Updated: Wednesday, 27 June 2001 AD
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If you've listened to Mike Keneally's wondrous solo effort, Boil That Dust Speck (and who hasn't?) you are no doubt familiar with track number twenty-one: Faithful Axe. If you are familiar with the music of Yes then you will also recognize that this is an "affectionate tribute" to said band, as Mike himself writes in his always-insightful liner notes.
Perhaps, while listening to this track, you have asked yourself "Gosh, I wonder what songs Mike is quoting from?" or "Is that Jon Anderson I hear?" or even "Is that a Rickenbacker bass?" For now, we'll concentrate on the first question which, effectively, is "What the hell is going on here?"
Hell, that's half the fun, sport! If you don't have your very own Boil That Dust Speck then get one pronto! Then rush back here with all speed and read on.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to see how many Yes references you can identify in Faithful Axe. There are, at last count, forty-six such references. For extra credit, identify which track/album each reference is from, and the approximate time where the reference may be heard. Yes aficionados will especially relish this task (or dread it, depending on your knowledge of Yes material and overall level of patience).
Ready? Headphones only, please.
ATTENTION! ATTENCIÓN! ADVERTENCIA! AVERTISSEMENT! ARÊTÉ! AVVERTENZA! ACHTUNG!
The following sections contain ALL THE ANSWERS to The Faithful Axe Challenge. Proceed with caution if you intend to play along at home. Consider inviting an unwitting friend over to check this page for you and keep score. (Wow! Can you think of anything more riveting than this?)
To start off, a few clues. Take it easy, I won't give everything away just yet (certainly not the guitar parts -- that's in the next section). Just some of the framework to get you started. No fair peeking if you're playing along at home!
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Tom Freeman opens with Bill Bruford's lead-in to "South Side of the Sky." After that he either quotes various Yes/Bruford/King Crimson compositions (ehh ...) or he's just having a good time. I prefer to think it was the latter. Keeping the beat, occasionally punctuating (much like Victor Borge on a good night), and effective. In fact, one cymbal crash served to trip me up when I was trying to deduce one of the guitar riffs. (Thanks a lot, Tom!)
Mike steadily and simply quotes the first four notes of "The Fish" throughout. That's all it needs. This quote alone had me in hysterics.
Sounds like Mike is playing a la Rick Wakeman to me. I haven't identified any particular Wakeman quotes here, and my guess is that there aren't any. If you can find any, please let me know. Either way, the (deliberate?) haphazard sprinkling of these mini-arpeggios is priceless.
UPDATE: Matt Mitchell weighed in his $0.02 on December 6th, 1997. "... I always thought from cursory listening that a lot of the keyboard stuff came from ... The Remembering ..." -- I think he's onto something.
No explanation necessary. Very expressive, don't you think? It originally reminded me of Jon Anderson's solo work (especially "Olias of Sunhillow"). The interval before "Chut Chut" is clearly the high point for me. Many vocalists have trademark intervals (can you say "Steve Perry?"), and Mike nailed the best JA intervals here for your enjoyment. Look for another kind of vocal reference toward the end as well (clue: it's in the second half).
Here you will find no less than thirty-nine Steve Howe guitar quotes (plus one from Trevor Rabin and one from Peter Banks) in the span of nearly one-and-a-half minutes. Most are just over one second long. That's right, it's Name That Tune from hell, and you're the next contestant! Can you guess:
This is sure to provide hours of enjoyment and mayhem for the entire family. Go on. Get to work! From here on out, the beans are officially spilled. You have been warned ...
UPDATE: Thanks go out to J. D. Mack for pointing out an oversight on December 26, 1998, regarding my distribution of guitar quote credits. I left out Peter Banks, tsk-tsk. "The man needs as much credit as he can get." Indeed.
Here is where we give everything away. All guitar quotes are numbered. L/C/R == Left / Center / Right Channel. For example, guitar riff #5 occurs in Faithful Axe at 0:10, it can be heard in both channels, and the original riff can be found in Yours Is No Disgrace at 4:46.
