Close to the Edge by Yes

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Close to the Edge by YesThe group Yes reached their progressive pinnacle with the 1972 album Close to the Edge. Containing just three extended tracks, the album became Yes’s greatest commercial success to date, reaching the Top 5 on both the US and UK album charts. However, this success did not come without cost as the complex arrangements and stressful studio situation ultimately led to the departure of drummer Bill Bruford.

Following the success of the group’s fourth LP, Fragile, Yes went on an extensive tour. In early 1972, they recorded a cover of Paul Simon’s “America” for an Atlantic Records compilation album and by the Spring of that year, they were back at Advision Studios in London with audio engineer and co-producer Eddy Offord.

None of the tracks on this album were fully written prior to entering the studio and there were several instances where the arrangements had gotten so complex that the band members forgot where they left off the previous day. Offord had worked with Yes on tour and tried to replicate their live energy by building a large stage in the studio. However the arduous process took its toll, especially on Bruford and keyboardist Rick Wakeman, who felt like “innocent bystanders” to the thematic vision of the record.


Close to the Edge by Yes
Released: September 13, 1972 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Eddy Offord & Yes
Recorded: Advision Studio, London, February–July 1972
Side One Side Two
Close to the Edge And You and I
Siberian Khatru
Group Musicians
Jon Anderson – Lead Vocals
Steve Howe – Guitars, Vocals
Rick Wakeman – Keyboardss
Chris Squire – Bass, Vocals
Bill Bruford – Drums, Percussion

Close to the Edge opens with the ambient noise of nature and a world at ease before this vibe is quickly demolished by a piercing, psychedelic guitar lead by Steve Howe, which is impressive technically and interesting in its style. In contrast are Bruford’s rhythms and a punchy baseline by Chris Squire, which make for a tension-filled listen at first, until the song breaks around the three minute mark with a more melodic and atmospheric guitar lead that shepherds the listener into the catchy heart of this 18-minute title track. Composed by Howe and lead vocalist Jon Anderson, the vastly differing textures and moods are taped together in an atmospheric dream-like presentation, with funk based guitar riffs giving way to a hymn-like section and church organ solo before the main theme is reprised (albeit with differing instrumental arrangement) to close out the track.

The album’s original second side, features extended tracks clocking in at ten and nine minutes respectively. “And You and I” is a brilliant suite which offers listeners a completely different feel than that of the side-long title track. It opens with a beautiful, chime-filled acoustic guitar piece by Howe, somber in tone, but quickly picked up by a strong backing rhythm. Through its four distinct sections, the song transitions from folk to rock to a spacey, atmospheric piece with Wakeman’s synths, Squire’s pointed bass, and Howe’s guitars playing hand-in-hand. Eventually the song wraps brilliantly by returning to its folksy roots but with a differing rhythm to give the whole experience a forward motion.

Yes, 1972

The closing “Siberian Khatru” is the most straight-forward and, perhaps, the the easiest listen on the album. It features Yes’s unique combination of funk bass with more beautifully prominent guitar work, which really drives the song through from beginning to end. To achieve the unique sound of Howe’s guitar, Offord used two microphones, one stationary and a second swinging around to replicate a “Doppler effect”.

Bruford left to join King Crimson following the album’s completion and was replaced by Alan White, formerly of John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band, for the the subsequent tour and albums in the immediate future. Impressed with the commercial and critical success of Close to the Edge, Atlantic Records owner Ahmet Ertegun signed the band to a new five-year contract, which carried Yes through the rest of the decade of the 1970s.

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Union by Yes

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Union by YesThe 1991 album, Union, is unique not only among the vast collection of Yes albums, but is a unique release among all mainstream rock albums. At the time they were recorded, the fourteen tracks were recorded by two distinct groups which later merged into a single, eight man group, with all members having a prior history in Yes. In fact, members from all of the previous incarnations of the group are present on this album save for the group’s original guitarist Peter Banks and short-time vocalist Trevor Horn.

