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Yes - Union CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

2.50 | 971 ratings

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3 stars It was so tempting with its pretty and retro Roger Dean art, stunning roster of players, titillating samples leaked on FM radio. We wanted it to be good. How could it not be? The math added up, it should have worked.

And it's not that Union was a bad album-- there are some truly excellent passages and the studio sound is, of course, pristine. It's not even that there's too much of it. Fourteen thematically unrelated cuts spanning over one hour ~ the ear gapes, the mind reels, the palate becomes taxed ~ but it is progressive rock, after all. That's entirely legal. No, those aren't what suppressed Yes' 1991 release. It is a clash of flavors. Or as they say in the culinary arts, "flavor profiles". Mexican and Malaysian food could be great together; On the other hand, the combination might not work at all. At moments we do get the feeling most of these fellas never even saw each other while this thing was being cobbled together.

Of course beggars can't be choosers and any new music by this beloved brotherhood was welcome, but if these eight masters of their craft had focused more on making a real record, a thoughtful and distilled version of this music while tossing out anything irrelevant, we might've gotten something good. Very good. Like Drama was, or 90125. Occasionally taking their production cues from what Genesis had done so eloquently and successfully in the eighties, the extended Yes family does make a strong effort in what I suspect a few of them felt was their best recording in a long time. Steve Howe's great riffage and some sweet group vocals save 'I Would Have Waited Forever', a prime example of prog's answer to the lovelorn Van Hagar sounds of the time. Acoustic solo 'Masquerade' earned Howe a Grammy nomination for best rock instrumental, but Squire/Rabin/Anderson pieces 'Lift Me Up', 'Without Hope..', and 'Saving My Heart' are increasingly cloying and sugary, typical of the stuff Rabin and Anderson were pitching to the market then.

Thankfully like a deep breath after drowning is Trevor Rabin's 'Miracle of Life', a perfectly good prog/pop bit with fine performances followed by equally good ABWH number 'Silent Talking', and Squire's brilliant and infectious 'The More We Live-Let Go' is one of his best songs and a highpoint here. Somehow extraneous 'Angkor Wat' and crappy 'Dangerous' made it to the final cut, and though fractured, 'Holding On' is what could've been another tiny piece of a much better, cohesive record. A couple of lukewarm attempts at Gabrielesque World music texture for 'Evensong' and 'Take the Water to the Mountain' finish this exasperating release.

What can one say about the Union period. It was a promising but ungratifying phase. Maybe it's why Rush has been able to survive intact all these years: There's only three of them.

Atavachron | 3/5 |


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