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Yes - Union CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

2.50 | 972 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
2 stars Once upon a time, the Rabin-era Yes lineup was looking to record an album and Fragile- era Yes lineup was looking to record another album, and one day they looked each other and both bands said simultaneously "Let's team up...."

That's the fairytale version. Something closer to the truth might be that Anderson brought them together to exploit the gimmick above and try and salvage what was rapidly looking like another trainwreck (think the Paris sessions that were never released here) in ABWH.

This is the Yes album that none of the band members appreciated after it's release. Wakeman threw the copy he received out the window. Bruford stated fairly frankly that his participation in the project was primarily to cash in financially. Etc., etc., etc. Most of the blame is put by band members on producer Jonathan Elias, who allegedly edited and/or replaced many of Wakeman's parts, had a session musician replace large parts of Howe's playing, etc., etc. etc. In addition, the record company rushed this project, with the result that many of the tracks sound half-baked, as if they are disjointed parts of songs forced together. I have to give this one two stars, as there is so much that is poor mixed in with a few gems.

On the other hand, this album did produce one of the more legendary tours Yes has done (everybody in the lineup except for Levin participated,) so the experience was not a complete waste.

Here are the high and low points:

I Would Have Waited Forever (Fragile era lineup): A completely forgettable arena style rock probably most notable for the schizophrenic guitar playing. Session musicians strike early!!!! Also, this one pretty much sets the theme for the ABWH tracks, in that there is plenty of poiwer to the song but the instruments do not really merge into a single sound and the music does not combine well to make a unified song. But this is just a hint of what is to come: it gets worse.

Shock to the System (Fragile era lineup): Great work by Tony Levin really punches up this arena rock style song. A passable song.

Masquerade (Steve Howe solo work): Well, we know Jimmy Huan didn't contribute to this one!!!! A really nice guitar solo from Steve. Much more melodic and flowing than most of his solo work, this song really marks out a change in his solo style where he becomes more concerned with the sound than with impressing with technical playing.

Lift Me Up (Rabin era lineup): The best song on the album, I would say. This little anthem (indeed, all of the Rabin era work on this album) takes a more serious tone and strays away from the light pop that YesWest had been putting out.

Without Hope You Cannot Start the Day (Fragile era): Probably the best ABWH track on the album, this one still suffers from what nearly all of the ABWH tracks suffer from: rushed and disjointed songwriting. Still, it creates a nice mood and at least tries to sound progressive.

Saving My Heart (Rabin era): Proof positive that YesWest can sound awful when they stray too far away from pop. This trite little song is in the running for the worst song released by YesWest.

The Miracle of Life (Rabin era): On the other hand, this little gem shows that YesWest could do prog if they really applied themselves to it. The second best song on the album features the brilliant vocals that we expect from YesWest in a catchy song that somehow strangely abandons the usual pop formula. This is probably a good place to stop listening to the album, as we have a lot of crap coming up.

Silent Talking (Fragile era): Another song that sounds jammed together. The first half features a passable bass line but nothing much interesting on top of it. The second half is another vocal extravaganza which just doesn't live up to the standard set in The Miracle of Life.

The More We Live - Let Go: (Rabin era) A dismal atmospheric song with very little happening in it beyond some interesting things in the percussion. Oh well, at least this one doesn't sound like they jammed a few good bits together in a rush. YesWest finally manages to sound like the original lineup in this track, as they were pretty dismal on this ablum too.

Angkor Wat (Fragile era): This track shows producer Elias's influence all over it. The atmospheric world music sound (complete with a reading of Cambodian poetry) is obviously not an ABWH production. And if that's what Wakeman intended the keyboard parts to sound like, I'll eat my hat.

Dangerous (Fragile era): Another piece full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Arena rock without the hook, or progressive rock without the melding of the instruments and music into an interesting whole.

Holding On (Fragile era): Well, if you've managed to listen this far, you might as well listen to this one too. It starts out with same sense of random noise and lack of purpose that the other songs have, but it does manage to build up to a decent ending eventually.

Evensong (Fragile era): A completely pointless piece of filler brought ot us courtesy of master drummer Bruford.

Take the Water to the Mountain (Fragile era): After 90125, both lineups would throw in a "spiritual" Anderson number on just about every album, presumably to connect with their roots or something like this. Holy Lamb on Big Generator is a good example of this. This is the "spiritual" song on Union, and it's one of the worst.

Give and Take: It's a sad comment on an album when I like the bonus track they threw in better than more than half of the songs on the release.

ghost_of_morphy | 2/5 |


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