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Back To Doing Songs Again
on April 8, 2004
The title for this review is the reason keyboardist Rick Wakeman gave as his reason for rejoing Yes. Although I realize that Rick wasn't into what he considered Yes's "avante garde" direction post Close To The Edge, I personally feel that the more streamlined approach to song making on Going For The One is less interesting. It always seemed to me that Yes never did do "songs", in the sense that their compositions were creatively elongated while usually remaining impressively cohesive. Certainly there was some loss of form on Topographic and Relayer due to overextenion of motifs, but that's the downside to ambition. The upside is that because Yes pushed themselves so hard, I believe the successes on those albums outweighed the flaws. I'm inclined to think the best stuff on GFTO also wins out, its just too bad that by this time the band members seem to be trying a bit too hard to recapture the balance between accessible, hook-layden melodies and expansive instrumental probing. For instance, the epic 'Awaken' strikes me as having been built to sound epic, whereas 'Close To The Edge, Yes's first epic, had a sense of discovery about it simply because, as former Yes drummer Bill Bruford put it, "...as we were making it I don't think anyone really knew how we were going to finish it." By now, in revisiting their own musical past with Wakeman, Yes, in effect had formalized their own secret to success, which was that their synergy was of unplanned intent. They had a naturally occuring synergy together, and the more they tinkered with it, the more they lost, as the album after GFTO, Tormato, demonstrates. Still, 'Awaken' has enough inspired playing and intiguingly "cosmic" lyrics that it still is quite good in its mysterious way, and it does have perhaps Yes's most grand climax ever. Even though keyboardist Patrick Moraz (whom was going to be on the album, but wanted to experiment in ways that was not in keeping with Yes's new "economical", as Moraz saw it, approach) wanted to make the end of 'Awaken' different, I'm not so sure his wanting to use the cycle of fifths approach would have bettered it. We'll never know, so its besides the point. It is what it is and that's that. Certainly 'Turn of the Century' is exquisite, musically and lyrically poignantly poetic. Perhaps I could go for a bit less busyness in the build up later on, but its all very uplifting, that's for sure. The title track is catchy fun with searing Howe slide guitar and spacy Wakeman synth. The lyrics are way out but also amusing. The ending goes on to much for my tastes and is a bit overblown, but the song, overall, is a nice return to a more streamlined, accessible sound. 'Parallels' features rockin' organ and guitar riffing, plus Squire's, swooping, animated bass work. Howe is rather needlessly busy in his soloing at the end, but aside from that, I think its an invigorating, if a bit repetitive, piece. 'Wondrous Stories' hit no.7 in the U.K. during the summer of punk! Go figure that one out. Its as gentle a piece as you can imagine melodically, though texturally there's enough depth to keep it from sounding too light weight. It reminds me of 'Your Move' in feel, but I prefer the more open production of 'Your Move'. Somehow, the mix on GFTO is too compressed with the instruments too clustered together. Former producer Eddy Offord's objectivity could have lent much needed sense of spacing here. The reverb is a bit too much as well. Despite all this, this remastered cd is very clean sounding and bright. It sparkles as much as the original mix allows it to, anyway. The bonus tracks are run throughs and early versions, probably of interest only to the hardcore fans. Still appreciate that the record company bothered to put them on. The liner notes are very informative and well written. So, had Yes encountered musical entropy on GFTO? I think so, but what band that has been around for awhile doesn't? I don't think Yes could have pushed more as Moraz wanted, though. It would seem that Yes went as far with their music as they could go on the previous album Relayer. Had Yes pushed further into the progressive atmosphere they probably would have went to far into technical overdrive, which was the concern Jon Anderson expressed. Yes were about melody first, only using virtuosity to plateau melody, and at their best, that's what they did so impressively. On the 'Going For The One' album, melody is first(and there are some good, even great ones), but the individual concerns of having ideas that should get heard, despite whether or not it crimps on the song itself, were symptomatic of being told how great you are over and over. The "big festival of egos", as Moraz descibed it, was what was increasingly getting in the way of the interplay of the group. That's just what happens, and what happened on a bit too much of GFTO was that Yes's music became a prepackaged formula that the songs were straight-jacketed into. A good formula, for sure, but no longer as fresh. It was an inevitable, for Yes, as Wakeman felt two years later, had reached the limits of their possibilites.