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Profile for Michael Topper > Reviews

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Content by Michael Topper
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Reviews Written by
Michael Topper (Pacific Palisades, California United States)

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Turn On The Bright Lights
Turn On The Bright Lights
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5.0 out of 5 stars Three cheers for one of the two or three best modern bands, Oct. 28 2003
Interpol's debut album is stunning. Every track is a complete winner. Although some of the album will start to sound a little similar towards the second half, if you dissect the tracks one by one you will not find a duff one on there. Yes, they sound like an early 80s post-punk band, mixed with some of the dreamy sonics of several early 90s acts (Slowdive, for one--I hear a lot of their 1996 album "Souvlaki" in the slower cuts on "Bright Lights"). The guitars are spacey and drenched in reverb, the singer is brilliant--one of the best vocalists out there in a rock scene virtually starved of good singers--and the lyrics are
intelligent and thoughtful. The reason this album stunned so many when it was first released is stated in many of the reviews below: although they do evoke many past bands, mostly from the early 80s (Joy Division, U2, Psych Furs, etc.), as well as Slowdive and--most recently--The Strokes (as in the interlocking, repetitive guitars), this band has definitely fashioned their own sound out of the influences. Just as any great artists have done, Interpol have carved out a brilliant niche that is revitalizing the rock scene. I hope their next album sells through the roof, because they deserve it.

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4.0 out of 5 stars Was it worth the long wait?, Oct. 18 2003
After six years of hearing almost non-stop hype about this film--how it chronicled the group's enthusiasm and energy at the beginning of the reunion and degenerated into more drug-addled
friction by the end--actually seeing it was a slight anti-climax. The biggest complaint is that half of the songs are
incomplete--some are only shown for one or two minutes, while others like "Ted Just Admit It" are complete but cut up and
interspersed with interview footage. The title cut is almost complete--and an amazing, sensuous performance--but the last two minutes, the CLIMAX, are cut for no reason at all.
Because the priority of this film lies in the interviews and backstage madness rather than the music itself, one must ask if this was enough to justify the hype. Well, the interviews are OK, they concentrate mostly on Farrell (who is a scream sometimes, especially when he's pontificating on The Torah just after having had an orgy on-stage with ten backup dancers), although Navarro also gets some time to act like a silly rock star. Perkins and Flea are virtually ignored, although Flea does weigh in with some choice comments toward the end of the film, and emerges as the most likeable. There are a lot of celebrity cameos, like Vil Kilmer, Alyssa Milano, Anthony Keidis, etc. etc. and they enhance the celebratory nature of the tour, but nothing really pops out as essential except for a brief cameo by the legendary Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters in San Francisco. The group seem in their element in this city,
and it is when the film takes on a genuine freak/hippie vibe--rather than the inevitable MTV/Hollywood one--that their alternative ambitions seem most fulfilled.
The biggest problem remains that complete performances could easily have been fit in; their cutting seems arbitrary. Which is a shame, since the tour--particularly the first three or four dates--was outstanding, with plenty of ambience, colorful clothing, masks, candles, incense, and the group playing at a peak. At the least, "Three Days" does capture the feel of Jane's Addiction at their most gleefully hedonistic, it's just that after two minutes of "Mountain Song" one is left wanting to hear the whole thing, which would only have been another two minutes or so!
The bonus 40 minutes of footage is compiled much like the film itself, with the interviews dominating, although some nice rehearsal footage of ballads like "Classic Girl" and "I Would For You" manages to finds its way in there. In short, I would recommend it Janes fans, but with the caveat that this could have been an *amazing* work with better editing.

Rubber Soul (British)
Rubber Soul (British)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Solid, at times dazzling precursor of things to come, Oct. 18 2003
This review is from: Rubber Soul (British) (Audio CD)
I have noticed that while "Revolver", "Pepper", "The White Album" and "Abbey Road" usually battle it out for "Best Album Ever" (Beatles or otherwise), it is "Rubber Soul" that I hear the most whenever I am over other people's homes. Because of this, I have come to the conclusion that while it may not be their very best (I'm a "Revolver" fanatic), it is arguably their most user-friendly, collecting as it does their finest collection of songs before all that psychedelic weirdness set in.
