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Introduction:


A series of essays wherein I explore the numerous musical identities of my favorite musician: from child prodigy to teen idol to guitar hero to singer/songwriter to award-winning in-demand film composer.
Featuring news/updates and commentary/analysis of Trevor's career and associated projects.
Comments are disabled but please feel free to contact me at rabinesque.blog@gmail.com.



Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Edward Van Halen (1955-2020)

It's difficult to say farewell to a true legend - a man who changed the face of rock music forever - when his music can be heard on the airwaves every day.  But Eddie is gone, having finally succumbed to his years-long battle with throat cancer.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/06/arts/music/eddie-van-halen-dead.html

It gives me a bit of a chill to recall that Trevor and I had discussed Eddie and their acquaintance only a few months ago, but as they were peers it was heartening to consider how they each had influenced and impressed the other.  And so it makes me happy to think of them jamming and hanging out together in the past, just two guitar heroes communing in that golden time.

Eddie's music, and his once-in-a-lifetime talent, will continue to astound generations to come.  My condolences to his family, friends, colleagues and bandmates, and to all fans worldwide.  Let us honor that genius blazing across the heavens forevermore.

Monday, September 28, 2020

PROG issue 113: The Greatest Prog Musicians of All Time

With thanks to Henry Potts for the heads-up.

https://www.loudersound.com/news/the-greatest-prog-musician-ever-unveiled-in-the-new-issue-of-prog-on-sale-now

In the latest issue of PROG are published the results of their Greatest Prog Musician poll and making the Top 50 (just barely) is Our Trev - here is the entry on the list for him.

48  TREVOR RABIN

"I still love playing guitar, and have never stopped working on my technique.  But there's little more satisfying than knowing what you have in your head will come out so well when you have an orchestra to bring it lo life.  With Yes, I didn't have much opportunity to work in an orchestral vein; we did do a little of that on Talk, but not much.  Since I left, this whole world has opened up for me."

Listen to: Changes

Trevor joins such guitar luminaries as Al DiMeola, Adrian Belew, John McLaughlin, Allan Holdsworth, Neal Morse, Steve Hackett, Alex Lifeson, Frank Zappa, David Gilmour, and Robert Fripp as well as fellow bandmates Steve Howe, Bill Bruford, Chris Squire and Rick Wakeman.  Plus many many other leading lights of the genre.

And in the number one spot: the much-mourned incredibly influential and masterful drummer, lyricist and author, Neil Peart of Rush.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

A Big album needs a BIG show

Spotted on Instagram: a nice set of The BIG Tour photos enabling us to appreciate those stage outfits, including a rare shot of Trevor's rather more "sparkly" leather set.

(Unfortunately embedding is not cooperating for some reason, so here a link.)

https://www.instagram.com/p/CFmstdaMY4t/

Thursday, September 24, 2020

A legacy of inspiration

Published today on the Washington Post website is an article which is in part about the various uses of "Titans' Spirit" - Trevor's main theme composed for the 2000 film Remember the Titans - to mark the 20th anniversary of the film's release this month.  The article also covers the history of the film in its' development, creation, and subsequent position in pop culture history.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/remember-the-titans-anniversary/2020/09/23/22e39084-f927-11ea-a275-1a2c2d36e1f1_story.html

Thursday, September 17, 2020

#tbt: scoring a selfie

Spotted on Instragram: one could always count on encountering Trevor at a film premiere if he was involved (as I know from personal experience being behind the barricades at the premiere of G-Force).  Here he is with interior design artist Shlomi Haziza at the premiere of Get Smart, which took place on June 16, 2008 at the Mann Village Theatre in Westwood.

And here's another shot of Trevor on the red carpet.
Embed from Getty Images

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Media Watch: new interview happening today!

With thanks to Henry Potts for the heads-up.

As reported/posted by Henry, Trevor will be interviewed by Sean Tonar of the Progressive Ears online forum today for his SOAL Night Live podcast series.  It may be available to view live via YouTube and/or Facebook Live at 2pm EDT but that's unclear to me at the moment.

Edit: and here it is!

Monday, September 14, 2020

A Guide to Field Recordings: 9012Live

A series featuring commentary on live recordings from my collection.

