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Yes - Time and a Word CD (album) cover

TIME AND A WORD

Yes

 

Symphonic Prog

3.26 | 964 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
3 stars What do you do when you've decided that your band's calling is not as an interesting jazz- rock ensemble, but as an art-rock band? And what do you do if your compositions aren't quite of the necessary caliber or style to make said jump? Why, you grab your friendly neighborhood orchestra and ask them to contribute arrangments over your songs, whether they fit or not!

Essentially, all of the problems with this album are summed up in that opening blurb there. Commercially saavy as the band was, somebody in the band realized the imminent surge of popularity and acceptance of progressive rock, and my guess is they wanted to stake their claim ASAP. But honestly, they jumped the gun - the songs may be less accessible than those on the debut, but they're still centered around more-or-less conventional jazz- rock motifs and normal pop-stylings. In other words, there's really not that much to betray what the band would become in just a year's time.

Meanwhile, the orchestral arrangements, which ostensibly were intended to 'lift up' the seriousness of the album, only manage to (a) annoy the listener with their inappropriateness (with a couple of exceptions) and (b) obfuscate the actual band performances. In particular, poor Pete Banks is absolutely smothered on this album - it was enough for him to compete with Chris' bass, which increasingly moves to the forefront of the mix, and the addition of various strings and brass instruments makes Pete very difficult to hear in many cases.

But even with these weaknesses, the album could still be great if the songs were consistently great. Alas, half of the album is very good, while the other half ... isn't. The worst offender of all, of course, has to be "The Prophet." The lengthy introduction (which has nothing to do with the rest of the song), is an irritating puttering by Tony on his organ, as he steals elements of Genesis' "The Knife" and diddles around in a minor key for a full two- and-a-half minutes. And the main song ... guh, it sounds like a minor-key version of the theme to Sesame Street!!!! I mean, come on, it's one thing to steal your inspiration from various rock artists or whatever. But the theme to Sesame Street??!!!

Three of the other songs are also irritating for various reasons. The orchestral arrangements for "Then" positively do not work - the actual song is an ok minor-key groove, but the orchestra muddies things up to such an extent that it gives me a headache. "Astral Traveller" does have a slightly more entertaining minor-key groove, not to mention some decent enough guitar from Pete, but I never have a good feeling about the song as a whole when it ends. Maybe it's the watery vocals and awkward chorus, who knows. And "Clear Days," an all-orchestral ballad, completely passes me by each time.

So that leaves four songs which, fortunately for all, are REALLY good. Oddly, two of them are covers, but whatever - the performances rule. The highlight, of course, is their cover of an obscure Richie Haven's number called "No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Required." If you've ever wanted a solid musical definition of 'over-the-top', this should be where you head. An opening organ blast, like the band turning the ignition for the song, and then strings all over the place! Then, of course, Anderson starts preachin' it while Squire pounds out a bassline at an insanely fast clip, and then the strings break into "The Big Country" (not the theme to "How The West Was Won," as I thought for forever; thanks to the person who corrected me). It's corny as hell, but it's well-arranged and well-played corn, so how can I not love it?

The other cover, a Steven Stills number called "Everydays," doesn't disappoint either. The strings actually sound in place (in fact, it's hard to imagine this version without them - live versions sans strings, while very cool, sound really strange), and the middle jam is a neat free-jazz type explosion with Pete and Chris each going nuts (with Pete throwing in some random classical quotations as well). It's not quite as concise as "No Opportunity," but it's still plenty enjoyable.

And, of course, there are two wonderful pop songs, the likes of which we wouldn't hear from the band again for years without end. "Sweet Dreams" drops the strings, thank goodness, and the band comes through with an extremely compact, extremely catchy pop number with understandable lyrics. The title track also shines through - it may seem like a typical lightweight hippie anthem, but man, Jon Anderson was and is a lightweight hippie. The lyrics are simplistic, but so unbelievably catchy and idealistic that they can't help but bring a smile to your face. Well, ok, unless you think they're really dumb. In any case, though, the melody is also extremely catchy and non-trivial, so what more do you want?

So there you go - a band in a state of confusion, not knowing where to go, trying to expand towards the future but only succeeding with what had worked in the past. So, of course, the band did the only logical thing - they fired Pete Banks so quickly that he didn't even get to pose for the cover photo. After all, somebody had to take the fall, so why not the guitarist who had been smothered by a producer and a hyperactive bassist?

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |

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