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Yes - Union CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

2.50 | 972 ratings

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4 stars Yes - Union

Essentially this is the real second Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe album with Yes contributing four tracks. With the virtual absence of Chris Squire's forthright bass on the album ? most of these duties are undertaken by drummer Bruford's Crimson colleague Tony Levin. The input by producer Jonathan Elias and early contribution from future Yes member Billy Sherwood also informs the content and probably the very modern approach to the sound production.

One thing that strikes me about the way this music is arranged on the album is the first half is more oriented to arena rock and as the album moves towards its second half the music is more cerebral / spiritually oriented. As such the hook and melodies are more easily memorable in the first half and one probably has to be more inclined to Anderson's creation for the second half for example the Korean chant on ABWH's Angkor Wat. But there are enough hooks and tunes in part 2 to hang the more spiritually oriented concept together in a way that is consistent with part 1.

We have to bear in mind that the band were not in 1971 mode and the approach to music synthesis is different to Fragile despite that line up being the most prevalent personnel component. Having said that the absence of Squire and his bass from the Fragile line up does emphasize the ABWH feel of the album. The Bruford Levin soundscape of Evensong is reminiscent of the member contributions to Fragile 20 years earlier.

Jon Anderson is in fine a voice as ever and probably did most to bring this combination to fruition. More and smaller but intense guitar solos frequent the numbers and really the keyboards are part of the harmony more than any lead instrument.

The bonus cut Give And Take may be a forerunner to 1994 Yes album Talk in many ways. Masquerade is a superb Steve Howe acoustic guitar instrumental. Shock to The System could be more oriented to the Rabin Yes as it is a riff and rock oriented number ? but it is not, it's ABWH with Squire helping out on vocals, one of the few moments which does indicate some sort of union. Miracle of Life is the longest number at 7.30 and may out stay its welcome as it does not really feature much in the way of solos but accents the choral nature of the band.

Amusing notes department informs us the ironies implicit in the lyrics of Silent Talking is probably unintended. "It doesn't ring true?" Actually its quite an exciting number with some in depth harmonies through the detailed percussion and drums to the extensive use of guitar ? leads are fast, the bridge / coda is very melodic and the keyboards and vocals usher the lead vocal to the end.

At this stage I would view the second half of the album as beginning here with The More We Live ? Let Go. There is a lot going on in these compositions and arrangements. Yes have not played to Fragile's long ensconced expectations, they have progressed on from my favourite Heart of The Sunrise to achieve musical art in harmonic depth rather than a lot of simultaneous solos ? also good of course. There are plenty of changes throughout the tracks, the bridges in Dangerous are quite intriguing ? in fact for such a short number it comprises of quite a few. Nice heavy riff anchoring the changes and this also is reinterpreted.

I enjoyed the album then but admit it was difficult for me to absorb ? but then I was travelling at the time. Saw the Union Yes as well, my first Yes concert. Much is made of the line ups and the politics. As it's not a keyboard oriented album and this feature is shared with original Yes organist Tony Kaye perhaps Rick Wakeman's dislike is not necessarily because it's shoddy album. Yes do not make shoddy studio albums even if one or two lack a certain direction and clarity - 1978 release Tormato for example.

Yes took a great deal of flak from their audience for this release. Why I don't know, all they do is play music one would think they are committing a crime somewhere. Perhaps this says more for the staid nature of the audience than the thinking of the musicians. I think we may be getting a bit blasť about rock and progressive rock particularly, we're almost spoilt for choice. We also can be a bit too reactionary in our acceptance (or not) of music ? particularly rock. If Yes produce radio oriented music (choruses) then this is ? apparently a bad thing. If they produce music that has unbelievable complexities (Topographic Oceans) then it is self indulgent ? whatever that means. Sigh, what can these guys do to get some positive attitude from their audience. It's in the name, Yes.

To summarise this is an album that requires, like most intelligent rock albums, a little more time to absorb. Some of us used to read the lyrics and play albums constantly when we were younger and maybe had more time and the process of discovery was more evident. This does not mean we should no longer do so ? I think the lack of acceptance of this album reflects an unwillingness to accept that we still have to actually concentrate, to pay attention and enjoy for example, the mysterious Angkor Wat. "Return to the centre."

Composition standard, performance, and production are all fine. Plenty of rock hooks to catch the fish (sic), plenty of more cerebral moments and a lot of tricky passages Yes negotiate in their usual imaginative way. These are quite brief and if you are stuck in the midst of a beer or six you may miss out on the subtleties. The dramatic changes are a chief absence, instead the band spin on a dime and shift the beat very quickly ? sometimes they put it back, sometimes they reinterpret it ? why else have Bruford in the band? The songs are shorter than Yes fans may expect and occasionally there are choruses. Of course there is much of the second half which does not have choruses - which also displeases Yes listeners ? hey ho. There is a lot going on and requires repeated listens to absorb and enjoy. But then that is why we are progressive rock fans, yes?

First class progressive rock album. Close on 4 1/2 stars. Another classic yes studio creation.

Essential for a Yes collection, highly recommended for a progressive rock collection.

uduwudu | 4/5 |


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