Chris Squire – Fish Out Of Water: Album Review

Chris Squire’s Fish Out Of Water album, here in a superb vinyl edition, is a complete classic of progressive rock, in its most creative and ambitious form.

Release date:  26 May 2023

Label:  Esoteric Recordings/ Cherry Red Records

Format: Vinyl 

Chris Squire released Fish Out Of Water, his debut solo album, in 1975. Earlier that year, all the members of progressive rock giants Yes took time off, to work on solo projects. For the sessions that would produce Fish Out Of Water, Chris Squire brought together: Bill Bruford (formerly of Yes/King Crimson) on drums; Patrick Moraz, who was playing with Yes at the time, on synthesiser and organ; Mel Collins on saxophone (formerly of King Crimson); Jimmy Hastings (from the Canterbury Scene and bands like Hatfield and the North and Caravan) on flute; and Andrew Pryce Jackman, who played additional keyboards and provided the striking orchestrations on the album. The results to be heard on Fish Out Of Water make a strong case for this being one of the most musically successful of the Yes members’ solo projects.

Chris Squire takes on all the vocal duties, and the album showcases these, together with his superbly unique bass playing, and writing and arranging abilities. Add to this the excellent musicianship of the cast of players assembled, and Andrew Pryce Jackman’s stunning orchestral arrangements, and you have a very impressive and impactful album.

This vinyl edition of the album commences on side one with Hold Out Your Hand. The song is driven by Bill Bruford’s infectious drumming, which combines a funk driven rhythm and splashing cymbals, and Chris Squire’s rich, deep-toned bass. The complex mix of keyboards is overlain with a bright vocal pop sheen, that has some gorgeous harmonies threaded through it. Immediately apparent is the ability of Chris Squire’s bass playing to effortlessly lead the ensemble playing. It becomes throughout the album a lead instrument, resonant of his standout bass playing on Ritual (Nous Sommes du Soleil), the final track from the Yes masterpiece Tales from Topographic Oceans. The song also features Barry Rose playing a cathedral pipe organ, and such is the skilful nature of the musical arrangements, that the pipe organ both accents the melody and blends with the other instruments seamlessly.

The song segues into You By My Side, which changes the musical mood, through a piano led ballad, that introduces Jimmy Hastings beautifully paced pastoral flute playing. The song, in its latter stages, takes on a widescreen structure, as it adds in choral vocals, majestic orchestration, and tubular bells. This musical scope is a mark of the musical ambition and vision at play throughout the album. 

Silently Falling is one of the lengthier pieces, clocking in at over eleven minutes, and closes out side one. From a gentle orchestral and flute beginning, the song resets into a rhythmically complex track with the snapping bass and flexed drums creating an intense web of polyrhythms. Patrick Moraz’s swirling Hammond organ solo flows through the musical storm as the explosive rhythmic pace quickens. With a stunning musical presentation that evokes jazz fusion, this instrumental section is an incredible listen. The song returns to gentler territory with the return of the orchestra, and the final anthemic coda, which in another musical contrast, brings out a sense of soaring emotion. 

Side two opens with Lucky Seven and features the saxophone of Mel Collins. His signature saxophone tone adds an almost cinematic atmosphere, and the solo he unleashes in the final part of the song is an improvisational masterclass, where he impressively plays with the melodic and rhythmic structure of the song. Chris Squire’s bass runs are at their most melodic and swing based and a testament to the breathtaking range of his playing.

Closing track Safe (Canon Song) is the longest piece on the album, at just over fifteen minutes. It heavily features the orchestra, with the strings, brass, horns, and woodwind, through Andrew Pryce Jackman’s subtle and sympathetic orchestration, forming an integral part of the music. The introduction, with its blend of piano, voice, tender bass, and orchestra is quite beautiful. When Bill Bruford’s drums come in you get a sense of a real master at work, as he utilises drums and cymbals in the most intricate and beguiling of ways. In one of the sections the orchestral instruments and Chris Squire joyously swap musical phrases. In fact, one of the most engaging aspects of this piece is the way Bill Bruford and Chris Squire excitingly develop the themes within the piece in complete tandem with the orchestra. It is an organic mixing of progressive rock and classical music that has seldom been bettered, and in this respect much credit must also go to Andrew Pryce Jackman’s wonderful orchestration.

This gatefold vinyl release of the album includes fully restored original LP artwork with an inner bag and full-size poster carrying different aspects of the artwork. The inside of the gatefold includes all the song lyrics. This is a really excellent pressing. The soundstage is very open, wide, and warm, with a clear separation of the instruments, that allows the intricacy and marvellous tone of Chris Squire’s bass playing to shine through, alongside the subtleties of the orchestration. There is also a strong and dynamic rhythmic feel that gives the music a real drive throughout.

This album is a complete classic of progressive rock, in its most creative and ambitious form, lovingly released in a quality vinyl format. We lost a musician, writer and arranger of the highest calibre, when Chris Squire sadly passed away. I hope this review will encourage you to seek out this fine album.

For more information about Chris Squire: Facebook

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6 replies »

  1. Great review. I agree with every word. I am a huge Yes fan and bought Fish Out of Water as soon as it was released in 1975. Since I was already a yes efficianado, it didn’t take me long to fall in love with the album. I still listen to it to this day and marvel at the outstanding writing and musicianship. Sadly Chris is gone, but his legacy as a virtuoso musician will remain forever. RIP Chris.

  2. Fish Out of Water is by far the best solo album by any member of Yes. It’s not even close for me. A truly amazing progressive rock album.

    • Thanks Peter. Funnily enough, we were just musing over whether we should attempt to pick (our version of) the top 5 Yes solo albums….. ‘Fish’ included along with ‘Olias’ as starters from a very strong period. I think somewhere on the pages I’ve suggested the latter as the best so always up for handbags at dawn!!

  3. A shame he didn’t try to do it again. He only got to do collaborative albums with Billy Sherwood or Steve Hacket.

  4. I agree with all – this is a wonderful album that I’ve listened to for decades with undiminished appreciation and affection

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