The timing of this entry is primarily prompted by a fandom works crossover so crazy it might actually work!  Recently I joined fellow Yesfan and dear friend Jennifer Albright, co-creator/co-host of the Have You SEEN This? podcast, for a discussion of 9012Live - that cinematic classic and YesWest cultural document of everything which is both glorious and hilarious but also endearingly kitschy about the 1980s.  My eternal love and thanks to Jen for entertaining my idea, being so gracious to allow me to come on her show, and for all the hours we've spent geeking out over prog rock through the years.

Official links for Have You SEEN This?
http://www.haveyouseen.us/
https://soundcloud.com/have-you-seen-this

The full version of the episode is about two-and-a-half hours and was kindly provided to me by Jen as an exclusive to Rabin-esque.  You can listen/download via this link:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1L3IIXocRSyN6agiSDJfok-67jD9DBPcV

This is a bonus episode of the show, so if you'd rather listen to the edited version you can join their Patreon to access it for a pledge of $2.00/month, which will also grant you access to all the other bonus content available.  I highly recommend it if you'd like to support a really great podcast!

Have You SEEN This? Bonus episode 81: 9012Live
https://patreon.com/posts/41578832

I admit that I might have flubbed on a few things in my comments, so I will fully cop to any mistakes and offer apologies.  I did have notes, but some of the discussion was off-the-cuff.  And that discussion is equal parts serious and humorous and takes aim at some sacred tenets of Yes fandom, so I caution against potential offense to listeners, thus I offer a...
Content warning: contains profanity, snark, general affectionate irreverence and lampoonery courtesy of two fangirls who are also legitimately discerning adults.
Caveat audiens.

But as I already had a write-up of the film and the album in the works, I decided I would combine the two, so here now is my commentary on these releases, provided as an accompaniment to my remarks in the podcast and in observance of 9012Live's (in both forms) 35th anniversary this year.

*~*~*

Beyond fandom circles, Yes' concert film 9012Live is known for being director Steven Soderbergh’s professional debut; the movie is 67 minutes long and concentrates on songs from 90125, with only two songs included from the Classic Yes era. 9012Live received a Grammy nomination for Best Long-Form Music Video in 1987 but lost out to Sting’s documentary Bring On The Night. It was one of the earliest releases from Atlantic Records’ Home Video division, which was launched in mid-1985. In VHS form, 9012Live had an original retail list price of $29.88.

The film was aired on HBO but was also screened in rock clubs as a worldwide promotional “video tour” beginning in February 1986, which was reportedly covered by MTV at the time.

9012Live and 9012Live: The Solos were released simultaneously in November 1985, the album was created as a companion to the film. The DVD release of the film came in 2006, featuring bonus content and a Director’s Cut without the Charlex effects, then an expanded version of the album was released in 2011 featuring two extra songs. But we still don’t have an officially-released pro-shot/recorded version of an entire 9012Live show...and we probably never will.

Although Charlex's involvement in the world of music videos would be relatively short-lived (though the company is still in operation to this day), their participation in the production of 9012Live was considered rather groundbreaking at the time.  In May of 1985, Billboard covered Charlex’s work on the film for the Video Music section of the publication - Charlex was brought on board the project to “modernize” and “enhance” the film, to bring it more in line with the way music videos were being created at the time. This was the first time the special effects production company had been asked to work on a longer-form project, on the heels of their award-winning contributions to The Cars’ video for “You Might Think.” Lookout Management liked what they had done with The Cars' Heartbeat City videos collection from 1984 and asked them to do something similar for 9012Live. But while Charlex created only transitional pieces for The Cars' video album, they did much more for 9012Live, even beyond what was originally negotiated for their contract.  They envisioned each song as a type of music video on its own while also including transitional pieces between songs as well as a framing device to begin and end the film (as long-time fans are aware, the ending is where the title for the next album came from), and used the palette of the album design and stage production as their guide for those elements which appear in color. Since all of the Charlex footage came from the 1950s (educational and industrial training films, for example), I find it amusing that it’s considered a modernization, but I know that’s strictly meant in terms of the use of post-production SFX. There’s all kinds of effects used for the “living electronic collage” they created as the framing device.

The source of the intro/outro:
"Young Man's Fancy" created for the Edison Electric Institute in 1952.

