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Yes - Drama CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.77 | 1544 ratings

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4 stars As much as I hate to admit it (especially in light of recent Yes events), Jon Anderson's departure during this era of the band's career was shockingly the best thing for the band. While Anderson had continued to become more and more pretentious and out of his mind when it came to song composition, lyrics and concepts, the rest of the band began to break away. After the slight disappointment that was Tormato, Anderson, along with keyboardist Rick Wakeman, decided to leave the band. For Wakeman, this was not his first (or even his last) time departing from the dysfunctional monster that is Yes, however nobody thought that the band could survive without their mastermind. Make no mistake . . . in many ways, Jon Anderson IS Yes, and I certainly have great disrespect for the band for how they are currently treating him (the year is 2010 as of this writing), but despite all of that, I cannot deny that Drama, Anderson-less or not, is one of Yes' most magical albums.

For some reason, everything that led to this record's inception happened at the right time, and it worked out. Chris Squire had this batty idea to bring in the Pop group called 'Buggles' to fill the musical and creative void left by the departure of two of the band's key figures. Surely this was madness. The only thing these new guys had been successful at in terms of their own music prior to this experiment was getting their song to be the first video played on MTV. ''Video Killed the Radio Star'' is a far cry from ''Gates of Delerium'', I think you'll agree. And yet, what resulted from this extremely odd pairing turned out to be a bright light in the hazy darkness that was the band's output around this time. The previous album hadn't been all that well received, and the Rabin-era records to follow would make some of the most drastic changes Yes ever saw. So how can it be that this album, caught in between these two lesser- enjoyed eras, is so amazing? And without the band's original frontman and songwriter to boot? I have no idea, but believe me . . . it is.

''Machine Messiah'' is one of Yes' darkest and most mature works, in my opinion. Apart from the majority of content on Relayer, I don't know of any other material the band has done that matches the intensity of this. The opening riff is distorted, heavy and borders on Metal, not kidding. However, the lighter, more melodic sound Yes got famous for is also mixed in here and there. The changes between the dreary and the hopeful attitudes are pulled off very successfully, and I'm telling you, this is one of the most Progressive songs in the band's catalogue. It goes in every direction, is full of technically impressive musical changes that keeps the listener on their toes. Trevor Horn and Chris Squire harmonize incredibly well, and the moments when Horn is heard singing solo for the first time, it is clear that he has what it takes to take on this type of music vocally. No, he's not quite as good at it as Jon Anderson, but he's a damn good mimic, and considering how Anderson's style isn't all that easy to replicate, my hat goes off to Trevor Horn for even attempting it. The fact that he goes beyond merely attempting and actually succeeds as the vocalist is even better.

At 5:46, the song takes a dramatic turn, featuring some truly stirring guitar chords that are much more in line with Pink Floyd than anything on the Yes front up until this point, but again, the guys truly left no stone unturned when it came to musical style, and yet never once does this album lose direction, and this song in particular shows just how good the band was at writing and performing darker music. It actually makes their catalogue all the more diverse and interesting for it. And when the vocal harmonies come in at this point, it moves me every time. I honestly am baffled by it, but this song is one of my favorite Yes pieces, and I'm one of the biggest Jon Anderson fans you're likely to find. His absence isn't felt at all, and I blow my own mind in saying that, but that's just how it is. Some nice recapitulation of the earlier moments and a final reprise of the song's strongest section, and it ends, very much holding my attention and wetting my appetite for what may come next.

''White Car'', not even a minute-and-a-half long, is the first to truly showcase Trevor Horn's vocal ability, and despite its insanely short length, is not a bad track in the least. It's just the right length and serves the music well.

''Does It Really Happen?''. Wow, what a dynamic bass line from Chris Squire! The rest of the ensemble breaks in soon enough, and after a small breakdown, the first truly memorable riff comes in around forty seconds in. By a minute in, however, this track pulls back the veil and reveals what it really is: an eighties pop song wrapped heavily in Prog trappings. Nothing at all wrong with that, but it is the most metallic-sounding song on the record. For some, that might be too wide of a departure from the classic Yes sound, but for people who only like good music, trademark style be damned, then you'll still like this one. However, it IS probably one of the lesser tracks on Drama, all things considered.

''Into the Lens''. Originally a track that Geoff Downes had lying around called ''I Am A Camera'' it doesn't really take off until a little over a minute in, but it surely does shine once given a chance to develop a bit. This is really not traditional Yes at all, but it is still very progressive and ever-changing. I think I haven't really mentioned Geoff Downes' abilites yet. Let me just say, the man is brilliant. Probably my second-favorite 'alternate' keys man the band had, just behind Patrick Moraz. Downes is an amazing player, and he brought a lot of new technology and he really steals the show so often on this record, it's mind-blowing. This song in particular, though. benefits greatly from the synthesized soundscapes and melody lines from Mr. Downes. 3:20 brings some truly remarkable vocal melodies into the picture, and then only twenty seconds later, the band is frantically chugging forward into borderline Metal territory again. As I mentioned earlier, despite this constant weaving in and out of various musical territory, the songs never lose their way, and are always brilliantly written and concisely performed. This is another great song, and is the second-longest song on Drama. Much like the album's opener, it's got everything-- time signature switch-ups, amazingly well-executed merging of genres and a whole lot of impressive playing.

''Run Through the Light'' starts things off wonderfully again. Nice synth-y atmosphere, clean guitar melodies and Trevor Horn singing what is quite possibly the most beautiful melody on the whole record. This album as a whole is just as top-notch as the two largest tracks, and in some ways, I find myself anxiously awaiting this song to arrive whenever I spin this album. It is certainly a more modern song, but is probably the best example of 70s-meets-80s Drama has to offer. It just also happens to be really damn good.

''Tempus Fugit'' is most likely the most well-known track off of this record. It's quite aggressive and effects-heavy, especially for Yes music, but oh wow, how catchy and fun! Chris Squire is playing his Bass through a flanger, and it gives his bass lines a very unique, spacey quality. As far as I know, he still incorporates his bass lines from this song into his live version of ''The Fish'', but I could be wrong. Anyway, it's a great, punchy way to end an amazing (if more than a little unlikely) Yes recording. This is probably my second-favorite song, with ''Machine Messiah'' being my first.

A truly remarkable effort that is just as enjoyable to listen to as anything out of the classic Yes era, at least to my ears. Even though Jon Anderson is Yes to me in so many ways, it's undeniable that Dram, for whatever reason, is one the band's best studio efforts. And I mean, this thing impresses on all fronts; lyrics, melody, composition, performance, and Roger Dean even came back to paint yet another gorgeous album cover. So even though this is a bit of a controversial release for the Jon Anderson diehards (of which I consider myself to be one of them), I still hold it as one of the strongest Yes works. By all accounts, it shouldn't be; the ingredients are all wrong. And yet, here I sit, giving Drama a four star review. What a surprising world we live in, aye?

Surprisingly happy listening.

JLocke | 4/5 |


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