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Yes
Yes

Chez Nous, Battleships telling me where you are, and I Am Camera Camera Camera!!!
Introduction
Yes
          Time and a Word  
The Yes Album
Fragile
Close to the Edge
Yessongs
Tales From Topographic Oceans
Relayer
Tormato
Drama
Yesshows
90125
9012Live - The Solos
Big Generator
Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, and Howe
Union
Talk
Keys to Ascension
Keys to Ascension II
Open Your Eyes
The Ladder
House of Yes
Magnification

Here I go jumping into the deep end of reviewing progressive rock bands. I have to admit I have some reservations going into this, not because I don't like Yes (I do, actually a whole hell of a lot), or I don't like prog rock (I do, at least the more popular groups I own a lot of. I haven't tasted stuff like the Strawbs or Curved Air yet). It's because of the fans. Hardcore Prog fans are some of the most virulently defensive and nit-picky fans on God's green earth and God help you if you get on their wrong side. If you get near one, a prog fan will most certainly do the following Top 10 Annoying Things Hardcore Prog Fans Do:

  1. They will forget other types of music exist and drown themselves in 70's prog rock, or even worse, its stale, sterile 90's derivative. The worst cases like 80's prog best of all.
  2. They will be sure to correct you on your factual knowledge of whatever group you happen to be discussing. Especially if its some point of obscurity. Prog fans love to show how much more they know about their music than you do. I'll concede this point right now. I've done a lot of reading, but I'm not a lover of the obscure.  So all you proggers out there, you win!
  3. They will certainly defend whatever group you don't like as being 'far beyond your comprehension', as if listening to music was equivalent to taking your SAT tests.
  4. They will certainly deride whatever group you DO like as being 'compromised pop' rather than 'true progressive music'.
  5. They will defend against charges of pretension with statements like 'Can't you just free your mind and LISTEN to the beautiful music?' or 'They're doing something new and exciting here, you big oaf!' or something they forgot to translate from the Borg language.

  6. Hanging out in mall restroom stalls looking through holes bored in the stall walls trying to see your dick as you're taking a piss.

  7. Attempting to justify prog as being somewhat 'higher in culture content' than usual rock music, and thereby trying to place it on a plane equal to classical or jazz music.

  8. Not giving you enough packages of hot sauce at the Taco Bell drive through.

  9. Thinking Robert Fripp is justified in acting like a complete pompous jackass to his fans.

  10. Still hold major grudges against punk rock.

And now the Top 10 Cool Things Hardcore Prog Fans Do:

  1. They never steal your girlfriend or talk about how cool it is to lift weights to Wind and Wuthering.

  2. Sit nice and quiet during shows so you can be heard clearly by the band while yelling 'Play 'Schizoid Man!!''

  3. They don't bogart the weed.

  4. Appreciate a good guitar solo when they hear it.

  5. Are too busy renting 'MST3K' videos to take the copy of 'Taxi Driver' you wanted.

  6. Suddenly become very submissive around metal heads or punk rock fans.

  7. Can explain what exactly is the difference between 'Art Rock' and 'Progressive Rock'

  8. Usually deride Rush as 'second rate' too.

  9. You can borrow their albums and listen to them, thereby saving yourself the embarrassment of actually buying something called Gentle Giant in public.

  10. Turn cool shades of red when you ask questions about Big Generator.

So hey, let's talk about Yes and ignore all those narrow minded hardcores out there. They came crashing out of the post Sgt. Perriers late 60's copy-fest and in 1969 were called (I think with Led Zeppelin) the Great New Hope for Rock Music in the 70's or some such schlock. Boy I bet those critics ate their words. I mean, no critics liked this band after like 1972 anyway, except to jump back on the bandwagon in the early 80's, then hop right back off a few years later and forget the band ever existed. But I'm not a serious critic and don't care what bandwagon I'm chasing, so I'm here to proclaim my love for Yes's music. See, they have a nice heart beating under there, write incomprehensible lyrics full of positivity and silliness, love a good melody as much as I do, and can get down with the get down when they need to. Yeah they got a bit overblown and boring now and then, and a lot of their later attempts to keep current are awful(I see it also as a certain lack of....umm...Chemistry, if you Dick my Butkus, and I think you do). But in general, this band was able to make music further 'out there' in the land of cool melody and feeling than King Crimson or Jethro Tull, and I'd even say they captured the alien planet vibe better than even Pink Floyd. Plus, you can feel that heart beating there, something those above mentioned bands frequently forget about.

 Of course, as my handy picture guides can tell you, they changed lineups regularly, but some constants remain. First is helium-high singer Jon Anderson, person responsible for most of the lyrics and nearly all of the really ponderous ideas the band ever put down. But jeez, the guy's sorta lovable and he is very talented with the voice he has. Then there's hairy chested rock boy Chris Squire, bass player, and the only member to play on all the albums bearing the Yes name. You wouldn't think a bass player is so important to mention, but Squire is obviously a major driving force in this band and has a key role in defining the band's sound with that chunky, melodic, and really fun bass playing technique he has. Then there's guitarist Steve Howe, who is present on most of the band's really important records. Spidery little Steve, looking like Gollum and playing like Charlie Christian on coke, lends his weird, clean, precise guitar sound full of bizarre slides and exciting runs and further defines Yes's sound. Then there's either Bill Bruford or Alan White on drums, Bill being the more 'around the world' sort of technically flashy player and Alan being more subtle and straight. Then, of course, the keyboard player, being anyone out of about 4-5 possible guys, but most famously Rick Wakeman...king of flashy classical (but cool!) runs and long solos. And when you get all of these guys together, well then, they blaze new trails just like they were Scottie Pippen, man!

Being that the band's history is quite long and varied, I'm not going to go into a description of the band's sound as such, but let's just go right on into the records. Let this stupid rock fan guide you through the discography of the Kings of Prog.


Yes - Atlantic 1969.

Two things strike me after hearing Yes's debut: First off is what marvelous players Bill Bruford and Chris Squire are. They fit together really well, and are such standouts on this record I find myself listening for their parts intensely. The other guys, well, the jazzy Peter Banks is good but he's not quite burning holes in my brain either, and as for Tony Kaye, well he's fine for the music they're doing here, but I don't see a lot of bright shininess to his future in the band. And Jon is certainly already Jon (lots of mouth noises like 'Do Do Do Do' here), except for maybe a little more groundedness (state or condition of being grounded) in his lyrics. And some sweet acoustic love songs, like 'Yesterday and Today'? Hey, do whatever you like, lads.

The second thing that strikes me is how normal this record sounds, especially compared to their contemporaries. Considering this was 1969 and aimless psychedelic gunk like Crown of Creation was so popular, I guess doing tightly performed versions of Byrds and Bealtes songs with some extended but fluid soloing was pretty progressive. They just play these sorts of accomplished pop songs with a bit of a high-falootin classical atmosphere about them. Like maybe they all took music lessons as kids and studied theory and all that crap. You say there's some sweet acoustic love songs, like 'Yesterday and Today'? Hey, do whatever you like, lads. And there's absolutely NO blues songs on the record, so there ya go, we're progressing pretty far already.

 Well, suffice it to say, stuff like 'Survival' and 'Beyond And Before' really does work in a proto-Yes sort of manner. The general songwriting level (hey, these guys were young!) just hasn't really come through yet, and they're far from the cosmic wonderland they'd discover and populate with their next few albums. I do like the self-penned songs, though. They're fine! Especially that extremely loud bass on Squire's 'Beyond and Before'...that's awesome.

Capn's Final Word:They're really young and more naiive than usual, but this album is quite enjoyable in its style-smearing way.

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Time And A Word - Atlantic 1970

Messier and less melodic than Yes, and the long solos and overly bombastic nature are really soaking through hardcore now. There's even a symphony on some tracks? Well I guess it must be 1970. Aah! I got it! 'Then' sounds just like jazzy King Crimson! Well, I certainly can't fault the boys for that considering how influential ol' Crim was back on the 1969-70 scene. I can't say my ears still want to hear it, though, or the nasty 'No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed' either for that matter. They're just all over the place on these tracks, and their unfocused wank (especially on keys and guitars) rubs me the wrong way. These guys simply aren't good enough to push these jams beyond anything other than 'jazzy and messy'. And that includes the deliberately-paced 'The Prophet', with an instrumental opening section long enough to make me start believing in God again. And to hope that God comes down in the form of a finger which shows me the all-encompassing wisdom of the Lord by pressing the >> button. Not to mention the (shudder) vocal parts. Bleah. Did I mention before that Peter Banks guy sure does like playing jazzy-style? Well he's just a swinging and flying all over that fretboard in a way that makes me really wish he'd shut up. And 'Clear Day' is simply sappy...starts me looking for a rope with which to strangle those string players.

Slower tracks like the Buffalo Springfield's 'Everydays' do improve after a Yes treatment, though. Jon's voice really sounds great singing that melody line. And 'Sweet Dream' is FANTASTIC! I can do that little hook line in my sleep...plus, those tricky tempo changes are PERFECT. And doesn't the opening part of 'Astral Traveler' sound like En Vogue? I mean before the proggy organ and that tricky rhythm part. I hope this band stops being so jazzy soon, because I really don't enjoy this all that much. Sounds too much like ELP right now for my taste. Play a straight rhythm, goddamn it!

Then there's the title track, which is really quite innocent and silly, and yes it sounds like a Sesame Street song cut from an episode because Big Bird can't sing that high. But I like it too! It's dumb, but hey, it's got a melody, don't it? And it's not jazzy! And I like that loud bass!

Capn's Final Word: Some of these songs kick ass, but there's a lot of jazzy nonsense, too, and that ain't nice. But this is the last time we have to hear of the old, innocent, silly Yes. Now we get the old, powerful, silly Yes. And that's light years of improvement, believe me.

  •  
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    The Yes Album - Atlantic 1970

    Hey now, that galloping, fast rhythm is something I can get used to for sure. And the way that new guy Steve Howe plays real fast and jazzy, but without making it sound so jazzy as to begin stimulating the gag reflex like Banks did. The huge epics 'Yours Is No Disgrace', 'Starship Troopers' and 'Perpetual Change' are a LOT more driving and energetic than most anything they'd done so far. In fact, a lot of this album has a full speed ahead feel to it that I can't get enough of. Commerical? Sure! And Jon is so much more focused. He's singing melodies rather than whatever old nonsense notes pop into his head. The only remaining weak link is in Kaye's keyboards...it's not that he sucks or anything, but can't you imagine something more interesting going on in his parts that what is actually coming out? I can. And I know just the man to give them to us...Rick Wakeman.

    Next time, next time...hold your horses and put your pants back on.

    These three cornerstone songs are all really long, but are well-formed enough I don't ever get bored. Okay, okay, I get a bit tuckered out about 7 minutes through 'Disgrace', but then there's that cool swingy acoustic part and all is forgiven again. Dude, 'Battleships confide in me and tell me where you are'??!? WTF? Boy that Jon Anderson must hold some sort of record for clanky lyrics, but I willing to admit they sound cool coming out of his mouth, so whatever.

    And 'Starship Troopers' just whoops my butt all around town like a well-used prostitute's shoe. Can you imagine the usage a prostitute's shoe gets? Well Jon Anderson can, and he writes all about it in the lyrics to 'Starship Troopers: The Story of a Dirty Whore's Stilletto Shoe'. Luckily, he's also backed by some of the greatest, beatiest space rock I care to remember. It's multi-part! The first part is all majestic and melodic, like an intro should be. Then there's the acoustic boogie part I like a whole hell of a lot, too. And I can even grok a few lyrics in this part, which is nice for a change. Then there's 'Wurm', which may just be a cool strummed chord sequence...but its a FRIGGING unbelievably BUTT-ROCKING CHORD SEQUENCE! Get me? I love slowly building things like that, and this has got to be one of the best. When Chris' bass does that little wiggly thing and Steve turns into a two-headed sex beast of the solo, I could just about die or move to Indiana, I'm such a happy man. And they don't fuck with the tempo at all! Just keep it rocking like the true wizards they are. What a song!

    Why not use one of those incomprehensible Jon lines into a huge radio hit? That's just what our boys did there on 'All Good People'. Does he repeat all those lyrics about 10 times or what? Whatever, the song never gets boring, and though maybe I wouldn't have chosen a Mellotron to put on there, none of the three sections of the song are inferior to any of the others. Okay, that's a lie. I like the 'rocking' middle section best of all, because I'm a degenerate mouth-breather and a threat to all around me.

    So why is 'Venture' so far out of place on this record? It sounds like one of the songs from Time And A Word, that's why! And it doesn't drive, or funk, or anything. It bounds and clanks its way through 3 minutes of tuneless nothingness, and then it's over and is forgotten. Probably the one track on here that reminds me of other prog groups at all. So let's say it's derivative and move on.

    'Perpetual Change' is great as well, but probably not my favorite track. This one does sound a bit too commercial for my Yes tastes. The 'inside out, outside in' parts could have fit in on AM radio, no problem. Listening deeper, the neat mix of sounds from Steve's steel guitar, the bass and the piano may even qualify this song as pretty. I mean, it might fit in on AM radio, but the fact remains that nothing sounded like this on AM radio. Its just melodic! And exciting! And inventive! And is it just me or could this song have ended just fine after Steve's first solo? The rest of it is a bit superfluous, but then again I'm always hospitable to a good Steve Howe solo.