By the time Charlex received the film it had been edited down to nine songs. They were asked to leave “Owner of a Lonely Heart” alone - hence the sort of gimmicky (but not in a bad way, in my estimation) editing you see in that song instead, although I love that “smash cut on speed” utilized at the beginning, sequenced to that one famous sample.  I wonder if maybe they considered releasing another single and video for “Owner” around that time consisting of that part of the film (hence why it has more obvious edits), but their choice was “Hold On.”

While I certainly prefer watching the film without the Charlex effects, I can appreciate the effort which went into them, both thematically and technically.  As a piece of conceptual video I think it works some times ("Changes" and "City of Love") and not others ("Hold On" - which really just needs to be viewed in all its' actual bromantic glory).  Historically I can understand why the braintrust thought it was a good idea to contemporize the band's efforts overall.  Love it or hate it, YesWest has a distinct visual identity in the continuum and that's a big reason why I love it.

Oh, and this.  I love it for this too.

Filmed in Edmonton, Canada in September 1984 near the end of the North American 9012Live tour, the film is a mix of live footage and pick-up shots which were filmed during the day of the second show - it was a two-night stand, and they filmed both nights. I think it’s edited quite well but you can tell the difference, especially when it comes to “Starship Trooper” where everyone looks rather more sweaty in certain shots but not in others.  Apparently the film was also meant to include the encore “Roundabout” but it was cut, perhaps because there’s a continuity error - Trevor isn’t wearing the same pants in all shots. In some it’s the black satin pants with the yellow striping, in others black leather pants. I think the leather pants may have been from when they were filming the pick-up shots.  That portion is included as bonus content on the DVD release.

Watching the Director’s Cut versus the original version gives you an appreciation for the way Soderbergh decided to film the show, there’s an immediacy achieved without having to necessarily resort to the kind of editing and post-production which was typically utilized at the time by directors like Russell Mulcahy, Wayne Isham and Marty Callner. It seems a far more “natural” experience of a concert, if you could see a show up-close in that way. Compared to the way Yessongs was produced in 1972, for example. Yessongs is very dark and it’s primarily close-ups shot from the photographer’s pit mixed with long shots from the balcony and then also shots from the side of the stage.  In 9012Live there are intentional editing cuts to the music at some points, and the use of varying types of composition to emphasize that this is a band onstage.  The staging itself dictates a sort of artificiality of perspective and use of the space.  Originally Yes was going to have Berlin as their opening act for the 9012Live tour but the raked stage set meant there was no room for another band to set up, thus fans got to watch cartoons while waiting for showtime and this set a precedent over the course of their particular career trajectory.  But overall the editing is wholly engaging and dynamic and adds great value in terms of repeat viewing.  Soderbergh stated in an interview from 2012 that at the time he was working on the film he believed he was turning into a formalist - he liked to polish things - but I don't view it as a drawback in this case.


The best thing about 9012Live, in my estimation, is that it is shot on film rather than video. It makes everybody look so gorgeous.  And despite being an artifact of its' time that particular medium provides it with a certain timeless aura when viewed in the present day.  It's amusing to me that many fans deride the '80sness of the film, especially in terms of hair and wardrobe but the truth is Yes has always been a band of its' time in that respect.  They've always worn rather fancy stage outfits and sported haircuts which were trendy (Chris especially).  So it's rather less hypocritical to opine that their '80s look was not to one's taste but the '70s were fine because reasons.  It's certainly laughable now on some level, but really I think it's wonderful to have a document of a time when they were young and popular and excessively glorious.  Because that's never happening again.  I find it's something more than mere nostalgia to experience.  To watch 9012Live provides something beyond memories of my own youth, it's joy in a particular triumph and that translates to their performances.  If I'm depressed, 9012Live never fails to give me happiness.  So in these trying times it's become entirely necessary in maintaining my overall mental health.

That's right: 9012Live is my self-care.  There, I said it.