The folk-rock sound of Dylan and The Byrds is most evident, especially on the jangly "Nowhere Man", "If I Needed Someone" and "I'm Looking Through You". Acoustic guitars are everywhere and the lyrics are either a gentle brand of social commentary or
a magnified look at relationship troubles. Often overlooked are the rockers, which were the most sophisticated up to that time: "Drive My Car", "Think For Yourself", "The Word" and "I'm Looking Through You" all feature original bass work (esp "Drive My Car") and a slightly heavier guitar sound that looks forward to the next effort. Fuzz bass is utilized on "Think For Yourself", hammond organ appears on the anthemic "Word" and a sitar pops up for the first time on "Norweigan Wood", which served notice that the group were beginning to look for fresh new ways to widen their style. All applications of new ideas are successful, especially George Martin's vari-speeded piano solo on the touching "In My Life", which many might mistake for a harpsichord.
This was the last Beatle album to contain real filler, however: Ringo's contribution "What Goes On" mimicks "Act Naturally"'s light rockabilly placement at the beginning of side two, and Lennon's "Run For Your Life", while not awful, still remains one of the weakest closing songs on any of their albums. Had singles been allowed to be on the albums, "Rubber Soul" might have been hugely strengthened by the inclusion of "We Can Work It Out" to open side two and "Day Tripper" as the closer. As it
stands, though, there are enough pure classics on this work to
make it one of the top albums of all time.

The Beatles (The White Album)
The Beatles (The White Album)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Finds unity in disunity, Oct. 13 2003
The charges that this sprawling double album is disunified, or could have been condensed into a "magnificent single", do it a great, great disservice. The counter-question to ask, of course, is "which songs would you take out?". Most people could name four or five they consider filler, and then the list stops there. Fact is, there has always been more than three sides of
classic material on The White Album, and as for the rag-tag
rest ("Wild Honey Pie", "Revolution 9", "Why Don't We Do It In The Road", "Can You Take Me Back"), their inclusion does not harm but rather adds to the mystique of this all-powerful work.
By mixing so many tracks of so many different moods seemingly at random (although the lighter songs are generally grouped on side two, and the heavier songs on side three), "The Beatles" emerges as the ultimate pop tapestry of life itself, with all of its triumphs, tragedies, asides and bleeding ends wrapped under that famous Zen white cover. Yes, the four members of the group were beginning to part ways, and many of the songs emerge as quasi-solo efforts ("I Will", "Julia", "Blackbird", "Revolution 9"). However, many others find the band rocking harder as a unit than ever before ("Helter Skelter, "Everybodys...Monkey", "Birthday", etc.), and the oft-overlooked vocal harmonies can be majestic ("Dear Prudence"), bitingly acidic ("Happiness Is A Warm Gun") or devilish ("Helter Skelter)--in any case, the group experimented more with variations on their basic sound than on any album before or even after, "Abbey Road" notwithstanding.
Lennon emerges once more as the lynchpin of the group, as he regains his songwriting prowess here in spades after the somewhat lean late '67/early '68 period. Every song he contributes is a masterpiece, be it his astonishing acoustic ode to his mother ("Julia"), a celebration of nature ("Dear Prudence") or a tendency to parody his own depressive cycles ("Yer Blues"). The slow version of "Revolution" does not rock like the single, but it is a fascinating, laid-back rendition which provides a new context for the words.
