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Yes - Big Generator CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

2.57 | 1357 ratings

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3 stars 3.25; The Big Generator of mixed feelings and controversy...

This seems Yes' most controversial album, and not just among my prog friends but apparently on this site as well. Here you will not find anything to do with the band's epic masterwork of their earlier days, but rather somewhat musically interesting and (for the most part) more or less well written pop-ish songs designed for the time. It has a strong and obvious connection with the sound introduced on 90125, but I personally find this one a bit less repetitive with more layering and keyboard work that is slightly more in touch with the band's older work. So, the pop sound combined with the slight musical elevation are probably the main reason for the controversy behind the album.

Even the issue of how progressive this album seems pretty controversial. I have at some point in my life been into the more eighties sounding music and am now a full progger, so I have been on both sides of the isle and can say it does, indeed, hint if not taste of progressive elements. If you put this album up to the ears of someone who was a fan of eighties music, they'd probably tell you it's progressive rock, and up to the ears of a progger, eighties rock. So I say it's a combination, and what balance that combination is seems up to the listener to decide. It's already evident that the opinionated Yes symphonic purists dismiss this album as pop rubbish, but I however acknowledge this as at least tasteful, somewhat progressive eighties music. Really, if you compare it to Genesis' work in the eighties', Big Generator is much more musically variant and interesting, especially the second half of the album.

So what is progressive about this album? I'd say, the keyboard work has a large play in it, especially in achieving certain atmospheres and sounds. There's a some guitar work and use of the vocal lines that contribute to that mentality as well. Final Eyes is a pretty good example of these qualities. If that's it, than what isn't progressive about this album, you might ask? It's mainly in the drumming department. When I particularly focus on the drum parts, they are BORING as HELL. There are some parts where their simplicity works pretty well, particularly in Big Generator and Love Will Find a Way, but come on! I think I could probably play a lot of it (hey, I do know some drumming... sort of). The only interesting parts were the competent transitional fills. The songs are also generally somewhat repetitive in nature, at least as far as progressive rock terms go, but not too bad.

As far as the actual writing, I though it was overall in the album quite splendid. I suppose it's a bit similar to Genesis' eighties music, but a lot more notes and chord changes in a shorter amount of time, keeping one far from becoming bored to death. There's a lot of energy everywhere in the album, whether it's put to a heavy rock use or more passionate atmospheric use. The melodic lines are at times blissful, others mediocre. I think the band had a good time making this album, and I don't understand it when others say it's uninspired. Other than the drums, everything sounds pretty good to my ears, at times beautiful and dripping with emotion, others sort of mediocre and a sign of what is to come in Yes' future.

There's more to this album than one might perceive at first listen, certainly a bit more than 90125, which wasn't all too terrible of an album to begin with. When I first heard this album a few years ago, half paying attention, I certainly didn't think much of it and dismissed it as another crummy Yes album. But the second time I listened more closely, with a more musically educated mind, I was very surprised to enjoy it as much as I did. I'd say this release was probably their best since Going for the One, and is probably at least one of if not their best studio album since (though that still isn't saying very much, unfortunately).

The songs themselves are a bit of hit and almost miss. I enjoyed Rhythm of Love and Big Generator, both pretty good rockin' songs, but are probably the most pop-ish on the album, and I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of people simply heard the first few songs and assumed the whole album was that way, thus all of the bad ratings. I found Shoot High Aim Low ok, but pretty boring overall, and Almost Like Love overly repetitive. But then come the two songs that I now hold very dear in my Yes collection, Love Will Find a Way, the song in which I originally discovered Yes when I heard it in on satellite radio (which then lead me into prog, so there's a lot of sentimental value there as well, what a great intro!) and Final Eyes, probably the most progressive and atmospheric song on the album. I'm Running and Holy Lamb where good songs too, the later alluding more than perhaps anything to Yes' early music.

So I think you can see know why this album seems so controversial, why some people review it four or even five, and others a one or two. It has many brilliant parts and mediocre (or less) parts, and for some the eighties sound itself eliminates the brilliant parts altogether. I, however, am not allergic to eighties sounding music, and I in fact occasionally (though rarely) embrace it. Put simply, this album sounds good to me in its totality, and I recommend it for people with an open mind and those who enjoyed 90125 as well as other eighties albums by progressive bands like Rush and Genesis. There's nothing more to say!

Draith | 3/5 |


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