    Capn's Final Word: If you don't own it, what the hell? Did you eat a bunch of paint chips as a kid or what? It's not flawless, but gosh darn it its FUN! What a fantastic record, probably one of the 2 or 3 the best 'poppy' art rock albums of all time.

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    Alex Fant     Your Rating: A
    Any Short Comments?: This album represents a nice combination of the long, extravagent Yes and the more condensed, "music for the masses" Yes, and in my mind it works out perfectly. The outstanding highlights on this great album have to be Yours is no disgrace, with its almost danceable bass (How about that, danceable Yes?), Starship troopers and Perpetual Change.

     


    Fragile - Atlantic 1971.

    All the parts are in place now and it's time to start selling out and dropping all these dumb long complicated songs. Nope! Huh? They sold out and played further out, busier and harder than ever before, that's what they did! This album is quite spectacular, and with the addition of maybe one more excellent song it would be a clear A+. As it is, it seems strangely lacking, even with the classic, nearly perfect tracks it does have.

    Like 'Roundabout'...you ever hear that one? If you haven't there's very little I can say except it rocks harder than is recommended by the USDA, is busier than a 13 year old boy with a Hustler, and has more parts than that chick you picked up at Applebee's last March. And for once, the solos are truly part of one glorious whole. I get a feeling like the band is just one, many-armed ball of musician flesh rolling through the sky and playing all those cool drum/bass/key/guitar parts all by itself. These guys mesh so well together...apparently that Kaye guy was really holding them all back. The next epic, 'South Side of the Sky' is much the same sort of bitch, except a lot more focused and 'of a piece' than Roundabout. While 'Roundabout' had all these different parts that totally didn't seem like they matched but did, 'Sky's parts don't match each other much at all. The hard parts are rough, grating, and jerky. The soft section has some great, beautiful vocal harmony parts that no humans could do on stage. Matched with Wakeman's classical piano, this part approaches nirvana. Though a bit more melody and a bit less grind might push this up to the 'classic' rating rather than the 'really cool' one, its welcome here. The finishing 'Heart of the Sunrise' is such a King Crimson rip I can hardly keep from wondering where Greg Lake's vocals are...but its a fine rip-off nonetheless. I've ingested enough 11 minute versions of KC songs that I do wonder when the 'light' section of the song is supposed to begin like it always did on Court of the Crimson King. Then, miracle of miracles, there it is. And it's a winner. Overblown, sure....but pretty. Yes was always good at making its soft parts interesting, and keeping the neat musical licks coming even when everyone is supposed to be quiet, or even better, getting louder and quieter to preserve some tension. Again let me comment on the 'one-ness' the band achieves. This may have been recorded in a hurry but it sounds like these guys have been playing together for years and years. It's quite impressive.

    The big intended hit song on the album is obviously 'Long Distance Runaround', 3 1/2 minutes of cutesy but not particularly important boogie punctuated by Squire's busy bass playing. The jerky rhythm almost sounds like an afterthought here, like the band really wanted to make a simple pop song and then remembered their mission in life is to push the boundaries of rock and make it complicated. I don't think I really like this one all that much.

    The other 'little' pieces on the album are solo parts, one each for everybody. Squire's is the best (one slick spacerock segue from 'Runaround' for sure), Jon's is a weird and silly bit of yelping. 'Mood for a Day' is pretty, melodic (and not particularly 'showy') classical guitar, 'Cans and Brahms' is annoyingly precious keyboard work by Wakeman (I was afraid all his solo work sounds like this, and was happy to find out I was mistaken). 'Five Per Cent Of Nothing' sounds like a parody of the entire prog genre. But I doubt it is.

    Allright. Parts of this album are simply amazing, rocking, classic, perfect, heavy progressive pop. Parts of it are sort of trashy. As a whole the thing comes across as schizophrenic. Yes obviously wanted to go off the deep end badly and lose their 'hit' status, thus the long epics, but just weren't able to shake that desire for hit songs. I dunno. Something about this album repulses me, but I can't be sure what it is (Wakeman's synth sounds? All the tricky rhythms?). Maybe I'm just schizoid.

    Capn's Final Word: I'm not head over heels in love with each and every track on it, and as a whole it sort of makes me feel creepy, but it sure will make you go 'yeaaaaaahhhhhhh!'

     

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    Close To The Edge - Atlantic 1972.

    Certainly aren't going to find any hits on this record. Separates the men from the boys, fan-wise, doncha think? I mostly find myself unable to digest all of this into nice little pieces. First thing is, all these songs are super-proggy with all the super-proggy cliches you're sure to know. Again for those who didn't study: herky jerky rhythms, lots of synth noises flying all over, so many parts to each song I lose count, and solos, solos, solos. Its almost impossible to describe the music on here, its so damn complicated and all over the place. Tales isn't complicated. This is complicated. Bruford finds himself unable to play straight, which is either impressive or irritating as shit. I elect for the second. Charlie Watts ain't my favorite drummer of all time for no reason. Are these songs just really repetitive or is it me? I dunno, but what I can say is the dark, evil ass kicking is gone. Clear and gone. Oh sure, the atmosphere is heavy, deep, and all-engulfing...but these songs waggle around and don't move my butt at all. I guess I just have less use for heavy atmosphere than for something with a cool beat and some speed.

    Listen, this album is chock full of pretty ('I get up, I get down' is simply gorgeous, but I don't base a personal philosophy on it, and feel sorry for those who do) moments, neat noises, and intriguing playing. More ideas than probably all the other Yes albums, or maybe even two or three of them packed together. But it all leaves me cold. And I find 'And You and I' dull as a butterknife, but pretty nonetheless. And let me say Bruford's drumming is godawful on this song. I mean, stop fucking pounding, guy! Fripp said he was 'ready for Crimson' now because Fripp is a fucking asspimple on the hairy right cheek of rock music. And jeez, does that ending part sound like Cartman singing or what? Not awful, because its so pretty, but there's a lot of stuff I would have left on the cutting room floor. 'Siberian Khatru' is neat, though, with its 'doodly doo! dat doodly do!' guitar part and honkin get down section. And thank you, Bill, for keeping the rhythm simple here. My favorite track on here.

    Capn's Final Word: Call it emotional detachment, because I don't get any feeling at all from these guys. What does it mean? Happy, sad, angry? Nothing...I just feel confused by the end. Not the most entertaining record in my collection, but quite probably the most dense.

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    Alex     Your Rating: A
    Any Short Comments?: Strangely enough, this was my first ever prog rock record. You can imagin I was taken back. I literealy put the album up for two months, dismissing it as undecipherable. But then, thank God, I had a change of heart and took my time. patience is the key to getting this ablum, but when you do, you're in. I have to say this is themost complex and rewarding album I own. And unlike many worthy competitors of the modern age, it all seems like it fits together on this one.

     

    Henry Goold

    
    
    

    close to the edge album is one of the most intense albums of all times. If you appreciate all types of music you will definitely agree.This album has rock,jazz,country,classic,pop. To make it simple it has sounds and lyrics of every type of music. But, The one killer of this album are the lyrics and the way Jon Anderson not just sang these lyrics ,But rapped these lyrics. Close to the edge is the first part of rap ever heard. Then came Debra Harry and High Five Freddy. After that Rappers Delight. These where the first ever beginning of rap. CLOSE TO THE EDGE , IS THE BEST AND MOST INTENSE ALBUM OF ALL TIMES.  


    Yessongs - Atlantic 1973.

    A frighteningly large amount of YesMusic to be gathered all in one place. Frighteningly large. Really good live set, though, and you get all the early 'prime-era' songs you could possibly want. Is there anything missing? Nope. Is there really any reason to own this album except to hear them play all these classic songs in a row instead of searching for them through 3 or 4 CD's? Not really. I mean, some of the songs gain an added edge, but I wouldn't say they're radically different live than in the studio. No jamming, Howe plays all his solos note-perfectly, and gosh...these guys are just too good to fuck anything up. There are the required solo pieces, but I wouldn't say those are necessary listening for most folks.

    Capn's Final Word: Ehh...I really can't recommend or damn this album at all. It has one fine number of great songs on it, so pick it up as a group introduction, maybe....or if you're already a fan. I like listening to it a lot, but then again I'm a strange bird. Oh, buy it...or don't.  It's all...so....unNECESSARY!!

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    "Todd" todd@quarlo.com
    howe's soloing is certainly different on Yours Is No Disgrace...and it's quite good.
    


    Tales From Topographic Oceans - Atlantic 1973.

    Not Can's Future Days, for sure, but man is this album underrated. I can count you its faults on less than one hand: It's way long, way slow, there too much Jon, and it almost totally drops the messy fury of Close to the Edge. Its almost impossible to listen to it all at once, and I admit parts of it are dreadfully dull, but in the end I welcome a lot of the gentle melody of this thing. I don't necessarily like my Yes flailing around and smacking me in the face with rhythm changes and piercing guitar solos all the time, you know? I also disagree that the album is all that 'complicated'....it has lots of different parts, and I sure wouldn't want to try to memorize the thing to play it on stage (could be a project for a 25 year stint in an isolation cell), but 'complicated'? No. Not in an 'inaccessible' sort of way. My mind sinks into this record nicely and likes what it finds there. Close to the Edge rejects me like Leigh Bottiger did in the 2nd grade. I remember I wanted to ask her to the Bon Jovi concert (which I didn't like but she was like in 8 year-old girl love with) and she just looked puzzled like I'd asked her to pick my nose for me. Nah....Tales is more like that one fat girl who I knew sorta liked me, and I liked to talk to, and later turned out to be much better looking than then. Not gorgeous, but all right. That's Tales.

    It's difficult to discuss this thing without constantly referring to its gargantuan length and unwieldiness. 80 minutes. Four 20 minute songs with 2 parts each (allegedly). Each part is too long if you sit and listen to it deeply, but I will say the highlights are 'The Revealing Science of God' and 'Ritual'. I even like a lot of the words (which somehow make more sense this time), though I prefer not to enter into Jon's personal philosophies since I'm not the most God-believin' man on this here planet. But I invite you to look for meaning in there. You may just find some.

    Dammit, there's so much good stuff hidden deep down in this album I just can't dislike it at all. Acoustic solos, nice melodies, tight harmonies, interesting funky percussion. That's what this album is, a treasure hunt for happy little musical ideas that aren't big enough for their own songs. It's wonderful background music. Some of the best I know. These guys are too smart to make something that stinks, and, so, it doesn't. I'd have turned up Chris's bass, though. Just don't expect your head to be blown off with raw energy like Fragile or CTTE.

    Except for singlehandedly killing all critical respect for prog rock, making Wakeman leave, and making punkers even more bile-spewingly angry than before. I mean, it's not usual that one album is responsible for so much hatred and abuse. That's an accomplishment!

    Capn's Final Word: Antidisestablishmentarianism!!

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    Philip Maddox  pamadd@wm.edu Your Rating: D+

    Yawn. Close To The Edge had some beautiful parts, some quiet parts, some rockin' parts... and most importantly, it never got boring. This one is boring within 5 minutes. And you still have about 75 minutes to go at that point! I don't think it's an offensively lousy album - the playing is top rate, of course, and nothing here is really ear-shatteringly terrible, but there are simply not many interesting ideas here. "The Revealing Science Of God" is easily my favorite track here, though it does drag - the "We must have waited all our lives for this... moment, moment, MOMENT!" part is really great.

    The rest of the album has moments, but really... Wakeman says this is padded, and I fully agree. 3 or 4 minutes of quality stuff scattered about in 20 minute suites is hard to pick out, and as a result, I can't sit through the whole thing. Love it or hate it, that's how it often seems to be with this album... I can see why some people would like it, but it's not for me. Give me Relayer any day of the week.


    Yes: Part II - 2004

    Capn's Note: Okay, so this Yes page was originally written in late 2001, right after the start of this here webpage, The Beginning of the War On Terror, and the beginning of the end of my time living in Russia.  Well, somewhere along the way I chomped a hard drive in my trusty ol' HP notebook PC and lost half of this review. No snickering! I also lost a mostly-done Radiohead page, a big bunch of pictures of my then-newborn daughter, about a gig's worth of scat porn, my innocence, my 1908 Honus Wagner baseball card, and my sense of direction.  This here is my attempt to rectify the lower half of the Yes page so all of you who have been waiting with baited breath for my opinion of 1994's stupendous Talk album will no longer have to forego food and sex in hopes that it may influence the Great Captain to once again revisit the Princesses of Prog.

    Hey! Did you know my world famous Russian cheapo mp3-download sight just posted a Roger Daltrey album? Even though the dependability of Daltrey's solo albums is supposed to lie somewhere between Chechen commuter trains and using crack cocaine to cure hiccoughs, and this one is from 1985, I'm still excited! Isn't this the mark of a highly well-adjusted human being? I spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours each year tracking down stupid albums that suck, just to say I own them, then review them and never listen to them again! Do you realize that if I were to grade albums on how often I play them by choice, frigging nobody would get A's except ABBA, Fleetwood Mac, and probably Slayer? This grading records thing really is pretty stupid if you're not a complete obsessive like myself, and the thing is, I find fewer and fewer resources available to me to waste on discussing, dissecting or caressing old once-loved rock albums as I get older and closer to being a cranky, useless old fuck. I used to sit and think about shit like how cool Keith Richards was all the time, now I'm sitting here trying to remember my fucking phone number and whether I paid my gas bill due to all the crazy amounts of working and babysitting and drinking I do all the time. It's a wonder that when I do find a chance to start writing, it's either sink or swim.  It either feels like a great way to spend a couple of hours, just me and my CD-ROM drive, or it's like torture.  No doubt you've read some of the reviews I've written in this condition...they're idiotic, unenlightening, and repetitive.  They feature inappropriate use of $10 words and profanity.  They're darn near useless to anyone who hasn't already listened to the album.  They play fast and loose with the facts as if they're not really that important anyhow. 