Horn had replaced Jon Anderson for the 1980 album Drama, but Anderson returned for the commercially successful 90125 in 1983. Along with Anderson, the lineup of that album included guitarist Trevor Rabin, bassist Chris Squire, keyboardist Tony Kaye and drummer Alan White. This same line-up remained for the studio album, Big Generator, which also had notable commercial success. However in September 1988, Anderson split from this variation of Yes and formed Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe (ABWH) with former Yes members guitarist Steve Howe, keyboardist Rick Wakeman and drummer Bill Bruford, as well as former King Crimson bassist Tony Levin. This new branch of the classic band released an eponymous album in 1989, which went gold in the United States.

However, when ABWH produced material for a second album in 1990, Arista Records owner Clive Davis initially refused to release the record because he felt the initial mixes were insufficient. Anderson approached Rabin, who had been planning a new album and incarnation of Yes with ex-Supertramp vocalist Roger Hodgson. When Hodgson dropped out, it was agreed that Anderson would record lead vocals on the Rabin-led material and both projects would be merged as a “reunited” Yes project. Union features nine primary musicians (although there is no track where they all play together) and four producers with material recorded in no less than seven studios throughout Europe and the United States.


Union by Yes
Released: April 30, 1991 (Arista)
Produced by: Jonathan Elias, Steve Howe, Trevor Rabin, Mark Mancina & Eddie Offord
Recorded: Various Studios in Correns, Paris, Devon, London, Los Angeles, New York City, 1989-1990
Track Listing Group Musicians
I Would Have Waited Forever
Shock to the System
Masquerade
Lift Me Up
Without Hope
Saving My Heart
Miracle of Life
Silent Talking
The More We Live – Let Go
Angkor Wat
Dangerous (Look in the Light of What You’re Searching For)
Holding On
Evensong
Take the Water to the Mountain
Jon Anderson – Lead Vocals
Steve Howe – Guitars, Vocals
Trevor Rabin – Guitars, Vocals
Tony Kaye – Keyboards, Vocals
Rick Wakeman – Keyboards
Chris Squire – Bass, Vocals
Tony Levin – Bass
Alan White – Drums, Vocals
Bill Bruford – Drums

Union by Yes

As for the material itself, it is a bit scattered and incohesive in the album’s final form, with specific, individual parts being greater in total than the whole. The first two tracks may be the strongest original ABWH songs. “I Would Have Waited Forever” was co-written by producer Jonathan Elias and alternates between driving rock sections and complex, vocal-driven parts. “Shock to the System” is a strong edged rocker, featuring Howe’s strong riffs and a steady drum beat by Bruford.

The finger-picked acoustic instrumental “Masquerade” is a real highlight of the early album as a very folky yet technically proficient piece which shows what a fantastic instrumentalist Howe is. This track earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rock Instrumental Performance in 1992. “Lift Me Up” is the first and best track from the Rabin/Squire faction and features decent progressions throughout and may be the most cohesive track on the album. The first single released from the album, “Lift Me Up” reached the top of the Album Rock Tracks chart. Shortly after, another Rabin track, “Saving My Heart”, was also released as a single as a percussion driven track with some reggae elements.

Yes Union lineup, 1991

Co-written by producer Mark Mancina, “Miracle of Life” has a whole lot of eccentric instrumentation, such as banjo, playing on the same riff and rudiments through a long intro. After two full minutes, the verses begin with alternating lead vocals by Anderson and Rabin and featuring some pulling rhythms of Squire’s bass, which all work to make it a pleasant listen. We return to the ABWH material with Howe’s “Silent Talking”, which features a Rush-like, extended riff pattern and extensive keyboards by Elias and, although relatively short at 4 minutes, this is probably the most genuine progressive rock track on the album.

Union descends to a nadir through the latter tracks, which include the lazy soundscapes of “The More We Live – Let Go”, the Eastern soundscapes and recited Cambodian poetry of “Angkor Wat”, and the pure eighties pop/rock approach of “Dangerous (Look in the Light of What You’re Searching For)”. However, the album does end on a high note with a medley starting with Levin and Bruford’s rhythmic instrumental “Evensong” and moving to Anderson’s haunting but inspired “Take the Water to the Mountain”, builds to a bright climax.

