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Yes - Going For The One CD (album) cover

GOING FOR THE ONE

Yes

 

Symphonic Prog

4.03 | 1940 ratings

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cfergmusic1
4 stars After the heretofore-uncharted musical waters of Relayer, Yes proceeded to tour behind the album for almost two years, with a break in between so all five members could record their own solo albums. At the end of 1976, Yes decided to pack their bags for Montreux, Switzerland (ostensibly on a tax holiday) to record their next album. Despite the fact they were recording in then-current keyboardist Patrick Moraz's home country, he was let go in favor of his predecessor, Rick Wakeman, who the band felt could contribute more to the material (even though Moraz claims to have already written parts of the album). Almost overnight, the old Yes lineup of Anderson/Howe/Squire/Wakeman/White (and the one that has proven to have the most longevity out of all of them) was back in business.

I think of this album as Yes coming back down to Earth after the space-trips of Relayer. I understand where some would think that this is something of a letdown in that context, but the way I see it is, there was really nowhere else for Yes to go after their excursions with Moraz. So they decided to go back to the "old" way of doing things and, lucky for us, found that they still had some as-yet untapped creative juices flowing, which must have been inspiring for them (certainly for the fans). As Rick says, everyone involved had changed for the better in his absence, including he.

The title track, with Alan White's count-off, signals Yes' most straightforward rocker in years?maybe ever, since Bill Bruford wasn't exactly famous for playing this sort of thing. A certified classic this is, with Steve Howe's steel guitar providing a running commentary throughout the 5 1/2 minutes and Jon Anderson stretching, stretching, stretching his vocal range to great effect. The lyrics, unusually for Yes, are partly inspired by outdoor sports such as river-rafting and horse racing and are some of Anderson's more direct for the band. Rick's keyboards are in full force here, with the debut of a new instrument, the Polymoog, which provides one of my favorite Yes moments ever?the contrary-motion, full-keyboard chromatic runs in the break at the end of Steve's solo. I also love the bell-like tones at the end vamp section (notably at 3:38) that remind me of some older video games from my childhood. (This is probably the same instrument; not sure.)

This track also has a touch of reverb or some other subtle effect which is a hallmark of the production of the entire album. Being that it was recorded in the mountains of Switzerland, this album has a very "cozy" sound, avoiding the trappings of the disco age in which it was released (1977) and enveloping the listener in what I call the "sound blanket" effect. This album definitely sounds like its environment?the Alps?for the sense of wonder it inspires whenever I listen to it (I also get this same impression when listening to Beethoven's late piano sonatas?they sound like the Alps to me).

"Turn of the Century," supposedly a more "emotional" endeavor for Yes, describes a sculptor immortalizing his beloved in stone before, and after, the time of her death (which apparently was relatively quick). Although the lyrics certainly have a deep quality to them, sorry to say I've never been a great fan of this one. This is largely a feature for Howe, which isn't a bad thing by any means, but neither Squire nor White have terribly much to do here (apart from White's vibraphone and glockenspiel near the beginning of the instrumental section around 3:50), and overall the piece seems to lose focus about halfway through and drown in its own vulnerability. I realize I'm in the minority here (as this is a fan fave), but to be fair, the first couple of minutes are lovely; I just wish I could appreciate it more.

"Parallels" picks up steam immediately though. This was apparently a holdover from Chris Squire's Fish Out of Water album a couple years earlier, but it's so obviously a Yes song to me (and to many others, I'm sure) that I simply can't imagine him doing a solo version of it (which I'm not sure he ever did anyway). One unusual, although great, aspect of this tune is the fact that the main riff is driven by the pipe organ at St. Martin's church in nearby Vevey (which was also used for the end section of "Awaken"); Rick outdoes himself yet again and even makes that instrument rock in his solo. The whole track has a great energy to it, helped out again by the production and a solid groove set down by Chris and Alan. Steve comes to the fore and pushes himself as well. Dig the full-band hit at the end of the bridge on "STRONG!", right after the single-note guitar crescendo that had been building for about two seconds beforehand. I love it!

One word about "Wonderous Stories" (another personal favorite) before I actually review the track: Under the standard rubric of the English language, this song would be?and, in the eyes of some, should have been?called "Wondrous Stories" (without the "e" on the first word). That fact used to bug me for a long time until I realized that the misspelling was on purpose, to accommodate Anderson's sung melody (because it wouldn't have worked otherwise). Anyway, on to the actual song, which is a great example of Yes going back to the early days by writing shorter tunes (at 3:45, this is right in line lengthwise with some of the Time and a Word material). This is a wonderful little tale in which Jon engages in study with one of his gurus and listens to stories of his?the guru's?spiritual enlightenment (at least that's how I interpret it). Steve strums on Portuguese 12-string acoustic guitar and Rick once again breaks out his Polymoog (which apparently was not a terribly reliable instrument even by analog synth standards). Beautiful stuff, with nary a misplaced note.

