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Yes - Talk CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.08 | 1038 ratings

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3 stars After the complete and utter disaster of Union, it's understandable that the band took a couple of years off to try and regain some semblance of direction in its sound. Bill Bruford took his paycheck and bolted, never to return, while Steve Howe (supposedly) was becoming enough of an irritant to other band members that he was paid to go away and leave Yes alone. Rabin and Wakeman actually became good friends on the Union tour (it's obvious that Wakeman enjoyed playing YesWest material, as evidenced by recordings from that tour), and there were rumors of both Rabin and Wakeman working together on the next Yes album. But alas, it was not to be. A new record label, Victory, had recently opened for business under the ownership of an associate of Yes, and offered Yes a recording contract on certain grounds. These grounds were (a) that they use the 90125 lineup (so no Wakeman) and that (b) Trevor Rabin produce. It might not have been the direction fans wanted, but it was a direction, and that was good enough for the band.

Now, as a result of this condition, many fans automatically dismiss this album as a Rabin solo-project with only marginal input from Anderson. I fell into this trap once, but actual historical fact shows something substantially different. Fact is, with Rabin in control, he was free from any outside pressures to produce Owner-like hit singles, and this meant he could freely collaborate with Anderson without looking over his shoulder for the disapproval of record executives. The result, then, is that Anderson has FAR more input on this album than on any other YesWest record, and the focused vision of Jon and Trevor produced results that proved that Union was merely an unfortunate fluke. For the first time, Rabin was free to try and help create a Yes album, and in many ways he succeeded. The songwriting is very strong, the instrumental parts are powerful without sounding stupidly generic (like on much of BG), there's a good dose of atmospherics, and the harmonies are nice.

So why only a *** rating (albeit a high one)? Well, for a couple of reasons. The first is the production. It's very good from a technical standpoint, but the problem is it's too good. The sound has obviously been processed again and again to remove any blemishes, and the result is that the final product is sterile like nothing else in the Yes catalogue. It's squeaky clean and completely anti-septic, but at the price of sucking the very life out of the songs at times. It's no wonder then, that when placed in a live environment, these songs suddenly kick like few other things can, whereas here I'm somewhat left scratching my head.

The other problem is that there are a couple of cheeseball moments so severe that I can't help but lower the rating out of good conscience. One of these happens in the otherwise gorgeous "I Am Waiting," where the swaying anthemically beautiful melody is interrupted by a stupid hard-rock break with Trevor's generic screams making me ashamed to play an otherwise wonderful track in front of my friends. The other of these happens in "Endless Dream," during a section that honestly sounds like the guitars are belching and vomiting (even though it's just Trevor processing his guitar sound into oblivion. Bleh). A shame, since the piece is pretty damn much perfect otherwise.

But other than those the problems, the songs are pretty much fine. "The Calling" is an incredible anthemic opening, a jaw-droppingly ecstatic way to resume your Yes listening- experience after suffering through Onion. There's a neat wall-of-sound effect to the vocal harmonies, while Anderson serenades us with some of his usual metaphysical jibberish/goodness over a terrific vocal melody, and the instrumental parts are just fun to listen to. Tony Kaye gets a wonderfully energetic Hammond Organ solo in the middle (a side note: Trevor is credited with all the keyboard parts on this album except for Hammond Organ, which may seem egomaniacal at first but is actually an admission of how it'd been all along in YesWest. Where's Geoff Downes when you need him?), Trevor messes with a weird chord sequence that's incredibly engaging, and in the end it all fades out with a plaintive "In the beginning is the future ..." Wow.

Nothing else on the album ends up as start-to-finish entertaining as the opener, but that doesn't mean that parts of other songs don't exceed much of that one. "I Am Waiting" has some incredibly pretty, emotion-seeped guitar work from Trevor, and the actual song successfully weaves together enough solid balladeering ideas to make three good songs. Again, chop out the "It happened in the water" break in the middle, and you have a pretty much flawless track. In the pop vein, we have the terrific single (actually written originally by Trevor with Roger Hodgson, during the ABWH era) "Walls," with a chorus that will drive many "traditional" Yes fans up the wall but that makes the well-done-pop-lover in me smile with glee. And I'm not about to deny the goodness of the verse melody, even if it is sung exclusively by Trevor.

A few others don't grab me quite as much, but they're still good in the end. "Where Will You Be" doesn't really jump out at me in this version, as it seems to just kinda simmer at a sleepy level, but as a live version shows, it's a neat atmospheric piece after all. And besides, the lyrics are cute in their spirituality, a pondering of where current friends will be when you and they are reincarnated elsewhere. Elsewhere, "State of Play" is a little too "dancey" in places for me, but the main verse melody and the middle eight are just incredible in their catchiness and beauty - the only thing that ends up seriously bugging me is the excessive "sterilization" of Jon's voice when he sings "It's just a state of play" right before a generic hard riff in the middle of the track. And of course, there's "Real Love," the piece that suffers the most from the mellow production. It has a nice riff, a good melody, and I don't even mind the extended ending anymore, but the intensity is sucked out of it as if by a vacuum cleaner thanks to the production. This would especially become GREAT in live performance, with the percussion becoming deep and booming and giving it a drive the piece so desperately needs.

Closing things out, we have YesWest's stab at a Yes epic, entitled "Endless Dream." Jon and Trevor cowrote it, as with the rest of the material, and it should be no surprise that both expressed great love for the piece. It is somewhat derivative from a strictly prog perspective, but nobody here is claiming it exceeds "Gates" or anything like that. The opening is a powerful blast back to progressive days past, with thunderous drumming from Alan and powerful playing from Trevor, while the rest of the piece (except for the stupid guitar sounds in the "Tin Jesus" part) alternates between ethereal ambience and pretty vocal melodies graced with gorgeous harmonies. It is said by Anderson that the vocal harmonies literally brought him to tears while singing, and knowing Jon, I can believe it, because they really are so very very pretty (especially when it seems the voices are just melting around me during the climactic "We call this surrender slowly towards the north AND THIS ENDLESS DREEEEEAM"). And hey, the overall construction is very clever - there are thematic reprisals at just the right time, with effective alternations in intensity and beauty, and a wonderful coda that fades things out. Not to mention that Trevor pulls out some more of his pretty guitar work (a la in the end of "Hearts" or in the best parts of "I Am Waiting"), which makes the sound that much fuller and more powerful. The piece has its flaws, sure, and I was only able to really appreciate the magnificence of this version after sampling a live version, but it still deserves its place among the late-period classics of the band.

Unfortunately, the album sold horridly, mainly because Victory forgot to, you know, PUBLICIZE the album at all. Victory ended up going bankrupt fairly quickly, and unfortunately this has resulted in the album currently being out of print. Too bad - for all the (unwarranted) abuse Trevor has gotten from hardcore fans (and Steve Howe) for this album, it's really quite good.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |


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