By contrast, Paul had become the master genre-slinger, cooking up ironic Beach Boys odes ("Back In The USSR", which he would finally play in Russia some 35 years later), white reggae, hippie folk, metal, 20s pastiche, ballad, Wild West country and plain old rock, delivered with a real sense of both sincerity and humor that he would never regain in his solo career, even as many of the styles here would make a reappearance in his 70s works. Harrison blossoms as a songwriter, offering up four of his finest cuts to date with the signature "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (a superior acoustic cut finding its way onto the "Anthology" series"), the splendidly acerbic "Piggies" and "Savoy Truffle" as well as the calming, neo-epic spiritual ballad "Long Long Long". Ringo chimes in with the affecting "Don't Pass Me By" (the fiddle work was always the grace of this one), as well as the closing "Good Night", which caps "Revolution #9" brilliantly--the Disney-esque grace after the nightmarish sound collage--as well as all of what came before.
Finally, what would The White Album be without all of its
mystery. From the alleged backwards clues, to the horrid Manson interpretations, to the references to their past songs ("Glass Onion") and even referencing other tracks on the album (as "Savoy Truffle" does "Ob-La-Di-Ob-La-Da"), this one displays how albums should be made on sheer inspiration, mixed with the professionalism that they had crafted since "Rubber Soul".

The Beatles 1
The Beatles 1
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5.0 out of 5 stars Essential For The Sound Quality, Oct. 6 2003
This review is from: The Beatles 1 (Audio CD)
"1" is the first--and to date, the only--Beatles CD to contain properly remastered versions of their work, and for that reason alone it is an essential purchase for anyone who claims an interest in the band (only about 1 billion of us or so...). The music, of course, is beyond compare, although upon closer examination one interesting fact will arise: The Beatles' best work was not contained in their #1 smashes, as brilliant as they were. "Rain", "A Day In The Life", "Dear Prudence", "Penny Lane", "Norweigan Wood", "You Never Give Me Your Money" and other single b-sides and album cuts remain the true gems in their catalogue, which means that while this CD may contain 27 extraordinary moments in sterling sound quality, the best is yet to come. We're still waiting for the rest of the albums to be remastered like this; we can't keep buying the 1986/87 versions while every other band in existence--especially rivals like The Rolling Stones and The Who--gets the deluxe treatment.
One note: the audio dropout of tambourine at the end of "Day Tripper" has been corrected, and sounds great. In all, this is an essential purchase.

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5.0 out of 5 stars The best album of all time? No question., Oct. 3 2003
This review is from: Revolver (Audio CD)
I have written 231 reviews for Amazon so far, but have abstained from writing about my all-time favorite up until now, for it seemed like too gargantuan a task. Not only is this one of the most discussed albums ever made, it is just so frighteningly perfect on every level that one could write an entire book pontificating on its lyrical, musical, conceptual and production merits, as well as its enduring influence nearly 40 years later. Indeed, whole books have been written with "Revolver" as their primary focal point; even after an estimated 5,000 listens to date (a decade ago, between the ages of 14 and 17, I used to listen to this album twice a day, every day!) it still seems amazingly fresh, which is another part of its almost scary legend. Its magical pull and personal relevance shall never grow old, and as members of the band pass away one by one, it is gradually being hailed as one of the finest works of art of the past century, in any musical genre, being both brilliant and far ahead of its time, while still very much a crowning part of that glorious period in London which peaked around '66/'67.
Although often labeled the electric-based "sister" album to the primarily mellow, acoustic "Rubber Soul", the sounds, themes and styles of "Revolver" make it more of a companion to the album it foreshadowed, "Sgt.Pepper". And yet, although the album does not have the loose concept that brought "Pepper" together (and gave it much of its fame), its songs are all thematically tied and there is a better balance between Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison compositions, with absolutely *no* filler (or even "ever-so-slightly-substandard") moments anywhere (word has it anyway that the band wanted it to be the first album to have no three-second silence between the tracks, but Parlophone would not let them until the following work).
