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Yes - Time and a Word CD (album) cover

TIME AND A WORD

Yes

 

Symphonic Prog

3.26 | 950 ratings

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Certif1ed
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2 stars Nearly Time Out

This equally flat follow up to their not exactly mind-blowing debut put the future of Yes in the balance. The fact that it actually did worse in terms of sales, failing completely to put them on the map in America, and causing Atlantic to seriously reconsider their contract only goes to underline how much work (and personnel changes) were required in order to make this band a success.

The opening cover of Ritchie Haven's No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Required shows Jon Anderson in the same mould as on the debut - barking out the lyrics and losing all sense of the original's vitality and drama. The vocal harmonies are not Springfield/CSN any more, they're utterly laughable.

The interpretation is, underneath all the sloppily engineered orchestration, not a bad one, musically, as it creates a powerful driving boogie that actually suits it. The opening orchestration is a complete joke, though, only topped in cringeworthiness by the sudden interjection into the title music from The Big Country, by Jerome Moss.

This style, though, is very close again to that of Scottish band Clouds, who used subtle orchestrations on their 1968 debut, Scrapbook, as well as the sudden classical style excursions and jazz moments.

The orchestration thing was inspired by The Nice and Deep Purple, according to AMG - but to these ears, Clouds are the natural predecessor. It sounds awful to me - and it sounded awful to poor Peter Banks, who was later sacked from the band. Unlike Clouds, though, Yes had a few students from the Royal College of Music as the orchestra, under the guidance of unknown Tony Cox - which might explain its general awfulness.

Add to that the crushing presence of Squire's bass, turning Bruford's kit into so many biscuit tins, and this is a real Spinal Tap moment in the history of Yes.

Then begins with a real Lord-like hammond, and more of that ridiculous orchestration, but, thanks to Bruford's drumming, is much more interesting. All manner of Genesis styled bits and pieces float through, with Emerson flavoured dischords from Tony Kaye. The instrumental section is mildly interesting, but mostly bluff in a kind of ELP style.

You can tell that Yes were trying to get onto the bandwagon they saw forming in the music of Crimson et al - but this falls far short of the mark until 4 minutes or so, when there is a sudden drop down to a laid-back coda, reminiscent of the middle section of Moonchild - or perhaps Child In Time, until Anderson ruins it all with those interminable squeaky vocals.

Next up is the lightly jazzy downtempo interpretation of Stephen Stills Everydays, which suffers even more from the orchestration, which is out of tune in places. Oddly enough, in other places, it works very well well well... speaking of which, when those words are sung, the piece is ruined for me.

Again, Anderson completely fails to pick up the feeling of the original piece - he totally loses the wonderful chromatic runs of the original, the thrown away well, well, wells, as well as the light-hearted sunshine at the core of the piece.

This moves on to a section that begins interestingly, before descending into a rather messy jam, Squire leading all the way, with loads of parallel chord movement that sets my teeth on edge. It's a peculiar mixture of bits and pieces that work and sound good, and more stuff that just sounds horrid, which you sit through in case another good bit appears.

Generally, it spectacularly fails to create the atmosphere of the original, instead, creating a kind of pastiche atmosphere of the progressive music scene, of which this is at the fringe - and not for the right reasons.

Sweet Dreams has a sort of proggy chugging rhythm on the bass and an uber- repetitive, catchy melody. There are flavours of the Beatles strongly running through this pop-styled song, but there are also a number of interesting changes in the music, and Banks puts in some interesting rhythm parts, reminiscent of the Byrds. The instrumental section is a bit of a train wreck, however. Mainly, it's Anderson's voice that kills the piece - which is a pity, as musically, it's more interesting than a lot of reviews might have you believe.

Kaye's intro to The Prophet stumbles around blindly after the first 30 seconds or so - but begins very promisingly, setting up a nice proggy texture. The intrusive strings soon wreck proceedings completely, and the piece flails around trying to find some kind of direction - but fails miserably.

Interesting sounds poke through, but mainly, this piece is based around a few simple jams - the main one being based on a single chord. Where it isn't, the sections are short and mainly a Squire/Bruford showcase duet. These latter are sometimes interesting, but never develop.

The orchestration then introduces Clear Days, a mercifully short saccharine-sweet ballad. Buried in the mix are some meandering piano lines from Kaye, which sound like they might be quite interesting.

Then we're blasted with a funky riff from Banks, picked up by the rest of the band - a tired walking bass line from Squire, and some brave efforts from Bruford to save things rhythmically in Astral Traveller.

The warped effect on Anderson's bark soon gets old, and the continued intensity of this piece makes for tiring listening - yet there is something that draws me in, until the kind of tinkly bit half way through - another classic Spinal Tap moment of the most embarrassing sort - and even then, there are still moments of near-glory in the music, even in the continuing single chord jams, with off-kilter rhythms and superb sonic arrangements.

Definitely the proggiest piece on this entire album.

Finally, the title track - which one would expect to be the high point of the album; the moment everything has been leading up to.

Instead, we get this rather unconvincing song with an interesting arrangement, sans the horrible orchestration at last, that shows a band tentatively experimenting with different chord progressions within the confines of a pop song.

So ultimately, there's not a lot of variety in this album, no overarching concept, a preponderance with pop song writing, horrible string orchestration - Motown did it much better, years before - a tendency to wear their influences on their sleeves to the point of including covers, some really painful moments, and awful vocals and lyrics.

On the bright side, there are some very interesting musical moments, and the album offers a kind of compulsion on that basis - you trawl through the dross in order to hear the good bits, and are duly rewarded, even if momentarily. Oh, and 50% of the songs are longer than 5 minutes.

Since Yes have long been considered among the darlings of Prog, this is definitely an album to listen to, even if not actually own. It's also worth exploring the tiny back catalogue of Marquee-mates Clouds, who are now here in the archives to more fully appreciate this album in context.

Not a very good album - but a recommended, if not compulsory listen for all collectors and fans of Prog.

Certif1ed | 2/5 |

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