Fish Out Of Water was Chris Squire's one-and-only*
solo recording outside of his membership in the progressive rock band Yes. It is considered by many fans (including myself) to be the
best of the solo recordings that grew out of Yes' short hiatus between Relayer and Going For The One, which include:
Despite being a "solo record", Fish features Yes alumni Bill Bruford on drums and Patrick Moraz on keyboards. The album is in many ways similar to other Yes records, and it's easy to hear how Squire influenced their sound. The highlight (IMO) is the jazzy extended piece "Silently Falling", which begins with a lovely woodwind arrangement and progresses into an amazing instrumental in which Squire and Moraz unleash incredible solos. The album features arrangements with a small orchestra, creating a lush, complex, and well-crafted sound. The album was recorded in Surrey and London in the Spring and Summer of 1975, and released later that same year on Atlantic Records.
The album clocks in at 42:30 with five songs, all composed by Squire:
- Hold Out Your Hand (4:13)
- You By My Side (5:00)
- Silently Falling (11:27)
- Lucky Seven (6:54)
- Safe (Canon Song) (14:56)
The album begins with the stately "Hold Out Your Hand", featuring Squire's excellent singing voice and adventuresome bass playing carrying the melody while the pipe organ and electric piano provide most of the sonic background and a nice solo in the bridge.
This leads into the oddly sing-song-ish "You By My Side". The lyrics are a bit saccharine ("You know I love ya, I can't be without ya") and quite out of step with the rest of the record. The song drags a bit and seems like filler for the record, though the orchestral arrangement in toward the end is enjoyable enough.
Thankfully, this leads into "Silently Falling", the album highlight. It starts off with a quiet woodwind arrangement of with flutes and oboe strongly reminiscent of Igor Stravinsky's Le sacre du printemps, which then leads into a nice flute solo by Jimmy Hastings. Squire's voice and bass then come in, and the piece grows in volume and tempo until the instrumental section begins at around 3:30. This features an amazing keyboard solo by Patrick Moraz, and a great rhythm backing by Squire on bass and Bruford on drums. This instrumental frenzy lasts for three minutes, and closes with Squire taking over the solo.
Frankly, this is some of the best Yes-related music from any members of the band, period. Certainly one of the best moments of the record, if not Squire's entire catalog. The section ends abruptly, with a return to the introduction figure followed by a slow refrain of "Silently falling, silently falling" for the remainder of the piece, backed by full orchestra.
"Lucky seven" is darkly funky and jazzy sounding. It features a prominent saxophone line by Mel Collins, and sparse string backing during the bridge. Toward the end, Collins takes over again with an excellent soprano saxophone solo, and quietly fades into the next song....
"Safe (Canon song)" is the longest piece on the album, and the one in which the orchestration plays the most prominent part. As one would expect from the title, a large part of the song is arranged in the form of a canon in which the various sections of the orchestra repeat the central melodic figure while Squire plays a separate rhythmic line underneath. It's quite interesting, though I think the strongest parts of the song are the verses and vocal sections. The song ends with an interesting, almost ambient twist: after the orchestra and remaining band members reach a crescendo and then fade away, Squire begins playing a few sparse notes on a double-necked bass guitar, but he played the neck where the electronics are turned off -- the result is that the sound comes from sympathetic vibrations in the active neck. It has a very ambient quality, and makes a pleasant and poignant end to the album.
Although the record came from the middle of the progressive rock era of the 1970's, Squire's Fish Out Of Water doesn't sound dated at all, and holds up well nearly 30 years on. It lacks the synergy that the five members of
Yes generated on their communal albums, but the record clearly shows what a profound influence Chris Squire had on the sound of the band: his aggressive, adventurous, and melodic bass lines, his love of vocal harmonies, and his complex arrangements are key to the sound of this record, and to Yes' sound as well. It's a must-listen if you have an interest in Yes and the music of the time.
The primary musicians on the record are:
- Chris Squire: lead and harmony vocals, bass, 12-string guitar
- Bill Bruford: drums
- Patrick Moraz: keyboards
- Jimmy Hastings: flute
- Mel Collins: saxophone
- Barry Rose: pipe organ (St Paul's Cathedral, London)
- Andrew Pryce Jackman: acoustic and electric piano, orchestral conductor and arranger
One tidbit I just found was that Jackman was a former bandmate of Squire's, in their pre-Yes outfit Syn. Jackman went on to collaborate on many other orchestral rock projects and arrangements over the years before his untimely death in 2003.
I can't seem to find which orchestra participated in the recording of the album, though trumpeter John Wilbraham was the brass section leader and was a member of the BBC Symphony Orchestra at that time. The section leaders are:
- Julian Gaillard: strings
- John Wilbraham: brass
- Jim Buck: horns
- Adrian Brett: woodwinds
- David Snell: harpist
The title Fish Out of Water is a pun on Squire's nickname, Fish, which he was given by former bandmate Bill Bruford in 1970. It came from an unfortunate incident in an Oslo Hotel room involving a flooded bathtub. He's incorporated the nick into several songs over the years, including his signature solo pieces Schindleria Praematurus from Fragile and Whitefish from 9012 Live: The solos EP. Squire's sunsign is Pisces, so the name is doubly appropriate.
The LP (long out of print) was originally released in November of 1975 in the UK, and on December 30, 1975 in the US. It peaked at #25 on the UK charts and at #69 in the US. It was rereleased on compact disc by WEA International/Atlantic in March 1996, and is available in the United States as an import. The catalog number of the rerelease is 7567-81500-2.
* Unless you count XYZ (with Alan White and Jimmy Page) or his Conspiracy project with occasional Yes guitarist Billy Sherwood.
Release date and charting info from www.chrissquire.com.
I used to have this on LP, but sold my record collection one year to help pay my college tuition. Oh the pain.