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|And You And I||-||Close to the Edge|
|Awaken||-||Going for the One|
|Clap||-||The Yes Album|
|Close to the Edge||-||Close to the Edge|
|Don't Kill the Whale||-||Tormato|
|The Gates of Delirium||-||Relayer|
|Going for the One||-||Going for the One|
|Heart of the Sunrise||-||Fragile|
|Long Distance Runaround||-||Fragile|
|Mood for a Day||-||Fragile|
|Owner of a Lonely Heart||-||90125|
|Perpetual Change||-||The Yes Album|
|The Revealing Science of God||-||Tales from Topographic Oceans|
|Siberian Khatru||-||Close to the Edge|
|South Side of the Sky||-||Fragile|
|Starship Trooper||-||The Yes Album|
|To Be Over||-||Relayer|
|Your Move||-||The Yes Album|
|Yours Is No Disgrace||-||The Yes Album|
Beyond and Before / I See You / Yesterday and Today / Looking Around / Harold Land / Every Little Thing / Sweetness / Survival
|The Yes Album (1971):||
Yours Is No Disgrace / Clap / Starship Trooper: Life Seeker, Disillusion, Würm / I've Seen All Good People: Your Move, All Good People / A Venture / Perpetual Change
Roundabout / Cans and Brahms / We Have Heaven / South Side of the Sky / Five Percent for Nothing / Long Distance Runaround / The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus) / Mood for a Day / Heart of the Sunrise
|Close to the Edge (1972):||
Close to the Edge: The Solid Time of Change, Total Mass Retain, I Get Up I Get Down, Seasons of Man / And You And I: Cord of Life, Eclipse, The Preacher The Teacher, Apocalypse / Siberian Khatru
|Tales from Topographic Oceans (1974):||
The Revealing Science of God - Dance of the Dawn / The Remembering - High the Memory / The Ancient - Giants Under the Sun / Ritual - Nous Sommes Du Soleil
The Gates of Delirium / Sound Chaser / To Be Over
|Going for the One (1977):||
Going for the One / Turn of the Century / Parallels / Wonderous Stories / Awaken
Future Times / Rejoice / Don't Kill the Whale / Madrigal / Release, Release / Arriving UFO / Circus of Heaven / Onward / On the Silent Wings of Freedom
Owner of a Lonely Heart / Hold On / It Can Happen / Changes / Cinema / Leave It / Our Song / City of Love / Hearts
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This has to be the biggest example of hubris I can think of. A play-by-play account of how I came to this point. Hey, it's a good creative writing exercise at any rate and ... oh, you don't really want to know, do you? Gluttons for punishment, all of you.
Off we go ... (wait, that's Genesis):
While preparing for a flight to San Jose, CA in February 1996, I packed away the requisite "random CDs". While I enjoy listening to music almost any time (even at 30,000+ feet above-ground), I do so because of my predisposition to flying. That is to say, I am predisposed to disliking it. Listening to music keeps me "well occupied" at such high altitudes.
I especially like picking a composition/performance apart and putting it back together -- my somewhat twisted form of music appreciation. To be sure, I avoid doing this while listening to "Star's End" or "Hearts of Space" on NPR, but I digress.
It started out with my Swedish Prog Rock Fix (tm) -- some of the new Anekdoten CD, followed by a few tracks from Tori Amos' latest, a little Carl Nielsen, and then Boil That Dust Speck. I was already familiar with track 21, and with turbulence abounding I decided to torture myself further. The self-inflicted challenge: Identify every guitar quote in "Faithful Axe."
I had somewhat of an advantage here, at least I felt I did, in that I was very familiar with Yes' studio material thanks to years of "intense" study. So, from my POV, I figured it would prove to be a nice, brain-intensive, harmless diversion for the remaining four hours.
Over the next four hours, diversion yielded to obsession.
