Some fine piscine prog, reissued at last...
Chris Jones 2007
By 1975 progressive giants Yes were resting following the release of Relayer, their eighth album in five years. Inveterate workaholics, the five members decided the best way to take it easy was to work on their own solo albums. Discussion amongst fans still rages as to whose was the best (Jon Andersons’ Olias Of Sunhillow being the most cosmic and Steve Howe’s Beginnings being the most technically proficient), but bass player, Christopher Russell Edward Squire’s Fish Out Of Water was the one that pleased most people who’d come to love the band’s mixture of sumptuous vocals and tricky time changes.
The reasons for this are simple: Squire was a founder of the band and had, probably more than any other member, forged the sound that was to make them world-beaters. Vocally similar to Anderson, on Fish… (the title’s a reference to his nickname) he displays his choral background, and love of West Coast harmonising on the paired opening tracks “Hold Out Your Hand/You By My Side”. And while not lyrically as knotty or technically as dazzling as his band’s output, Fish… stands as a consistently fine piece of proggery.
The album boasts an array of top ‘heavy’ names of the time. There are links here to not only his own band (Patrick Moraz on keyboards) but also King Crimson (ex-Yes drummer Bill Bruford, and sax player Mel Collins), the Canterbury scene (Caravan’s Jimmy Hastings, who plays some tasty flute on “You By My Side”) and even Squire’s own psychedelic past (old bandmate from The Syn, Andrew Jackman, on keyboards).
The album veers away from Yes’ then-current fusion tendencies, leaning heavily on lush orchestral arrangements (“Silently Falling”, “Safe (Canon Song)”) though the time signatures still get adequately messed with (7/8 on “Lucky Seven”!). And while Squire’s patent growling Rickenbacker is well up in the mix it never gets in the way of the actual songs. It's this restraint that makes Fish Out Of Water still eminently enjoyable to modern ears: A rare feat in such a genre. Strangely and sadly, Squire would never be tempted to repeat it, instead remaining true to the band he formed in 1968.