Yes, “Universal Garden” from ‘Open Your Eyes’ (1997): YESterdays
Steve Howe doesn’t have many positive things to say about the first seven songs on 1997’s Open Your Eyes. Over the years, the guitarist has tended to put down tracks he hasn’t had a hand in writing or arranging. That’s unfortunate since the initial three songs on Open Your Eyes are excellent compositions, and find the world’s greatest progressive rock band at the top of their game.
It’s obvious why Howe isn’t a big fan of “Universal Garden.” The song, through credited to the entire band, was written by Chris Squire and Billy Sherwood and included in the 2007 Conspiracy Live album. An early demo was submitted to Jon Anderson, which led the recording of Open Your Eyes.
Despite the song’s origins, it’s hard to fault the song. The lyrics reflect the mysticism and positivity Anderson’s Yes lyrics are known for, while “Universal Garden” has touches of string synth, stabs of synth horns (played by Sherwood), strong drums and bass interaction and tight vocal harmonies.
Especially of interest are the song’s guitars. Sherwood has this knack for a layered guitar production approach. There are many threads running through the song, both acoustic and electric.
Completing the tapestry is Steve Howe’s intricate opening acoustic guitar phrases and distinctive electric leads. Howe made it well known he preferred to be the only Yes guitarist – however, the guitar lines throughout this album are effective and Yes-like, even if most are played by Billy Sherwood.
In the end, no matter the origins of “Universal Garden,” the song works. You may wish to check out the Billy Sherwood single version of the song (the Yes bassist plays all the instruments and sings all the parts), as well as the version on Conspiracy Live which features Chris Squire, Billy Sherwood, Michael Sherwood and Scott Walton on keyboards and Jay Schellen on drums.