The more I listened to "Faithful Axe" the more evident Mike's musicianship became. Not like I needed any more proof. I have long since admired his contributions to FZ recordings and the integrity of his solo projects. Nevertheless, he did a more-than-credible job in crafting this track. While one could argue that some of the guitar quotes are not 100% spot-on (irrelevant in my opinion), the results are impressive. Now when I hear it I don't laugh so much as beam. It really is the "affectionate tribute."
Right, enough gushing.
During this initial odyssey I didn't even know Mike had an e-mail address, much less a web page, and I had no intention of informing him of my efforts. By the time I returned home I had confidently identified nearly thirty-three of the forty-one guitar quotes. The rest certainly sounded familiar, but they were mighty difficult to place. Keep in mind that I was purposely keeping away from the Yes CDs -- I wanted to go on memory alone. Tricky.
A week later I learned that my remaining wisdom teeth had to be removed. Why I only had one tooth out back in 1991 was beyond me, but there you are. At home, drugged-up on copious amounts of penicillin and other elixirs, I briefly forgot about "Axe" and turned to track six: "Top Of Stove Melting." I read the liner notes for the n-th time, and I got to thinking:
"Mystery lyrics? Bagels? That's right, I read this when I got the CD. Well, someone must've figured this out by now. Oh, I'll try, just for fun. Not like I'm doing much more around the house. Lessee here: <play ... click ... scribble ... replay ... click ... scribble ... replay ... click ... scribble>. Hey, this might be it. How soon can I mail this out? Maybe he has a web page: <AltaVista ... click> Zoinks! He even has e-mail ... at A-O-Hell. Eh. It'll have to do. Say ... I wonder if Mike would want to keep score for my Acquired Axe Affliction? Worth a shot -- I'll take care of both at once."
So off goes the e-mail at 11:31pm on 2/8/96, which described everything in gory detail (the e-mail was entitled "Son of Walden"). I continued on my road to recovery.
Wow, this is becoming one long diatribe. Bryan Beller, my friend, it looks like you have company in the "Able to Stun Several Oxen" department.
It didn't take very long to receive a reply from the maestro himself -- just over twelve hours. Now, as for what happened with the mystery lyrics, I went on to win the bagels (go figure). As for Faithful Axe, I had set the ground rule that I would be allowed only three attempts at scoring a complete list of guitar quotes. In addition, I asked Mike not to tell me which ones I got correct, only the number of correct guesses.
For Attempt #1, everything was guessed by rote. The rest proved to be increasingly difficult, and I started to play random Yes studio recordings to help jog my memory.
Mike scored me at 33 out of 42 as I was including the percussion quote from "The Fish" in my numbered list. Truth be told, I was actually missing ten out of 41. The mystery ten were 1, 3, 4, 11, 14, 16, 29, 34, 35 and 38.
If you thought I was obsessed up to this point, it got worse. By now I had dubbed the entire track onto my workstation, spliced up the mystery ten and began playing them over and over again, one by one, 'till they were firmly etched in my mind. Upon the slightest hunch, I'd find the suspect Yes song and play it, looking for the quote. For the most part, this strategy worked.
All of this in my infinite spare time, mind you. (I swear, I have a life. Honest!). ANYHOW ... "there was nothing else to do -- it was Somerset County, New Jersey ..." ahem.
Ack! The torture. From my perspective, I thought I knew which ones I had correct (although Mike proved otherwise). Now I had moved "The Fish" out of the guitar list, making the total number of guitar quotes to guess 41. Mike offered to tell me which ones I had wrong, and I accepted. Now all that was left was to guess 1, 4, 16 and 35. At this point, Mike advised me thusly: "As with 1, there (is) always the possibility that some of these licks appear in different songs, but I must insist that you read my mind."
Great, so now I get to read minds cross-country. One more clue from Mike before I proceed: None of the remaining riffs are from live recordings or b-sides. Just as well.
These were the toughest four of all. One-by-one, here was the deduction path (hang on tight, folks):
Wonders never cease.
Design and Contents: Joe