Following the album’s release, Yes supported Union with a massive arena tour which helped the album sell over 1.5 million copies worldwide. Many group members have expressed dissatisfaction, especially the former members of ABWH (save Anderson), as that group dissolved following this album and Anderson re-joined the 1980s version of Yes moving forward.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of 1991 albums.

Drama by Yes

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Drama by YesYes entered the 1980s with a new lineup and a renewed compositional approach. 1980’s Drama, is the band’s tenth studio album but the first not to feature Jon Anderson as the front man, as Anderson and keyboardist Rick Wakeman left the group during rehearsals for this album. Soon, two members of the new wave group The Buggles, lyricist/vocalist Trevor Horn and keyboardist Geoff Downes were brought in to replace Anderson and Wakeman. While this naturally added some “modern” elements to Yes’s sound, the group simultaneously reverted back to their trademark early seventies approach, which overall made for an interesting and potent fusion.

During the mid to late seventies, Yes slowly morphed from a dedicated progressive rock band to offering more succinct fusion rock. Along the way, internal conflicts on the direction of the band erupted into shifts in the lineup. In 1973 drummer Alan White replaced longtime drummer Bull Bruford and, following the release of the controversial double LP Tales from Topographic Oceans, Wakeman left the band for the first time. 1974’s Relayer saw Yes move in a jazz fusion-influenced direction and was a Top 5 hit on both sides of the Atlantic. The group’s 1976 North American tour saw the band at the height of their popularity, playing sold-out stadiums with audiences as large as 100,000. Wakeman rejoined the group for their late 1970s albums Going For the One (another success) and Tormato (a commercial failure).

In late 1979, the band convened with producer Roy Thomas Baker to discuss their next album. A chasm grew over the musical approach between Anderson and Wakeman on one side and the rest of the group who wanted to return to a heavier sound. By March 1980, White, guitarist Steve Howe, and bassist Chris Squire began recording demos of instrumental material because Anderson and Wakeman were so disinterested in their approach. Horn and Downes Happened to be working in the same recording complex and, after Squire heard a demo of one of their new tracks, they were enlisted to joine this reconfigured version of Yes and recorded Drama.


Drama by Yes
Released: August 18, 1980 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Trevor Horn and Yes
Recorded: April–June 1980
Side One Side Two
Machine Messiah
White Car
Does It Really Happen?
Into the Lens
Run Through the Light
Tempus Fugit
Primary Musicians
Trevor Horn – Lead Vocals, Bass
Steve Howe – Guitars, Mandolin, Vocals
Geoff Downes – Keyboards, Vocals
Chris Squire – Bass, Piano, Vocals
Alan White – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

Although filled with extended tracks, this album moves by quickly and is as solid and complete as their tremendous early seventies efforts The Yes Album and Fragile. Also, while all five members of this newly formed band and Eddie Offord are credited with production, the majority of the workload was handled by Horn alone. The opener “Machine Messiah” rolls in with an animated yet doomy heavy prog-rock progression and heavily distorted guitar riffs. After about a minute and half, it breaks into an acoustic and bass driven verse section, which sounds much more like traditional Yes for two verses. This extended track later launches into upbeat and eclectic musical sections with several short leads by Howe, one of which is introduced by Downes and Squire trading synth and bass licks.

“White Car” is an odd interlude, orginally started as a Buggles song, with choppy synths mixed with some traditional orchestra instruments. This minute and a half long track is unidirectional with single verse and chorus. “Does It Really Happen?” starts with a cool, funky bass riff by Squire which is built around by the rest of group. In essence, the song acts as a bridge between the seventies and eighties versions of Yes, with deep Hammond-style-organ chops mixed in with the overall clean funk and some tempo variations during entertaining verses. Ending side one, the song contains some philosophical lyrics;

Time is the measure before its begun, slips away like running water…”

The most popular song on Drama is, “Into the Lens”, which started as a track intended for the second Buggles album called “I Am a Camera”. Squire’s bass rudiments in the intro are gradually joined by keys and guitars for a richer arrangement and experience. Vocally, this song is the first where Horn really distinguishes his style apart from that of Anderson’s and the track moves at a unique pace which is at once rushed and deliberative, really straddling the line between prog and pop like few songs before it. Ultimately, this track found its way back to The Buggles, who released it as “I Am a Camera” in late 1981 and nearly got a Top 40 hit.