    Wait, wait...doesn't that sound exactly like my GOOD reviews?

    Anyway, this ain't about me wondering why I'm sitting in a fucking refinery in fucking Dumas, Texas writing this review instead of lying naked in a baby pool of warm Pork and Beans next to a roundbodied female of my choice, a case of outdated Andre champagne at my feet, the Royals game on TV, and the Strokes being slowly tortured to death by Lemmy Kilminster through use of only a Sears Weatherbeater Marine Battery, some copper wiring, a spark plug puller, and some Pop Rocks just a few yards away.  Or at least working, which is probably what should be happening, by who's keeping score? Apparently nobody here, anyway.  This isn't about self-reflection, it's about Yes, and Yes fucking rules.  After slumming it with poseurs like Rush who've had maybe three CD's worth of redeemable material in three decades, a prog Titan like Yes hits me over the head with Louisville Slugger force.  Yes, even accepting that they were oblivious to their own Monstrous Levels of Pretension, accepting the fact that they had about as much sense of cool as Edie Gourmet after three years in solitary, accepting the fact that I can almost never figure out what Jon Anderson's blathering about, and when I finally do it never ceases to be something childish...Yes fucking RULES. Let's talk rhythm sections...the meat of any rock sandwich, the wiggle in the bootie, the Torso in the Voltron.  Even in the post-Bruford latterdays, Yes ranks right up there in my book with your Roxy Musics and, hell, even your Beatles for the number of times I say...'man, that drumbeat and bass figure not only sound wicked hard, but they are rocking my ass like it was Manhattan 1979 and I was Elton John and the drug was Cocaine'. Guitarists Steve Howe and Trevor Rabin, while miles apart in looks (neo Eddie Van vs. an unholy cross between Gollum and Joe Bob Thornton) and approach, are both able to bring a distinctive style to the Yes sound.  Howe is more woody, more pure 'progressive' and avante-garde classical, and Horn more cold/electronic.  Yes always had great keyboardists, as well, but they never seemed like they fit transparently into the burbling guitar-bass-drums concoction like they should've.  Ah well, let us not criticize...let us praise the wiggy wizardry of the Yesband in full plumage.  Hell, folks! I even like Drama pretty darn much, not to mention the early 80's albums, which I think are some of the best stuff that part of the decade had to offer! And Jon Anderson! Jon! Anderson. Uhhh....Jon. Well, let's just say three things: first, his chirpy bucktoothed vocals are nowhere NEAR as irritating as Geddy Lee's, second, it sure wouldn't be Yes without him, not without all that mushy mystical/psychedelic primary-color gloop imagery (very much on the wane in this second act of Yes, mind you...), anyway.  Oh, and third...I guess he never stole my hubcaps, either.

    Okay, so Yes's later years get mighty weird in terms of lineups.  We begin post-Topographic Oceans, which made both Wakeman and Bruford rethink staying with what seemed like a train careening off the tracks. Alan White rejoins on drums, and some goony, awesome keyboard player I can't remember comes by for one album and half a tour.  The band takes a few years off in the mid-70's to do lame solo albums, then comes back with Wakeman on keys again for a couple of records (77's Going for the One and 78's much-teased Tormato), the latter of which was such an embarrassing flop as to split the band apart again, including Wakeman, who went back to selling his nasty beard hair to South American toupee factories and vocalist Jon Anderson, who went to go cuddle up with Vangelis' sweaty, hairy pot-belly for a few years. Squier, White, and Howe reformed with two guys from the Buggles (who were, as you may well know, MTV's very, very first overplayed video artist) for the poorly received, but seriously fine Drama in 1980, and then split up again. Howe left for Asia with one of the Buggles guys (Tevor Horn or Geoff Downes, I can't remember which one) and sold scads of records, and Squier and White formed the modern-prog Cinema with Trevor Rabin.  Jon Anderson heard Cinema and wanted to join, so they renamed it as Yes again and recorded some of the band's best selling records ever in the early 80's. 

    Siiiiiighhh.....okay, so in the late 80's there was then this big, stupid, art-rocky rift between Chris Squier and Jon Anderson over the use of the Yes name. Jon wanted to reform the Tales-era band and tour as Yes, but Chris wouldn't let him, so they toured instead with the succinct, easily marketable name of Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, and Howe (of course, Squier wasn't invited), recorded an album, and made loads from the billions of 50 cent cassette copies of their album that filled record-store bargain bins until well into 1998. Squier and Anderson made up again and decided to record Union, with both the ABWH and the 80's Rabin-era band, neither of which, as I'll remind you, was particularly stylish or fresh in the early 1990's.  This album also predictably tanked, and the Rabin band  tried once again with '94's Talk before resigning to the fact that 80's nostalgia wouldn't kick in full force and made them cool again until about 8 years in the future, and that as of the Clinton administration, moldy old prog bands were back in style again.  Yes reformed again with Howe, Bruford, White, Wakeman, Anderson, Squier, and various temp-agency types in varying capacities and began to record retro-sounding prog albums from the mid 90's right up until today.  Hell, with the exception of Wakeman's schizoid employment history on keyboards, the rest of these guys form the longest-ever running lineup of Yes. And the answer is yes...I will be continuing the practice of posting pictures of the band's lineup to aid in your ability to avoid all albums that don't have Chris Squier on them. 

    Okay, so before this little 'Here you go, again...' message morphs even further into a full-bore biography of the fucking band, I'll stop and get to the goddamn reviews already...Ladies and Gentlemen, The Affirmative!


    Relayer - Atlantic 1974

    Hey, did you know that 'Gates of Delerium' is the only Yes Epic that I completely understand? A quick review of my opinions of the last two albums proves it...I didn't have a clue what CTTE or Tales from Typographical Oceans were supposed to signify and I still don't.  I mean, lots of people think Close to the Edge is the bees knees (it's rockin' okay, but I still don't get it), and there's fucking colonies of people in Oregon that worship at the altar of Tales from Topographic Oceans (pretty and soothing, but yawwwwnnnnn....), but 'Gates' fucking rocks like Spock's Glock, man. It's a 21-kminute song about a battle, see, and umm...the people don't want to fight, but Jon Anderson talks them into it by threatening to say things like 'Power spent passion bespoils our soul receiver' and 'CHA CHA CHAAAAA CHA CHA!!!' until they submit.  And they must've had some training with some Iraqi guerilla insurgents or something, 'cause they fight like little Bjorks out there and end up kicking some major ASS...of whoever it is they happen to be fighting.  Orcs, maybe...barbarians, Chinese people...hell, it could be Girl Scouts for all I know, but they wipe the fucking floor with 'em, anyway.  And how can I tell? Because the music goes from being all stately and valorious to being violent and LOUD, because, as you know, there's nothing louder than a Girl Scout getting her guts stomped out by some war-crazed fascist peasant who's fallen under the spell of some bloodthirsty dictator who tells everyone the enemy is the Man, busily Keepin' the Good Man Down? Nobody, folks.  Anyway, there's some wicked-thick prog composition going on here, and even though drummer Alan White is closer to Marky Ramone than Bill Bruford, there's some mighty heated passages to be found 'round about the 8:30 mark or so.  The closing 'Soon Oh Soon' section is....shockingly!...beautiful. 'Gates' begins somewhere, takes an interesting, often scary ride around, and ends up somewhere completely different, and that's pretty impressive. I'd even go so far to say that 'Gates' is minimally boring, as little as could be expected anyway, especially considering how long it is.  Sure, parts of it are dull, but more often parts are more frenetically inspirational than a Alka-Seltzer enema, and they rock. Very. Hard. Heh....

    The second half threatens to continue the onslaught of face-melting madness, and succeeds for awhile as 'Sound Chaser' channels King Crimson at their most jazzy-messy before sliding off the edge of the Table of Eccentricity and going SPLAT right in the middle of the Floor of Incoherence,  spraying Buttery Spread of Overcompensation all over the Lineoleum of Melodic Bankruptcy.  But 'Chaser' is nothing if not spastic, and it's still neato to hear just how far out on the progressive string Yes are able to spin themselves. It almost sounds as if the instruments are having their way with the band, rather than the other way 'round, as it was on the super-controlled, supertight work that filled up Yessongs. It's a shame that there's enough stupid synth noises to make prog's worst enemy point fingers and laugh, but for me, I think the chaotic goodness is just right.  Until the horrific 'CHA CHA CHAAAA CHA CHA!!!!' screams that veritably yank my soul from its moorings and tears of sadness from my eyes, that is.  Right then the song is just godawful and about the most repulsive thing in the Yes catalog outside of the Union album. But it gets better again.

    'To Be Over', a lighthearted singer-songwriterish ballad bloated to a perverse nine minute snorefest by the band, can be admired for the nice singing and steel guitar parts and ignored for just about everything else.  Coming after the fucking war and ensuing time of anarchy, this sweet little bit of progressive-rock honky tonkin' (there's enough countryish stylings here to make Dolly Parton poke an eye out) it sounds a bit tame.  Aw well, at least it seems like it has a point, but then again, maybe not.  I'd say it'd have been better if they'd just reprised 'Soon Oh Soon', but then again I think Jan is the hottest Brady daughter, so maybe you shouldn't be listening to me at all.

    Relayer is, I'd say, the last time the classic-era Yes band had the balls to create uncompromised prog music through a full-length album. It took guts to come back from the embarrassing Tales mess and still remain just as arty and brilliantly high-minded as they've always been.   Though Rick Wakeman, egotistical sissy that he is, quit like a little bitch, the rest of the band stomp through some of the hardest and least accessible prog music from a band you've heard of.  I place it right up there with Fragile, thanks.

    Capn's Final Word: A very impressive attempt at reestablishing Yes after their fall...some verrry thick progressive rock going down here.

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    Going For The One - Atlantic 1977

    Half a bodacious feast of original, fresh spins on the old proggin-rockin' formula, half boring suckfest that falls victim to some of the worst tendencies of post-classic period complex rock, Going For the One is the last pure shot of prog rock this band ever released, the last one that could seriously be mentioned in the same breath as Relayer and Close to the Edge, at least stylistically.  It's got one of the last of the Mohican Yes Epics, too, but more on 'Awaken' later on.  See, by 1977, progressive rock had once again become the denizen of the hardcore eggheads and burnouts and had shed many of the fad-whores who liked the idea of rock 'progressing' beyond its yobbish roots and becoming something respectable, academic, and embalmed, like jazz had become a few decades before. Nah, by 1977, the two-headed demon of punk and disco had pretty much killed most of prog's cultural sway dead like Liz Phair's self-respect, so it's all the more impressive that Yes was able to keep growing within their milieu even as late at this. Wakeman returns for One and Tormato, but that's only so he could make a chunk of coin so he can mount another moneypit 'orchestra on ice' concert tour or whatever he does when he's not growing nasty beard hair or tuning his church organ.

    Going to Do Number One contains at least two great songs and one Top 5 All Time Verified Yes Classic, and that's the monster title track.  Starting out like some sort of redneck hard rock hoedown all gooed up with slide guitars and stomp rhythms, it soon warps into a sci-fi groove (the slide guitar continues, along with Wakeman's  that has rock like Courtney Love has bags under her eyes. On top of this insistent thump, Jon breathlessly stretches out his phrases beyond the breaking point, running on through lines like he's trying to cram in twice as many as usual. The heavenly bridge section brings it all back down home again and feeds it a heapin' helpin' of buttered soul and love.  One mighty song, ladies and gentle friends...

    The rest of the album can't keep up the pace or the quality of the opener, but 'Parallels' tries to rock just as hard at least.  This one pounds more than 'One', and I think probably the huge church organ was misconceived, but I still find the guitar/bass/drums interplay on this song to be infectious.  'Parallels' is one of those tunes that seems simplistic (the main part seems to hover around one chord like a James Brown tune, f'r instance) unless you listen closely to what's actually going on under there. 'Wondrous Stories', on the other hand, lays all of its genius right out there. It may not be any 'Yesterday', but the gentle positivity of this track, along with the glorious melody unmolested by overplaying (Wakeman's doodling just about crosses the line a few times, but I'll let it slide) makes this, alongside 'Going', act as proof that Yes can make songs that pack a whallop and don't have to last longer than the recording sessions for Chinese Democracy or the wedding reception scene in Deer Hunter.