For the last track, "Awaken," it seemed as though Yes weren't done doing the "epic" thing yet; at 15 1/2 minutes, it's by far the album's longest track. It also seems as though every Yes fan, as well as just about anyone who ever had anything to do with the band, loves this track without reservation. Myself, I really like about half of it and find the rest to be unfocused and rambling. The first four minutes or so are the most rewarding; Rick's piano intro sets the mood perfectly (the upper-register send-off in octaves after the synth pad entrance never fails to make me grin), and Jon's "High Vibration" vocal intro is cushioned beautifully by the aforementioned synth pads and Steve's volume-swelled and echoed guitar. The track suddenly switches gears for another one of my favorite Yes moments, the "Awaken Gentle Mass Touch" choruses in 11/4 time; Alan's ghosted snare figures behind the instrumental section are a great subtle touch and another example of how solid he was in his prime (imagine if Jeff Porcaro played prog rock!). Steve's solo rides over some of the band's most inspired playing here; Alan then proceeds to superimpose another, more conventional rhythm over the last vocal line. So, so great.

It's really too bad that most of the rest of the piece is (to my ears) rather hacky. The circle-of-fifths exercise is explored at only its most basic level on the next section, "Workings of Man," although it's developed more fully on "Master of Images" at around 11 minutes. Unfortunately, before we get to that, we have to sit through a quiet and rather lengthy waltz-time section, outlined mostly by Rick and Steve (and Jon's harp), that may sound nice and all but doesn't really go anywhere. After a couple of "Master" choruses, the piece goes into another dimension with Rick's Bach-like solo on church organ (the church organ tracks were recorded live with the band through high-fidelity telephone wires and completed in about 10 minutes by "One-Take Wakeman"), which rides out the final chorus under another appearance from Steve's steel guitar. Eventually, we reach a peaceful and satisfying conclusion with the reprise of "High Vibration" and some additional lyrics over the same chord changes. At least the album ends with a strong couple of minutes.

The remaster by Rhino/Elektra contains seven bonus tracks that, much like the remastered debut album, almost fill up all the available CD space at 79:38 or thereabouts. The first one, previously released on the Yesyears box, is "Montreux's Theme," an instrumental full-band exercise (with Jon playing rhythm guitar) that I feel is good enough to have been on the original album, say as a prelude to "Awaken"; it's certainly in keeping with the tone of much of the material and wouldn't have hurt the continuity of the album one bit. We also get the full version of "Vevey," previously unheard, which features more of Rick's pipe-blasting against Jon's gentle harp. Wakeman's time in Montreux would prove very fruitful and productive, as he was simultaneously recording his Criminal Record album (to my ears his best-ever solo effort), which also prominently featured Squire and White in supporting roles. Speaking of Squire, his solo bass version of "Amazing Grace" is next; the song itself is always a pleasure to hear and Squire offers an interesting look at it, much like Jaco Pastorius would do with "America the Beautiful" a few years later.

The remaining four tracks are basically just rehearsal takes of most of the album's songs. The title track is done only by the core trio (Howe, Squire, White) and seems tamer in comparison with the finished product. So, too, does "Parallels," but at least there are some cool bits in it towards the end and White grooves more solidly than ever (again in a Jeff Porcaro sort of way). We also get a shorter, more focused "Turn of the Century" and "Awaken" (here known as "Eastern Number" or "Numbers" depending on which pressing you have) to finish it off. I don't really count bonus tracks in the overall rating of any album, but the extra 40 minutes contained herein paint a more complete picture of what Yes was up to in 1976-77.

Overall, I think Going for the One is a very good continuation of the Yes story, not least because it shows the band streamlining their sound to a certain extent (at least for three out of five songs anyway). The songs sound fresh for the time, the sound quality is airy yet warm, and the cooperation between band members is the best for this line-up so far. There's a good reason many fans see it as standing with the best of the 70s material (although my reasons are apparently different than others') and I would definitely recommend this as a "lower-first-tier" Yes album. Also, male backside or no male backside, and Roger Dean or no Roger Dean, that triple-gatefold cover with the Century Plaza Towers in the foreground is pretty sweet, eh? 4 stars out of 5.

cfergmusic1 | 4/5 |

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