Well treated by engineer Hugh Padgham, “Run Through the Light” starts with a slight, distant mandolin by Howe and vocals by Horn with deep reverb. Little by little, the instruments enter in the distance, never really coming completely to the foreground, making for an interesting sonic effect, especially with the multiple synth and guitar licks splattered throughout. The album ends with a high-end, traditional jam. “Tempus Fugit” starts with Downes’ choppy organ riff before launching into a complex patter by Squire’s flanged-out bass and complemented by a Howe’s reggae/ska guitar chop through the verses. Rapid, harmonized vocals lead to the ultimate lyrical hook of, “Yes”, reminding all that this makeshift super-group still carries the mantle of the classic band.

After touring together to support, Drama, this short-lived lineup began to disintegrate as members began to leave for various reasons. Ultimately, Howe and Downes were the last two left but opted to form a new group called, Asia, rather than continue to use the name, “Yes”. Ironically due to their commitment to their succesful new band, these two were the only ones not included when Yes reformed in 1983 and recorded their commercially successful, 90125, albeit Horn’s participation was as producer after Anderson returned on lead vocals.

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Classic Rock Review 1980 promo

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 35th anniversary of 1980 albums.

90125 by Yes

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90125 by YesAn unplanned reformation of Yes in 1983 led to 90125, their most successful album commercially. What became their the eleventh studio album overall, was initially intended to be the debut album for a new rock trio called Cinema, featuring (then) former Yes members bassist Chris Squire and drummer Alan White, along with South African guitarist and songwriter Trevor Rabin. The album ultimately introduced Yes, which had originally disbanded in 1981, to a new crop of music fans during the MTV generation. 90125 also spawned several hit songs, including the band’s first and only #1 hit along with their only Grammy winning track.

Yes officially disbanded in 1981 at which time Squire and White attempted to start a supergroup called XYZ (ex-Yes and Zeppelin) with former Led Zeppelin members Robert plant and Jimmy Page. XYZ did compose several tracks but only really had one rehearsal, after which Plant decided not to continue. With that project’s future in limbo, Squire and White recorded a Christmas 1981 single called “Run With the Fox” before forming Cinema with Rabin in early 1982. Producer Trevor Horn was also a brief member of Yes, as their lead singer on the 1980 album Cinema. Along with the trio, Horn decided the group needed a keyboard player and Squire invited original Yes keyboardist Tony Kaye who had been fired from the group in 1971 during the recording of The Yes Album. Recording of the Cinema “debut” began in November 1982. In April 1983, former Yes front man Jon Anderson heard some of the “Cinema” recordings and was very much impressed. He suggested joining the project as a reformation of Yes.

Rabin, the only member of the group without a history in Yes, wrote the bulk of the material for 90125 and was at first dubious about the Yes reunion idea. He also didn’t want to be considered as simply the replacement of former guitarist Steve Howe, who was now in the group Asia. However, he did compromise and let Anderson and Horn re-write much of the material to suit the full lineup and Yes style.


