Producer Brian Kehew has answered many of the questions posed by the fans of Yes about the Progeny box set that he is currently overseeing:
Steven Sullivan Where were the Progeny tapes found? The tapes were in the WMG vault.
Dan Trotta Who came up with the name PROGENY and why? I do like the name – just asking – thank you!!! The band came up with the title. Actually, they couldn’t decide between “Progeny” or “Seven Shows From Seventy-Two” so both were used!
Mirko Bernard Why seven shows? It seems today most people want more (see the other questions for shows people want released even beyond this). We figured that this was a peak period for YES in some ways, and if we’d cut it down to 2 shows, people would ask to have the rest. No show was clearly the winner, and all had some great moments and instances of brilliance. Hence, there is also the 2-disc option for those who don’t like YES as intensely.
We’ve issued seven shows: There were actually eight recorded for the live album project in 1972. The first was in Hartford, a poor recording, plagued by equipment problems, a non-responsive crowd, and the weakest performance of the set. We cut that one and seven ought to be enough for anyone.
Monte Montemayor What kind of sound can we expect Brian? Were these Soundboard tapes mixed on this set of shows?? As much as we all love Yessongs, it’s definitely not the best live recording ever captured. Hopefully Progeny helps address that. As you likely know, soundboard tapes are quick rough mixes of a live show, done on the fly during the event – better than audience bootlegs but far from a proper recording. These boxset tapes are true professional multitrack remote-truck recordings, done for an intended YES live album (which became Yessongs.)
After quick checking, we agreed that these were indeed source tapes for some of the tracks on Yessongs. For example, they’d picked the best Roundabout of the bunch and used it. We knew we had many unheard versions performed on different nights, six alternates for a given song (and in a case like Close To The Edge, all of these versions had never been heard.) Likely though, these might all be inferior to the chosen master take we know from Yessongs; so would any of it be worthy of release?
Mixing the first show, I tried to (at least) beat the sound of the muddy Yessongs record. No – these were those same tapes, strange and odd-sounding. I was afraid we’d have only lesser-performances (we had not heard them all yet!) and still be stuck with the rough sound – so it could produce only a subset of Yessongs outtakes…
However, I remembered the Dolby issues I found with the Tormato studio tapes (see another question below) and decided on the second day to try and re-set the Dolby racks: Dolby is a noise-reduction system you apply when recording to tape, and when it’s decoded carefully, it makes the noise disappear without affecting the sound of the music. However, when it’s mis-calibrated, it sounds muddy and dull, very much like the Yessongs tracks.
I suspected the original alignment (not done by Eddie Offord, btw!) was done incorrectly at the time of recording, so when Eddie set up the tapes later when mixing, they would sound… odd. They do, when aligned as I found it. (In retrospect, having heard the raw tapes, I think Eddie did a rather brilliant job with the difficult tapes; it’s amazing he made it sound as incredible as it does!)
So – taking a guess – I reset each Dolby channel (16 of them), setting each by ear to sound “best” (clarity, reality, fullness, etc). This is not hard to do – it’s just not “by the book.” After this, the tracks sounded much more “real”, as if a blanket had been lifted off the sound. It still wasn’t an amazing live recording, but it sounded much better than the released Yessongs. And so – we felt these “other” versions of performances were now worth hearing, as they sound great and they bring forth new parts, great clarity and energy that even the selected highlights used before never had. Although some of these versions you may have heard before on Yessongs, they will have new clarity, new mixes and perspective, as we tried to make this something distinct from Yessongs.
Mike Smith What is the sound like, does it retain the warm analog sound and what were some of the challenges mixing the music. It is ALL from analog tapes, mixed without ProTools or computers of any kind, on a vintage 1970s mixing desk – by hand. This is my preferred way to work, and it tends to sound appropriate for classic music of the era. The hardest parts were dealing with errors of the original sessions; poor audience microphone placements, a poorly-recorded bass, people moving off-microphone while singing, etc. We did not attempt the usual modern “fixing” that could be done by computer; we left this very much as a document of each night’s show. You will hear the full-length talking between songs, we leave in moments when the band tunes up, etc. I would say it’s generally more raw and wild than the versions on Yessongs.