    I'm telling you there ain't much hidden beneath the rambling, overstuffed, formless void that is Rush Limbaugh..uh, erm, I mean 'Turn Of the Century', a ballad just shy of 8 minutes in length and not more than a couple of times does a melody surface above the free-rhythmic, astructural glop that passes for a musical backdrop here.  God, this song just drips with self-importance and misguided use of classical music forms, and ranks as a space in which not one but two good rockers could've fit.  Dammit. Of course, a whole Beach Boys album could be shoehorned into the space filled by 'Awaken', a 15-minute multipart suite that acts as the Last of the Red Hot Bananas as far as Yes is concerned.  Now, overall I think it's fine, but there's nothing that happens that justifies it's length, which is padded out with too much atmosphere and soloing, and is redeemed by maybe two good, strong musical ideas of a few minutes each.  I like the main rockin' riff that Howe slithers through, and how the drums, bass and vocals play off of the beat as frantically as a three-ball ping pong match. And I'm not saying all of the solos are excessive, because Howe rips off a manic motherfucker about 3 minutes through, but its about this time you realize there's still 12 minutes of song left to go. The organ soloing in the second half is pure indulgence, and the ending movement, oddly, sounds perfunctory and underwritten, rushed even. All of the connecting sections take up so much space, the song parts get choked out? Sounds like some folks need to visit their neighborhood editing shop.

    Going For The One mixes it up, both in style and quality, but the overall sound is one of slightly less ornate confidence. Relayer showed that they could survive Tales and the loss of two members, and Going showed they could begin to update themselves ever-so-slightly and distill out their good ideas from the prog-factory also-rans that choked out some of their earlier work. 'End of the Century' and big sections of 'Awaken' also show there's a long way to go before they're making great albums again, but this one is heartening.  And any fool that don't like the rockers 's gotta answer to Mr. Fist sometime after school today down by the drainage ditch, y'hear?

    Capn's Final Word: A very impressive attempt at reestablishing Yes after their fall...some verrry thick progressive rock going down here.

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    Tormato - Atlantic 1978

    Comedy album of the year.  Man, like watching old news reports of Vice President Dan Quayle, it's strangely transfixing to review all the ways Tormato fucked itself over again and again. Horrible title (a cross between the words 'Tor', meaning a 'craggy hill' and 'tomato'. For what reason? Jesus, you think I identify with these guys and their harebrained career moves?).  Nauseating cover art (a picture of a guy in a suit playing air drums over a background of nasty grey wasteland, covered in splattered rotten 'maters. Now, was this a case of pre-emptive denigration, or what? Trying to keep expectations at bay, or did you really think you were being witty? Oh Christ, trying to figure these bubbleheads out is like trying to fourwheel and read Joyce at the same time). Songs that are too short and slight to be progressively excessive, and too highfalootin' to be a decent slice of pop pie.  Dumb looking photo on the back showing everyone wearing sunglasses and leather jackets and trying to look punk rock while actually resembling hairier, English versions of the California Raisins.  Doinky, emasculating effects on the bass and guitars.  Songs about whales and UFO's.  Man, either they were trying to look like out-of-touch upperclass twits or they actually had become out-of-touch upperclass twits.  Made with the same lineup as Going For the One, Tormato seemed to be doomed from turtlehead to dingleberry from the very start. Thing is, I actually like it pretty good, though probably not for the right reasons. I'm the kind of guy who finds albums like this fascinating. They so obviously have decided to try to update their sound but they are absolutely clueless as to how to go about doing it.  Instead of trying to proceed in the same rockin'/ballad direction that worked so well on One, they just toss a bunch of ideas at the wall and try to see what sticks.  As someone who has been tossing things at walls for several years now, lemme tell ya that most of the things that end up sticking when aimed at a wall are associated with excrement. But unlike, say, the band's horrific ABWH/Union period, the shit here is cute or funny in an odd way, like they were in some regressive infantile mindset while writing songs like 'Madrigal' or 'Circus of Heaven'.  Like they're blissfully ignorant. Retarded, maybe.  Brain damaged. Simply dumb as posts. But not maliciously 'mature' or 'meaningful' or any other grownup crap like that.  The band that made Tormato actually had fun, and I think that fun comes out in the grooves of the record. Okay, 'Onward' is actually restrained and very pretty, a very good song...but let's not spoil the sucky fun. We're about to laugh at Yes for making a stupid sounding album when they thought they were being all supercool and hep to what makes the kids gyrate against one another.

    Okay, so some of the tunes are just too ridiculous for words.  'Release, Release' is about three times faster than any other Yes song ever, says something about 'rock 'n' roll' being the 'medium of our generation' or somesuch clueless shit (the medium of Yes's generation is a dollar fucking bill, man, and it always has been) and it's based on a hard, two-note-max skanky punk stomp that...yup...is supposed to sound like punk rock. Yaii! Yes grafting disco-ey basslines onto fillerish tracks like 'Don't Kill the Whale' isn't quite so odious an affront, but then again I associate myself more with punk than disco and don't much like people treading carelessly on my turf. Perhaps if I were some dancin' queen pimp-boy cokehead, I'd be offended that Yes were sniffling around that backyard.  Probably I'd be too busy detangling my sixteen pounds of gold chains and pasting on my fake chest hair for the big night out to care, but who knows?

    Of the remaining tracks, which I'm afraid aren't generally as interesting as 'Release' or 'Whale', they either reattempt old glories ('Future Times/Rejoice' so wants to be an inspiring 'Going For The One'-type epic album opener, but ends up being the twelfth minute of 'Awaken' instead.) or push into territories where lionhearted men, much less Yes, were not intended to poke around.  No one should have to allow themselves to write a song like 'Arriving UFO'.  Just politely tell your muse that she's wrong this time and maybe suggest she's been working too hard lately and needs a few days off, then she can come back and cough up a 'Wondrous Stories' or something.  Anything but this ugly mess about the sandbox like 'UFO'.  As a song, it sucks, but as unintended comedy it's aces...the 'UFO's Are Landing' sequence is just hilarious as those chicken squawk guitar noises start belching from Howe's hollowbody Gibson like Jabba the Hutt with a stomach virus. 'Circus of Heaven' continues the laff riot as Jon Anderson sounds like his nuts are stuck in a squeaky Tilt-a-Whirl and he's being forced to recite the entire works of Tennyson before they'll let him go. 'Madrigal' is as formlessly voided as 'End of the Century' was, and 'Silent Wings of Freedom' simply sounds like an unfinished jam over which Squire tests out his brand new Mu-tron envelope filter stompbox, and can't decide if he wants it set on 'flatulence' or 'tortured waterfowl'. Horrors, horrors, horrors, but very funny ones.

    Okay, so most normal people will probably not want to let Tormato intrude into their livingspace, and I don't blame them.  Hell, I put on Big Generator just after finishing this album a few minutes ago, and I feel a very culpable sense of relief.  But, hell, I've smiled more during a listen of this album than I have at any time with headphones on since listening to Triumph the Insult Comic Dog's Come Poop With Me album during a lunch meeting a couple of weeks ago. Ain't that worth something? Okay, it doesn't make reparation for all the shitty misfires and out-and-out fuckups that load up this LP, but it's definitely not Yes's worst.

    Capn's Final Word: More than a little funny.  Like watching your dad try to cram himself into his old leisure suit.

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    Drama - Atlantic 1980

    Hated by many, ignored by more, Drama was the one and only instance of a Yes album not featuring "Gutbucket" Jon Anderson on lead vocals. Nope, Mr. Gravelpipes was off making swooshy synth albums with Vangelis, obviously trying to live down the Yes name that had become quite a liability by the late 1970's when more associated it with craptastic albums like Tormato than with modern masterpieces like Fragile. Wakeman, pussy that he is, also quit, but he left to pursue his personal dream of making a billion solo albums by the time he finally croaks at age 150. Squire and the boys, though, weren't ready to hang it up quite yet, and so drafted former synthpop New Wavers the Buggles to be their new lead singer (Trevor Horn) and keyboardist (Geoff Downes).  Now, in case you aren't hep to the Big 80's trivia, the Buggles were the first group to ever get their video played on MTV ('Video Killed The Radio Star, But Just You Wait, 'Cos Something Called Reality Television is Gonna Stomp the Ever-Loving Shitbomb Out of the Video Star'), but they leaned a whole lot more towards the Devo/Brian Eno/Ultravox/Georgio Moroder end of things than Yes's Grand Ol' Opry stylings.  Still, they got snatched up, and before they even knew what was happening ol' Trevor was standing in front of hockey arenas full of tens of thousands of dumbfounded potheads who wondered why Yes had started to sound like the Cars. Fans never accepted Trevor despite his very best efforts (and listening to some old bootlegs, the guy WAS trying his ass off up there), and soon rejected the newfangled Yes altogether, preferring to turn their prog hunger towards such young conquerors as Rush and...*shuddderrrr* Styx. 

    In a little aside, I'd like to mention that the boys had every intention of calling the band 'Drama' and not Yes, but the record company, as they tend to do when faced with promoting an unknown over a proven brand-name seller, coerced them into using the Yes name instead.  So it's not like they were trying to pull a fast one or nothin'.  Not that I'd care if they did.  It's not like they decided to call themselves Credence Clearwater Revisited or something.

    Oh, and they released an album too, and if there's ever a case of something being unjustly rejected just because it's got a few new people and a few new sounds, it's Wild Honey.  But if there was ever a case of a Yes album being unjustly forgotten, it's Drama, which is about twice as good as Tormato and has a couple of outright Yes classics, though unfortunately ones that are destined to be relegated to the Dustbuster of history due to their association with this bastardized record that even the Yes guys don't like to discuss much.  Well, fuck the Yes guys, because I like the fucklick out of Drama. It's different! Ol' boy Trevor sounds enough like Jon Anderson (yeah, I think that's why he was chosen, too) to make the harder, more Yes-y songs sound, well...like Yes.  And the oddball New Wavey business? I say it's either atmospheric and oppressively creepy, like good New Wave should be ('Machine Messiah'), or short and weird enough that I don't much care.  Hell, of six songs, only 'Into the Lens' (featuring the immortal and immoral line 'I am Camera! Camera! Camera!' repeated until the dog is so bored he begins to gnaw appendages off faster than Mama Cass with a gross of Ho-Ho's) is what I would call a failure, as it sounds like Air Supply when it doesn't sound like, umm....the Buggles, but Air Supply that's trying to sound like Yes, and that's a pretty jagged pill to catch in yer throat, ain't it Alanis Morrissette? Hey, is anyone else sick to fucking death of seeing Alanis fucking Morrissette's unkempt, gourd-shaped, naked carcass? I heard she stripped naked on stage to protest something-or-other a few weeks back. I heard the promoters had to distribute free dental floss to the first several rows so the audiencemembers could remove the simian pubic hairs from between their cuspids. Wotta bitch..hang her from a tree!

    Anyway, 'Camera' sucks, but I'll bet the farm on 'Machine Messiah', which is more unsettling than a look at my health insurance premiums - a lengthy, grindingly distortion-filled (at least until the stupid vocal part comes in, but the Fascist minor chords come rushing back before long...don't you worry!) love song to the electronic Big Brothers of the future (and present! Man, did you know there's Girls' dorm rooms with cameras in the toilets? I'm dumbstruck! And what's more, the FBI or whomever get to broadcast these videos live on the Internet! Man, all you gotta do is pay a little 'access fee', and there you go! Girls peeing! Big Brother lives, indeed, friends and neighbors. What will they think of next? A live camera in their locker rooms? I perish to think!) and shows off Howe's ability to solo like a spider monkey in heat while new pianoman Downes comes up with some darn scary synthtones (and some fairly dumb ones, but I'll let 'em slide) before the song turns into an Animals ripoff at the end and sucks for 30 seconds.

    The high-larious 'White Car' sounds like the orchestral 'Anarchy in the UK' from The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle, though I'm sure it's supposed to be 'ethereal' or something, but it's like 10 seconds long so I won't belabor my point like Robert Christgau.  'Does It Really Happen' follows, and it's falooking awresum. Those of you who like 90125 and all the other mid-80's big-hook stomp-rock owe it to themselves to check out 'Does It Really Happen' to hear how this stuff can sound before all the soul is stripped out of it.  Hear those vocal harmonies here and, especially, on the fillerish 'Run Through the Light' (I'm envisioning that stumpy little frog-bitch in that scene from Poltergeist, naturally)? Yes with Jon Anderson would go on to steal those for the next two or three albums, but would never really be able to make a song that sounds this dense and consistently interesting.  Hell, I don't think I'm particularly qualified to determine what 'Down for the slaughter/up for the fun/up for anything' is supposed to infer, but I am able to pick out a fucking cool false-ending coda section when I hear one, and 'Happen' has a monster one that shows off what a rockin' 'Wurm'-y groove this bastard has, and once again shows why Chris Squire is one of my favorite 'muscular' bass players ever.  How Yes fans could resist this prime material in the face of horsesnot like Styx or Toto is beyond me.

    The real classic here, though, is 'Tempus Fugit', which belongs right up there with whatever 'Roundabouts' or 'South Sides of the Sky' that may fall in your Prog Pantheon of Prosperity. Squire plays his fucking hands off here with one of Yes's more memorable chorus riffs, and the vocal hook '...and finally answer to YES!!!' is brilliant.  Okay, I'll admit some of it sounds like Regatta de Blanc-era Police, but I think that particular White Reggae is some of the best music the post-punk era had to offer, and never once do I mistake this stuff as being anything but pure prog-drenched Yes at their peak, and I dare Sting to come up with a bassline as monstrous as the one used here.  He'd probably be too busy picking up chicks in bars and taking them home so his butch-lesbo wife can rape them to answer my dare, but that's what you get when you dare Gordon 'Shumway' Sumner.

