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.


1987 Images

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


6 thoughts on “Big Generator by Yes”

  1. Corrections: 1-you misspelled Wakeman as Wakemen in the last paragraph. 2-the group name is “Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe,” not “Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman & Howe.” Note the difference. 3-The album did not take 4 years to make. The 90125 tour didn’t end until Feb. 1985 and Big Generator was released in Sept. 1987. Yes spend some of the two and a half years in between those dates working on BG.

  2. I was the violist in the string quartet that performed the intro to ‘love will find a way’
    Me and the 3 other members recorded the intro at a branch of MTV studios in NYC in 1987
    We got paid $100 each and got to speak to John Anderson on speaker phone and he raved about our playing.. it all seemed so cool as classical musician I’m also a huge fan of YES
    We were told it was just a promotional incentive and an experiment and it would never be used illegally or on the album big generator, it wasn’t until three months ago that I was listening to big generator for the first time. It was the first time I had ever heard big generator I don’t know why I didn’t know anything about the CD – album that’s what we called it in the day well lo and behold after hearing ‘love will find away’I was thinking boy the string Quartet sure sounds familiar and I found the demo tape we recorded and they used it on their album without telling us they didn’t even list our names we were all students at the Juilliard school we just put the group together in one hour walked in to MTV studios and record it several times
    We were told it was just for a possible promotional video for MTV as we were videotaped and that sounded great although it was never used or shown on MTV but what really sucks Is we were lied to and never paid any royalties or any negotiated fee at all for being on this album our names are not listed on the credits It is definitely us I have the demo on cassette tape we were blatantly lied to!!! It’s only on the CD it’s not on the video and I want answers I feel very violated and taken advantage of so many years of gone by and I’ve only been able to contact one member of the string Quartet who posted it on Facebook I want answers anybody have any suggestions I love the rock group yes and I have no ill will towards anybody I just want what is owed to us we were lied to and that sucks it’s a great song and we did a terrific contribution On the album but were never told that we were on it.any suggestions from anybody thank you so much if anyone can help my name is Matthew

  3. Also, I’m sure the John Anderson and the rest of the incredibly talented members of YES would never intentionally trying to screw anybody over there such wonderful human beings and their music is absolutely so heartfelt and pro yet and genius and they just kick some serious butt I’m very proud to be on that CD but I’m sure the band would agree that we should’ve been paid and not like to fight either MTV or some smooth talking Sharkey that want to pinch a nickel

  4. Sorry I’m sure that was a little difficult to read I swear I’m not stoned or drunk I’m using voice text and Siri likes to translate her own language I think she’s from planet zoot

    1. I love that song, and your fine musicianship is part of the reason. That introduction into the song is beautiful.

      Contact the band (without an attorney) and see if they reach back to you. It’s reasonable enough to expect a credit listing on future distribution. Also “reasonable compensation”. Defined by industry standards. Good luck.

  5. If you were paid for your services, that’s it. It could have sold 10,000,000 copies, and your $100 is what you get paid. Session players aren’t paid royalties, as they are subcontracted. $100 in 1987 is about $225 now – which is about what you’d be paid to fulfill a similar service.

    Chances are, it was a promo track, and someone liked it so much that it was repurposed.

    Be happy you played on a great song.

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