But it's not as if the performative aspect is underplayed in this film, there's editing choices which emphasize the personalities and staging very distinctly - such as "Leave It" which as we know now was pretty much entirely lip-synched (save for Trevor and Jon's lead verses and end refrains) and set to the single version of the song, augmented with a few instrumental flourishes.  Certain parts of the performance are choreographed, and probably even more so for the sake of the film.  As well, certain aspects of the production had changed by the second North American tour, as the laser effects were omitted but they continued to utilize the fairly large Vari-Lite rig.  But it makes for an entertaining experience, even if it's one which makes you laugh (and possibly even sympathetically cringe).  Again, Chris Squire was known for more than a few things, and his outsize personality and flamboyance onstage were legendary.  The uniqueness of the situation is part and parcel of the film itself, meant to celebrate YesWest as much as market them to any portion of the public not already in their thrall.  The Arena Rock performative aspect is entirely necessary in terms of entertainment value.  It's also interesting to have a document which primarily focuses on their contemporary identity, as when the band performed they had to continue to acknowledge the past, culminating with the Eighty Dates tour in support of the Union release and a setlist which was more Classic Yes in its' makeup than what they were ostensibly supposed to be promoting.  Fans were then somewhat shocked to witness the band playing nearly the entirety of Talk in 1994, as they had grown so used to the preponderance of Classic Yes songs in a typical YesWest setlist.

But this is what touring used to be about in the Long Long Ago - playing the new songs.  And by taking on the mantle of Yes - and thus the collective history of the continuum - even an updated version of the band could never wholly focus on cultivating their own identity.


And so even the live album - if you can call it that - was again focusing on contemporary Yes, with the "solo" setpieces within the '84 setlist as well as two songs from 90125.  It really comes off as more of a novelty than anything, although I think it's enjoyable as a live document even as it also subverts the established expectations of fans.

The additional songs included on the 2011 reissue had both been previously released:
"It Can Happen" - as the b-side of "It Can Happen" (Atlanta 4/16/84)
"City of Love" - as the b-side of "Rhythm of Love" (from 9012Live - Edmonton '84)
...and they're nice to have, certainly, but I think it would have been possible and also desirable to include something from that tour which technically had never been released before, such as a recording of "Hearts."  We know there is audio of complete shows in the archives, even though it's very likely it will simply remain there.  I also think it's entirely reasonable to state that "Cinema" should have been included as the first track as it represents a collective solo setpiece of sorts and makes for a nice overture (as both YesWest and ARW amply demonstrated in their shows).  But I certainly recommend getting the reissue for anyone who's a completist or perhaps has never owned a copy of this release previously.  It's unfortunate that only the original release has been licensed for streaming.  Of those full songs included, I do think the two which are most indicative of the YesWest live experience are "Hold On" and "City of Love" which sound so amazingly alive and masterful in their renditions.  And I will say as someone who has never been that big of a fan of "It Can Happen" - the Atlanta version, while heavily augmented by sampling and backing tapes, is also really engaging.  Repeated listening has caused me to realize that the figure Trevor plays behind the verses sounds a lot like the riffing in "Run Like Hell."

One consideration is if YesWest had released a traditional live album then the solo spots would have likely been omitted in favor of songs and so I suppose given a choice of one or the other it's understandable that someone (like the band) would have wanted documentation of this aspect of the live experience.  It could even be that because we don't see this aspect in the film it also prompted the decision to make the solos the focus of the album.

Given what has been included overall via officially-released sources, here is how 9012Live: The Solos should be sequenced (in my opinion).
Hold On
Si/Solly's Beard
Changes
Soon
It Can Happen
Amazing Grace/Whitefish
City of Love

More than a few fans have also posited that they believe the version of "Solly's Beard" included on the remastered version of Trevor's Live in L.A. album was sourced from 9012Live: The Solos and I will say I also believe that's likely correct.  I've done some comparative listening and it's definitely from 1984 as well as nearly identical in length.  It certainly would have been the easiest source to obtain.  It makes sense from a logistical standpoint but not a contextual one, which I elaborated upon in my "Trevor vs. Trevor" essay from 2016.  But it is one of the best versions and also best-recorded, so I get it, even as it makes the research geek in me twitch because it's not a historically-accurate inclusion.  Speaking of sources, the solo spots themselves are from their June 24th show in Dortmund (which was also filmed and televised in part) and the full songs from the 9012Live recording.

