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Yes - Union CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

2.51 | 1231 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Not as bad as many might think. It is clear the album lacks a general idea in music and lyrics. In fact, it is nothing more than a compilation of some ABWH recordings and a little bit of 90125 Yes. In 1990 ABWH was working on its second album, Yes was still in the recording process of the first album without Jon Anderson. It would have been an important album. This band had to proof they deserved the Yes name. After several phone calls between Jon Anderson and Chris Squire they decided to have the music of the two projects united on one album and to call it Union. But the album doesn't sound as a union at all. You can hear two different bands. The information in the booklet says the total amount of players is 8 on the album : Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman, Bill Bruford, Alan White, Chris Squire, Tony Kaye and Trevor Rabin. In fact it may be 20 or more. After the recording was finished, producer Jonathan Elias invited some friends to record some of the parts again. Most of the time you're not even listening to members of ABWH or 90125 yes. Those session musicians like Steve Porcaro may be very talented, still.a forgery is a forgery. The idea of using session musician instead of Yes people is repulsive, never heard of the producer again. Let's pretend we don't know all of that and judge the the music on what we hear on the record.

"I would have waited forever" is a good opening track and "Shock to the system" an ideal second one, it reminds me of "City of love" from 90125. This music was intended to appear on the second ABWH album but does sound a lot more powerful than the ABWH of the first album : lots of guitars, less keyboards, slightly commercial stuff. "Shock" was one of the few songs to be played live in the union tour. Listening to the commentary of some band members, this can't be a coincidence. Wakeman recalls himself throwing this album out of the window when he played it for the first and only time. The songs aren't bad but the band uses conventional formula of short tracks with predictable verses and choruses. I suppose there was some pressure from the record company to write plain songs. What's left is the confusion of 4 virtuoso musicians playing their own part in their own way at the same time. This isn't necessarily a bad thing as we know only Yes can do it right so it's still enjoyable. Tony Levin is playing the bass on all of the ABWH music. I always found his style of playing very suitable for Yes maybe because he played a lot with Bruford in the past as the rhythm section of King Crimson and some other projects. To add the complex style of Howe to it, must be a good thing. At the time I was expecting a lot of this Yes for the future. Unfortunately this was the last albums these guys were involved in a Yes project.

You shouldn't worry too much about the running order of the tracks. It is not recommended to listen from start to finish. Some tracks seem to work out fine on their own. "Ankhor Watt" and "Take the river to the mountain" are great mysterious sounding tracks. Masquerade is the "Mood for a day" of this album, the only acoustic track of Steve Howe. A nice little instrumental track. "Give and take" was the bonus track for the European edition of Union but I've never discovered the American edition without it. Funny enough this is one of the best tracks the band did release in the 90's, not a big deal if you know what would follow later, but anyway. It is obvious Anderson had a big influence on the ABWH tracks and rumours said this was the reason why he left Yes in 1988. "The rest of the band refused to do what he wanted" Squire explained afterwards.

90125 Yes tries to recapture the creativity and hippy ideals of Close to the edge in "Miracle of life". They fail but it isn't a bad song. "The more we live" is one of the best songs of this album. This epic track has an atmospheric sound and would have been a good song to be included on Big Generator. For this song Yes invited Eddie Offord to come along. He used to be the producer of their masterpieces of the seventies "Saving my heart" and "Lift me up" are rather slick commercial eighties music and should be avoid. When combined with the ABWH, the 90125 parts sounds flat and extremely polished.

You'll find a lot of good material on Union which could have worked out fine in a more suitable format. Here we have several formats all melted together in a bad mixture of some good idea's. Can you imagine what could have happened if those 8 people really worked together from the start ? I'm sure it would have been magical. Union has its moments but on the whole it's a missed opportunity.

Fishy | 3/5 |


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