicianship and on to full-on self-indulgent progressive art rock excess. Fragile was the fourth studio album by the group, and there had already been changes to the guitarist (Steve Howe in, Peter Banks out) and the keyboardist (Rick Wakeman in, Tony Kaye out). The band had found its “classic” lineup, and had also found a guy who could give the music suitable graphic representation in album art (Roger Dean – and by the way, we’ll come back to album art more over the course of this little series).
Not content to stop at massive conceptual pieces like “Roundabout” and “Heart of the Sunrise“, the band’s members took advantage of the long playing record format to share individual pieces outside the limits of the band itself. The album includes a classical pastoral guitar piece, a synthesizer reinterpretation of Brahms, a multi-tracked vocal of … I don’t really know what, a song about fish made up only of bass parts, and a composition created purely by math (Bill Bruford’s “Five Per Cent for Nothing”.)
The album gave me what I forever think of as a classically miked piano sound (listen to South Side of the Sky at 2:08) as well as my first exposure to ambient sound used in music (see “We Have Heaven,” but Pink Floyd were already leading the way here before 1971).
(While we are on the subject of Prog Rock, it is worth mentioning that the genre has many detractors, but also many champions who have moved the art of the extended form song to heights well beyond that which may have been envisioned almost 50 years ago. This latter example is why nerds like me like to play with alternate tuning and time signatures.)
I can’t think of when I first heard “Roundabout” or anything else from this album, but I do remember playing it very loud on my dad’s prized Emerson stereo (with the big speakers) in the living room. I remember trying to belt out Jon Anderson’s vocals (very unsuccessfully). And I remember being blown away by what the bass could achieve as a melodic instrument, in addition to translating the beat.
Later – in college – friends introduced me to even more of Yes. Relayer showed me what true musicianship and self-indulgence could be. And Drama showed what could happen if a few buggles fell into your band (real fans understand).
In short, Fragile was a gateway drug into the world of progressive rock and musicianship, one that I continue to find a welcome challenge and that pushes me to learn ever more. If you haven’t listened to it (and I find that hard to imagine), start here, and then try a little more Yes.