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Yes - Tormato CD (album) cover

TORMATO

Yes

 

Symphonic Prog

2.94 | 1093 ratings

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ghost_of_morphy
Prog Reviewer
2 stars Tormato.

The very word conjures up the unwelcome idea of having to defend Yes's artistic vision to the truly loyal fan. Witness all of the reviews here that try to drum up enthusiasm for the album while acknowledging that there isn't much enthusiasm for the album to begin with. The story of how a band member threw a tomato at the artwork for the cover (which was then adopted as modified) is the perfect comment on this album as a whole.

Tormato.

It was nearly universely acknowledged as the standard by which a crappy Yes album was to be judged for almost twenty years. Some people thought that Drama was worse than Tormato because of the loss of Wakeman and Anderson and the addition of the Buggles. Some people thought that Big Generator was worse than Tormato because of BG's near total immersion into pop music. Some people thought that Talk was worse than Tormato because they felt it was essentially a Trevor Rabin solo album with a few Yes members in the supporting cast. But Tormato was, for nearly twenty years, the quintessential bad Yes album. (Happily, for Tormato supporters, that role has finally been supplanted by Open Your Eyes.)

Tormato.

Even the name Tormato sounds tired. Yes had been an amazingly productive band in the '70's, releasing 6 albums in 6 years beginning with The Yes Album in 1971. They had generally released material of outstanding quality in that time as well. The Yes Album, Fragile, Close to the Edge, and Going for the One were alll top rate albums. How many groups could pack so much quality into so little vinyl? Relayer and Tales from Topographic Oceans, although not as immediately likable, clearly were complex and demanding albums as well, with musical ideas and execution that demanded as much (or maybe even more) from the band. Is it any wonder that by 1978 they sounded tired?

I think it makes more sense to review this album by band member contributions rather than by tracks, so let me try this.

Jon Anderson: Jon's vocal quality and expression was never better than in the late '70's and early '80's. As another instrument in the sound pallette, Jon cannot fail to please. Lyrically, however, Jon really falls down on this album. He falls into the trap of producing lyrics that sound campy. In the tracks on Close to the Edge, for example, Jon's lyrics were majestic and obscure. Arriving UFO has lyrics that sound unimportant and vaguely ridiculous. Circus of Heaven (Jon's featured piece) sports lyrics that spout a trite and conventional philosophical idea. Madrigal's lyrics, although not quite as bad, still sound like on of those seven minute Peter Gabriel sci-fi epics that Genesis used to record.

Chris Squire: What a rough album for Chris! The brilliance that sparkled in so many earlier albums has nearly evaporated. The only track on which Chris shines musically is On the Silent Wings of Freedom, which sadly is Yes's only complete failure in the epic composition category, as even the worst track on Tales manages to hold our interest through parts of the composition. On the other hand, his ballad Onward is a competent if not exceptional song, despite the fact that his own bass playing is uninspired. (The Keys to Ascension version of that song, on the other hand, shows what could have been done with it.)

Steve Howe: In this album, Steve nearly gives up the accurate and more classical style that made him famous on tracks like Starship Troopers, Roundabout, and And You and I. He seems to devolve into a more generic hard rock style. Which is not to say that he is not still precise, his work on the strange but satisfying track Don't Kill the Whale, still impresses, while the new style fits well with "Release, Release." On the other hand, Future Times and On the Silent Wings of Freedom really sound like Howe phoned his parts in.

Rick Wakeman: I tend to think of Tormato as the album where only Rick was on form. Both Madrigal and Arriving UFO showcase Rick's abilities at his best, and he does his best to save that monstrosity, Circus of Heaven, as well. Also he plays a fairly energetic part in "Don't Kill the Whale," managing to lift that song above mediocrity.

Alan White: Alan shines in this album too. The obvious thing to mention would be his solo in Release, Release, but his percussion work in On the Silent Wings of Freedom is top rate as well.

Tormato

In the interest of completion, I suppose I should give my opinion of the different tracks as well.

Future Times/Rejoice: Below average quality. Actually this starts out quite badly and only reaches mediocre when we hit the Rejoice section.

Don't Kill the Whale: Average. Yes's attempt at a single is exactly what a single should not be: it sounds strange and uncomfortable on the first listening, even for fans who expect Yes instead of the latest pop prophet. Listen twice or thrice and you will find this more likable, however.

Madrigal: Good. Jon and Rick give us great musical performaces despite Jon's average lyrics.

Release, Release: Good. Probably the track on which the group combined the best. Again, it doesn't really have the Yes sound, but it has a lot of energy and fairly good performances (at least) from every member.

Arriving UFO: Below Average. Rick tries his best to salvage this mediocre tune, but in the end, he does not succeed. If you are a Wakeman fan, on the other hand, upgrade this to Good.

Circus of Heaven: Awful. This sounds like it belongs on Jon Anderson's Song of Seven album (which was also awful except for the title track and Days.) Wakeman fans will want to upgrade this to below average, as Rick's contributions are pretty good.

Onward: Average. A decent ballad, but nothing exceptional throughout the piece. If you want to hear this, I really suggest that you listen to live version on Keys to Ascension instead, where everybody somehow manages to rise above the material.

On the Silent Wings of Freedom: Below Average. Yes's poorest attempt at an epic ever. Chris and Alan bring a decent foundation to this song, but nothing much interesting is built on top of it.

ghost_of_morphy | 2/5 |

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