Lyrically, this is easily one of the most genuinely philosophical albums in rock, which is made all the more ingenious by the unforced, intuitive nature of the words. Beginning with powerful examinations of our monetary-based, existentially unfulfilled and very lonely material world ("Taxman", "Eleanor Rigby") and continuing with problems of miscommunication ("For No One", "And Your Bird Can Sing", "I Want To Tell You"), the album gradually probes the Jungian subconscious (Lennon's brilliant "I'm Only Sleeping" and "She Said She Said"), drugs ("Doctor Robert", "Got To Get You Into My Life"), unconditional love ("Here There And Everywhere", "Good Day Sunshine") and Eastern religion ("Love You To") for possible answers and finds connections between these, before eventually arriving at the futuristic, psychedelic paradise which resolves these issues ("Tomorrow Never Knows") and from which "Pepper" would seem the logical--and necessary--next step. Thus, the album was also one of the first, seminal and best manifestos of the emerging 60s counterculture which would change our straightlaced Western society for good.
Musically, the album covers every genre of pop up to that point in time and helps to pioneer psychedelia and art-rock along the way; the jarring juxtaposition of pulsating hard rock (on "Taxman", "She Said She Said" and "And Your Bird Can Sing", all rocking far harder than anything previously) with quasi-baroque classicism, Indian raga, Stax soul, music-hall, a children's novelty singalong and Stockhausen-inspired experimental tape loops--all fitted to the compact, catchy three-minute pop format--was simply pure genius. Considering that "Revolver" is essentially a transitional album (moving as it does from the folk-rock sound of "Rubber Soul" to the rainbow-colored wonderland of "Pepper"), and considering that most transitional albums usually sound tentative (like The Byrds' "Fifth Dimension" and The Kinks' "Face To Face", two great but slightly uneven efforts recorded at the same time), the fact that the album sounds so perfect in every way, as if the band had been recording ones like it for years, is another amazing triumph. The playing is easily the group's most virtuosic up to that time: Paul's bass work is a marvel and Ringo proves on "She Said She Said" and "Tomorrow Never Knows" that he was not simply "along for the ride". Only Harrison's "I Want To Tell You" sounds slightly rushed; it is still a five-star classic, with a classic opening riff, but the guitar timbre sounds a little thin compared to the heavily fuzzed and amplified sound of the other rockers--we would have to wait until the '91 live version with Eric Clapton to see the song's full potential revealed, sporting a big meaty sound and several lovely added solos.
The transformed, newly psychedelic guitar sound--especially the churning, distorted, hypnotic rush that propels "She Said She Said" (which sounds original to this day), McCartney's red-hot raga-inspired solo in "Taxman" and the spellbinding backwards pull of "I'm Only Sleeping and "Tomorrow Never Knows"--is but one of the production highlights which made this record so unique and ahead of itself. The invention of backwards tape loops, close-miking, vari-speed and Ringo's new drum sound was again applied perfectly, like the band had been using these tricks for twenty years. One of my favorite aspects of this album are the subtle and frequently overlooked sonic layers which pop up on repeated listenings, such as the fuzz guitars that grace "Love You To" (which make it a true raga-rock fusion), the electric organ buried but still felt on "She Said She Said" and the incredible closing vocal harmonies in "Good Day Sunshine". When one considers the dozens of revolutionary new sounds concocted for "Tomorrow Never Knows" and the almost random, unorthodox method of its recording, it easily could've been a disaster but instead turned out to be one of the most legendary psych numbers of all time. The "Yellow Submarine Songtrack" remixes of "Yellow Submarine", "Eleanor Rigby" and "Love You To" proved that a proper remixing and/or remastering to bring out these elements is long overdue; Capitol gave us "1", now please give us properly mastered editions of all of their meisterworks already, OK?!?

