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Yes - Time And A Word CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.30 | 1347 ratings

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4 stars "Time and a Word" is a document of a band in transition, which is an easy statement to make and many people have made it. The problem is that many people have taken that as an excuse to transition right past this album, or worse still, to only half listen to it, or judge it by the fact that Rick Wakeman and Steve Howe are not on it.

The fact is that if this is listened to on its own merits, "Time and a Word" is an exceptional album and deserves a reconsideration, particularly in light of the 2003 Rhino remaster, which clarifies and sharpens the mix. My vinyl copy of this certainly didn't sound this good.

Peter Banks was dismissed and/or left after this album. He was apparently in disagreement about the orchestra, and this might have exacerbated other problems he had with the rest of the band. I have always been a bit sad about this. Certainly Steve Howe was an essential part of later Yes music and helped create their classic period, but there is a lot to be said for Banks' psychedelic and edgy sound. Banks turns in a number of great solos here, particularly on "Astral Traveller." Perhaps Banks is not quite as fast or complex a player as Steve Howe, but then again, not many guitarists are, even well-respected ones. It is as absurd to judge Banks by Howe as it is to judge George Harrison or Eric Clapton for being unable to play "Siberian Khatru."

Banks may have been right about the orchestra in the long run; there are moments where the orchestra does detract from the overall sound. I would love to hear a version of this album where the orchestral parts were removed, because in many cases they simply double the keyboard or guitar lines and obscure them.

However, it is clear here that Chris Squire is coming into his own here. His bass is more vigorous and upfront overall, which definitely adds to the album. Tony Kaye truly shines here, though, with his Hammond given prominence. As in the case of Banks, it is unfair to compare Kaye to Wakeman or Moraz. For one thing, Kaye did not have access to the technology that Wakeman did, and the band didn't have the money to spend on synthesizers, which were astronomically expensive in 1970. For another thing, Kaye's style is completely different. As Bill Bruford remarked in an interview, "Rick Wakeman doesn't have a blue note in him," where Kaye obviously has been influenced by jazz and blues, and he brought his influences with him. Speaking of Bill Bruford, the Rhino remix clarifies his drumming, which was lost in the original mix. I continue to be amazed at how good Bruford was then at such a young age.

The Yes style and sound are developing here, but the band as a whole are still more influenced by West Coast psychedelic rock and the Beatles, as they were on their first album. That being said, as on the first album, they improved on the originals a great deal. Certainly "No Opportunity Necessary" and "Everydays" didn't sound anything like this on the Richie Havens and Buffalo Springfield albums from which they were taken.

The originals are becoming ever more intricate, but the band is still a ways away from the heights of complexity (or depths, depending on your opinion of "Tales from Topographic Oceans" and "Relayer") they would attain. "The Prophet" still prophesies of songs to come, as does "Astral Traveller," and "Then."

I sometimes wonder if some Yes fans' low opinion of this album is based on the fact that it is extremely accessible. Yes had not by any means given up on getting a "hit song" at this point in their career, and as a result a lot of the songs here (as on their first album) are melodic and tuneful. It would be a shame to disregard this album simply on the basis of that, but I suspect that some listeners more used to the cerebral approach of the band in the Wakeman/Howe glory years do exactly that.

As far as a prog milestone, it's hard to say. I find that in context of other 1970 releases, "Time and a Word" is certainly more cohesive than King Crimson's "In the Wake of Poseidon," Genesis' "Trespass," or even Emerson Lake and Palmer's first album. It is also more accessible, memorable and tuneful than any of the three albums mentioned above. To sum up, it's time for "Time and a Word" to be reassessed by Yes fans, and I think a fair listen with open ears will reveal that it is not at all the low point that some take it as.

kynoceph | 4/5 |


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