    I think it's a big mistake for any real Yes fan to dismiss Drama as 'not Yes' and deny the moments of sheer brilliance that sprinkle through the record.  What, you gonna sit here and tell me that Talk 'is' Yes, just because fucking Jon Anderson sings on it, and then go and bash this perfectly good record for being 'New Wave'? Aw hell, man...Drama's gotten a bad rap for too long, and I'm here to stand up for the little guy.  Find it, ask it out for a drink and thank me in the morning.

    Capn's Final Word: So much more than a failed attempt at revitalizing Yes with a couple of New Waver members...it's an interesting reinvention of what Yes is all about without compromising its principles, much...

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    Neil  steed_and_peel@iprimus.com.au   Your Rating: A
    Any Short Comments?: I agree with your comments regarding Drama... This is the most under-rated of the Yes' albums and is one of the best. This is one of the few times Yes don't sound like 'Yes' if you get what I mean. Like music is about progression in soem way or another and this was a signpost to a new direction that was ignored in order to head back to old formulas. Since then they've been working over the sad tired ground over and over.....
    I have always wanted to hear live material from this time but they've never released any...

    (Capn's Response: I heard some, and while it's weird to hear Jon's lyrics come out of Trevor's mouth, all in all this is as good a band musically as the 'classic' lineup ever was. Get Soulseek and check it out.)


    Yesshows - Atlantic 1980

    The second double live album from Yup, and it serves much the same purpose as the Allman Brothers' Wipe The Windows, Check the Oil, Dollar Gas in that while Yessongs showed the classic band as a unit performing an entire concert, more or less as you would've heard it in 1973 (ala the Allman's Live at Fillmore East), Yesshows is a 'live compilation' that hopes to tie together shows from the Moraz and Going For The One/Tormato eras into one package so folks have some idea what 'Yes sounds like now', or something.  I suppose you could be idiotic and call this a 'Best of the Alan White Years' live disc, but that's like calling Love You Live a 'best of the Billy Preston years' album...it just doesn't make that much sense. Neither does Yesshows from a historical standpoint, but that doesn't mean it ain't no good. In fact, it's a funkier, less commercial set of songs that contrast well with Yessongs' relentless parade of hits.  Who other than the Lords of Pretension that comprise Yes would've included a two-part, 28-minute 1975 version of 'Ritual' from Tales Of Topographic Oceans in a compilation that came out seven long years after the studio album did? That's pure balls, ladies and horse thieves, and if you find digging back into Tales to be a chore better left for obsessives like the Capn, lemme tell you that not only is 'Ritual' completely beautiful as a song in pretty much any of its recorded versions (especially the Nomme Du Soleil section. Here Jon sounds like he's going to burst out in tears as he sings it...who's saying now these guys didn't have any emotional connection with their audience, huh?), the live version presented here isn't even particularly boring.  How can it be boring when there's a festival of screaming violence that occurs midway through Part 2 that resembles the Residents a whole lot more than some fluff-headed art-poofs from the Prog era? The inclusion of something like 'Ritual' reminds me that Yes took chances, and if sometimes they backfired, when it worked it created a sort of magic that really must've been something to witness.

    That said, the 'Gates of Delerium' presented here is disappointingly run-of-the-mill, and most definitely drags through some dull sections before finally coming through on the 'Soon Oh Soon' part that Jon nails.  Considering the studio version is one of my very favorite Yes epics, I'm a bit shocked they couldn't really make it click live.  All the notes are played right, don't mistake me, and there's sections that kick my teeth right out the car window, but there's also sections that just fly by.  Not so of the shorter tunes from Going for the One which rule one and all.  The album starts with a strong 'Parallels' (well, after a couple of minutes of prerecorded fanfare) that allows Howe and Squire to stretch out nice and loud.  In general, the keyboards are kept pretty low in the mix, letting the guitar and bass fill the spaces and give Yes a more rock-band sound than they sometimes had in the studio.  The keyboard solo on 'Parallels', though, is damn good proof of Wakeman's skills (hell, the guitar solo is no slouch, either) in the context of some time constraints that don't let him twiddle for twenty minutes. This is a fantastic way to open the album. 'Going For the One' is performed faithfully, which means it hits harder than Mike Tyson at a fender bender, so no complaints there.  'Time and a Word' is an odd choice from the Way Back When era, and isn't too hot, and I don't think 'Don't Kill the Whale' was chosen as the Band Introduction section for no reason.  Compared to the rest of these songs, 'Whale' looks like the librarian among the swimsuit models...it just stinks in comparison.  Finally, after the breathless ending to 'Ritual', I can't think of a more fitting closer than a stately 'Wondrous Stories', which is downright flawless. 

    Hell, Frankensteinian or not, I prefer Yesshows to Yessongs. This album may have a couple of duffers, but I generally think it's constructed better, packs higher highs, and has much less time devoted to endless solo spots that tax my patience.  The band plays as a unit and lends a lot more muscle to the songs than the '73 band was willing to do.  Plus, I admire their guts. While Yes may not be any Who out there on a live stage (they're much too concerned about being faithful to their source material to really take off up there), they do push each song as high as it can possibly go onstage. While I wouldn't say that Yessshows serves as a replacement for any of the studio albums, it's a nice augmentation.  It shows what these songs are capable of on any given night. Yessongs merely seemed redundant in comparison.

    Capn's Final Word: About as rough as Yes gets live, which ain't enough to fluster a chinchilla.  Still, it rocks, and that's no small thing.

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    90125 - Atlantic 1983

    So my old 90125 review was a classic of Capn's Creativity, or somesuch shit, and presented the idea of Jon Anderson climbing the Mount and having God on high command that he should rejoin Yes and show the world that the band still had Goodness and Righteousness and should play a bunch of Big Drums and Big Hooks to get their point across, or something.  It was funny. Perhaps you saw it.  Perhaps you're able to crawl inside the busted laptop hard drive I keep in my closet and suck the magnetic pattern of that old review off the platter and re-upload it to this site so I can once again bask in the glory of a moment of creativity and originality in reviewing I've been unable to repeat in almost 3 years and several hundred albums of trying.  Or you can just read this plain-jane, normal-style review and decide for yourself whether you think I'm an idiot for liking this record.  Maybe you can just randomly pick a review for something else and read it, because I'll be goddamned if a whole lot of my record reviews aren't interchangeable just like the members of 5ive and 98 Degrees or every single member of every greaser-chic 'garage rock' Jet/Hives/Strokes bullshit boy band are. 

    So anyway, Yes reconstitute themselves after the whole Drama fiasco, this time with an equally low percentage of 'classic' period members, of whom only Jon Anderson and Chris Squire, and Alan White, who was a 'classic' member more or less. He may not have played way back when on Fragile,  but the guy was there for Relayer, and Relayer fucking bashes heads like Anne Heche on an extended biker meth tweak.  They regain old keyboardist Tony Kaye (yeah, the one from The Yes Album! How frigging weird is that? More than a decade after he's booted in favor of frigging Wakeman and they come pulling him back off the scrap heap like Gordie Howe with the Hartford Whalers in the 70's) and also gain new key member Trevor Rabin, (two Trevors having done time in the same band? And not a single Knute? No Orsons? No Yngwies?!? What's the world coming to?) now a primary pop-style songwriter and chop wizard early 80's guitar guy who sounds equally indebted to Steve Howe, David Gilmour, and every hairspray queen guitar whore who ever pursed lips and pointed a hot pink Kramer at an audience like a machine gun.  The band actually convened as Cinema, (exactly like how the Drama band was supposed to be called Drama, but quickly reverted to the Yes), but kept the ol' name in hopes of big sales and lotsa press to cover their fairly extreme makeover from prog has-beens to techy-rock pop video stars. Yup, the New Yes (aka YesWest) is Fit for Radio Play, having digested the pop leanings of producer Trevor Horn, who co-writes almost the entire album, and mastered early 80's production techniques (paper thin! lots of digital-crap effects and more reverb than Bob Barker has pickled dog testes) that make this stuff sound perfect for 1983.  It's not progressive rock, unless you consider slightly synthy, slick hard rock to be progressive, but it is catchy as a motherfuck. Cringe as you may at the 'KA-WANK!!!' orchestral hits that litter the leadoff Bona Fide Number One Kasey Casem Fucking Dog Dying Top 40 Hit 'Owner Of A Lonely Heart', this is one of the most irresistible songs of it's decade.  It's a bit repetitive, but somehow morphs from an industrial drum-solo thing into a grooving metallic rocker to a dance shuffle to a Police-y track and back again over the course of four and a half pop-perfect minutes.  If the chorus chant weren't so damned repetitive, I wouldn't feel bad at all about loving it.  Hell, do I feel bad? Not at all...take your judgemental 80's hating and go stuff it up your A-Team with a Silver Spoon until you feel Growing Pains. I bet you get a Hardcastle (and McCormick) that Blossoms as you drink Magnum's Pee(I), lick Square Pegs, and stroke Archie's Place until you feel Knots Landing all over your face. Fag. 

    Okay, so if you like 'Owner', the rest of this first side is one wingding of a nonstop parade of topless 17 year old high school drill team girls with big, enormous HOOKS jiggling in the breeze, their stiffened, thumb-length Pink Floyd guitar tricks and tanned, lithe EASY DRUM GROOVES being probably enough to send you, me, and Dwight Eisenhower into a haze of catchy songwriting intoxication that comes from digesting too many BIG MAJOR CHORDS! and CALCULATED VOCAL CHORUSES! Dude, as long as you're not particularly looking for anything intellectual or original, but still want to hear great playing and some of the catchiest production outside of a Michael Jackson album, The Number of the Beast has to be your pick. From 'Hold On' to 'Leave It', not a single bad track can be found (the instrumental 'Cinema' ain't much, though).  'Hold On' even sounds hard with it's Def Leppard-y riff and the added bonus of hearing flower child Jon Anderson spit out the line 'This life's not for living...it's for hating! And for war!' Heh heh...we all knew you had a bit of War Pig in ya, Jon-boy. 'Changes' is my favorite track on the record, what with it's tricky-counted intro section which is one of the only overt proggy sequences on the entire album, and one that sounds thrown in to prove they can still play tricky when they want to.  I'm also brought to my happy place by the Mick Ralphs chorus riff that burps from Rabin's guitar like a collect call from the Classic Rock Gods.  The album as a whole, though 'Changes' in particular, overcomes it's 1983 birthdate nicely...it's as clean and neutered as possible, yet it still sounds vital.  Maybe that Horn guy was a helluva producer, except he went on to twiddle knobs for luminaries like ABC and Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

    Hey, d'ya know the Yes/Frankie Goes to Hollywood zero-degrees-of-separation story? Well, it turns out that ol' Frankie was an 'arranged' band, put together for good looks by their managers or whatever.  Little surprise was the fact that they couldn't play worth a motherfuck and were at a loss as to how to actually, you know, make a record with which to sell zillions to the homosexual community and large numbers of witless fag-hag teenage girls. Ol' Trevor Horn was charged with tossing an album together out of their tuneless lyrical mess, and he was at a loss as to how to make it work until he called in ol' buddies Steve Howe and Trevor Rabin to finish the instrumental tracks with him.  The album only credits Howe with some acoustic guitar on the title track, but it's generally recognized that whenever you hear 'Relax' come on the radio, you're actually hearing some weird conglomeration of former and current Yes members playing those stupid idiot synthcrap hooks.  Shocking, isn't it? Still, can you imagine Howe's Gollum/Agent Smith mug next to the glamorous ultrafag boys aping 'rock band' in the 'Relax' video? They'd probably have made him grow a moustache and put on some leather pants or something.

    Okay, so I think 90125 kinda falls apart after 'Leave It's bootylicious drum machine/string section disco fusion, and I can't think of a single reason why Anderson keeps invoking the name of Toledo, Ohio throughout 'Our Song', or how they got those 'Mutt' Lange Pyromania massed vocal horrors out of the Yes band on 'City of Love'.  The rest of the album is so money, but it doesn't even know it.  Or maybe it does, because there were something like 5 or 6 singles taken off of this motherfucker in addition to a spinoff live album and video, a Xerox copycat album called Big Generator a few years later, and a couple of horrendous attempts at comeback in the early 90's that killed a lot of people's respect for Rabin forever. Ah so, the 90125 spirit lives on, and for a weird, short time in the mid-80's, the kids were shaking jailbait bootie to the same band that brought us Tales From Topographic Oceans a decade earlier.  If it weren't true, I wouldn't be arsed to believe it.

    Capn's Final Word: Yes turn a 360 and become bonafide radio hitmasters.  The hooks are sharp and sink deep.

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    Matt      Your Rating: A
    Any Short Comments?: Great review there, Ryan.

    I totally agree with you on this one (isn't that a shock?).  The first six tracks are possibly the best that 80's pop has to offer, even if not all of those songs were hits.  "Owner of A Lonely Heart," "Changes," "Hold On," "It Can Happen" and "Leave It" are just a killer set of songs.  Those tracks alone are worth the expense.

