In a way, Tony Kaye (born Anthony John Selvidge) is a bit of a tragic figure: in 1971 he was fired by Yes for sticking too long to the two keyboard instruments he loved, the piano and especially the Hammond organ. The rest of the band had a clear preference for the possibilities offered by the new electronic instruments, including Moog and Mellotron. Enter a flamboyant, cape-wearing newcomer and exit the purist/traditionalist, just when the band he had helped to found was on the brink of a worldwide breakthrough.
That was fifty years ago. After Yes he played keyboards for Badger, David Bowie, Badfinger and Detective, before re-joining the band that had treated him so harshly, between 1983 and 1995. This collaboration produced the albums 90125, Big Generator, Union and Talk, by the so-called ‘Yes West’ version of the band with Jon Anderson, Chris Squire and Trevor Rabin. It didn’t stop there: in close collaboration with Billy Sherwood, five Circa albums were created, plus an offshoot in the form of Yoso. I saw him perform live at De Boerderij with this ensemble in 2010 (one of the few times I left a venue early). Many a Yes fan – including yours truly – was pleased to see his involvement in the band’s 50th anniversary, where he participated several times during the encore. And not without success, for me personally a highlight during those shows. Just as happy were the Yes fans with Kaye’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017, despite the fact that he was not present on the night itself.
Although all (ex-)Yes members have released solo albums over the years, Kaye never got around to it. A project with guitarist Lee Abrams in the mid-’80s was aborted and Kaye actually retired from music in the mid-’90s, until he became deeply engrossed by the events surrounding September 11th 2001. It inspired him to write this new album, the first in his own name. That the release date for End of Innocence was scheduled for September 10th this year, twenty years after the dreadful date, is of course no coincidence. The question remains, what has taken Kaye, now 76, so long? Two decades is a long time to write and record an album. That question is not fully answered, not even in the tsunami of information and interviews that I have read in preparation. Anyway, it’s not that important. Much more important is the fact that the record is now out and open for listening.
Roger Dean (Yes, Asia) produced one of his most gloomy nevertheless beautiful works of art for the cover of this album. Production for End of Innocence is in the hands of Tony Kaye, who also composed all the songs, except Sweetest Dreams which was co-produced with wife Dani Torchia. Jay Schellen, a good friend of Kaye who has also been on stage with Yes for some time and active with Kaye in Circa, mans the drums and percussion to dramatic effect (Battle Cry, Flight 11).
Opening track Twinkle Twinkle Little Star / Twilight Time starts with thunder and lightning and the voice of Kaye’s wife Dani singing a lullaby the night before the fatal events. 911 Overture is an orchestral-like piece, strongly in the tradition of Vangelis. The first piece he wrote right after the impact, recorded with only an 8-track cassette recorder. In the short NYC Blues we hear Kaye’s signature bluesy piano style with fragments of a radio broadcast.
It’s quite a transition to Battle Cry. Heavy percussion, oriental chants and classic Hammond organ tones compete for pre-eminence, but there are also ethereal sounds in the vein of I get up I get down. 285 Fulton Street captures the vibrant atmosphere surrounding the World Trade Center in New York City (the title referring to its address). Let’s Roll is again quite orchestral and symphonic in nature, after which we end up at Flight 11 via Tug of War. The song starts with intense, powerful drums from Jay Schellen that resemble the drumming on Yes’ Ritual. The music is interspersed with the flight attendants’ telephone conversations with the control tower. Schellen’s drums reflect the struggle going on on board.
Sweetest Dreams is, as previously mentioned, a contribution by Dani Torchia, this time not only in terms of vocals but also the writing, an almost whispered lament after the dramatic collapse of both towers in Towers Fall. In Aftermath, Kaye conjures up almost Wakeman-like sounds from his instruments with Oldfieldian chants and even a bit of Alan Parsons in terms of rhythm and structure. Definitely one of my favourite pieces on End of Innocence. Heroes is a quiet middle piece, an ode to the rescuers during and after the attack. The Battle is by far the longest track on the album at over eleven minutes, Eastern chants interspersed with sound fragments, Kaye’s trusty Hammond organ and Schellen’s fanatical drums. Kaye frankly admitted that this piece, the battle scene, had proved quite challenging musically.
Hope and Triumph begins with a quote from The Declaration of Independence and is a patriotic anthem dealing with the consequences of war. I think it uses an electric guitar, it’s without a doubt the most song-based track on the album. Homecoming is a beautiful piece with acoustic guitar and Kaye’s grandiose soundscapes, it also serves as a sort of closing or acceptance too. The final song, Ground Zero, has a hopeful tone for the future, the reconstruction. A beautiful and emotional closing piece to an at times impressive album.
Most sounds come from the Roland Fantom X7, partly due to the wide range of orchestral and especially non-Western sounds. It gives the music a certain oriental feel, exactly what Kaye wanted. In addition, there is an important part for his favourite Hammond organ and the classical piano. As mentioned, there are quite a few Vangelis influences (911 Overture, Towers Fall, Ground Zero), not surprising: the Greek keyboard legend is a big favourite of Kaye’s.
You can’t really pick out individual songs, you have to play and experience this suite in its entirety. It is essentially a requiem for the victims of the dramatic events that took place twenty years ago. It’s a long ride at almost an hour and a quarters of mostly instrumental music, not everyone’s cup of tea. That’s always a problem with albums like this, it’s very hard to keep focused. You get easily distracted or feel like you’ve heard it before. Nevertheless, Kaye manages to captivate the listener (Flight 11, Aftermath, The Battle) and sometimes move them emotionally (Ground Zero). A remarkable achievement and indirectly an ode to the keyboard player’s compositional and playing abilities.
A reminder; Tony Kaye donates 10% of all profits from End of Innocence to the Gary Sinise Foundation, a charity set up by American actor Gary Sinise which supports veterans and first responders in times of need. Quite a nice gesture.
Tony Kaye recently spoke to TPA’s Geoff Ford – you can read the full interview HERE.
01. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star / Twilight Time (3:47)
02. 911 Overture (4:00)
03. NYC Blues (1:39)
04. Battle Cry (7:08)
05. 285 Fulton Street (4:43)
06. Let’s Roll (6:32)
07. Tug of War (1:48)
08. Flight 11 (5:24)
09. Towers Fall (2:11)
10. Sweetest Dreams (4:10)
11. Aftermath (3:58)
12. Heroes (4:06)
13. The Battle (11:23)
14. Hope and Triumph (5:16)
15. Homecoming (3:06)
16. Ground Zero (3:49)
Total Time – 73:00
Tony Kaye – Keyboards, All Instruments
Dani Torchia – Vocals
Jay Schellen – Drums, Percussion
Record Label: Cherry Red Records
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 10th September 2021