Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Studio Albums of Yes, Part 3

Going For the One, 1977.  Some bracing pop/rock, but mostly this one is like a counterfeit Faberge egg, dripping with pancake syrup.  It's so ornamental and sugary sweet,  one expects a few Disney Princesses to pirouette through.  The 16 minute closer, Awaken, is Tales From Topographic Oceans 2.0 with an energy and concision missing from 1.0.  Some fans, including the lead singer, regard Awaken as a high water mark for the band.  I prefer the shapeless, blissed-out expansiveness of TfTO.  If Going For the One had come out in the 90s it would be their best album of that decade.  In the 70s, it's a downturn.  Snappy cover art, though.




Tormato, 1978.  Some entertaining showbiz here, but half the time it sounds like they spun the radio dial and imitated whatever they heard.  for some fans, the chance to hear Yes take a package tour through pop trends of the late 70s is a selling point.  When Yes tries to make the music only Yes can make, though, it sounds like someone else's vicious parody of Yes.  It's the kind of thing that demonstrates the necessity of Punk.

Drama, 1980.  A Hail Mary pass, as they say in American Football.  Without the distinctive voice of Jon Anderson or the pseudo-classical kitsch of keyboardist Rick Wakeman, this represents the first of several times the band might have done well to continue as a trio.  Instead they hired a pair of clever younger guys from The Buggles (of Video Killed the Radio Star fame).  Cannier songs than the previous outing, and they mix in a soup├žon of new musical ideas ("new wave," synth pop, and heavy metal) with greater integration than the pastiche of Tormato.  The band Styx would have great commercial success with a similar blend, but it seems Yes's fans were underwhelmed (judging from bootlegs, Horn couldn't hit the high notes in concert), so this lineup marked the end of Yes.  At least for a while...