    There are a couple of duffers, though.  "City Of Love" is a stupid pop-funk-metal thumper with inane lyrics, "Cinema" is an entirely pointless instrumental, and "Hearts" isn't a bad song, but it drags on WAY too long.  "Our Song" is kind of goofy but ultimately okay.

    This album gets a bad rap, but I agree that it's great and should not be dismissed by any Yes fan.  Trevor Rabin pretty much saved the band, folks, so just keep that in mind the next time you think about making him the butt of your insults.
     

    Logan     Your Rating: B+
    Any Short Comments?: 90125 is an okay album, I guess, but what I like even MORE is your review making a reference to the banned U2 ep by Negativland.  I read this page last year and had no idea what you were talking about, but THIS year, I've actually found one of the original vinyl copies of U2 (cost me nearly 50 bucks too, but it's worth it), so I know exactly what FUCKING DOG DYING refers to.  Any chance you'll wind up reviewing Negativland, anyway?

     (Capn's Response: Wot? When I still have Melissa Manchester albums left to review?)


    9012Live - The Solos - Atlantic 1984
    Incomplete

    I've got this, surprisingly, but only on cassette buried somewhere beneath a mountain of shit I haven't unpacked since I moved into my house several months ago.  But enough of my domestic bliss...9012Live is a pretty sick opportunity to hear Yes '84 Live In Front Of Real Breathing Human Beings, and they don't miss an opportunity to play both their recent hits and some lame solos that show how little Rabin actually knows about making guitar solos sound interesting.  Squire has a cool bass section at the end that rips through sections of 'Tempus Fugit' and 'Sound Chaser', and those are the only references to the other dozen or so records the band made before 90125.

    A proper review will follow. I suppose it won't be much longer than this, so I'll go ahead an assign a grade based on my fractured memory of listening to this in the car about a year and a half ago while my wife was having a haircut

    C-.

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    Big Generator - Atlantic 1987

    So it's a crass attempt to remake 90125 for more Radio Chart Big Hit Action, wanna make somethin' of it, peniswrinkle? Dude, I loved this album when it came out...I bought it alongside An Innocent Man by fucking Billy Joel with some birthday money or something.  I think Innocent Man was where I first heard the word 'masturbation', but Big Generator is where I first heard the word 'psychedelic' (and probably 'Chez Nous', too...but that's another story for when I publish my memoir Snobby Restaurants Are For People With Low Self-Esteem and  which should follow closely behind my three-volume SUV's That Are Larger Than Double-Wide Trailer Homes Are For Closeted Lesbian Housewives With Inferiority Complexes and Middle Aged Men Overcompensating For a Lack of Decent Sex Life Brought On By Minute Genetalia and Chronic Body Odor), and that's been the story of my life ever since.  Of course, this album is about as Sixties as an Ollie North for President bumper sticker, and about as Classic Yes as the Trammps, but I still haveta give it to them...they actually made a pretty good facsimile of what had made them so much money back in '83.  I guess a big part of it was not having a lineup change from 90125, something that hadn't happened too often in Yes history. This album is slick, danceable, kinda rocking, hooky at times, and almost perfectly capable of competing with whatever concurrent Genesis or Don Henley albums that may have been makin' the cash registers ring in 1987.  It's also miles beyond a lot of the complete and utter shit albums that otherwise far superior Sixties survivors were coming up with at the same time.  Bob Dylan? Heh! Paul McCartney? Don't make me laugh with your Press to Play. Eric Crapton? Ray and Dave Crap? Pete Crapshend? All of their late 80's material was about as entertaining as an Exorcist sequel.  Nope...compared with that kind of monkeyvomit, I'll take half an album of successfully catchy electropop from Yes anytime. The only track that sinks to an unacceptable concentration of Eighties is the metallic title track that doesn't just force large amounts overloud guitar chugging and synth 'ZINK!'s into your face, but lets Jon Anderson have full control over the lyrics (needless to say things head off to the Land of the Lost Space Cowboys pretty soon), and the overall effect is one of a Debbie Gibson song on anabolic steroids.

    Unfortunately, all of the good songs are stacked at the beginning, and even more unfortunately they had to place one of the worst songs on the album right in the middle of it.  Listen, you throw 'Big Generator'  to the curs and you're left with two highly listenable hits ('Rhythm of Love' and 'Love Will Find a Way'), the mysterious and paranoid 'Shoot Low Aim High' and the highly goofy but still acceptable Phil Collinsy soul tune 'Almost Like Love', and wrapping up with 'Final Eyes', which almost sounds echoed from way back around the time of 'Wondrous Stories', until the band starts sounding like Toto again, that is. Still, what the hell...I'm gonna sit here and knock perfectly fair, generic 80's pop songs just because it's not Relayer or Fragile or something?

    Okay, so it's not 90125, either. Not only is there not a single hook to the level of a 'Changes' or 'Leave It', the band's tough vision has become blurred by Jon Anderson's rediscovery of Flower Child-lite airhead philosophy as a lyrical obsession  There's an overuse of the word 'love' all around, made worse as Jon's use of it as some sort of magic hot button, as if he says it often enough we'll think he's being profound instead of just hacking out some more diahhretic lyrics.  It's easy enough to ignore what he's chirping and just concentrate on the BIG DUMB(er) HOOKS that Rabin has come up with, at least as long as they're in stock.  Around the time of 'I'm Running', the well runs dry and the album stops being any fun at all.

    Listen, with it's groaningly 80's computerized pop art album cover, groaningly 80's production and mixing, and groaningly 80's wide-eyed stupidity, your expectations of Big Generator probably lie somewhere between zero and nil.  In this case, BG is guaranteed to exceed them.  Nothing exceeds like excess, boys! This album makes no apologies for sounding like the soundtrack to a movie where guys where white linen suits and no socks...it is what it is.  And what I'm saying is that a good percentage of this album aims low and shoots right on target. Depending on my mood, this could probably be a B-.  Still, in comparing this to, say, Tormato, I've gotta admit I enjoy this more though I don't get as much perverse joy out of hearing them fuck things up as badly as on that one. I dunno...I guess it just comes down to one question - how much do you hate the Eighties?

    Capn's Final Word: If yer allergic to plastic, stay away....otherwise get your Big 80's on as Yes get even more generic.

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    Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, and Howe - Atlantic 1989

    Will fight to get all the money you deserve from your car accident, workman's comp claim, or fumbled cup of scalding hot McDonald's coffee! Won't take a penny unless you collect! Are willing to play 80's-sheened Tormato-style lame prog for gas money and free beer! Although the Yes band of Big Vibrator and 911 Is A Joke was still at the top of its game commercially, Jon Anderson pined for the long-lost days of yore when he got more than half an album to sing his fruity lyrics and didn't have to compete with a blabby South African hair metalist and an altogether much too uppity Chris Squire for songwriting time. Since neither Bill Bruford (who'd not been doing much since King Crimson split apart in 1984) or Steve Howe (the same after Asia imploded) were too busy, and obviously no one cared about the 16 thousandth Rick Wakeman solo album (The Fourth Season Very Special Episode of Charles In Charge Where Buddy Thinks Charles Is Gay Because He Finds Uncle Walter's Ass Dildo In His Bedside Table Original Soundtrack), it seemed that 'the group that brought you Close to the Edge was in need of work.  Apparently Squire was pissed off that Jon was about to leave the cash cow in the lurch and go off to play with some other wrinkled up old prunes instead, so there was a rumble in the parking lot of a Roy Rogers somewhere in Riverside, California between the YesWests (famous for fighting with razor-sharp hooks) and the YesOlds (similarly famous for bludgeoning opponents into submission) in which the final outcome was the beefy Chris Squire grinding sissy-boy Anderson's face into the gravel with one purple suede boot and shouting 'Who's Yes?!? Same my name, fucker! Say my name!!! Who's the Yes motherfucker NOW?!?'.  Clearly, a reunion under the Yes moniker was out of the question, so instead of calling the band Yeah or Whatever they decided just to list their names, so maybe folks who weren't too stoned to look at the slipjacket of their Tales From Topographic Oceans LP would see their names and promptly plunk down cash.  As time went by and the ABWH album became a longrunning $1.99 cutout bin staple (next to it's younger brother Union of course), the fact that the names were listed on the front was very convenient for dissatisfied listeners to track down the parties responsible and put M-80s in their mailboxes.

    Because anyone but the most self-delusional Yes fanatic is going to find this album to fit their low expectations at best, and to be an affront to the abilities of five highly talented musicians (the band is joined by bald bass badass Tony Levin in the Squire spot) at worst.  The music on display here is extremely lightweight, just about equivalent to an hour of 'Circus of Heaven' as far as I'm concerned.  Call it fruity pop, call it children's music, call it happy carnival music, it's all about the same.  Wakeman is responsible for 90% of this pussy sound, somehow delighting in the fakiest trumpet, harpsichord, and 'celest' settings his synthesizers have to offer, while Howe is nearly inaudible, Levin is inaudible, and Bill Bruford tippity taps without a shred of the heat he displayed throughout most of his 70's and 80's career. The album is very much Jon Anderson essentially duetting with Rick Wakeman over a bunch of highly suspect 80's-ish pop backgrounds, like frigging Buster Poindexter loungey worldbeat on 'Teakbois' and dancey, jouncy beats throughout. More damning is how they shamelessly emulate the other Yes, indulging in faux Drama on 'Fist of Fire' and faux Big Generator on 'Birthright' and 'Order of the Universe'. If I'm gonna buy an album by Jon Anderson, Bill Bruford, Rick Wakeman, and Steve Howe, it goddamn well better sound like some fucking prog rock and not this Paula Abdul bullcrap. It's one thing to hear an album like this from YesWest, a band that I really don't associate with artistic integrity or 'high art' like I do these guys.  Or, shall I say, did associate, since ABWH has really thrown me for a loop...is this what these guys sound like now, really? I'd take two albums full of interminable soloing (aka An Evening of Yes Music Plus) over this snotbucket anytime. It's not helping that Jon Anderson has begun to expand on the sudden change in his writing that incorporates more understandable lyrics that he made back on 90125 and BG. He actually sings a political tune featuring the line 'This place ain't big enough for Red and White. This place ain't big enough for Stars and Stripes' about some British Cold War atrocity or something else people gave a fuck about back in the weepy-face neo-hippie late 80's (now, as you may have noticed I revel in any opportunity to bash hippies on my site, and this is one of those instances.  I'd like to state right now that I am not, by the way, some radical Rightist.  I'm actually more of a radical Leftist who thinks hippies and raving-PCer's make liberals look like ineffectual, whiny clowns instead of warriors for the people.) Now, Jon Anderson is about the last person I want to hear this kind of thing from.  Though I may find his usual 'poetic' mouth-diarrhea to be incomprehensible and kinda irritating at times, I much prefer it over this kind of thing. Let's leave this stuff to Bono, Jello Biafra and Public Enemy, shall we?

    Fine, fine...'Let's Pretend' is a pretty decent little acoustic tune dominated by Steve Howe and thankfully featuring Rick Wakeman shutting the fucking hell up for three minutes. But it comes at the very end of the record.  It forces you to sit through a whole helluva lot of shit before showing up. Oh, I guess 'Quartet' has one or two nice sections (or, well, 'quarters') before the fruits invade and turn the song into a Seventies reference-fest (Gates of Delerium he says! Roundabout! All the while reminding me of albums long past I wish I were listening to instead of this one!) that sounds like the soundtrack to a particularly poor early-90's knockoff of Final Fantasy or something. The rest is shite that doesn't match up to the level of Tormato or Big Generator, just to name the two lamest Yes albums so far. But I guess this isn't Yes, is it? That should've tipped me off in the first place.

    Capn's Final Word: Banding together the old fools for an old-fashioned blowout that ends up sounding suspiciously new-fashioned. 

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    Union - Atlantic 1990

    Yeah.  One of those albums I not only dread having to review, but dread having to listen to more than once, which is plenty long enough to decide that it's a load of overproduced sap that attempts to mix the clever prog-rock artistry of YesWest with the pop sense of Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, and Howe. No you're not misreading that.  Union was a failed attempt to reconcile the two factions warring under the Yes name, bring them together for one sure-fire blowout album that shows all is forgiven and that, as long as Jon Anderson's twee hippie pipes are honking and Chris Squire's bass is bonking, it's Yes, and that's all you need to know.  The billing is a bit of a misrepresentation...it's actually half an AWBH record (complete with Tony Levin on bass again) with some vocal overdubs by Squire and half a YesWest album with no involvement by the BWH characters.  Moreover, it's often difficult to tell exactly who is playing, YesWest or ABWH, because they try real frigging hard to sound like one another.  I guess I'm good enough to tell Howe apart from Rabin, but when I'm listening to a keyboardist playing boring organ chords, is that Wakeman dogging it or Tony Kaye playing his ass off?

