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Yes - 90125 CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

2.97 | 1439 ratings

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3 stars Hmmm, well, this is it. The album that got me truly interested in prog for the first time. It's funny now, thinking back, since this album is clearly not a progressive rock album, but I can't help but feel a slight partiallity towards it since it did spark my interest in the genre in general. Before this, I didn't even know who Yes was. Oh, I'm sure my father most likely played me bits and pieces of ''Fragile'' when I was younger, since that is his personal favorite Yes album, but I was never aware of who the band exactly was or what type of music they played until I listened to this album for the first time.

I was thirteen or fourteen years old, and my uncle had ''Changes'' playing in the car sterio. I remember enjoying the track immensely, and requesting him to play me some more stuff from the album. He then backtracked and played me ''Owner of a Lonely Heart'', and I was hooked from that point on. Now, in retrospect, this is not a very good album by Yes standards, but you must ask yourself- - if this were a completely different band that didn't have the name ''Yes'' attached to it, would you feel as dissapointed by it? classic Yes fans went into this album with certain expectations, and of course they weren't met, but had Trevor Rabin gone through with the Cinema idea, maybe the response to this effort wouldn't be as negative on the whole.

Now, am I defending it? Perhaps, but I still intend to give the record a fair and balanced review. I just want to urge anyone going into it for the first time to realize what the original plan was behind the 90125 project. Had Chris Squire and Trevor Rabin not given in to that power-hungry idiot Phil Carson, Cinema could have been Squire's equivalent to Howe's Asia project, and this release could have been appreciated as an entirely seperate device, rather than the 're-vamped' Yes that everyone of the old fans grew to despise. But, in all of their wisdom, Cinema listened to Carson's suggestions, got Anderson and Kaye involved late in the game, and became Yes West.

As I listen to this album, I find that I enjoy it, but not as a Yes project. I enjoy it as Cinema's debut release. When I file away this CD, I sometimes find myself temped to put it among the ''C''s in my Prog-related section of the shelf. Why? Because it is so different, and I can actually enjoy it as longas I don't look at it as a Yes record. That may be a strange way to interpret it, but for me, that is what works, and it also helps me find some enjoyement out of listening to 90125 that would be absent if I thought of it as the follow-up to ''Drama''.

With those aspects in mind, allow me to review 90125, Cinema's debut LP.

''Owner of a Lonely Heart'' Is the album's opeber, and as I found out later was a track that would have never made the album had Trevor Horn not coaxed Rabin into recording it. Luckily that happened, because it gives the album alot of it's appeal, not to mention saved Yes' life, serving as their biggest hit single to date. It begins with Trevor Rabin's superb guitar power-playing, which already lets the listener know that what will follow will be nothing like anything a Yes fan has heard from them before. The drums sounds are awful, but that is to expected, since apparently the trend for bands in the 80s was to tune the drums as high as they could do, then only play on one of them, with an occasiol cymbal strike thrown in for good measure. While this certainly takes quite a bit of getting used to, it is possible to do just that. Alan White (as he proved on ''Relayer'') is an excellent drummer that could rival Bill Bruford on anything, as far as I am concerned, yet this over-simplifying of his instrument--and ultimately his role is the band-- takes a toll on the record.

The song itself is actually quite nice, though, with some great voce work from Anderson, though he is clearly singing ''the hits'' now, as the melodic, ever-moving style of his voice is nowhere to be heard here. There is a great breakdown in the song in which just the guitar is featured, playing the riffs repeatedly, and while I'm not a big fan of the distortionwhen it comes to a Yes album, Trevor Rabin is without a doubt a great guitar player. Much more modern and contemporary in style as opposed to Howe's classical training, but he shouldn't be scoffed at, and even though he has been considered the ''Yes-wrecker'' by many, I hope that my singling out of Phil ''Moneybags'' Carson has laid that assumption to rest, as Rabin really never set out to do anything wrong to Yes.

Another casualty in the wake of Carson's BRILLIANT idea of reforming Yes way too late in the album's production is the lyrics. Nothing on this album lyrically is worth anyone's time of day as far as I am concerned, and I attribute that to the sloppy way in which this album was done. I mean, here is Trevor Rabin trying to do something completely different with Cinema, but because he happens to be working on the project with a couple of ex-Yes members, the pressure to reform Yes is placed upon his shoulders long after the original songwriting took place. After coming it at this late of a stage, Jon Anderson could only do so much with the already-existing material, and as a result the typically intelligent lyrics and voice work of Yes is gone on 90125.

''Hold On'' is dreadful. Period. A typical pop song if I ever heard one. Feel like I am listening to any number of long-forgotten top 40 one-hit wonders from the same era. How Jon Anderson and Chris Squire, the two founding members of Yes, stood for half the stuff on this record is beyond me. Truly. Around Two minutes and Thirty-three seconds in, the familiar vocal harmonies of the class Yes era actually makes an appearance, but only for a moment, and the presentation is still emotionless and flat. Not enough to redeem the song, in any case.