After Bathing At Baxters
After Bathing At Baxters
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 5 stars for the album, 4 for the remaster, Oct. 3 2003
The 1996 remaster of this album--my second favorite of all time, after The Beatles' "Revolver"--was pretty good, with most of the relevant artwork, good liners and good sound quality, so it would seem the only reason to get this new edition is for the new liner notes (which are slightly more comprehensive) and the five bonus tracks. The bonus tracks *are* a delight, for they complete this masterpiece at last. The expansive, epic 11-minute live "Ballad Of You And Me And Pooneil" (with a longer feedback intro, incredible vocal gymnastics and greatly extended bass/guitar jamming) is the same as that found in the "Loves You" box from '92, but in much better sound quality; plus, it's nice to have it on the same disc as the rest of the album. The same goes for the mono "Martha" b-side, also originally reprinted on the box set--which is then followed by three completely unreleased gems, including an alternate "Two Heads" with a different vocal take, a gorgeous acoustic demo of "Things Are Better In The East" (the electric version having found its way onto the box set) and a nice instrumental run-through of the aforementioned "Young Girl Sunday Blues" as a hidden bonus at the very end (and, as the review below mentioned, with some great stereo effects; one can more fully appreciate the band's famed psychic sense of interplay without the vocals here). This is about as comprehensive a clearing of the vaults as there has ever been for this album, which has been done for all of the Airplane albums in the new remaster series (I plan on getting "Crown Of Creation" next, and will hopefully be able to now hear the oft-bootlegged "Saga Of Sidney Spacepig" outtake for the first time!).
However, this new version gets docked a star for its sound quality. Interestingly, the bonus cuts sound crisper than the album itself--the original master tapes seem to have deteriorated slightly since the '96 version, because I hear some very slight, but still noticeable, background hiss and static that was not there previously (this is most noticeable on the first "suite", but then goes away after "rejoyce"), and the volume levels have not been improved (I still have to turn my player way up to hear this one decently--and by "decently", I mean VERY LOUD, which is the only way this album should be heard!). I will abstain from a more detailed review of this wonderful, magical work--which combined elements of their previous classic "Surrealistic Pillow" with "Sgt.Pepper", The Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, Hendrix and Cream to create as close an approximation of the density and intensity of the acid experience as has ever been put on record, recorded smack in the middle of the Summer Of Love--as I already have a lengthy review of it for the old remaster. Suffice to say that the album is worth it for "rejoyce" alone, Grace Slick's finest hour and one of the greatest pop songs of all time. Because of the minor static problems, though, it would seem that one should actually retain their copy of that '96 version if one desires to hear the album in the best possible sound quality, but still pick up the latest one (which, to be fair, is being sold at a discount price in most outlets) for the liners and, especially, the 25 minutes or so of bonus tracks. Also recommended is the new remaster of "Pillow"--which, unlike "Baxter's", has been significantly improved in sound as well as the addition of bonus cuts--and Jeff Tamarkin's new and comprehensive bio of the group, "Got A Revolution!", which manages to vividly recount the heady atmosphere of the late 60s and 70s in which the band thrived.

Close to the Edge (Expanded)
Close to the Edge (Expanded)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Yes, Jon Anderson does invent rap!, Sept. 19 2003
When I first heard this album I already knew that it was considered their best; the friend who recommended it to me did so with a look of worship in his eyes. On first listen, however, the title track did not grab me, except for the spacey, melodic "I Get Up I Get Down" section; the rest seemed a little too far removed from "The Yes Album" and "Fragile" for comfort. "And You And I" and "Siberian Khatru" were both immediate favorites, however, and on the strength of side two I continued to give the title suite a fair amount of listening. After a few months I finally "got" it, and after a few years "Close To The Edge" did topple both "Fragile" and "Going For The One" as my favorite Yes album, and thus of course one of the greatest albums ever made.