90125 by Yes
Released: November 14, 1983 (Atco)
Produced by: Trevor Horn
Recorded: Sarm Studios, London, November 1982 – July 1983
Side One Side Two
Owner of a Lonely Heart
Hold On
It Can Happen
Changes
Cinema
Leave It
Our Song
City of Love
Hearts
Group Musicians
Jon Anderson – Lead Vocals
Trevor Rabin – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Tony Kaye – Keyboards
Chris Squire – Bass, Vocals
Alan White – Drums, Vocals

The album’s original first side was filled with charting singles. “Hold On” reached #27 On the Mainstream Rock chart and starts as kind of an upbeat bluesy ballad with later added sonic textures including a choppy organ, a heavy guitar and plenty of vocal motifs. The tune was actually a combination of two songs by Rabin and the two distinct parts of the song are held together nicely by the simple but effective drumming by Alan White. “It Can Happen” may be a song either of hope or foreboding and uses a synthesized sitar sound for the main riff. The song, which gets a bit more intense towards the end, reached the Billboard Top Forty in 1984. “Changes” has a long xylophone-like intro playing a very syncopated riff, similar to Yes of yesterdays, until it breaks into a standard rock beat with bluesy overtones.

The lead single from 90125 and the band’s first and only #1 hit was “Owner of a Lonely Heart”. The song originated from a solo demo by Rabin in 1980 and was originally written as a ballad. Trevor Horn later developed this album version as a final addition for commercial purposes. The song contains excellent production which includes plenty of orchestral and odd instrumental samples above the crisp guitar riff, strong rhythm, and soaring vocals.

 
The second side begins with a track named after the original group name for this project. “Cinema” developed from a twenty minute-long track with the working title “Time”, but was paired back to a barely two minute final product. The song is driven by White’s intensive drumming and Squire’s fretless bass, which topical instrumentation that gives it a sound more like old Genesis than old Yes. In 1985 it won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental, the Yes’s only Grammy. A half decade before Bobby McFerrin made it popular, the a cappella vocals of “Leave It” drove the early choruses of this fine pop song with precision polyphonic vocal effects. Above this orchestra of vocals, Squire and Anderson alternate lead vocal duties on this popular radio hit which peaked at number 24 on the American pop chart.

The fun continues with the exciting intro of “Our Song”, which sounds like a cross between Rush and Dire Straits stylistically. It is the hardest rocking track on the album, led by Kaye’s intense organ riff. The song references a 1977 Yes concert in Toledo, Ohio, where the temperature inside the arena reportedly reached over 120 °F, resulting in the song being a big hit in that area (while a moderate hit everywhere else). “City of Love” starts with doomy bass and synth orchestral effects and is decorated by 1980s sounds while maintaining an entertaining rock core. The album’s closer “Hearts” works off a simple Eastern-sounding verse with vocal duet sections and a couple of inspired guitar leads by Rabin. After abandoning this initial riff, the seven-minute track morphs into many interesting sections, with Anderson firmly taking over vocally while building on the general feel of the song.

90125 reached #5 on the album charts and has sold over three million copies, by far the band’s most successful album commercially. This same incarnation of the band and production team returned with Big Generator in 1987, another successful album of contemporary and catchy with the edge that only Yes provides.

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Fragile by Yes

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Fragile by YesFragile, the fourth album by Yes is really a bridge between its rock-influenced predecessor, The Yes Album, and the nearly pure prog albums which would follow. The album features four tracks of full band performances, three of which were of eight minutes length or longer interspersed by five short tracks each showcasing an individual member of the band. This approach makes for a very interesting and dynamic mix as some laid back and introspective, individual tracks give way to a much bolder, harder, and more aggressive style of playing by the band as a whole during the full-lineup extended tracks.

The album was recorded in September 1971 and co-produced by Eddy Offord, who worked on most of the band’s earliest material. During the recordings there was a major lineup change, reportedly due to keyboardist Tony Kaye’s refusal to embrace the Moog synthesizer and stick exclusively to the Hammond organ. Kaye was replaced by Rick Wakeman. Often using as many as a dozen keyboards on stage, Wakeman added a bit flair to the band’s performance and completed the picture of their classic lineup.

More than any other album, Fragile is an absolute showcase for bassist Chris Squire, who also happens to be the only person to appear on every Yes album (a band known for constant lineup shifting). Squire may have been the first to truly bring this instrument, which is normally buried in the low end of the mix, to the forefront and in unique and inventive ways. Although the album was released in November 1971 in the UK, it was held over until January 1972 across the Atlantic, because there was still chart momentum for The Yes Album in the states.


