Chris Squire and Billy Sherwood – Conspiracy Live (2013)

Chris Squire and Billy Sherwood, it seemed, had an immediate spark. Only Yes, the band Squire co-founded in the late 1960s and one that Sherwood was associated with throughout the 1990s, just kept getting in the way.

Beginning in the run up to 1991’s Union, the pair had been writing songs together, but the fruits of those labors would be sprinkled over a series of Yes projects, and Sherwood himself wouldn’t become an official member of the group for years. After Sherwood’s eventual departure in 2000, they finally issued a pair of albums as Conspiracy, and recorded this private show in 2004, but there remained a star-crossed sense of unfinished business.

Take “The More We Live,” the only remaining remnant of a collaboration that predates Sherwood’s official tenure in Yes. The track, presented here as a twilit reminiscence, illustrates how quickly these two began to mesh. Not much became of that fast start, unfortunately, as Sherwood would get pushed out when the 1980s-era edition of Yes combined with some of its former members. “The More We Live” would appear on the resulting Union, but with additional vocals from founding Yes frontman Jon Anderson recorded over the original demo. It’s restored here, at long last, as a soaring vocal collaboration between Squire and Sherwood.

Things would continue on in this way, as two subsequent songs that the duo worked on would become part of 1997’s Open Your Eyes, including the title track and “Man on the Moon.” By then, of course, Sherwood had moved from touring musician to engineer, then from producer and into full membership of the band, but his work with Squire continued to be nothing more than grist for the Yes mill. (Much the same thing could be said of Squire’s halting attempts a separate solo career of his own. Conspiracy Live includes a pair of tracks from 1975’s Fish Out of Water, the bassist’s first — and so far, only — solo release.)

In keeping, there’s a redemptive feel to a live take on “Universal Garden,” also from Open Your Eyes, which finds Sherwood and Squire in a rare moment where the river runs in reverse: They get to leverage their time together in Yes, finally, instead of the other way around.

Conspiracy Live also includes two tracks (“Days of Wonder” and “Red Light Ahead”) from 2000’s Conspiracy, and three cuts (“Conspiracy,” “New World” and “Confess”) from 2003’s The Unknown, each of them representing their own micro-bursts of promise. But, of course, it could not last.

When Squire, who had been living on America’s West Coast, moved back to the UK, Conspiracy morphed into Sherwood’s current project Circa — even as Squire returned his focus full time to Yes. This new reissue, due April 9, 2013 from Purple Pyramid/Cleopatra, adds in a second disc featuring a concert film, interviews with Conspiracy, behind-the-scenes footage, a new photo gallery … and this over-riding wonder at just what might have been.

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Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.
  • Carl Durbin

    loved this team up. amazing music :]