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Yes - The Word Is Live CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.24 | 139 ratings

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THE WORD IS LIVE has received a drubbing from the critics, which I think is somewhat unfair. Most of the performances are excellent, and if you're into 1970s Yes I recommend them unreservedly. It's true that recording quality is passable at best, and awful most of the time. Just play this album on that small portable CD-player you've got in your kitchen, and such things won't bother you too much. Provided you can buy THE WORD at a reduced price, I don't think you'll ever regret acquiring a copy.

A feeling of opportunities missed crept up with the very first two tracks (BBC recordings), which had been available for quite a while. Why waste space on such stuff, Rhino, if you could have given us "Starship Trooper" from 1971? But from track 3 onwards, it's, er, "jingle all the way"! On both "Astral Traveller" and "Everydays", the lead guitar solos from Steve Howe (not Peter Banks) are astonishing. Howe's solo turn on "Yours is no Disgrace" (featuring BB on drums) is equally exhilerating. "America" suffers from some unnecessary repetition (apparently the band, at that stage, still needed to edit and trim their epic interpretation), but "It's Love" (a track I didn't know; is it an old Motown number?) is great, innocent fun: it features Chris Squire playing bass and singing scat at the same time, neatly prefiguring Mr. Stanley Clarke.

On the second disc, "Future Times/Rejoice" (from TORMATO) still doesn't sound convincing, but the much-maligned "Circus of Heaven" brought a smile to my face. On "Siberian Khatru", Patrick Moraz replaces Rick Wakeman's harpsichord with electric piano (an unforgivable sin, in my view) but this strange performance is immediately followed by a blistering version of "Sound Chaser" (also from Detroit 1976), which really makes me wonder why Rhino didn't include "To Be Over" as well.

I used to be an admirer of YESSONGS (it was the first Yes album I ever bought) but nowadays I play the set very little, as I generally prefer the studio originals. It came as a pleasant surprise that I really enjoyed the versions of "Long Distance Runaround", "The Fish", "Roundabout" and "Heart of the Sunrise" on THE WORD IS LIVE. To my feeling, these tunes all sound crisper, leaner and more exciting than on the earlier live album. One of the reasons is that you can now hear Rick Wakeman's keyboards more clearly, and Rick plays with admirable fluency. The same is true about "Awaken", where Rick sounds, once again, superb - although on this particular track, Steve's fast, electric solo really sounds too dry, not aggressive enough.

I can't complain about Steve's playing in general: on the three pieces by the Buggles-dominated Yes (Disc Three, tracks 3-5), you can tell he's "reaching for the stars", and when he does so, you know he'll sound rather cacophonic at times, but at least you could never say he's just going through the motions... To tell you the truth, this entire collection gave me such a thrill I even enjoyed the performances of the Trevor Rabin-dominated band (Disc Three, tracks 6-9). Just seeing those photographs (on p. 34 and 39 in the booklet) of Jon Anderson in the late 1980s, holding his toy microphone, reminded me how I used to despise this incarnation (a betrayal of all I once held dear) but if you judge their music on its own terms, it sounds just fine: it is melodious, performed with conviction and (I never thought I'd write this!) even Trevor Rabin's solos are fun.

RATING: Three and a half stars.

fuxi | 3/5 |


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