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Yes - Big Generator CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

2.54 | 1250 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
1 stars What perverted instinct led me to recently borrow an old audio-cassette of this embarrassment from my local library, after pointedly avoiding Trevor Rabin's pop facsimile of Yes for over two decades? I'd like to believe it was simply a masochistic urge to see for myself if the album is as bad as (almost) everyone claims. But in retrospect it was probably something closer to the rubberneck instinct that makes us unable to look away from a fatal highway accident.

And that ugly metaphor just about sums up the entire "Big Generator" experience: hardly surprising for a born-again Yes fan who first heard the band on their "Relayer" album back in 1975.

But let's not compare bad apples to good oranges here. I carry no grudge against the sort of undemanding pop music Yes was playing at the time, which I'm sure can be enjoyed on a strictly superficial level. And I can even feel a measure of sympathy for the group after hearing how dated (and how quickly) the sound of this 1987 album has since become.

I do, however, have a problem with the crass mercenary decision to continue marketing this band under the same name of the very different group responsible for stretching the limits of popular music in the previous decade. Progressive Rock in the early 1970s, and maybe Yes in particular, was always about (among other lofty ideals) the quest for some sort of spiritual truth / harmony / redemption (take your pick). But in the corporate entertainment culture of the 1980s that aim was corrupted into a simple pursuit of cash, always the death of true creativity.

You can hear it clearly on "Big Generator". At its relative best ("Rhythm of Love", "Shoot High Aim Low") the music achieves a kind of flashy grandeur that at least helps to compensate for the lack of any real depth. But at its worst (which is most of the album, including the horribly slapdash cover art, maybe the anti-prog nadir of its kind) the songs present only the sad spectacle of aging rock stars trying desperately (and failing miserably) to remain hip and relevant.

Exactly how bad is it? Enough to suggest that Alan White's pile-driver drum fills might just as easily have been programmed rather than played. Enough to likewise eradicate any hint of personality from the playing of old veteran Tony Kaye, who all but disappears behind an opaque digital curtain of generic synth patches. Enough to make the technically proficient guitar runs of Trevor Rabin sound utterly anonymous. And enough to note how awkwardly Jon Anderson's delicate high tenor fits within the steroid-juiced testosterone of the music (that's a compliment to him, by the way).

Yes wasn't the only ex-prog band unable to adjust to a dumbed-down music market in the 1980s. The commercial success of "90125" kept them afloat for a while, but trying to reproduce that fluke after four long years out of the studio (compare that to the number of quality LPs they released between 1970 and 1974) should have underlined the sad truth that sell-outs of this caliber, even when successful, aren't designed for anything more than a strictly limited shelf life.

Neu!mann | 1/5 |


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