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Yes - Time and a Word CD (album) cover

TIME AND A WORD

Yes

 

Symphonic Prog

3.26 | 964 ratings

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Prog Sothoth
3 stars In 1970, many of the big-name full-fledged prog rock bands were getting their act together. Although arguably barely any of their releases that year would be their obvious seminal work (a valid claim for ELP's debut could be made I suppose), the "prog rock sound" was becoming a fully formed genre as opposed to just a bunch of ideas involving complexity and tight structural workouts. Some of these releases hold up well today and can stand next to the monster prog albums unleashed the following couple of years without feeling embarrassed. Time And A Word isn't one of them.

I'm not going to slag this album. Even though Yes were all over the place trying to come up with a style and identity that would take them to the next level, I can't say they didn't give it the good sophomore try. It certainly sounds different than their debut as they threw in more elaborate passages and even added orchestral embellishments to show the world they meant business. Unfortunately, these changes came at the expense of Peter Bank's 'acid rock meets jazz' jams, whose role in this effort sounds a bit dwarfed by, well, everyone else in the band. Squire's bass, in particular, is brought to the forefront like a big throbbing fully erect, ahem, guitar. And why not since he's ON THIS THING. The guy puts on a clinic and propels this stuff like an angry metal god stuck in a happy realm of peace and hope. For all its faults, there can be no denial that there's some sweet instrumentation going on here.

Things begin with a noisy Hammond assault before the orchestra kicks in, announcing to the world that Yes were ready to tame the wild west by bewildering the natives with the power of PROG. The song itself moves like a herd of wild buffalo, but the corniness of the strings and horns temper the results. The lyrics to this cover aren't too far off from Jon's mindset, but I can almost hear him yearning to break free from the tune's constraints and soar up two octaves to wail about spaceships bringing inner peace across rivers of time. It's decent, but doesn't show off the band's true potential.

"Then" is a better number, with a swinging Twiggy on acid vibe during the verses until the instrumental break that's a bit of a space rock / symphonic prog hybrid. It ends on a mellower note, furthering its overall unpredictability. I found it to be one of the cooler numbers.

"Everydays" starts off like a tripped out ballad, and here the strings actually work in adding atmosphere. Like the last track, the tune eventually breaks out into a bouncing instrumental showcase before returning to its calm beginnings, although there is a bit of noise at the end. Again, keepin' things unpredictable. I can dig it.

"Sweet Dreams" is one of my favs here. It's a pop-prog track with a heavy bass and super catchy vocal melody. It has some 60s vibes to it, letting us know that Yes weren't about to jump into the bleak moody bandwagon like plenty of other groups were doing in 1970. As proggy as this band were to become, they always had this strong sense of melody that made some of their stuff just so damn hummable, even during their epics.

"The Prophet" is alright, but a bit aimless at times and the strings are all over the place to add cotton candy to the whole thing. Things don't get any better with "Clear Days", a mushy ballad where John sings about little girls and dreams or something. It's cheesy.

"Astral Traveller" brings back the good stuff, although at first it sounds like a variation of "Then" with that swingin' vibe and similar chord progression. Then it gets interesting with lots of soloing going on, including a nice bass solo. Hey, Peter shows that he's still in the band too! At least for awhile.

The title track that ends this album has this ridiculously catchy chorus, partially due to the ultra-goofy lyrics. I always have to play some dumb pop song with a super catchy hook after I finish this album lest I walk around with "There's a word, and the word is LOVE and it's right for me!" stuck in my head for hours. I have nothing against the sentiment at all really; violence and destruction is fine as angry music and videogame entertainment, but in life itself there's just too many beautiful women out there in the world for me to have a warmongering attitude. Still, the song is just so in-my-face that I'd probably have a heart attack if I had to sing this at karaoke night.

No doubt the band got better after this album. It's amazing how much impact Steve Howe brought to the band, and he was clearly needed to add some grit and chops to the mix. The band wouldn't ditch its themes of 'love and hope through bizarre time signature changes' but so what? A little optimism isn't a bad thing, and this optimism kept the band alive to hit the big-time the following year. They didn't just catch up to the other groups, but blew most of them away.

Prog Sothoth | 3/5 |

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