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Yes - Magnification CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.73 | 1099 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Strings attached

With the Yes keyboards playing position becoming something of a revolving chair following the departure of Igor Khoroshev (and Billy Sherwood), the band decided that for this album they would replace the keyboards sections with a full orchestra. Strangely however, the orchestra does not receive an explicit credit, with only composer, arranger and conductor Larry Groupė being mentioned. The orchestration for the most part works well, in as much as it fits in with both the music and the sound of the band. While Yes had used an orchestra previously on parts of the "Time and a word" album, that was more a case of applying the additional sound after the tracks had been completed (As happened to the Beatles "Let it be"). Here, the orchestration was planned in advance, hence coming across as an integral part of the music.

The success or otherwise of such a venture is however ultimately down to the strength of the material, and this is where the album falls a bit short. Had the songs been of the quality of the tracks on "The Yes album", "Fragile" etc, we could be talking here of a masterpiece. Unfortunately, they are not. The dominant tracks here are the opening "Magnification", with the chanted mantra of the title, "Dreamtime" and "In the presence of..". "ITPO" has been retained in the band's live set, and is certainly the best of the bunch here.

One of the main issues I have is that the album is too lyrical. There was a real opportunity here to exploit the space available through extended orchestral passages, and for Steve Howe to add some considered guitar solos. It is however the voice of Anderson which dominates pretty much throughout. Lyrically, he moves between the schmaltzy ("Don't go", "Give love each day", "We agree", "Soft as a dove") to the refreshingly obscure. "Spirit of survival" includes such verses as "The younger the older the wiser become, recover misfortune this true life as one, our genius is shining the past has all gone, what's left is the clearest perception of one".

The song "Can you imagine" is interesting as it started life as a song called "Believe it", a demo off which was recorded by Alan White and Chris Squire with Jimmy Page when they briefly get together as XYZ (ex Yes and Zeppelin). Here, Chris Squire gets a rare chance to step up to the microphone as lead vocalist. The track has the sound of a "Fish out of water" outtake, perhaps not surprising given the fine orchestration of that album.

Apart from the brief coda "Time is time", the album concludes with two strong 10+ minute tracks. "Dreamtime" is a dynamic, progressively structures piece which I suspect would actually have sounded better had the orchestra been replaced by swirling synths and driving Hammond organ. "In the presence of" is a wordy piece but the strong melodies and intricate arrangement help it to stand out from its peers.

Overall, a positive album from Yes, which sees them trying hard to rekindle the magic of their early material. While this album is not up to the standards of those halcyon days, there remains much to enjoy here.

Yes continued the collaboration with orchestra on their YesSymphonic tour which followed this album. Many of the old favourites were given a new lease of life by the tour, which demonstrated all too clearly that the newer songs are decidedly second rate when presented alongside them. At the time of writing, this remains Yes's latest album. Hopefully, we will see exciting new product from them in 2008.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |


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