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Mabel Greer's Toyshop - New Way Of Life

Posted on March 18, 2015 at 2:50 AM

The band that would become Yes return after 45 years

And here’s a blast from the past – in more ways than one. For starters, a quick google of the name Mabel Greer reveals scant information; rather an traditional old fashioned moniker of which there seem to be very few about these days. Sounds like the name of a gingerbread shop in Grasmere, or wasn’t that Sarah Nelson? Then there’s the band of course, with the ‘Toyshop’ appendage, about which plenty of information can be found on the information superhighway. Not surprising really as their existence as psychedelic cum progressive rock beat combo in the mid to late sixties saw them evolve into the progressive giants Yes, who are of course still alive and kicking to this day some forty plus years after their inception.

The question on the lips quite naturally is the one about why MGT have suddenly surfaced in a form ready to release an album some generations later. The story goes that New Way Of Life evolved from a meeting between founder members Clive Bayley and Robert Hagger after a gap of 45 years - as you do - pulling in Hugo Barre and Yesman Tony Kaye plus latter day collaborator Billy Sherwood to complete the group.

By their own admission, the album combines aspects of old and new. Describing the set as “A piece of history brought to life by the technology of today” it includes new versions of some older classics which appeared on the first Yes album : Sweetness and Beyond & Before alongside a selection of Bayley/Chris Squire penned numbers plus several new Bayley compositions. They have talked about “authenticity without compromise” perhaps referring to the fact that the sound of New Way Of Life is distinctly retro. It’s an interesting combo of reworked older material worked in with some new stuff harvested from the reunion.

"Electric Funeral opens with grand drumrolls and fanfares and a distinctly metallic bass sound before launching into an organ fuelled frolic."

Lead track Electric Funeral, one of the Bayley/Squire numbers, opens with grand drumrolls and fanfares and a distinctly metallic bass sound before launching into an organ fuelled frolic, driven along by no frills drum and unmistakeably distinctive harmonies/vocals – all doo-wop-shoo-wop and clearly the sort of sound which was so characteristic of early and classic Yesmusic. You can even visualise a promo video, in monochrome of course, with all sorts of groovy guys and gals swinging away with an air of abandon and slight self-consciousness.

With Get Yourself Together containing the line “Let’s go back to where we started” (along with something about engine drivers), the journey into the hip and with-it sixties sound begins and sets out the stall of what the album is out to deliver. The double hit of the reworked pair of Yes tracks offers up an eastern flavour in Beyond And Before which makes itself known as a theme, resurfacing at various points throughout the record. Meanwhile of the rest of the album, the title track brings to mind The Beatles And Your Bird Can Sing and the seven minute mainly instrumental Oceans offers up something more experimental, not least of which are the strangely impromptu vocal noises.

There may well be fans who will find the re-emergence of Mabel Greer’s Toyshop ever so slightly confusing. Not to begrudge the guys another day in the sun after being out of the picture for some time, the album does rely on the appeal of the early Yes material alongside new compositions in a mix which aims to appeal to the broadest common factor of fandom. It may well appeal as a bit of a curio to die hard Yes fans – probably the ones who will lap up the forthcoming ‘seven show from seventy two’ box set rather than those who go for the basic two disc compilation. However, it’s no more of a curio than the Trevor Rabin inspired AOR version Yes which returned in the in the mid eighties after their sad implosion into the other curio in the short lived Buggles led version of Yes in 1979/80.

It turned out to be a surprisingly enjoyable listen as sharing Billy Sherwood’s thoughts, it was easy to be sceptical and initial expectation wasn’t particularly high. All goes to show that there’s nothing wrong in looking back.

Words: Mike Ainscoe 

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Categories: CD REVIEWS

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