by Geoff Bailie
For a retired musician, Tony Kaye has been very active in recent years. 2021 marks 50 years since he left Yes, to further his career playing keyboards for Badger, David Bowie, Badfinger and Detective, before rejoining the band for the 90125, Big Generator, Union and Talk albums and tours. Retirement has included contributing to a range of tribute albums, which led to 5 studio albums with Billy Sherwood in Circa: and a further one in spin-off band Yoso. Yes fans were also delighted that, as a founding member, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and joined the Yes50 tour, coming on stage to play the encore tracks. Unlike many fellow Yes members, Kaye has never released a solo album (despite an abandoned attempt in the late 1980s with Lee Abrams) but the combination of a piece of music written in the aftermath of 9/11, the global lockdown and the forthcoming 20th anniversary of the events that inspired the music, have resulted in End of Innocence being released in September 2021.
With a Roger Dean album cover, (coming full circle from the Badger – One Live Badger album) this mostly instrumental album is a journey through the events that led to 9/11, the day itself and the aftermath, accompanied by sound effects and audio footage from the period. In recent interviews Kaye has said that his inspirations/ influences have more been from the Vangelis style improvisational instrumental approach rather than a Wakeman-like classical/ orchestral compositional approach. The CD comes with a booklet that contains a narrative for each track, explaining the concept and context it is illustrating. The music is very much an immersive experience, best listened to, in my opinion, in a single sitting for the full effect.
The origin of the album is when Kaye watched the events of 9/11 unfold, and was inspired to get his keyboards out and pour his experience and the emotions raised into the music. A 45-minute early version of the piece originally appeared on YouTube, but his lockdown work added a further 30 minutes to this varied, at times dark but at times beautiful music.
Kaye’s wife, singer-songwriter Daniela Torchia opens the album with a haunting “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” before “NYC Blues” and “285 Fulton Street” take us to the streets of the city itself, with Kaye’s bluesy piano and organ reflecting the ordinariness of life before the attacks. The intensity rises with a beautiful, affecting piano and keyboard piece called “Let’s Roll,” that leads us to “Tug of War” and “Flight 11” – the latter featuring current Yes touring member Jay Schellen on drums, in an intense piece that suggests elements of the “Gates of Delirium” and the “Ritual” drum solo.
The vocal center of the album, “Sweetest Dreams,” sung by Torchia is a tribute to the first responders on the day. “Heroes”, “The Battle”, and “Hope & Happiness” illustrate the subsequent activity to bring closure to such a tragic event and Kaye’s compositional and performance skills bring themes and melodies that closely align to the narrative before the reflective “Ground Zero”’s choral tones bring the piece to a close.
Pictures say a thousand words, and that’s equally the case for music. In this release of End of Innocence, Kaye has demonstrated that his compositional skills and his playing chops are still intact and as a debut solo album from a musician who first appeared on record in 1967, it’s a great start… or end… who knows!
End Of Innocence Track Listing:
1. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star/Twilight Time
2. 911 Overture
3. NYC Blues
4. Battle Cry
5. 285 Fulton Street
6. Let’s Roll
7. Tug of War
8. Flight 11
9. Towers Fall
10. Sweetest Dreams
13. The Battle
14. Hope and Triumph
16. Ground Zero
Produced by Tony Kaye
All tracks composed by Tony Kaye except Sweetest Dreams by Dani Torchia.
Tony Kaye, Spirit of Unicorn Music and Cherry Red Records are donating 10% of all profits from End of Innocence to https://www.garysinisefoundation.org/ The charity supports veterans, defenders and first responders in times of hardship.