    Confused yet? Why should you be, when all you really need to know is that this album combines the worst of both worlds (though considering how I feel about the ABWH album, it's hard for me to believe there was a whole lot of missed potential on that side of the ballgame) into a criminally elongated mishmash of Jon Anderson and a bunch of irritating synthesizers.  Now I've mentioned these things before, but I'll once again list why I tend to hate with white hot venom late 80's and early 90's arty rock groups.  See, around this time people began to wake up from the day-glo Aqua Net nightmare of the mid-80's, a time with it's very own flavor of hatred in my book, and realized that the Wave of the Future was Seventies Nostalgia.  Boxed sets were rushed out and old warhorses reconvened for stadium tours in pruney old lineups, from the Allmans to Blue Oyster Cult.  The problem was, instead of reveling in the busybody hardcore prog rock that had made them famous in the first place, bands like the ABWH-ized Yes decided to make Thirtysomething rock that 'spoke' to their generations' tastes and concerns.  And since, if you'll remember, the top selling albums of the early 90's was horrendous crimes against humanity like Michael Bolton and Paula Abdul, it's not hard to see that Yes thought they were 'changing with the times' when they decided to make an album that reeks of beigest, adult contemporary cheese.  When they try to whip up the manic instrumental chops that brought the world Tormato, we're left with music that sounds unconscionably powerless. 

    Hell, compared with the ABWH material, the more clearly YesWest stuff sounds positively transcendent.  About four years out of date, not to mention plinky and noisily uninteresting, but much better nonetheless. Pretty much all of the highlights (besides Howe's gorgeous 'Masquerade'), and 100% of the hooks belong to the Rabin band.  There's the perfectly acceptable single 'Lift Me Up', Squire's 'The More We Live - Let Go', and even 'Saving My Heart' is only awfully cheesy, not cheesily awful. 'I Would've Waited Forever' seems to combine the two Yes factions (Howe's guitar is unmistakable on the opening section, and Rabin takes the solo), but the hook sounds solidly YesWest.  They're also responsible for their fair share of unconscionable shite, though, as the horribly metallic 'Shock to the System' will attest.

    Mostly, though, it's impossible to tell who's playing and I'm not interested enough to care.  The album packs every last second of CD-running time with overproduced failure after overproduced failure, a parade of boredom unmitigated by anything interesting happening for thirty minutes at a time. Whatever catches your ear only does so because it seeks to offend in some way...whomever told Yes they should start incorporating dance beats into their music should have their torso flayed with a paring knife, and someone ought to force Rabin to actually sit down and listen to a bunch of Gospel music so he might learn how to rip it off correctly. Moreover, I'm beginning to think the peak moment in the history of Yes was when Anderson was replaced with a Buggle. ABWH might have the odd devotee, but I'd be hard-pressed to find anyone with a good word to say about Union. I'm certainly not the one to start your search with.

    Capn's Final Word: Pure evil moneygrubbing, and this time no one is innocent.  A supergroup that is neither super nor a group.  Talk amongst yourselves.

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    Talk - Atlantic 1994

    The final Rabin-era YesWest album is a vast improvement over their contribution to the last go-round, the sickening Union, and is what most of people might term 'a return to form', but I'd say that's mostly . For one thing, it being 1994 they turn the synths the fuck down and reintroduce themselves to acoustic guitars and drums.  That alone is enough to make a lot of people sigh with relief and start talking 'comeback', but I'm about as suspect of this album as I am about a Vice President with ties to the major Iraq rebuilding contractor's desire to 'promote democracy'. The Rabin Yes was interesting in the 80's because they were very much an 80's band...hell, they helped define the synth-rock era with 90125.  So what are they any good for in the 90's? They may have updated the instrumentation to a more organic style, but they still play overly simplified, emotionally hollow pop rock that doesn't leave a whole helluva lotta room for anything besides atmosphere and some straining guitar solos.  The songs are long, but there's no compelling reason why they should be (multiple guitarwank sections and a half-dozen trips through the chorus are not compelling reasons for a song to last seven and a half minutes...and here I'm specifically talking about the inoffensive three-minute 'I Am Waiting' stretched out to a perverse 'epic' length), a lot of the musical motifs are overcooked ripoffs of gospel music, Eric Clapton's soundtrack work, and 80's soft-rock that don't lend themselves to repeat listening.  Compared to the unbelieveably messy Union, it's a masterwork, but never do I feel like I need to listen again to catch what I've missed the first time around.  What, is Alan White's hackwork drumming confusing my tiny little brain? What about the rudimentary organ rhythm work by Ten-Finger Big Weiner Piano God-Wizard-Prince Number One Soul Brother Tony Kaye? Can't get that half-note, major chord pounding out of your brain, can ya? What about Chris Squire's jaw-dropping, revolutionarily amazing basslines you can't hear and he's not playing? Jon must've snuck into the mixing room late at night and erased all of the bass tracks, because this album has the leanest Squire contribution of any Yes album, including ABWH.  So you say he didn't play at all on that one? Only a technicality...

    YesWest's bag of tricks is shamefully shallow, and since we heard each one of them ten years earlier, there's nothing to be surprised at here unless you count a remarkably well-placed cymbal crash or something. Hell, it's listenable, but to what end? I'm about as inspired as a scriptwriter on Scooby Doo. Fine, so it doesn't offend me, not even the multi-part snorefest 'Endless Dream', but it doesn't entertain me very much either. As horrendous as the ABWH/Squire lineup can be, and believe me they can be downright unspeakable when they want to be, I'll take their artiness over any more of this band's polished mediocrity anytime.  I suppose that's Talk's point...it makes it very hard for one to believe there's any untapped potential left in this lineup. It's all been said, it's all been played...from here on out it'd just be redundant. The original Yes may have burned out (and most definitely are a bunch of burn-outs), but this band faded away.

    Capn's Final Word: Does the world a service by dispelling any rumors that Rabin Yes had anything more left unsaid.  They talk, but they aren't saying anything.  Say something once, why say it again?

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    Keys to Ascension - Atlantic 1996

    Let the nostalgia begin.  Marking the point where Yes stopped fucking around with all this modern rock business and once again reformed into a more-or-less stable lineup of Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Alan White, and Rick Wakeman, the same folks that brought you Going For the One nearly twenty years before (and the same people that brought you Union much more recently than that, but let's forget that for now).  Well, at least on the two Keys of Ascension discs, that is. Since then, Wakeman's been an on and off tourer, being replaced on the studio albums seeming with whomever is hanging out at the studio at the time.  Still, they're more of a true Yes than anything we've seen in a dog's eye. Real believers can look at the two volumes of KTA and say 'Yes is back! They're playing all their old hits! Not only that, but they're writing proggy new songs with running times rivaling some Third World wars!' They couldn't be happier...the 'classic' lineup is back together for good and everyone can forget the Drama Queen 1980's ever happened.

    If you ask me, I think they've entered the 'tour sluts' period of their career.  As long as they have their lineup mostly intact and upright, and play human jukebox a certain percentage of the time onstage, they'll continue to sell a respectable number of tickets. See, none of their concert grosses have to go towards paying off record companies and whatnot, so they tour like demons on a yearly basis to keep the green flowing in and simply use albums as another souvenier to be sold to drunken fans who are happy to mortgage their homes for the opportunity to pick up a $40 tour t-shirt, a $30 baseball hat, and the brand new Yes album conveniently on sale for the low low price of $25.  Touring isn't used to promote the albums, the albums are used to pad the profits on touring.  Live albums are even better because they almost make themselvea. You're already recording take after take of the same old songs night after night, so why not spend a couple thousand bucks on some mixing, overdubbing, and digital hoody-hoo, slap a cover on it and watch it sell? I guarantee it'll do better than 90% of the solo albums that are released because some mid-life crisis baby boomer is gonna see the CD and buy it because it 'already has all of my favorites on it'. Your bills are paid for another year lickity split...easier than jacking a Camaro. Hell, every major dino-rock band outside Paul McCartney and the Stones releases these sorts of slam dunk cash cow albums, and I still have my doubts about No Security. Yes have done better than some to keep their creativity alive, but let's just say it's on a feeding tube...the 70's are long gone and have been for a long time.

    That said, can I still plead that I politely enjoy the live section of this double-CD (oooh, I can smell the profits!!), although it's as sterile as a Chernobyl heifer and just about as likely to spin off into rockin' improvisation? Simply put, Yes sound like Yes, better than they have since at least the late 70's.  KTA 1 is approximately three-quarters live, including versions of 'Roundabout', 'Siberian Khatru', and 'Starship Troopers' that are redundant with Yessongs. And when I mean redundant, I don't mean they play the same song.  I mean they play the same song in the exact same way as they did on Yessongs and the studio albums. Forget the somewhat 'loose' atmosphere of Yesshows, the KTA band plays this stuff like a goddamn player piano.  I mean, I wouldn't go so far as to say the stuff sounds barren or soulless or anything (joyless is about as far as my put-downs will go), but let's just say they run a tight ship and that, like James Brown, papa don't take no mess.  The only times I feel I'm hearing something new is when they play their version of Simon and Garfunkel's 'America' and maybe Tales' 'Revealing Science of God'. Now, I don't have the original Yes Album-era single of 'America' only because I've been to lazy to seek out their old compilation Yesterdays to hear it. For that reason, I can't judge how closely they stick to the original, but there are some sections of functional but unspectacular improvisation that I bet weren't there originally. 'God', on the other hand, has gotta be different from the Tales version because I seriously remember that version being mostly duller than a fourth season Moonlighting episode, and this one is pretty lean and mean. They play two from their post-Tales years, a pretty 'Onward' and a very matter-of-fact 'Awaken', neither of which holds enough surprise to cause an over-caffeinated Chihuahua to look askance. 'Roundabout' and 'Starship Troopers' are the obvious crowd pleaser encore-time tunes, and are both pretty much done in a collective bit of sleepwalking. Of course they sound good, or rather they sound imminently professional, but there's a mechanistic quality to this entire thing that strikes me as fulfilling all the tired old criticisms...Yes are emotionally cold and have a superior attitude towards their audience, and moreover have about as much rock spirit as an average Mantovani performance.  Leveled against Yesshows, that kind of Dave Marsh-y bullshit sounds ridiculous.  Here it sounds fucking accurate. I still enjoy myself, but probably less than I would if I were to put on Yessongs, and definitely less than I would if I were to hear these in their original studio versions.

    Anyway, there's two new studio tracks tacked onto the end, if you can believe a 10-minute and a 19-minute song can be 'tacked on'.  These tracks sound like what a marketing committee put in charge of making a new Yes album might come up with. Again, it's not nearly as criminal as what was released on Union, but it's like mediocre Talk material performed by ABWH+S and stretched out like salt water toffee to it's bloated lengths. Put simply, neither of these tracks comes within the same zip code of even an 'Awaken', much less a 'Gates of Delerium' or 'South Side of the Sky', just to name three random examples of lengthy Yessongs past. 'That, That Is' is further stunted by the fact that it's used as a vehicle for yet another Jon Anderson political pulpit, who this time is singing something about crack babies and gangbanging or somesuch crap he knows about as much about as performing arthroscopic colon surgery.  I don't really want to get into a discussion about it (it's really really not worth it), but I'd like to express that Jon Anderson has about as much credibility singing about street violence as Chuck D does singing about a footnote in a book by the Dalai Lama, and sounds like an idiot trying to do it. More than usual, I mean. God, they've never sounded older than on these songs. In short, the studio stuff, sheeit, I'll listen to it, if I must. I sure don't feel allergic to it like the ABWH crapola, but it doesn't have one bit of spark to it.  Not even the musicianship is distinguished...this stuff could be anybody. What so many people hailed as a return to form sure smacks of the same old ordinary songwriting to me.

    Boiled down, KTA just isn't essential in any way.  You've probably got most of the paint-by-numbers live material elsewhere already, and if you don't, House of Yes collects most of it in a cheaper, more convenient package.  The new tracks may be heartening as the harbingers of a bona-fide classic Yes revival, but they're inconsequential as music.  For all the excitement the reunification created, this record goes a long way towards making it all seem like a day at the salt mines.

    Capn's Final Word: The live stuff is irrelevant and the studio tracks embarrassing.  Yes are back!

     

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    Keys to Ascension 2 - Atlantic 1997

    Okay, more of the same? Well, sorta. The live material is damn near identical, and I think it may have come from the same run of shows.  At the very grudging least we can thank them for not having any overlap with the first KTA.  They perform 'Turn of the Century', which improves quite a bit on its gloppy studio original, and 'Time and a Word' is always a bit of a surprise, but a track listing should be sufficient for the rest: 'And You And I', 'All Good People', 'Going For the One', and 'Close to the Edge'. Listen, if it's not clear yet, you really need to own versions of these songs as performed when they were new.  This latter-day stuff is just too practiced and rote to rate anything higher than a pleasant, unsurprising listen.  For more comment, I'll direct you to the KTA 1 review above.  I already feel like I'm repeating myself, and the only people to blame for this is Yes.  Oh, and Vice President Dick Cheney, but that's only because he's a cyborg sent from the future to dismantle Western society from the inside.  How else do you explain a man who's had so many bypass surgeries, his heart looks like the Flux Capacitor in Back to the Future?