Fragile by Yes
Released: January, 1972 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Yes and Eddie Offord
Recorded: Advision Studios, London, September 1971
Side One Side Two
Roundabout
Cans and Brahms
We Have Heaven
South Side of the Sky
Five Per Cent for Nothing
Long Distance Runaround
The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)
Mood For a Day
Heart Of the Sunrise
Band Musicians
Jon Anderson – Lead Vocals
Steve Howe – Guitars, Vocals
Rick Wakeman – Organ, Synths
Chris Squire – Bass, Vocals
Bill Bruford – Drums, Percussion

The opener “Roundabout” is the ultimate journey song, a musical odyssey which moves from Steve Howe‘s signature, classical guitar intro to a frantic bass-driven riff by Squire to an even more frantic organ solo by Wakeman. The song’s lyrics were written by lead vocalist Jon Anderson and inspired by a long tour ride through Scotland, which alternated between stretches with mountain and lake scenery and traffic-clogged roundabouts.

The middle of side one contains the first two “individual” pieces. “Cans and Brahms” extracts from Brahms’ 4th Symphony in E Minor as arranged and performed by Wakeman. Although a complete left turn from the dynamic opener, it fits in with the larger context of the album. Anderson’s “We Have Heaven” is a much more interesting vocal sound scape by Anderson. Multi-tracked melodies are accompanied only by a simple guitar and drum beat. “South Side of the Sky” closes the side and seems to predate some of the syncopated music of future bands like Devo. The eight minute song contains many musical forays and sound effects, including fine piano by Wakeman and wordless vocal harmonies by Anderson, Howe, and Squire during a unique middle section.

Drummer Bill Bruford launches side two with the frantic, 35 second “Five Per Cent for Nothing”, a wild intro to “Long Distance Runaround”, the most pop-oriented song on the album. The song way be the best example of the band’s tightness as Howe’s bright and economical guitar cutting is counteracted by Squire and Bruford’s simultaneous complex rhythms, without a single moment of confusion. It is like holding three individual thoughts concurrently and not having any get muddled in the slightest. Contrarily, the verse and chorus sections contain Anderson’s simple and melodic vocals over the slow rock rhythm of Wakeman’s choppy keyboard. The song segues into “The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)”, Squire’s official individual showcase, although there is certainly a case that he shines on several other tracks.

“Mood For a Day” is a solo guitar piece by Howe, a Spanish-flavored flamenco centerpiece, which sounds at times like a cross between a warm-up exercise and a heartfelt recital. It is still entertaining enough to keep listeners on their toes and showcases Howe’s many styles. “Heart of the Sunrise” starts with Squire and Bruford offering one last, intense riff sequence to launch the closer. The longest track on the album, the song is yet another musical journey with lyrics about being lost in a city. This final track gives the album an overall sense of symmetry by closing in the same general neighborhood where it opened.

Fragile propelled Yes in popularity from a small but dedicated following to international stardom. The album reached number 4 in the U.S. and stayed on the charts for nearly a year, the band’s biggest ever commercial success. Yes would take a sharp turn towards pure progressive rock on their next three albums through the mid 1970s.

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1972 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of 1972 albums.

 

Big Generator by Yes

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Big Generator by YesThe 1980s version of the classic rock band Yes put out interesting, modern rock oriented albums which differed starkly from their prog rock efforts of the 1970s. Despite the shifts in personnel which made many loyal fans suspect of the material’s legitimacy, these albums were some of the most solid put out by a “second British invasion” band in the eighties. 1987’s Big Generator was the third of these and, perhaps, the most potent (even though it didn’t sell as well as 1983’s 90125) and it would ultimately become their last album to chart songs. This album was the high point of the tenor of guitarist Trevor Rabin, who in addition to his role as guitari,t wrote a large amount of the material, provided co-lead vocals on several tracks and took over as producer during the later stages of the album’s production.

