Classic Rock Review

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Yes Union (1991)


This is actually two bands – the much hyped Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe, and the latter days Rabin-led ‘Yes’ (yeah, really) including Rabin himself, Kaye, Squire and White.

For several years these two organizations had been trying to push each other out of the market but finally, seeing as how the market wasn’t really that much impressed with any of them, decided to join forces in desperate hope that this would be (a) successful artistically and (b) successful commercially. Well, it wasn’t. Instead, what they managed to do was to churn out an ultra-long album (well, what can be expected when you have two bands recording at the same time?) chock-full of self-rip-offs.

Approximately half of this stuff is ripped off from 90125/Big Generator, and the other half is ripped off from their mid-Seventies stuff (Going For The One or, well, Tormato type). The actual quality of the songs depends on the degree of accuracy in ripping off and nothing else.

To be honest, I must admit that they do succeed in that respect: few of the songs sound really horrendous (except maybe for the generic people-loving anthem ‘Saving My Heart’ that sounds fit for something Phil Collins might have written for a beer-loving society and the ridiculous heavy-metal-riff-meets-multitracked-screeching mockery of ‘Dangerous’). It’s not a case of an album which makes you draw back in disgust on first listen; rather, it’s just an album that strikes you as having A LOT of things going on in it and yet, amazingly, never achieving anything.

Of course, keep in mind that these bileful words come from a person who was never truly overwhelmed by Close To The Edge either – if that was the case, how can I NOT slam this record, when even most Yes fans tend to treat it sceptically? See, these songs are worked over, that’s for sure. Need some proof? Take a listen to the vocal harmonies – the way Anderson and company overdub these layers of chorale chants and triple, quadruple contrastive layers in each speaker.

See the song structures: they mostly evade lengthy epics, but even so, the melodies switch around pretty often and draw on all sources, from metal to New Wave to classic prog to gospel. But that doesn’t help the matters not a single bit – the songs just aren’t catchy enough, and it goes without saying they virtually add nothing to the Yes legacy and do indeed sound like a Yes parody in many cases.

Let’s see: the opening track, ‘I Would Have Faited Forever’, again sung by Jon in his cherished ‘Time And A Word’ style, almost manages to deceive you into thinking this might be a good one. It has all the formal traces of a classic Yes composition, such as the length (circa 6:30), optimistic robotic vocals, multiple sections and instrumental passages, etc., etc. The only thing it does not have is sparring guitarwork, blistering keyboard work or impressive drumming, but I guess that goes without saying.

Somehow I just don’t get to feel the presence of either Wakeman, Howe or Bruford on this album. On the other hand, the modernistic synths of Kaye, metallic riffs of Rabin and booming simplified drums of White are all over the tracks. Yup, there is a pretty little solo acoustic Howe spot (‘Masquerade’), but that’s about it.

The rest of the tracks can be separated into the Heavy Metal part and the Progressive Gospel part. The first one is totally worthless: apart from the already mentioned ‘Dangerous’ (the truly low point), its representatives are not really appalling but it’s certainly not the kind of music you’d be impressed with if you happen to know at least a couple of things about earlier Yes. Of course, if you’ve already heard Big Generator, you shouldn’t even bother. ‘Shock To The System’, eh? Hardly. Spare me generic Eighties hair-metal riffs, please.

The Progressive Gospel part does have its moments (personally I don’t have anything against the cute ‘Take The Water To The Mountain’ and ‘Lift Me Up’), but in the long run it just looks dull. Anyway, what the hell am I supposed to do with a Yes number that is neither emotional nor professional nor original? Of course, I don’t count the Kambodian text declamation in ‘Angkor Wat’ as ‘original’: it’s stupid and gimmicky. Nah. Funny, I can almost see them struggle and wriggle all over this record, trying in desperation to emulate their formula – in vain.

What’s even more pitiful is that none of them were really washed up – every now and then there’s a momentary blink of past glories going through our ears, but they never even try to solidify that moment. The main reason, of course, is that this is not really a return to the old formula – it’s a lame attempt at inserting selected elements of the old formula into the new Eighties/Nineties style of 90125-Yes. Without blistering guitar solos. Without inspired instrumentation. Without true inspiration. I mean, if they didn’t fire Rabin and Kaye that meant they weren’t really inspired.

And to think that this album has the best cover since Drama! Is this some kind of hand of fate or what?

June 23, 2013 Posted by | Yes Union | | Leave a comment