    Hey now! They've seen fit to include an entire CD of their retro-Tormato fruit-rock, a whole 45 minutes of new material that no doubt sent fans into a tizzy of Internet chitchat activity not seen since that faked nude photo of Gillian Anderson sucking an alien's cockroot started making the rounds in 1996.  Well count me unimpressed, because the songs on display here are like shells of real Yes songs yet to be filled up with guts and balls and stuff.  They're shorter, all except for the vastly overrated 'Mind Drive', which limps across the finish line at a perverse 18:39. What's worse is the fact that, despite being split up into five separate entities, each song sounds just like the one before it, with minor alterations. They don't pick themselves up from a loping, sleepy New Agey tempo but once, and that's for a wildly out-of-character Uncle Jam-era Funkadelic sounding bootie-shake part towards the end of 'Bring Me To the Power'.  It only lasts a couple of minutes, but it's by far the most interesting bit of nonsense on this overserious, pretentious slab of unmelodic ca-ca. There's just not enough happening at any particular time to keep my attention. Steve Howe's ssssllloooowwww jazz noodling ain't gonna stomp my nuts to attention, G. You gotta have some groove, some big ol' badass bastard Yes chorus to command me to listen. This album? This album is snoozier than Stephen Wright on a handful of Xanax. They still sound very, very old.  Wakeman has his keyboard stuck on 'chime', so he isn't any help, Howe's forgotten to turn his guitar on, Squire's doesn't even show up.  What's left, eh? That's right...Jon Anderson, who's all over this album like comb-over on Donald Trump, all a-preachin' and a-testifyin' about whatever old-guy bullshit he's dreamt up since fucking 'That, That Is'. I tell you, I sure liked him back when he was calling down battleships and mountains from the sky. This new literal style sounds like something you'd read in a Scientology tract somewhere.

    I guess I could deem this new music 'pretty' if they'd tried to put in a melody or two, but they don't. Okay, okay...'Mind Drive' has one for a little while, I suppose, but in a fight between it and the first album of Tales, I call Tales the winner in a first-round knockout. I don't even hear anything interesting at all throughout 'Footprints', 'Children of the Light' or 'Sign Language'.  Yes is just going through the motions, picking little snippets from their collective bag of tricks they've been tossing out there since 1970. It'd help if there was a microwatt of energy, but it all sounds like they've been drowning themselves in too much Yanni and ylang-ylang incense to pick it up a bit.  It's not a complete fundamental failure like Union (it's not nearly that corny), and I guess if you're in the mood for some music so laid back it makes Jim Croce look like Iggy Stooge, this could be of some use.  I can't even enjoy it as background...the fact that Yes is dogging it so badly pisses me off and I get irritable and fidgety. Here's hoping they try harder in the future.

    Capn's Final Word: See the older brother.  Docked points for originality and style, and I don't think it nailed the landing on the triple lutz, either.

     

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    Open Your Eyes - Atlantic 1998

    Hey, if you're going to make fruity pop that sounds like Yes with the balls cut off, you may as well make it sound like Open Your Eyes, a generally much more agreeable set than we've seen from Yes in half a shake of a grizzly's booger. Still, though my initial impression was a very good one, I'm still not convinced by these guys.  Strangely, there's a big ol' return to the 80's sound going on here on a lot of the songs...no electronic drums, maybe, but if you recognize a lot of the vocal armies and flat keyboards as having a very familiar feel, think Big Generator. This is in no way, shape, or form, an attempt to sound like 70's Yes, so if that's what you're in for, just put on your headphones, drop the needle on Tales, and shut up for awhile. The KTA albums may have been a big boon for Yes's popularity and regard amongst old fans, but apparently it wasn't good enough to hold the band together. Wakeman and his pussy synthtones are gone back to appearing on British daytime television quiz shows, and new/old guy Billy Sherwood, who produced KTA 2 and backed up Rabin onstage on the Talk tour, takes over on keys and second guitar, so there's some new blood to shoot through the old veins, dig? I think they tried that nostalgia thing on the Keys albums and realized how badly it stunk, so this time around they're ditching some of the incompetent nostalgia and forging ahead as four old guys and their young guy crutch. As Yes thought this was going to be a 'new beginning' for the band (and as such wanted to call it Yes, before Peter Banks called up and reminded them they'd already done that album almost thirty years before and asked sheepishly why they didn't call him back like they did Tony Kaye. Was it the baldness?). I feel that it's either an A) big 'bong'lomeration of all the pop styles Yes has tried to date, going even back as far as Time and a Word-style sweetness, or B) a completely fresh 'Nineties Style'.  Hell, whatever, it sounds like lightweight Yes.  The tempos are quicker and the vocal melodies more interesting than on KTA 2, and though the guitar playing is kinda disappointing throughout, I like the mix of vocals and melodic instruments...it sounds thick. And ask any girl you pass on the street....thick is good, especially if you're talking about the layer of cream cheese on your blueberry bagel.

    Dude, that sounds sicker than I thought, and I was trying to be good.

    About that guitar, especially considering there's now two of them playing, it's pretty weak.  Howe, after being nothing if not reliable for the past several decades, has really fallen off.  His playing is clunky, thin, and uninspired, and he often seems unable to keep up with the tempo.  Maybe he was making room for Sherwood, since he hadn't had to share guitar duties very often in his career he may not have known how to take a fluffy haired interloper on his turf.  Maybe he's just tired.  Whatever happens, his feature spots are unexceptional, and the 'Imagine' ripoff intro to 'From the Balcony' shows how far Yes's acoustic work has fallen since the days of 'Roundabout'.

    I have to admit that my expectations of these latter-day Yes albums are not particularly high.  I realize there's a floor, lying somewhere just north of ABWH-level, of the quality they should be able to achieve, and like a puppy you just can't train or an American high school student, whenever they make the slightest improvement on that rock-bottom level I tend to say 'this is the best Yes album since Big Generator!', because, well...that's not really all that tough a goal. I'll never listen to Open Your Eyes again after I'm done with these reviews because there's just nothing here to bring me back. I'll certainly have fonder memories of it than, say, the studio part of KTA, but I sure won't be able to tell you why.  Yes has been dominated by Jon Anderson for a long time now, and when it used to be that you heard him for a little while, then he'd shut up and the band would play something that would bleed your eyes out for ten minutes, then he'd sing a little more.  Turn of the Century Yes is now firmly a vocal band with marginally complex chord structures and some odd, wiry guitar soloing.  They've stopped attempting anything new, at least temporarily, and sure sound like they're repeating the same old formula they first concocted around the time of Tormato, which was later updated by 90125. That's probably why I've been repeating the same review since about then, too. The instruments may have changed to electronic and back again, and the cast of idiots continues to rotate, but it sure isn't getting any better.

    If you're going to buy one, OYE isn't a horrible choice to make.  There are three or four of what I consider to be quality tracks, which is five more than on KTA 2. The opening 'New State of Mind' sounds like a 90125 outtake, metallic guitars and all (there's a slide in there too, but don't mistake this for 'Going For The One', whatever you do), and the title track recalls the cooler moments of Drama, which is still far better than this record. I wouldn't have even minded if 'Universal Garden' were longer than it is, as there's several ideas working together nicely, like the sweet acoustic guitars, some angular orchestral synths, and ghostly vocals shooting back and forth. Then it becomes a 90125 song for awhile before jerking back into dreamland where it belongs. Then comes a large stretch of highly okayish Talk-sounding stuff before that crappy, lazy 'From the Balcony' thing ruins the dull flow. The untitled track following the closing 'Solution' is like Yes's idea of avante garde or something as it features a bunch of nature noises, some random snippets of overdub tapes, some dude whistling for several minutes.  So when someone says Open Your Eyes doesn't have any long songs on it, give him a quick rabbit-punch in the spleen from me, because this ridiculousness lasts for twenty four minutes. And if someone calls OYE worse than KTA, kick down their door and systematically begin to flush all their socks down the commode, because that's just smack-talkin'. But if someone claims OYE is their best work outside of Fragile, all I can say is 'Gosh!' And put on Gish before I gush in my girlfriend's gash.

    Capn's Final Word: Livelier, but still about as compelling as a Family Circus cartoon. Is this snappy little stupid pop as good as it gets?

     

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    The Ladder - Atlantic 1999

    Ungh. Another coupla years, another Yes album that makes them sound a thousand years old. There are, however, some very clear and present goodies that flot to the top of the cesspool, and they deserve mention and praise for giving me some moments of real pleasure during an otherwise very unremarkable listening session.  First off, Billy Sherwood moves over to second guitar to make room for the Wakeman-esque Russian dude Igor Khoroshev on keys, resulting in the first time I've heard organ on a Yes album since the 1970's. I much prefer Khoroshev's 'lookit me!' key-twiddling to Sherwood's Kaye-isms, so this is a nice plus.  Also, Chris is legitimately masterful from beginning to end, playing a lot of the lines that used to belong to Steve Howe (and, long ago, used to belong to Steve or him, since more than one person was allowed to play something interesting at the same time.  Not so with 90's Yes, I'm afraid) The other one is the amazing opener 'Homeworld', a nine-minute track that's worth every last bit of it's 'Awaken'-imitating ass.  They've tried to rekindle the spirit of the old days and failed so many times they started to look like the Beach Boys, but for once they've nailed it.  Chris is just loud enough, Anderson just fruity enough, and the rhythms shifting just enough times that this song sounds like it has something holding it together.  Howe can't make his guitar stutter like he used to, and the drumming is duh-duh dull, but I look forward to each and every 'Our home is our world! Our life!' resolution as it comes around, and I think the organ solo section is fantastic.  Good work, gents...for nine minutes you truly are everything Yes was ever supposed to be. And that's all! I can end the review here and go home to my wife and family a happy man, having given a positive review to a latter-day Yes album and not once wishing I was dead or unable to listen to music due to having grown up without a head or something.  But nooooo...the truth must be told, and the truth is that the Ladder is just another dead end, another Clear Pepsi, another USFL, another Stephen Baldwin.

    Once again attempting to reconcile a past that is successful both artistically and financially successful with a desire to keep current with prevailing popular trends and advancing ages, The Ladder album is a disappointing string of very simplified pop tunes that sound very much like they were all written by Jon Anderson on an acoustic guitar and half a blunt.  You thought the Rabin era tunes were simple? Outside 'Homeworld', which is so good it sounds like it very well might be a lost track from Going for the One, this music makes Big Generator sound like Shostakovich. A lot of this follows the latter-day KTA/OYE formula (lots of harmonies, literal lyricisms, easy chord sequences, and a very middling mix that favors Jon), but it's much mellower. This album realizes Jon's dream of being a singer-songwriter backed with 'rock' instrumentation, just like late-70's James Taylor, a man who sucks harder than Meg Ryan at a casting call (how that woman continues to get starring roles is beyond me.  Her 'cluelessly cute' act got irritating about three seconds into the bar scene of fucking Top Gun) Too much of this stuff seems to be some sort of bastardized dance music, like the faintly reggae 'Lightning Strikes' and its interminable thump-thump disco bass drum or the really, really lightweight rock of 'Face to Face'.  Either that, or I'm cracking up from too much Jon Anderson, but when it's not dancey, it sounds like Air Supply. Whoever really finds a lot of joy in this album has to have their sanity questioned. 

    Oh, can I add that the opening section of 'New Language' is also fantabulicious in a solo-a-lot, Steve Howe-tries-for-once-on-the-album way? Faint praise, sure, but it's only a faintly good track. It probably succeeds because the tempo is fast and the organ is loud, and as soon as that changes it's straight down the pooper with this C. Thomas Howler of a lame album.

    Capn's Final Word: Besides a few bewilderingly good details, a Hindenburg or a disappointment.  Their first phone-in effort.

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    GJ      Your Rating: B+
    Any Short Comments?: This is a pretty cool Yes album, way better than its predecessor and follower... their 90's best, indeed. The winning, subtle combination of Classic Yes and Yeswest styles, unlike that Frankensteinian Union.
    Both Prindle and Starostin changed their mind from their initial reviews of this album (and they rather seldom do that). So I guess you should consider giving it a few more listens.
     


    House of Yes - Atlantic 2000

    My my! A live album! Whatever shall I say, for there's so many ways I can comment on a live record featuring songs this band has played in the same way for thirty years? Maybe I should begin by praising the sound, which is so clear you can hear everything Alan White is not doing that he's supposed to be doing back on the drumkit! And recorded for posterity and record sales so many times we can now play 'Reconstruct the Close to the Edge Album' home game almost three times over! Shall I describe the way they completely screw up the beginning of 'Yours Is No Disgrace'? Or how they insist on playing a bunch of detritus from The Ladder which sounds about as fitting next to 'And You And I' and 'Awaken' as Lemmy making out with Alicia Keyes? Or maybe make the comment that 'Homeworld' is still damned good, and makes much of the rest of the Laffer look ridiculous in comparison? Or shall I expound further on Steve Howe's dishearteningly diminished mastery of the electric guitar? Shall I once again list the hits that both you and I should have absolutely no surprise are on the setlist? So many places to begin...

     At least they aren't Pink Floyd, fer Chrissakes, needing hired hands to double every line they play, and I can say from experience that a Yes concert is still a mighty enjoyable thing to attend, especially if you get to be part of a near-riot in St. Petersburg, Russia, dodging moronic goon cops swinging truncheons and carrying hot little dyevushkii in micro-minis over the hockey wall so you can rush the stage during 'Roundabout' with the rest of the crazed fans. But going to see Yes and listening to a Yes concert on CD are two different things.  And I'm so sick of explaining what those two different things are I think I'll stop writing before I begin to lose faith in my country and flag and the brave individuals that are leading it against a faithless tide of liberals and terrorists who don't agree that the world should be paved over and its inhabitants sold into slavery to the Halliburton company for fifty-nine cents a pound.

    Capn's Final Word: Move along, nothing to see here!

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