Luis Carlos Diaz Sananes So many shows with the same playlist. What can we expect from each one? YES was not a jazz group, but anyone who hears Yours Is No Disgrace live will realize they are NOT playing the same notes every night, starting right from the intro. For some reason, people think YES did not improvise much and that the same setlist means the same show. This is not Britney Spears, people, it’s a live performance with moments changing each and every night. Listen to Steve’s incredible spontaneous (read: NOT the same every night) licks thrown in throughout the songs. The sound of the room is different in each space, the tempos change, the middle of one song is just ok one night and amazing the next, but the endings will also be different. There are even mistakes and noises – weird happenings on certain shows, and Jon’s great chats between. If you like YES, this box provides a lot of what you like. If you want just a new version of the classic songs, there is the 2-disc so you can have just a little YES.
Håvard Lunde Were any other tracks considered, or was it decided that the same tracks would be used from every show? As far as I can recall, we used every song recorded for these shows. As the shows were similar in intent and time frame, it made sense to put them together, rather than pick just a few good ones, leaving out great moments on others. To include music from other periods weakens the concept of this box set. It does not preclude anything else coming out at other times.
Paul Maguire Didn’t you get bored editing the same setlist seven times? Never, not for even one minute. More like our hairs were standing up over and over. I don’t know what other people do for a living, but listening to unheard 1972 live YES (and making it sound like you’re sitting at the front of the stage) is not a bad day at the office. This is such a strong era for them, and it sure beats a bootleg. Wait ’til you hear it!
Enrique García Which yessong was the hardest to produce? Actually, the hardest things are done before it’s ready to mix; fighting agains odd sounds, hums, leakage, crazy levels. Once that’s solved, the tracks combine a lot easier. Obviously, the song Close To The Edge has an extreme range of sonics and styles, there’s a lot to do. For that song, we went back to the original master tapes of the studio album to get the sound effects in high quality; originally they had been played back off-tape at each show, but the extant stage recording of those effects tapes was quite poor and distorted. Now the effects will be clearer and more present, not dirty and rough as was recorded back then.
Paul Watson Hi Brian. Did you have any input from any of the Yes lineup for these 7 shows recordings? Bringing certain instruments or vocals up or down in the mix, that kind of thing? Thanks. No – this was done as most reissue projects are done; we mixed and then presented to the artists and management for their approval. We find it solves more problems to do work to a high standard and then submit for approval. Imagine the current (and former) members coming in to compete for placement in the mix – tricky! Note with instrument levels – there are many times when we want something louder in a mix ourselves, but it changes a balance or somehow sticks out too much in an odd way. Sometimes a vocal could be too low; we hear it, too, but they happened to have wandered away from the microphone or are singing softly – nothing can be done. You just can’t turn it up, all you’d hear would be stage leakage. So, some things that sound less than perfect may not be easily adjusted.
Note that these shows will have some flaws – and many brilliant moments. It’s live music, a document of each night. We left long sections of talk, odd noises here and there. There are even some technical issues, like Jon’s microphone cutting out right in the middle of a tune. But it’s reality – it’s what happened, and he deals with it on the moment and talks about it later. If you were there that night, this is indeed the show you heard.
The good news is, YES is stunning live, as you know. They play to the edge nightly, trying things, incredible musicianship. It’s not difficult to clean things up and make each moment sound strong with computer editing and manipulation. It’s MUCH harder to be a great band onstage, exploring the music and trying things out – even with mistakes. When you can hear that these are the real shows, no trickery, it points out how great the band was, night after night.
The original Yessongs release had studio manipulation and overdubs: Listen to Roundabout – it’s nearly a studio-recorded sound. There are doubled vocals etc. It sounds great, but it’s not truly real. We think the unvarnished YES from this Progeny box will show that true live music really holds up; it’s about the moment, the changes from night to night, rolling from section to section and listening to each other. It really holds up to hear these amazing people working alongside each other onstage, their caliber of performance is rarely seen today.