The main verses in the title suite do indeed sound like some embryonic form of rap, although this turned out to be a one-off coincidence. Of course, nothing in rap ever sounded this classically grandiose; the opening three minutes of dissonant guitar soloing against a fusion-influenced rhythm section are exclusively prog. The verses themselves augment Jon's rap with Yes's usual twists and turns of rhythm, melody and arrangement; Wakeman sounds especially different here as he seems more concerned with unusual tone colors and keyboard layering than with traditional solos. With a hard (though unusual) rock base and an absence of noodling, the "Total Mass Retain" section was actually edited to make a single, which is included here as a bonus track and works fairly well by itself. This dramatically gives way to "I Get Up I Get Down", which matches complex multi-part vocal harmonies with soothing, classically inspired church organ and other keyboard textures, and is bound to attract first-time listeners (like myself at the time). The final section bursts forward as Wakeman finally lets loose with a thrilling hammond solo before moving into a triumphant, rocking reprise of "Total Mass Retain", the vocal harmonies now providing a solid wall-of-sound for the climax. In all, "Close To The Edge" remains a definitive side-long piece, and although it takes a few listens to get used to it is well, well worth the effort.
"And You And I" is a fluid, gorgeous epic ballad with a lot of pretty acoustic guitars and soft synth sounds building in the verses, which then flare up into an extraordinarily powerful bridge, with mellotrons blaring and Anderson's vocal set to the heavens. The whole thing is repeated again, which on the contrary to being excessive, only multiplies the piece's impact. "Siberian Khatru" is a hard rocker anchored around a complex guitar riff that is mirrored by the keyboards; as with the title suite Yes embellish the track with melodic extensions, sub-sections and solos that are played with great enthusiasm; the band obviously had a lot of fun with the piece, which shows. The bonus tracks, both studio run-throughs of "And You And I" and "Siberian Khatru", are worthwhile to these ears, esp "And You And I" which is similar to the original until Howe steps in with an unexpected and highly listenable guitar solo near the end. Overall the sound quality is sublime and unlike the reviewer below, I believe it to be the finest yet for the work. In short, get this one immediately and pay it close attention; if this is already your tenth purchase of the album, then keep in mind this is the definitive one, with all-original artwork, new informative liners, bonus tracks and of course sterling remastering.

Fragile (Expanded)
Fragile (Expanded)
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5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive symphonic prog album, Sept. 19 2003
This review is from: Fragile (Expanded) (Audio CD)
Although "Close To The Edge" beats it out for the crown of best Yes album, and repeated listens to "Relayer" reveal countless layers and subtleties, "Fragile" is the album I would recommend as a starting point for Yes--and since Yes is the definitive symphonic prog act, it provides an excellent starting point for prog in general. Although the five brief solo pieces scattered in-between the epics are frequently thought to have made it sound a little disjointed, every track is strong, with the one exception of Wakeman's pleasantly dull "Cans And Brahms" (its brevity is, however, an advantage in this case!).
"Roundabout" is the group's most overplayed track and one even the most devoted fans might get tired of after the ten-zillionth listen, but fresh ears cannot deny its brillliant composition, playing and production, with stunning harmonies and definitive guitar and keyboard solos. Speaking of stunning harmonies, "We Have Heaven" bursts from the speakers like a postcard from above
and will have you singing along in no-time. Offsetting its optimism is the darker "South Side Of The Sky", oddly overlooked
by the group over the years (apparently it was too difficult even for them to play live!) and thus a very fresh listen. The howling wind and footsteps (reminiscent of Pink Floyd) presage a monster guitar riff that carries the track, although the jazzy piano/vocal interlude is perhaps the highlight. At times during the playing of this album one is tempted to think that this is the direction The Beatles may have gone in had they continued with the experimentation of "Abbey Road".
