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Sunday, July 27, 2008





It could have been a disaster, a boring, mediocre and lame album like Yes' 1991 Union. But curiously it wasn't. Quite the contrary! ABWH was one of the best albums of 1989 and a reboot of the Yes saga with some of the members who contributed to create wonderful, colorful and textured music like Close To The Edge and Fragile.

Jon Anderson felt the current 1988 Yes lineup wasn't going anywhere (anywhere led by him because the undisputable leader of Yes was South-African guitarist Trevor Rabin, proving it so with Big Generator) so he called, maybe secretly, former members of Yes and started playing with them and recording some material for the Arista label. Being Chris Squire the only member of Yes that never left the band, drummer Bill Bruford brought King Crimson's bass player Tony Levin to participate (being Bruford a Crimson batterie himself.) Key-man Rick Wakeman couldn't be happier and so guitar hero Steve Howe. They would be playing the already classic Yes tunes and work on a new album for an upcoming World Tour.

Tony Levin's external and precise bass playing might have been the reason why the music in this compact disc is so tight and even if it falls under the category of progressive rock, it becomes easy to listen to while challenging. Chris Squire was working with the current members of Yes and eventually they would joined materials with ABWH to release Union in 1991, so far the worst work that ever came under the Yes name.

But ABWH is not only good but it's also a surprise. I've always said that 1989 was a great year for rock and pop music all around the world and it's mantle of goodness covered these musicians as well. The album hits the 60 minute mark with 9 songs, most of them long suites a-la-early Rick Wakeman-era of Yes. The center of the album is a long theme called "Brother Of Mine," divided in 3 parts well crafted and planned, without the excessive "progressive" solos and that lack of touch with the common listener that made Yes subject of mockering by the punk audience in the late seventies (Tormato, Going For The One). The band doesn't care what the punks thought of them and keep playing long tunes like "Quartet" and "Order Of The Universe," mixing the bucolic side of Anderson on vocals and Steve Howe on mandolin and the strong rhythm of Bruford on drums and Levin on bass. Why does it sound good? maybe because of the same reason the masterpiece Drama was so awesome: unexpected twist of style, without leaving the comfort zone of the listener.
Yes, let's remembered, got rid of its bucolic-progressive dinosaurness (Anderson and Wakeman) by hiring Trevor Horn and Geoffrey Downes (of the Buggles) to create Drama, a record that updated their sound into the eighties. ABWH is like going back to the days of Relayer carrying what they've learned during the rad decade. The result was impressive thanks to the hand of the talented Chris Kimsey (whose credits are, among others, co-producing Rolling Stones' Steel Wheels and Undercover). Kimsey updated the sound of Wakeman and the drumming of Bruford sounded more alive than ever.
We know what happened next. Union, Talk, The Ladder... a series of mediocre albums made them suck big time in studio but put them in good shape for concertswhen they were playing their outstanding works from 1969 to 1989.
This doesn't mean Yes is over, but there's definetly room for improvement. The audience, the fans, are still there, and a little bit of help from strong hands in the music industry wouldn't be bad either to create another great album like ABWH.


Related Yes articles:
Drama (Atco, 1980) and Fish Out of Water (Atlantic, 1974)

Further affirmative action:

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