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Yes - Magnification CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.73 | 1208 ratings

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3 stars Sadly this may be the last real studio album of new music Yes fans are likely to see. And that’s actually kind of too bad, since the band managed to reincarnate themselves to a certain extent in the 1990s and early in this century. Beginning around 1994’s Talk, Yes slowly re-emerged as a viable symphonic band, culminating with the flurry of fabulous activity surrounding the Keys to Ascension² (and related Keystudio) releases.

True, Keystudio, Open Your Eyes, the Ladder and this album are a bit more subdued than the band’s grandiose early gems. But the music shows a definite maturity, a sense of purpose, and a real appreciation for the art of making music. Magnification is probably closest to Keystudio in tempo, although there are no keyboards per se (unless you count Jon Anderson’s MIDI guitar). But there’s a whole orchestra backing the band up, which is very cool and in some ways makes this a more adventurous project than much of what the band had produced in the decade or so prior to its release.

The opening track pretty much sets the tone with understated orchestral strings, mellow acoustic and some electric guitar, and a subtle beat. Anderson’s voice is finally starting to show just the slightest hint of wear, certainly understandable considering the man’s age and number of years he’s been at this game.

“Spirit of Survival” is a bit more driving, with Alan White thwacking away behind Steve Howe’s undulating guitar licks. Chris Squire lays down a kind of Dragnet-soundtrack bass line that has to be heard to be appreciated, and the orchestral strings fill in the gaps quite nicely. The distinctly Golden Earring-esque backing vocals could have been dispensed with, but this is a minor point.

Anderson kicks up his MIDI player on the intro to “Don’t Go” and pairs that with some bantering vocals alongside Squire. This is probably the most bland track on the album, and was perhaps intended to be a single – who knows. Fortunately it’s not a long song.

The orchestra on this album was conducted by film composer Larry Groupé, and it shows on “Give Love Each Day”, which opens with a long string section that sounds like the opening soundtrack to a rainy French chick flick. Beyond that Howe’s guitar work is intricate, slowly building along with the strings into a rather majestic and melodic composition. This is a perfect example of the more accessible, mature sound Yes have evolved to over the last decade.

“Can You Imagine” was actually an XYZ composition, the ill-fated project Squire and White formed with Jimmy Page shortly after the Drama breakup. The opening is almost operatic, and a bit more brooding with White’s somber drums and Squire taking the lead on vocals. This one eventually picks up just the slightest bit of steam, before ending rather abruptly. I would have thought the band could have easily developed this into a much longer and more interesting work.

Anderson’s vocals are quite solemn on “We Agree”, and are made even more so backed with the string section and acoustic guitar. I guess this one is about a breakup – “we agreed to turn our backs, we agreed to turn our face away”. This is actually quite beautiful, even with Anderson’s goofy MIDI sequences worked into the lulls. This song sounds nothing like Genesis’ Wind & Wuthering, but reminds me of it nonetheless. I guess it’s the pallid mood the orchestration and guitars set.

Howe’s acoustics accompany the string section on the short and peaceful “Soft as a Dove”, a short bit of filler that is pleasant enough. There’s a bit of flute here as well that’s quite nice.

The album closes with two rather long (ten minutes or so each) works that combine some featured violin over the top of a subdued string section with a rhythmic acoustic/ bass combination that kind of sounds like a Godspeed You! Black Emperor song without the angst or solemnity. And of course with Anderson’s vocals, but that’s a given. “Dreamtime” is the stronger of the two with some strong vocal interplay and a few promising but ultimately shallow crescendos, and culminating (so to speak) in a Peter- and-the-Wolf kind of lethargic ending.

“In the Presence of…” is a four-part story-song of Anderson’s that takes us off into that fantasy place that only he really fully comprehends. This is a rather majestic work, full of lush strings and swirling guitar sounds, although the fadeout at the end is quite disappointing. “Time is Time” is a short little vocal treatment that serves to cap the album off at least.

Like Keystudio and even the Ladder, this is the work of a group of supremely talented and aging musicians who can probably put out higher quality music in their sleep than most artists can at the tops of their games. It’s much more understated than the band’s top early works, but is quite symphonic and listenable, especially considering the orchestra. I hope this isn’t the last of the band’s long studio career but if it is, they ended on a decent enough note. This is not a masterpiece, but all things considered is a quite decent work. 3.4 stars.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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