Big Generator was recorded in three different countries and took four years to make due mainly to creative differences and shifting production duties. Trevor Horn, a former band member and producer on 90125, started out as the project’s producer but departed after a few months of the band recording in Italy. Next the band recorded in London with producer Paul De Villiers, with the most fruitful of these recordings being the complex vocal-driven “Rhythm of Love”. Finally, the production moved to Los Angeles for the final stages under Rabin.

Despite all the production turmoil, the result was a highly energetic and entertaining album that was successful in blending accessible and commercially songs with flourishes of musical virtuosity, which was the longtime trademark of the band. There is also a great mix of song styles and tenor, making the listening experience very diverse and interesting.
 


Big Generator by Yes
Released: September 17, 1987 (Atco)
Produced by: Trevor Horn, Paul De Villiers, Trevor Rabin, & Yes
Recorded: Various Studios in England, Italy, & USA, 1985-1987
Side One Side Two
Rhythm of Love
Big Generator
Shoot High, Aim Low
Almost Like Love
Love Will Find a Way
Final Eyes
I’m Running
Holy Lamb
Band Musicians
Jon Anderson – Lead Vocals
Trevor Rabin – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Tony Kaye – Keyboards
Chris Squire – Bass, Vocals
Alan White – Drums

 
The opener “Rhythm of Love” contains some of the best harmonies every put on tape outside of the Beach Boys. This complex vocal ensemble during the intro and chorus refrain turns an otherwise typical late 1980s pop song into a very unique and enjoyable listen. On this track lead vocalist Jon Anderson shares the vocals to an extent with Rabin, a pattern which ids common on the album. “Rhythm of Love” would become the last charting single for the band in 1988. The title song “Big Generator” follows with as a more standard rock song but with some added elements that make it unequivocally Yes. There are low key soundscapes during the verses, the orchestral-hit effects during the choruses, it also contains a very odd, short guitar lead which is almost out of tune with minimal backing instrumentation.

“Shoot High, Aim Low” was one of the first songs recorded for the album while Horn was still the producer in Italy. This is a well-crafted and accessible for a slow and dramatic tune, held together by a crisp and steady beat by drummer Alan White and accented by some lead keyboard riffs by Tony Kaye. The 7-minute song never really breaks out of its original pattern, in vast contrast to much by Yes through their career. Still, it never lags or drags due to some interesting counter riffs of flamenco guitar and lead vocals which literally trade lines during the verses. “Almost Like Love” finishes off the first side with a foray into the world party rock, as a strong and fast, upbeat tune with brass accents and a clear hook.

“Love Will Find a Way” is a solo composition by Rabin which he had originally written for Stevie Nicks before deciding to use it on this Yes album. It starts with a string quartet intro before breaking into a crisp rock guitar riff. It is a very accessible and radio-friendly pop song with Rabin firmly in the lead vocally aside form a counter-post-chorus with Anderson offering a alternate take on the hook. The ballad “Final Eyes” is the best song on the Big Generator. It begins with a heavily effect-driven choppy guitar riff before breaking into the main 12-string acoustic riff in a beautifully blended transition. Starting with excellent lead vocals by Anderson, everything on this song is melodic and romantic with just the right proportions of sonic decor in differing parts to keep it fresh and exciting throughout. There is just a short bit of new age lull at about the 5 minute mark, which may seem out-of place until the song reprises strongly about 30 seconds later to a climatic finish which dissolves into a rather upbeat acoustic solo fade-out.

“I’m Running” begins with a crisp bass riff by Chris Squire, building with Caribbean beats and overtones make for an interesting intro. A marimba-led verse leads into lots of different sections where the band seems to attempt a reprise of their prog-rock past. However, this may be a bit superfluous as they are repeated in differing lights and the song ends up too long by perhaps two minutes. “Holy Lamb (Song for Harmonic Convergence)” is a solo composition by Anderson which is melodic and pleasant enough but a bit of a letdown as a quasi-religious ballad to conclude the album, leaving the listener a bit unsatisfied in the climax.

