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Yes - Time and a Word CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.32 | 1449 ratings

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3 stars I've been a pre-Howe, or "early" Yes fan for decades. This period was not the band's peak, but was the equal of, let's say, late-1990s Yes.

The first edition of Yes lasted for two years, from June 1968 to June 1970. The band was vocalist Jon (then "John") Anderson, who also received that lion's share of writing credits during this period; bassist and secondary vocalist Chris Squire; guitarist Peter Banks, organist/pianist Tony Kaye, and drummer Bill Bruford, who was replaced temporarily by Tony O'Reilly during the fall of 1968. Their promising debut album, Yes, was released at the end of July 1969, but flopped.

Time and a Word was released at the end of July 1970. It's been repeated many times that, after Time and a Word also sold poorly, Atlantic Records was this close to dropping them. This may be true, but given the quality of the group's first two albums, and the fact that the band had already recruited guitarist Steve Howe and signed a new management contract in June, being dropped by Atlantic might not have changed the band's trajectory - - just their record label.

Yes and Time and a Word sound like they could've been drawn from the same sessions. The major difference is that seven of the eight songs from Time and a Word, plus the b-side "Dear Father," include an orchestra, although it's used primarily as embellishment. Peter Banks was disgruntled over the guitar being pushed back in the mix when the orchestra is playing. This is understandable; but it wouldn't have made sense to have the guitar and orchestra fighting for space in the mix. (Since the master multitrack tapes are apparently available, fans have suggested a remix of the album which would exclude the orchestra. I think this would certainly be worth having.)

For whatever reason, the first and third songs on Time and a Word are the two cover songs on the album. The opener is Richie Havens's "No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed." "No Experience" is filtered through the Yes process and presented as a medley with Jerome Moross's "Main Title" from the soundtrack to The Big Country. On the other hand, Buffalo Springfield's "Everydays" is as faithful to the original as is any Yes cover. Both songs are nice, but neither is an important part of Yes history. After Time and a Word, Yes would almost entirely eschew cover songs.

In another sequencing decision which seems odd to me, Anderson's "Then" is the album's second song. In hindsight, we see in "Then" a band trying to find itself, and making good progress. But it's the most challenging listen on Time and a Word, and as such, would ordinarily be the second-to-last song on the second side. "Then" was the edgiest Yes song yet, with the orchestra used to great effect, and yet it doesn't seem to get where it intends to go, like driving with the parking brake engaged. It's good, but within a year, Yes would do much better.

Whereas Yes had included two somewhat sappy love songs, Time and a Word has only one, the inoffensively forgettable "Clear Days." Anderson's lyrics, while moving away from interpersonal affection, were still sophomoric; "Time and a Word," is an unsuccessful stab at a Beatlesque anthem, and while the intro to the lyrically moralistic "The Prophet" makes excellent use of the orchestra, the song itself is unremarkable.

Two of the poppier songs, though, are remarkable: The aforementioned "Dear Father," which is included on the version of Time and a Word that's currently in print, and "Sweet Dreams." Neither differs that much from "The Prophet" or "Time and a Word," but each is more sophisticated, structurally and and lyrically. Plus, "Sweet Dreams" is the catchiest song here.

The real gem on Time and a Word, and the crowning achievement of early Yes, is "Astral Traveller." Even without the song's title, which parallels that of "Starship Trooper" on The Yes Album, "Astral Traveller" is more than a hint of Yes to come: it's a tight song with abstract lyrics; it has a custom-fit structure; and the main riffs are syncopated and angular. In a way it doesn't even belong on Time and a Word. Despite my confidence that the quantum leap from Time and a Word to The Yes Album is largely due to the addition of Steve Howe, I have to admit that "Astral Traveller" is compelling evidence that, months before Howe's arrival, "early Yes" might have been transitioning into what we now know as "1970s Yes."

Anyway, Time and a Word is a good album. For those less familiar with the band, and interested in the band's pre-"Owner of a Lonely Heart" period, I'd suggest listening to The Yes Album, Fragile, or Drama first.

patrickq | 3/5 |


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