The fake sitar intro to ''It Can Happen'' is . . . sort of interesting, I guess. The absolutely horrible lyrical adventure of ''Look up, look down, look out, look around'' makes me ill just to listen to. The over- produced reverb sound to the whole damn song doesn't make it appear any greater to me, either. Another pass in my book.

''Changes''. Ahhh, classic opening to any song. I mean that. I love the way the keyboards build, followed by an abrupt guitar power play before the song attacks full force. Hark, is that some odd time signature work I hear? The guitar riff Rabin introducs at a minute seventeen still wells me full of emotion. Maybe it's merely a sentimental thing, bringing back my memory of first hearing it, but this in my opinion is the best song on the whole damn thing. Trevor Rabin's vocals are actually quite good, as well, although I'm sure Anderson wasn't happy that he wasn't singing lead vocals on ALL of the songs, but hey, this particular incarnation of Yes wasn't his baby, now was it? Even the chorus to the song seems to have so much stronger quality to it when compared to every song that preceeded it. The mini- solo at 4:03 is also very tasteful and doesn't draw attention to itself at all. This track manages to hold a constant atmosphere to it the entire time, something that classic Yes was always great at, and Yes West never really accomplished again. The song's outro revisits its intro, and the sudden ending packs a certain punch that seals the deal for me. A very solid track through-and-through. Probably the only ''great'' song on the record, aside from the next song, of course . . .

''Cinema'' always made me think that it is the sort of thing classic Yes would have been doing all along had they been a space-rock band, since the instrumentship is still top-notch, but has a very psychedelic vibe to it that Yes never had before. The only the real problem with this song is that it is too short.

''Leave It'' starts out great, with more of that classic vocal harmonizing taking place. So much for keeping THAT up, however; it ends almost as soon as it began, and turns into a very poppy scat-fest that is very annoying to hear. Once again Trevor Rabin is the first to sing on this song, followed by ridiclous sampled drum beats-- a mixture of real drummer, electronic beeps, and hand claps. We've all heard it on the 80s collection CDs. For this effect to be found on a Yes album is very disturbing, however.

''Our Song'' - Well . . . not exactly ''Roundabout'' part two, but . . . okay, it just isn't any good. The organ work here makes the cheesiest prog song you can imagine look like a hardcore metal scream- fest. Squire's bass work, however, is actually very prominant here. The only time he really gets to shine, sadly.

''City of Love'' - ''City o' luv, city o' luv, city o' luv, city o' luv, city o' luv-- HEY!'' Lets us know that the horrible lyrics haven't even begun yet, and the random shifting between metal-esque guitar chords and Air supply-ish keyboard pounding is a recipe for disaster. Acrtually sounds at one point like they wanted to sound like Led Zeppelin, and to be honest, that is the best part of the song. It actually kinda- sorta redeems it a bit. At least I don't always hit the '>>|' button on this song because of that section, so that's something, right? So the bottom line is, the second half of this song is absolutely amazing hard rock, while the beginning is all over the place. If you have the patience to sit through nearly two minutes of poorly-exouted pop rock, you may just enjoy this track. Oh, but the crap lyrics merely continue on the way they were, unfortunately. But, what are we really supposed to do? Expect good lyrics from Yes? Nah . . .

''Hearts'' 's intro actually reminds me quite a bit of ''To Be Over'' from ''Relayer'', which is a good thing, of course, at least where I am concerned. This is the longest song on the album, clocking in at almost eight minites. *whew!* Wouldn't want them to break a sweat, now, would we? It's pretty boring in the beginning. If any song could have gone this long, it should have been ''Cinema'', but alas, it was this. An awe-inspiring guitar solo from Rabin kicks in soon enough, though, that actually reminds me of something Dam Jones would later do on the Tool racords. I'm almost certain this is just coincidence, but I bring this up simply because that right there shows that Rabin was actually a very revolutionary guitar player for the time, and was playing feedback-clad guitar solos that were actually intelligab;e long beofre it was common. Any other time you were able to hear something like this at the time was in metal music. Actually, several solos ensue throughout the track's unfolding, and by the end, Rabin alone has left you feeling some sense of accomplishment. While it may not be what the Yes fans expected, I truly don't think it is a 'bad' album.

So, why three stars? Well, because I honestly feel like had it been releasedas intended, under the Cinema banner, it would have been accepted alot more in the long run as a very good side-project, much like Asia. But since that didn't happen, and the new Yes was pretty much manufactured by the record label at this time, 90125 ended up being twisted and contorted into something that was never meant to be. I look at Yes West as Cinema, and because of that, I cannot bring myself to give 90125 a two star rating. It isn't a bad Yes album, it is a good stand-alone album that had a spot of bad luck, which hurt it ultimately. As ar as the music itself goes, however, it is quality stuff. It just isn't Yes.

You be the judge. Give it a whirl, and as long as you keep in mind that it wasn't written with the intention of being a Yes record, I think you will be able to enjoy it.

Semi-happy listening.

JLocke | 3/5 |


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