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Yes - Going for the One CD (album) cover

GOING FOR THE ONE

Yes

 

Symphonic Prog

4.04 | 1399 ratings

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tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
5 stars The music world changed substantially from 1974 to 1977, to say the least. As prog-rock groups lost their favor with critics for whatever reasons (running out of truly creative ideas, becoming more absurdly pompous all the time), groups like Yes suddenly found themselves needing to change to survive. With the Relayer tour, Yes had probably reached their "seriousness" peak - not only did lengthy epics dominate the setlist (interspersed with complex "shorter" numbers like "Sound Chaser"), but the band reached a point where its relationship to "rock" music had basically become tangential at best. Indeed, some of the earlier songs remained in their setlists, but even they were tightened up drastically with fusion interplay a la The Mahavishnu Orchestra (well, sort of) so as to impress the hell out of the listener but not really get any blood pumping. The band had progressed light-years in a very short time, but at the cost of basically removing the spark of youthful enthusiam that had made Yessongs so contagious.

So the band adapted. After the Relayer tour, the members of the band went on to each cut solo albums, the most successful and renowned of which are Jon's and Chris'. In turn, they toured these albums as a group, not forgetting to include such (by-now) standbys as "Gates" and "Ritual." By this time, however, for whatever reason, Moraz had worn out his welcome and parted ways with the band. Fortunately, the band was able to pick up somebody who had been off busily making incredibly pompous albums of his own - good ole Rick Wakeman. And so the band got back to work.

One gets the feeling, though, that in patching up various hurt feelings, the band had sat down and had a long serious discussion about its musical direction. Oh, don't get me wrong - nobody wanted the band to give up prog rock all together. But that was just the thing - if the band wished to keep getting seriouser and seriouser, it would soon have to abandon rock all together and turn to fusion or something like that. And nobody wanted that (well, I guess some fans today lament that they didn't keep getting more complex, but sheez people, just because some seriousness and complexity is fine doesn't necessarily mean that MORE complexity and seriousness is always better). And so, the band gave up trying to prove how progressive they could be and did the most important thing they could possibly do - they brought the FUN back.

Indeed, the band finally remembered that at its heart it was essentially a "trumped-up pop group," taking solid riffs and strong hooks and embellishing them with exciting and moving arrangements. As a result, the band produced an album of incredible quality that they might not have been able to do otherwise. It's a slight step down from the glory of Relayer, and I suppose it's regrettable in the long run that the band gave up on endless progression in favor of just making a good album for then and there, but man what an album! All five tracks (ok, that doesn't seem like a lot of songs for most groups, but go back and count how many tracks were on the previous three albums and it'll all be placed in perspective) are absolute winners, and only a very slight feeling of "retreading" mars the album at all.

You want rock songs? Turn to the title track and the wonderful "Parallels." Of course, neither of these songs are in the least bit "normal" - this is still Yes we're talking about, after all. The title track, whose main feature is incredibly entertaining pedal steel work from Steve, also benefits from one of the weirdest chord progressions known to man - in other words, the initial "ack! This could be from Hee-Haw!" reaction will quickly be supressed by the proggy bits. And the lyrics, man, these are actually down-to-earth and even funny. Anderson sings (by the way, he blows through all sane limits of male upper vocal range in this song) self-mocking lines about the inpentetrability of his lyrics ("Now the verses I've sung don't add much weight to the story in my head, so I'm thinking I should go and write a punchline. But it's so hard to find in my cosmic mind, I think I'll take a look out of the window. When I think about you, I don't feel low!"), and it quickly becomes obvious that the band is no longer taking itself 100% seriously.

