GTR, “Roundabout” from GTR: Deluxe Edition (2015): One Track Mind

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I’ll admit that in 1986 I was not a fan of the super group GTR. In fact I wasn’t a fan of Steve Howe’s version of Yes or Steve Hackett’s version of Genesis. Time passes, things change and I pulled out my old LP version of the Geoff Downes-produced GTR album. Quite frankly, the album holds up better that the second or third Asia albums, and stands alongside Steve Hackett’s post-Genesis work up to that point.

So, I was quite pleased to see a new reissue of GTR’s self-titled album by Esoteric Recordings, after the resolution of some long-standing matters involving finances and licensing. Included on the various editions are bonus tracks and never-officially-released music from a July 19, 1986 stop at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles.

The original GTR project sounds contemporary and vital (partly due to Geoff Downes’ stellar production), but the live tracks are nothing short of inspiring — and, in one case, quite surprising. New takes on songs from the GTR debut are coupled with a few Steve Hackett and Steve Howe solo pieces, as well as tracks from their tenures in Genesis and Yes. Perhaps the most interesting choice is “Roundabout,” the Jon Anderson/Steve Howe composition.

GTR’s arrangement doesn’t veer too much from the original, with Howe handling the Portuguese guitar intro with the same accuracy he has so many times in Yes. Steve Hackett provides a solid yet unobtrusive rhythm guitar backing to help keep things moving. Perhaps the biggest change from the original — or, for that matter, Yes’ own more recent live versions — can be found in the rhythm section.

Drummer Jonathan Mover makes no attempt to play with the finesse and subtlety of original Yes drummer Bill Bruford. Instead, he takes a tack even more rock oriented than that of Alan White, Bruford’s successor in Yes of more than 40 years. That approach may have worked, if the bass part played by Phil Spalding were more nuanced. Unfortunately, Spalding’s parts are too low in the mix and pale in comparison to the original parts played by Chris Squire.

They added keyboardist Matt Clifford for live performances, and he does yeoman’s work. Singer Max Bacon, meanwhile, wisely avoids any attempt to mirror Jon Anderson. His voice hits most of the notes with accuracy and precision, but his timbre and tone are an imperfect fit for the song. As such, GTR’s take on “Roundabout” ultimately lacks the authoritative harmony and backing vocals of the original.

Yet, it’s still a fun listen, if only to compare and contrast. GTR never wanted to Yes or Genesis, but this expanded reissue of Steve Hackett and Steve Howe’s one-off collaboration nevertheless makes an interesting footnote to their earlier work in those bands.

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Atlanta. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at slangofages@icloud.com; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Preston Frazier
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