Esquire: III: No Spare Planet
A partnership between the much missed Yes bassist Chris Squire's first wife Nikki and multi-instrumentalist Nigel McLaren, Esquire released two albums between 1987 and 1994, before laying dormant until the pair, in recent years, rekindled their collaboration. Sadly, McLaren passed away in 2015, but not wanting his final recordings to go unheard, Squire worked with co-producer Mark Wallis to complete the songs that have gone on to become the band's third and final release, III – No Spare Planet. As with the previous albums from the pair, a number of guests also make welcome contributions, with Lisa LaRue (keyboards), John Baker, Gez Murphy and Robbie Blunt (guitars) and Isabelle Meyrignac (flute) adding finishing touches.
In terms of style, progressive pop may be the best description, McLaren's synth work the basis for much of what is displayed as Squire proves a more than able vocal foil. Often she's the enigmatic focal point of spartan, but excellently arranged tracks. Although McLaren does offer occasional harmony vocals and Master Cassian Munro also contributes lead and harmonies on "Stay Low". A song where Baker's guitar solo adds a sharper edge to what can in places be extremely smooth sounds. In fact, if there's a weakness here, it's that the shimmering technical synth led fare can often prove just a touch sterile and calculated, while at times the similarity in approach and pace from song to song can also be a problem.
However, when things click in place, as they do on the slightly more boisterous "Human Rhythm" or the almost Jon & Vangelis like "Ministry Of Life" (there are also lyrical comparisons that could be drawn between Nikki Squire and ex-Yes man Jon Anderson's themes and styles) there's no denying that this can be an attention grabbing album. All too often however, the intentional lack of urgency leads to tracks that simply drift.
The album closes out with "Heaven Blessed", a song where McLaren took lead vocals and played all the music. With a lyric recounting life's journeys and the joys they can bring, it's a fitting way to conclude the final Esquire album and to celebrate the work of a clearly talented song writer and musician.
1. Ministry of Life
2. She Said
3. Human Rhythm
5. Friends & Enemies
6. It's Over
7. Where Is the Love
8. Stay Low
9. Heaven Blessed
Added: March 18th 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Esquire online
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