GTR – GTR

GTR

GTR

1986

Arista

Understanding the history of the members in the band Yes is a huge feat.  It’s an undertaking akin to climbing Mount Everest, winning twenty-two medals at the Olympics, or eating twelve Ludicrous wings on the Jersey Shore (haven’t we all tried by now?).  Really, go read the Wikipedia page for Yes; it’s like reading friggen’ War and Peace.  So, instead, I’ll give you a slipshod summary: since their inception, Yes has had about twenty different members, and they’ve been connected other bands such as Asia, The Buggles, King Crimson, Genesis, Led Zeppelin, the Plastic Ono Band, David Bowie, the Strawbs, and so many others.  GTR, however, is one of the lesser known connections, lasting only for this one album.

Formed by Steve Howe (of Yes and Asia) and Steve Hackett (of Genesis), GTR made its debut as a supergroup in ’86, with the hit “When the Heart Rules the Mind.”  This supergroup also consisted of Phil Spalding (who’s worked with Elton John, Mick Jagger, and Kylie Minogue), Jonathan Mover (I don’t even know where to start with his list… Alice Cooper, They Might Be Giants, Peter Frampton), and Max Bacon (who was, well, he was a milkman).  It’s Bacon’s fantastic vocals that really propel “When the Heart Rules the Mind,” even with its cheese Synth Pop sound.

This image makes me wish Photoshop had come out way earlier.

Unfortunately, that’s the giant plague on the album — the ’80s.  You’ve got lame lyrics like “When you want the dream to last / Take a chance, forget the past” on the aforementioned lead single.  Or how about, “You Can Still Get Through,” where the opening lines of “Stop, look, and listen / Take it all in / Things you’ve been doing / Have gotten under your skin” are even supplied with an undercurrent of finger-snaps?  Even with two Prog-rock guitarists at the helm, synthesizer sounds are a pandemic on the album, with “The Hunter” being the worst offender, having the guitars mixed slightly behind the all-encompassing wave of electronics.  As a side-note, I say “synthesizer sounds” because there are technically no keyboards on GTR — Howe and Hackett used Roland guitar synthesizer pickups to create MIDI triggers, fitting for a band named after recording studios’ abbreviations of “guitar.”

However, with the negativity out of the way, I’d like to say it now: this album is awesome.  If you can get past the affliction of all things ’80s, GTR is a standout album.  The songs are well-written, even if they are tailored for an Adult Oriented Rock audience.  “Jekyll and Hyde” is a great example, with its catchy chorus of “Is the mirror lying? / I must decide / If I’m Dr. Jekyll / Or Mr. Hyde,” followed by melting guitar riffs.  For a band chock-full of mainly already-established musicians, the artistry of the playing is of course phenomenal.  Each guitarist has their own song to show off, with Howe on the peaceful “Sketches in the Sun,” a beautiful piece, evocative of his playing in early Yes.  Hackett, meanwhile, has the punny “Hackett to Bits,” a rocker which has harmony guitar lines, Satriani-like Whammy bar sounds, and even some Classical thrown in because Fuck You.  Even without the two guitarists, GTR still would’ve worked solely off of Bacon’s vocals.  He’s got a great range (such as on “Here I Wait”) and a perfect blend of aggression and melody.

Even with all of the Prog left behind in their respective bands, the members of GTR put out a really great album.  It’s a shame that they only lasted for one studio album, due to a poor financial situation and egotism in band dynamics, because with the success of this album, they may have been able to add more substance later on.  Of course, that never happened, but they still left us with a damn fine album, a novelty in projects related to one-offs, or later-day Yes material.

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One Response to “GTR – GTR”

  1. I will never take bad 80s over prog, unlike you Ryan. Unlike you.

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