Bruford's 30-second "5% For Nothing" acts as a novelty introduction to "Long Distance Runaround", in which Yes implants their unique musical approach onto the conventional three-minute pop song. Lyrically, this is one of the album's strongest statements, being a subtly phrased questioning of religion. The song melds with Squire's pulsing bass experiment "The Fish", in which he overdubs dozens of basses (fuzz, wah-wah, both, you name it) on top of each other playing variations on a kinetic riff that rocks extremely hard. Not only will one be dazzled by Squire's prowess, but the appearance of a more straightforward rocker is exactly what the album needs at this point. Indeed, I'm tempted to name "The Fish" one of the greatest rock instrumentals ever. Howe's moody, Spanish acoustic guitar piece "Mood For A Day" follows, influenced heavily by Segovia and very tastefully played with a "less is more" approach unusual for this genre of prog. That is not the case with the closing "Heart Of The Sunrise", however, which remains my all-time favorite Yes work and one of the best prog songs ever (note how this album has the best of everything--best pop song, best instrumental, best epics...). The peaks and valleys in this song are quite extreme and frame what is, at its heart, actually a simple ballad with an emotional lyric that paints abstract impressions with words. The way the group embellish this "simple ballad" to classical proportions, playing contrapuntal bits and extended keyboard variations that twist and turn against each other along with Howe's screaming metal-ish opening guitar riff, is like a picture-perfect advertisement for the virtues of progressive rock. As a pop song, "Heart Of The Sunrise" would have been charming but minor. As a ten-minute epic, the track manages to touch on all moods and emotions, while not a single note is wasted; the themes are all carefully composed and interwoven into each other for maximum atmospheric impact. When a reprise of "We Have Heaven" bursts in and fades out just as quickly at the close, one is tempted to simply press "play" all over again.
Yes' sound crafted here is like the perfect natural buzz; endorphins are sparked and heightened virtually every second this CD is in the machine. Indeed, I have at times sung along to this in the car with friends and had a blast. Wakeman is almost certainly the definitive factor that made this a step above the already brilliant "Yes Album"--his virtuosic (what else?)keyboard layering colors each track ingeniously, which is why it is a little puzzling that his own solo contribution sounds like background muzak--although all of the members seem to be challenging each other here. The bonus tracks are not too rare but it is great to have the full-length "America" added to this collection, it fits better here than it would on "Close To The Edge" (and the single version is a bonus track on the latter album anyway). "Close To The Edge" may be even tighter and more complex, with just three epic tracks that all complement each other, but "Fragile"'s bits and pieces all fit endearingly together as well and in my opinion this album is only one miniscule smidgen below its successor in quality, and certainly the most fun. Even if this is the first Yes album you ever purchase, its accessibility (especially for people not usually into prog) may make this the most-played, even after decades.

The Yes Album (Expanded)
The Yes Album (Expanded)
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4.0 out of 5 stars Essential recommendation, but even better was to come, Sept. 19 2003
"The Yes Album", long considered the group's first "real" album (although bits of "Time And A Word", like "Astral Traveller", pointed in the right direction), is also their most accessible from the 70s: the prog-pop mix heard here would not be as strong until "Going For The One" six years later. With "Yours Is No Disgrace", "Starship Trooper" and "I've Seen All Good People" the band managed to craft clean, crisp, melodic rock songs with all the elements of their trademark sound: CSN-style vocal harmonies mixed with strong instrumental hooks and Howe's bright, adventurous acoustic and electric guitar work. Although the arrival of Wakeman on "Fragile" pointed out the one deficiency in their sound up to this point (a kind of sameness of arrangement that made Tony Kaye's minor piano and organ contributions look a little amateurish), everything else that made Yes a force to be reckoned with is here, and most of these songs have stood the test of time to become staples in their live act and on anthology collections to this day. Even the brief "Venture" is a catchy singalong that serves as a nice link between two longer tracks. Many fans claim that the live versions on "Yessongs" blow these away (Wakeman certainly had a chance to fix the keyboard work by then, especially on things like the closing outro to "Starship Trooper", with its wall-of-sound mellotrons and synths), but it is still absolutely essential to hear the songs in their original compact studio incarnations. The bonus tracks are the weakest of the remaster series, as there's nothing really new here, but it is interesting (as it is with "Roundabout", "America" and the title track to CTTE) to see how the group edited their epic-length material in the bid for singles chart success. In any case, "The Yes Album" along with "Fragile" are both perfect starting points for anyone interested in the group, even those not usually disposed toward progressive rock.

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