Steven Sullivan Any plans to remix any of these Progeny performances to 5.1? Not yet. 5.1 is a great format, but with a very limited reach, at present. The costs of mixing go up as well, making it harder to justify given the much-smaller audience. But it’s great for film use, etc. so we’d never rule it out. It can really relaunch a song or catalog item.
Joshua Kennedy Brian, was there any consideration of including selected shows in high resolution PCM on a BluRay or DVD? Not yet, we’re hoping Progeny meets with strong acceptance, but keep in mind vintage live shows may never have the sonic qualities that Hi-Res and BluRay are designed to bring out. The sonics of these projects may not justify it until one product gains momentum with the public… or if the source material was just stunningly good.
Conner Hammett Do you know if Atlantic still has any of the tapes from Feb. 1972 featuring Bill Bruford (the ones used for Yessongs)? I think that would make a great follow-up box. Also, what about the tapes for the Dec. ’72 show at the Rainbow (the one used for the 1975 concert film)? That’s where the legendary Yessongs versions of CTTE and Starship Trooper came from but it doesn’t appear to be featured on Progeny. Are the tapes being saved for another project, or are they presumed lost? Thanks again Brian!
I have not seen them, if so… bear in mind tapes don’t live on one shelf or in any artists’ section; nor are they filed chronologically. YES must have recorded many things beyond 1972, hopefully tapes survive and will turn up in good shape. I have mixed some of their live stuff before, but it was considered (I agreed) too poor to release, with sound issues, keyboard tunings, etc. In particular a 1976 show we found with Patrick could have been amazing (JFK Stadium in Philadelphia maybe?), but the tapes made it clear it was a very sour night.
Keep in mind so many people think of Yessongs as a representative YES show. However, it was a creation, not an actual document of one tour or show. It has polish, fixes and some edits. Our project differed; we wanted to see a more realistic version, without fixes or changes, to a whole YES concert from 1972. We also wanted to see what else the band did on other nights during these sessions. While I also love Bill’s unique playing, every single person who has heard the box set says the same thing; Alan White is stronger than we’ve ever heard on this, and his playing is on fire most nights. He is clearly driving the band, even more so than you’ve heard on previous recordings. With our new mix perspective, Alan White is now balanced more forward and his work can be heard clearly. While the best recorded parts are usually the guitar and Jon’s voice, the bass and drums could have been better-recorded. Alan was an incredible choice for the drum throne, and this may be the best playing you’ve ever heard from him. His work here is truly astounding.
Sergio Mallorga Hi, Brian. I’m a Yes fan from Chile and I want to thank you for making this project a reality; I regard it as a restored mega-yessongs and I’m looking forward to buy it (as well as your Recording The Beatles book!). After reading with amazement the technical info about Progeny, I’ve got two questions for you: 1) Would it be possible to make this same restoration treatment to the whole of Yessongs?; and 2) I read your comment on the Dolby NR issue on Tormato. Do you know if Steven Wilson is aware of it in case he remixes that album? Best regards.
1) We think Yessongs stands on its own, it’s still one of the great live records of all time. It is very likely that some of the songs have no Dolby issues as they were recorded on different tours. So they could not be easily “improved” as we did here. However, you can hear a newer version of some of those Yessongs tracks – they’ve just been done for you in this box! And many more to hear…
2) I don’t know if Steven knows of the Tormato issue – it’s rarely been discussed anywhere. That’s certainly an album that would benefit from a remix with corrected Dolby issues. Too bad they didn’t catch it back in the day!
Daniel Krohn Would you want to produce the current lineup either for a live release or the next studio album? Interesting idea. Maybe if they didn’t want to use computers and “fix” everything. I like polish and creativity, but I prefer rawness and humanity. It’s exciting. I suspect most bands don’t today – they want perfection, or as close as they can make it.