Millions of people around the world were appalled by the atrocity that was 9/11, some twenty years ago now. Many, many people sat bewildered and watched the events unfold on television. It seemed the world could not take its eyes off the terrible news they were witnessing. Ex-Yes keyboard player Tony Kaye was one of the viewers. He’d retired from music in 1996 but what he witnessed and felt affected him tremendously. As Tony explains, “The next day I unpacked my keyboards for the first time in a long time, I didn’t know what I was going to do. It was one of those things that happened, inspiration on a musical level.” Responding to events with such emotion may not be so unusual for an artist. You’d think that music, or any other art, had been a fundamental emotional outlet for them. Tony channelled his thoughts and feelings into creating a heartfelt personal interpretation of the events.
Tony’s End Of Innocence is essentially a requiem for those who lost their lives and all those touched by the horrific events of 9/11. It is a powerful and emotional suite that is both sadly beautiful and broodingly sinister, reflecting the perceived dark forces at work that day. It is centred on the events of the day but also touches on the response to them, to achieve a hope that peace and calm may prevail.
Keyboard player Tony Kaye had been a founder member of Yes, performing on the band’s first three albums before moving on to play with Badger, David Bowie, Detective, Badfinger and others, but returned to the Yes fold again from 1982 to 1994. He retired from music in 1996, but popped up now and again to play as a member of Circa, Yoso, to make appearances as a guest with Yes, also working on various projects with Yes’s Billy Sherwood. In 2017, Kaye was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Yes.
All of Tony’s experience has noticeably fed into the music on this CD, actually his first solo album. The suite commences with a rather sinister air, set the night before the events, with Tony’s wife Dani Torchia singing the seemingly innocent lullaby Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, but menacing storms are gathering. The next track, the beautiful 9/11 Overture was the first piece Tony composed for the work, the following day. “I had no recording equipment, just an 8-track cassette recorder and some of those recordings became what you hear now.”
Tony uses his music and keyboard sounds to create a series of vivid images of New York City life and a vibrancy around The World Trade Centre (285 Fulton Street) before the terror begins and captures the fears of those on the planes, Flight 11 depicting the conversations stewardesses had with the tower. The track includes a powerful drum solo by Kaye’s friend Jay Schellen, a colleague from Circa and Yes, reflecting the struggles onboard.
We then proceed through the collapse of the towers, with Dani Torchia singing her lament Sweetest Dreams with the music then taking a look at the Aftermath and the Heroes before focusing on the response. “I wanted it, musically, to be about that day,” Kaye says, “but I felt compelled to extend it to deal with the repercussions of what happened. Musically, it was quite challenging to do the battle scene and then the Hope And Triumph, a patriotic anthem and the consequences of war. Ground Zero is the hope for the future, the rebuilding.”
The suite is essentially orchestral in character, played on Tony’s keyboards, though he is joined by his wife, Dani Torchia, who sings on a couple of tracks, while Jay Schellen’s drumming brings in some momentum and drama when necessary. Tony wrote all of the pieces other than the original Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Sweetest Dreams, which is by Dani Torchia. Although it is essentially orchestral, the music does also encompass a lot of music genres. NYC Blues is a jazzier piece than others on the album, whilst there are sections that lean on rock and occasional New Age-isms. The concluding piece, Ground Zero, is a mellow, keyboard-choral tune with a more positive vibe than the gravity of the others.
Musically, Tony’s keys, of course, dominate this release. The different aspects of his keyboard work are blended into the flow of the music. His idiosyncratic Hammond organ sound is present but kept low key, as are his piano tinklings, and the synth string washes that were a feature of his later years with Yes. But the music itself is the essential element and nothing takes away from that. There is no solo noodling, no helter-skelter rock sections. In that sense it is a contained and tasteful album, an emotive and personal observation of the events of that fateful day and its aftermath. (As I type this I am aware of the terrible scenes at Kabul airport following the withdrawal of western military from Afghanistan – the story never finishes!). The album also includes vocal snippets from the broadcasts of the day, used quite sensitively.
Artist Roger Dean has produced perhaps one of his most sombre covers for this release. The booklet itself combines powerful images along with a narrative that allows for a better depiction of the events as they unfolded.
It doesn’t seem right somehow to describe the music herein, given the subject matter, as being beautiful. It is tempered with intense melancholy and it is hard to disengage yourself from the gloom of that, and the subsequent days, all described in the music. But for all it’s pessimistic feel, it ends on optimistic tones. Tony has, perhaps sensibly, not been overtly bombastic and Hollywood-epic about things. These are his unfeigned emotions and feelings, in sound, of a tragic situation.
Tony Kaye, Spirit of Unicorn Music and the distributor 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.
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
Tony Kate – keyboards
Dani Torchia – vocals
Jay Schellen – drums
Release date: 10th September 2021
Label: Spirit Of The Unicorn
A static video for Flight 11 is available to view here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWFP4U46NkU
Pre-order here: https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/tony-kaye-end-of-innocence/