And "Parallels," oy, "Parallels." Apparently a reject from Squire's solo album, I think it finds a nice home with the band here. For one thing, it's driven forward by a friggin' CHURCH ORGAN (with a great main riff for it, by the way), and it has so much oomph in the sound that suddenly you find yourself in the Swiss church where Rick recorded the parts, groovin' away. And the guitar on this song, man. Man. I doubt there's any real inventivness from Howe on this part, but all I know is that the lightning-fast solos on here find a way to be jaw- dropping and entertaining simultaneously, not to mention that I REALLY like the tone he has here. VERY rich, with a healthy amount of reverb put on it to hook in your ears.

Want pop ballads? Go to "Turn of the Century" and "Wonderous Stories." The former has actually established itself as my favorite of the album (not a trivial statement, as it took me a long time to decide), and with good cause. The melody is very pretty, the lyrics are quite moving (based around the story of Pygmalion and Galatea, if my memory serves me correctly), and the middle portion ... oy. Rick's piano is beautifully rich in a way that words cannot do justice to, and its interaction with the guitars is nothing short of phenomenal. I struggle to find ways to describe the effect this mid-section (and the way it builds into the ending) holds on me; I can say, however, that if such a thing as newfound joy can be properly expressed in a musical medium, THIS is that medium. It's very difficult to not want to relive the reunion Roan has with his once-deceased beloved again and again.

As for Wonderous Stories, brace yourself, but this is a 4-minute pop song. Yeah, it's slightly derivative of earlier efforts (ie "Your Move"), but how can I help it if the melody is so enjoyable? Plus, Anderson gives a cheery vocal performance of a type we haven't heard since, yup, "Time and a Word" - the lightweight hippie has re-entered his element, and seems perfectly happy to be back. Don't think the rest of the band just sulks around, though - Wakeman, you can tell, is having lots of fun on the track, even if he's not technically really doing anything THAT complex.

All this said, however, it would be unreasonable to expect a 70's Yes album at this point to lack a bonafide epic. "Awaken" apparently splits fans right down the middle - many fans adore it fanatically (and in fact, Anderson himself considers it the quintessential representation of what Yes is all about), while other fans deride it as a horridly derivative mess with no true sense or purpose. Guess which camp I belong to. No, I would never rate this above "Gates" or "CTTE" or "The Revealing Science of God." But it's a great epic piece nonetheless, one which I always look forward to at album's end and always listen to from start to finish.

Indeed, quite a few things jump out at me here every time. The piano introduction and first section, all very pretty. The main instrumental themes, not based in traditional tonal ideology, but insanely captivating nonetheless. The way it seems the instrumental themes are running every possible course while Anderson every so often pops up with lyrics that apparently reference back to Siddartha again (in fact, last I checked, Siddartha means "awakened one.") THE GUITAR SOLOS here - yeah, I know that they're based in basic chromatics and scales yadda-yadda, I don't friggin' care, it's the most spirit awakening guitar tone and playing I've probably ever heard. Seriously.

And then we have the quiet harp/organ probe, where everything suddenly stops and we have a slight cymbal call before it begins. This bores many to death, but every single person who dislikes this is WRONG, I TELL YOU, WRONG. I'm always a fan of slow builds of tension into release, especially when executed properly, and this is done incredibly well. It builds and builds and builds until it just EXPLODES after Anderson's "shall we now bid farewell! Farewell!" leads us into the triumphant organ climax. Oh, and you'd never know that simple high-pitched pedal steel pluckings here would move me so, but hey, we learn something new every day. And then, as following any good explosion, there is a brief denoument so as to allow us to catch our breath at album's end.

And that's your album. And to an extent, that's the end of 70's Yes as we know and love them. Indeed, from the first time I heard Anderson's "bid farewell" line, I felt it was more than just a capstone to the song or even to the album. I've always suspected that somehow, if only subconsciously, he knew that the magic and creative flame of 70's Yes was about to be lost forever. This is Yes as we knew them, going away in a whisp of ethereal smoke, saying goodbye in their own way. It brings a measure of sadness to me, sure, but it could only go on so long, I suppose.

Damn good run, though. Damn good album too. It hit #1 for two weeks, and deserved it for sure.

tarkus1980 | 5/5 |

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