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Yes - Talk CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.08 | 1038 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars There are a lot of Yes fans who don't think much of this album, and I believe that the issue for many is not simply that it sounds like a solo album, but that it sounds like a Trevor Rabin solo album. To be fair, though, it's really closer to a Jon & Trevor album - - Jon Anderson, that is. Nonetheless, it's a fair criticism to say that this is the Yes album with the least band input. Bassist Chris Squire is listed as a co-writer, with Anderson and Rabin, on two songs, and while he plays and sings on each song, his presence is understated compared to any other Yes album (unless you want to include Union). Alan White, the drummer, is present and accounted for, but, it seems, as a session man, likely replacing drum-machine tracks laid down by Rabin. And keyboardist Tony Kaye suffers the indignity of being credited for "Hammond Organ;" Rabin is the keyboardist on Talk. In a significant change from this group's last album (again, I'm excluding Union from the discussion), neither White nor Kaye is credited with any songwriting (Kaye had co-written six of the eight songs on Big Generator, and White had been credited on three). Other than Squire's writing credits on "The Calling" and "Real Love," the only composer on Talk other than Rabin and Anderson is Roger Hodgson, formerly with Supertramp, on "Walls."

Rabin is also the album's sole producer, which is another anomaly in the Yes catalogue, as is the fact that the record company seems to have dictated who would and wouldn't be in the band for Talk. However, as I've discussed elsewhere, it seems ridiculous to believe that Jon Anderson was not fully complicit in Talk. Except for "Walls," Rabin's one solo turn (like "Changes" on 90125 and "Love Will Find a Way" on Big Generator), Anderson's vocals and lyrics are all over Talk. Interestingly, it's Anderson's wonderful coda ("Oh, this indecision...") that is the high point of "Walls."

In describing what they don't like about Talk, some have said that it sounds "sterile," "cold," or "digital." I used to assume this too, but it's baloney. The power of suggestion is at work here; the fact that the album was recorded on a primitive hard-disk system - - novel at the time - - provided an alternate, and seemingly objective, rationale for disliking the album. Rabin (and many others) didn't jump on straight-to-computer recording until its differences from analog were too fine for humans to discern. Compare the sound of Talk to other albums from the same time (The Division Bell, Counterparts, Peter Gabriel's Us) - - the idea that Talk sounds digital isn't objectively demonstrable. (That said, there are aspects of the dynamics that were only worth trying because of the digital technology. But those sections sound quieter or louder, not digitized.)

I'm no Talk fanboy, though; my issues with the album just differ from those I hear from others. While the production and performances are good, many of the songs are nothing special. Lead single "The Calling" has a certain Yes-like charm akin to that of "Lift Me Up," and features some guitar/organ interplay lifted from "Roundabout." But then begins a parade of uninspired songs: "I Am Waiting," "Real Love," "State of Play," each with some redeeming elements, but none of these songs has rewarded my repeated listens. Closing out the first half of the album is "Walls," a catchy number, and an obvious single, which is the second-best song here. But then it's back to the relative mundanity of "Where Will Be." It's not a bad song, but I expect more from Yes.

And finally, at the end of the album, I get what I wanted: the sixteen-minute "Endless Dream," which was the latter-day Yes "epic" until "Mind Drive" appeared in 1997. "Endless Dream" is five minutes longer than any Yes song had been since "Awaken" in 1977. Like "Awaken," and just about every long-form progressive-rock song, it has a few passages that are a bit drawn out, but "Endless Dream" is one of the very best Yes pieces of the Rabin era, especially the magnificent closing section, which makes great use of the voices of Anderson, Squire, and Rabin.

"Endless Dream" arrives to late for Talk to be classified with great Yes works like The Yes Album or Fragile, never mind masterpieces like Close to the Edge, Relayer, or Drama. On the other hand, Talk provides a solid listening experience from beginning to end, placing it ahead of Tormato or Union.

The sound is a bit heavier or harder than the average Yes album, so I'd recommend this album to heavy-prog fans interested in Yes, but only after listening to 90125 or Big Generator first. If you like those, I bet you'll like Talk as well.

patrickq | 3/5 |


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