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Yes - Magnification CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.72 | 1099 ratings

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4 stars A welcome return to form for Yes, although not quite the triumph many fans welcomed it as (but who can blame them after the many, many missteps of this once-great combo?).

The marriage of Rock band to an orchestra has very rarely lead to anything interesting or even listenable, since the orchestra tends to not only dull the impact of the band but also highlight the banality of much Rock composition. Somehow E-A-G doesn't sound quite as cool when played on violins as on a distorted guitar.

But here the orchestra works, and it's because it often takes the opposite role of what it usually does in experiments such as this. It adds much-needed depth to Yes' compositions, giving them a textural quality they've been missing for about three decades.

The New Old Yes (the one with the "classic" lineup with Wakeman and Howe) seems to have completely forgotten how to layer many ideas on top of each other (much less vary, develop and reinvent them). Nowadays they mostly do one theme or concept at a time for 8-16 bars, string a few of those together, repeat three times, toss in a solo and call it an "Epic" (viz. "Mind Drive" or "That, That Is").

Magnification doesn't do that, and I suspect this is not much Yes' doing. This is music that has been cut apart in Pro Tools, rearranged by the producer(s) and then embellished with an orchestral overlay by Tim Weidner. It works, because what Yes fans like about Yes today remains, and what they liked about the Yes of yesteryear has been artificially added on top.

That some of the source material is weak does shine through from time to time, such as in the childishly banal piano opening of "in the Presence of". Other times, it is masterfully masked and painted over such as in the chorus of "Give Love Each Day", which could easily have been as sickeningly sweet and repetitious as ABWH's "Order of the Universe", but is saved by clever chord work underneath Jon Anderson's increasingly simple melodies.

The question is what this says about Yes' ability to create anything lasting today. With a brand new "Best of" compilation hitting the top 10 in the UK, they may well revert to being just a nostalgia act.

If they decide to put out new material nonetheless, they do need find a way to yet again make music with depth, longevity and power as a five-man operation. I'd be very surprised if they have it in them.

For now, I am going to consider this Yes' swan song, and as such it could certainly have been far, far worse.

Teaflax | 4/5 |


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