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Yes - Time and a Word CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.33 | 1516 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Folks, you have to assume that the art department at Atlantic Records was out to intentionally sabotage Yes. After being duly impressed by their first album the year before, I go looking for this in the summer of 1970 in anticipation that they would be even better this go 'round. When I find the LP I'm not crazy about the cover photo but it's not terrible. They look like an average rock and roll band, nothing more. Then I turn it over and there are five ghastly high-contrast black and white individual photos that make them look like derelicts. Jon looks like a zombie that just bit into a lemon, the pictures of Chris and Bill look more like death masks, Tony looks like Charlie Manson and Peter looks like an aquarium fish. If I didn't know they were outstanding musicians I would never have bought it. Horrible album cover. Period. Now that I've had my rant about the inexcusable presentation, onward to the content.

Having been brought up listening to symphonic music, I was excited by what I had read about Yes working with an orchestra on their 2nd LP. Unfortunately, it doesn't work any better than it had for others who'd ventured down the same road. Their cover of an obscure Richie Havens song, "No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed," kicks off the album with a strong organ intro and a stirring string section that makes you think for a moment that this is going to knock your socks off. But no. It quickly becomes just an average rock tune with the orchestra sounding like they're playing a theme from a TV western. "Then" is an improvement as Kaye's growling Hammond organ work lays down a fine foundation and Anderson's vocal indicates he's improving as a singer. Bruford's drums and Squire's bass interplay nicely throughout but the goofy ending leaves a lot to be desired.

Their dynamic rendition of "Everydays" is Yes finding another good specimen of late 60s California semi-swing to cover, this one by Stephen Stills of Buffalo Springfield. You gotta give these guys their props. When they do an arrangement of someone else's material they take it places the composer never dreamed it would or could go. This may be the only time the orchestral score reaches its potential as they perform some cool unison jazz phrasing with the group in the middle section. It also shows that Yes was still holding on to some of the jazz leanings they showcased on their debut. (Oh, and this time the song's ending is excellent.) "Sweet Dreams" features the lush harmonies they nurtured and a likeable melody but it suffers from a rather clumsy underlying track that never finds a groove. "The Prophet" is the most adventurous tune here containing a lot of well- intentioned ideas but no cohesive overall focus. And, once again, the symphony is too corny and contemporary for this kind of music. "Clear Days" is a so-so ballad but the overbearing string quartet steamrolls over the melody and the piano. The tune is disjointed and strange.

Then, at last, a ray of bright, golden sunshine! "Astral Traveller" finally delivers the goods and promises us that stupendous things are eventually going to come from Yes in the years ahead. It's got everything that great, six-minute progressive rock is about. On this song the individuals are as one. (By the way, the band I was with in '74 performed this tune in nightclubs for a few months and it was exhilarating and challenging to play. Alas, the usual responses at the end were frustrated cries from the inebriated crowd to "play something we can boogie to!") "Time and a Word" with its catchy love generation "pop" chorus brings things to a pleasant finale. It's a thinly disguised stab at getting a Top 40 hit to my ear but I have to say it's a well-written song that can easily be sung loudly in the privacy of one's own shower.

While all of us who liked the first album were somewhat underwhelmed by this sophomore effort, we still found reasons to give Yes the benefit of the doubt. Bill Bruford's drumming was much more powerful and confident than before. Plus the harmonies were tighter and more precise. If there was a weak area it was in Peter Banks' inconsistent guitar work but that was already in the process of being remedied remarkably by a virtuoso named Steve Howe. "Time and a Word" displays a talented quintet that was still searching for its unique sound, this time by experimenting with orchestral augmentations. They didn't find their niche here but they certainly did on the next project and then it was Katy bar the door.

Chicapah | 3/5 |


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