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Yes - Tormato CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

2.98 | 1401 ratings

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2 stars Ok, now this is just a bit too much fun. I'm all for the band enjoying themselves in the studio, but somebody had to bother to come up with some decent songs. And I'm all for assimilation of trends, but not at the expense of good taste.

Three problems abound here. The first and most critical, of course, is Anderson's songwriting. One might have guessed with Going for the One that he hadn't lost a step in writing more normal songs, but hoo boy one would guess wrong. There's one start-to-finish good track on here, one, and Anderson did not write it. Yup, "Onward" is a beautiful Squire ballad, with nicely moving lyrics and a lovely vocal melody - only the slightly inappropriate synth part mars it in the least bit. But the rest, ALL of the rest, is significantly flawed in some way.

The second problem is the arrangements. You know, I've enjoyed Yes' virtuousity and creativity in their arrangements as much as anybody. I like Howe's active guitar lines, I like Squire's hyperactive bass, I like Wakeman's synth meanderings, and I like White's take on polyrhythms. BUT NOT ALL AT THE SAME TIME. You cannot have success with everybody trying to solo and be overactive at once without somebody somewhat holding down the fort, and that is what utterly annihilates this album. It's like the egos of every band member suddenly flared up into an unstoppable beast, with all of them constantly trying to outdo the others (well, sort of - Howe is active on the album, but there really isn't a single decent guitar solo to be found). The result is that it is rare indeed on this album for anybody to be laying a solid foundation for the other members - I understand that that's more or less how free jazz works, but at least when it occurs in that context, it isn't over banal pop tunes that sound as if they were thrown together in about ten minutes.

Along the same lines is the choices of tone by Squire and Wakeman throughout. Squire's bass tone sounds hilariously stupid throughout the album, forcing itself higher in the mix without the additional benefit of actually doing something halfway interesting (though he pretends to, of course). But what is far worse is what happens to Wakeman, who somehow loses all semblances of good taste in his keyboard pallete. The sounds he coaxes from his various kinds of synths must have sounded dated a week after the album was released - perhaps he thought this would help make the album sell better, but in retrospect they're a large part of the reason this album is their weakest of the 70's.

Finally there's the problem of production. Before the 2004 remaster fixed some things, it was HORRIBLE. It was dry and papery, and none of the instruments cut through with any sort of crispness. The lack of any sort of decent separation in the instruments, combined with the fact that they're all galumping out in a nonsensical manner, ended up creating a cacophonous mess. The 2004 remaster made the sound better, but even it couldn't solve another problem; for the first time, Anderson's voice actually comes close to annoying me, as he shows neither force nor any sort of ethereality in his singing on this album.

Ok, don't get me wrong - there are some aspects of the album that enjoy, as I haven't given it a *. "Future Times," once you get used to the annoying instrumentation and production, is reasonably enjoyable (until, of course, it cuts into its second part, the dull "Rejoice"). "Madrigal" is somewhat pretty, with a nice harpsichord underpinning it. "Circus of Heaven" actually has some gorgeous vocals, the only time on the album I can say that, and the arrangements are surprisingly pretty. "Release Release" has some interestingly tricky guitar work at times, and is (in theory, at least) whacky enough to work. And the concluding "On the Silent Wings of Freedom" has a fairly interesting introductory bassline, and the rest of the intro isn't horrid either.

On the other hand, "Madrigal" has an alarmingly awkward vocal melody. "Circus of Heaven" has extremely trite lyrics and another awkward vocal melody, not to mention that I can easily understand how many would be annoyed at the chiming in of Jon's son Damian at the end. "Release Release" has horridly corny arrangements and a ridiculous "live" drum solo near the end that short circuits any enjoyability it might otherwise have. And "OTSWOF" ... eek. The lyrics are stupid beyond words, and that's only compounded by the fact that the song has COMPLETELY lost steam by the fourth minute or so. I, for one, cannot STAND those "majestic" sounding chimes in the middle of the song, as the track does absolutely nothing to justify such an attempt at majesty. And this horror lasts for eight minutes, of course.

(I should note that I've heard one version of the track I like quite a bit, from the 1979 Wembley show)

Oh, and two of the other songs are pretty much just terrible. "Don't Kill the Whale" has more stupid lyrics (it's quite interesting that, as soon as Jon started trying to write "normal" lyrics, he suddenly couldn't think of anything decent to say), and it just sounds way too trashy and gross for my tastes. Then there's "Arriving UFO," which is slightly fun to listen when on, I guess ... until my brain kicks in in the slightest and lets me know what a dumb song I've just heard. The melody is of decent quality, and the lyrics might be funny in their own way, but then there's Wakeman. The "alien" noises are a bit of a hoot, but the rest of his keys are annoying and cheezy enough to make me want to bang my head against a wall. Where did your sense of good taste go, Wakey?

Indeed, where did your sense of good taste go, Yessy? I mean, I guess I can understand enjoying the fact that Yes is "having fun," but I want good songs. And well-constructed arrangements. And production that doesn't make my brain cramp. Not this, thank you.

tarkus1980 | 2/5 |


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