After Big Generator, the personnel shifts continued with the group actually splitting in two when Anderson organized a reunion project with three former members of Yes from the 1970s with the short-lived group Anderson, Bruford, Wakemen & Howe, who released a single studio album in 1989. However, these two factions united for a one-of-a-kind Yes album in 1991 called Union which included eight members of Yes from previous eras.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of 1987 albums.

 

The Yes Album by Yes

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There are certain albums that have undoubtedly broken through to establish new rules of rock n’ roll and are, therefore immortally classics. Then there are some albums that seem to have missed a great opportunity to become such a classic. The Yes Album by Yes, seems to straddle the line between these two possibilities as it falls just a few feet shy of being a top level rock n’ roll classic. Nonetheless, this is truly a great rock album.

When listening to this album, there are certain awe-inspiring moments where you can’t help but marvel at the sure technical talent of this band. To a lesser extent, there are the moments of over-indulgence and repetition that give The Yes Album a certain “not quite completed” vibe that leaves the slight, regrettable aftertaste of “could-have-been”.

This duality is immediate right up front with the opener “Yours Is No Disgrace”. This is a song that very well may have been considered one of the best ever, if it would have only been arranged better and finished. The simple riff that rips the song into being, grabs you right up front, with a shot of rock adrenaline and prog intellect, but it dissolves all too soon into a calm, droning, harmonized chant of the mundane and simple lyric line. Then the song picks up again and does enter some very interesting musical passages, only to return the drab vocals in just a slightly varied fashion. It is like someone in the band dug the Beatles’ infamous “You Know My Name (Look Up My Number)” and wanted to do their own, updated version of that ill-fated experiment.
 


The Yes Album by Yes
Released: February 19, 1971 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Yes and Eddie Offord
Recorded: Advision Studios, London, October-November, 1970
Side One Side Two
  Yours Is No Disgrace
  The Clap
  Starship Trooper
 I’ve Seen All Good People
 The Venture
 Perpetual Change
Group Musicians
 Jon Anderson – Vocals
Steve Howe – Guitars, Vachalia, Vocals
Tony Kaye – Piano, Organ, Synths
Chris Squire – Bass, Vocals
Bill Bruford – Drums, Percussion  

 

The Yes Album introduces us to a new band member, guitarist Steve Howe, perhaps the one member most responsible for the band’s phenomenal success over the coming years. Howe’s live acoustic instrumental “The Clap”, an impressive showcase that uniquely fuses classical with blue-grass, is unfortunately mis-placed in the song sequence as the second song on Side One, a side that concludes with the first of two multi-part suites on the album, “Starship Trooper”.

With each of its three sections written by a different individual member (“Life Seeker” by vocalist Jon Anderson, “Disillusion” by bassist Chris Squire, “Wurm” by Howe), the song easily and pleasantly moves from one part to another. “Life Seeker” is a tension-filled rock segment that contains some of the earliest use of a quality flange effect, which is re-introduced in the concluding instrumental section “Wurm”. In between is an interesting break with acoustic and bass, and well-harmonized vocals.
 

 
The second side of the album opens with the second suite “I’ve Seen All Good People”, a two-part, quasi-hippie “get together” type song that first starts with an a capella vocal preview of Squire’s straight-rocking end part “All Good People”, which follows the melodic, acoustic-driven “Your Move”, written by Anderson and featuring a folksy recorder played by Colin Goodring (you may recognize this part being played in recent credit card commercials).

Compared to the other, more interesting parts of this album, “A Venture” is anything but – being just a straight-forward almost formulaic pop song that relies heavily on the keyboards on Tony Kaye, who would be replaced following this album by the more dynamic Rick Wakeman.

Kaye also plays a big part in the finale “Perpetual Change”, and entertaining extended piece that previews some of the fine material to come in the following year with the pair of excellent albums Fragile and Close to the Edge, ending The Yes Album on a strong note.

Even though it falls just a bit short of being a bona fide classic, there is no doubt that this is an important album in the history of progressive rock.

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1971 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 40th anniversay of 1971 albums.