But also speaking of expansions...let's talk about the DVD extras because 9012Live is an example of a reissue which is entirely desirable with new (to us) and exciting bonus material (unlike pretty much everything else having to do with YesWest archival releases at least in the past decade or so).  This is the visual release (besides YesYears) which is absolutely required for YesWest fans to own.

Access All Areas
This is a behind-the-scenes look at the '84 tour, but it's also almost an inversion of the expected format.  I would call it perhaps an "observational documentary," a short film with a particular editorial perspective, one which is rather more frank about the backstage experience (but not in an overtly salacious kind of way).  It's largely humorous but at times that's because all Steven has to do is point the camera and whomever is in the lens is "on."  But I completely understand why it wasn't released in 1985, it's simply too honest about the business of touring and the business of YesWest - if in fact it was meant to be released at all; it's possible Soderbergh shot it for the organization's amusement, or his own for that matter.  The ridiculous and the cunning are presented with equal focus and directness.  I suppose you could say that it does dilute the glitz of what we imagine rock stars experience in that we witness the job of required social interaction with journalists, contest winners, radio station employees, and Atlantic Records reps in an endless parade of introductions and small talk. I am also amused that in those sequences the two people you don't see are Chris and Trevor.  In fact you don't see a lot of Chris in general, which I assume is purposeful.  Although you do get two distinct examples of his drier than a gin martini humor - Chris Squire was the master of a well-timed quip.

The most obvious example of commentary I can think of is the "Meanwhile..." intercut, illustrating that the performative aspect of rock n'roll touring only works as well as it does because it's actually powered not by its' stars, but by the people who take care of everything else behind it.  The fact that the conversation in question is about a decision which one of those stars made (and it is something The Goon did not agree with) only underscores the distinction in terms of the power dynamics at work in this particular milieu.

And speaking of the little people: as much as the role of Casey Young has been downplayed over the years by various people (and then those claims subsequently debunked by Casey via social media) just think about how many times you see him backstage.  He wasn't just a tech, he traveled with the band.  He is actually identified in the end sequence.  So let that perspective speak for itself, as it were.  Casey had a job to do, but don't believe anyone who tries to convince us he didn't work all that hard.

And that reminds me!  A recent edition of Yes Music Podcast features an interview with Casey - check it out (if you haven't already).
https://yesmusicpodcast.com/whos-that-under-the-stage-its-casey-young-and-hes-happy-to-talk-about-it-444/

Speaking of unsung heroes - the legendary road manager Richard Fernandez (the guy in the white hat) is shown several times along with his assistant Mickey Heyes, and these are the guys who really do all the work, along with the road crew, which Steven doesn't seem to be particularly interested in because we've never treated to a sequence showing load-in or out.  It was kind of a cliche at that point, I suppose.  But this leads me to ask...who is The Goon, exactly?  He's a man who can make things happen, that's for sure.  You always need a good fixer on the road, where anything can happen (and frequently does).

Naturally the greatest virtue of this short film is Trevor Rabin: sometimes bitchy, mostly goofy, wholly adorable.  Who wouldn't want to just follow him around and chronicle his hijinks?


I think perhaps the most compelling aspect of Trevor's appearance is his air of Oh isn't this entirely ridiculous? coupled with the charm and charisma he has obviously possessed since birth, infusing his entire personality.  The camera loves him, and so do we.

The Interviews
This is b-roll footage and it's uncertain what it's meant for but filmed concurrently in Edmonton.  These segments were edited by his long-time collaborator Larry Blake (who was the sound recordist on Access All Areas).  I think the whole is far more interesting for what isn't said as much as what is.  But I also think they all tend to come off equally guarded and unguarded.  There's as much equivocation as candor in their replies.  And hairspray - lots and lots of hairspray.


PS: here's a couple fun facts...Soderbergh was only 21 when he directed 9012Live, and his birthday is the day after Trevor's.  Capricorns: Most Likely to Become a Wunderkind.

PPS: I've brought this up before, but recently I read a retrospective review of 9012Live on a film blog and the person who wrote it joked that Soderbergh gave James Spader in Sex, Lies, and Videotape Jon Anderson's hairstyle and that is not correct.  Don't get distracted by the blond thing.  Soderbergh gave him Trevor's haircut circa the Edmonton shoot.  It's positively uncanny.