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Yes - Union CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

2.51 | 1231 ratings

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3 stars The album "Union", the 11th in Yes' studio discography, was ill fated from the beginning. It was a bad idea in the first place to dismantle the band ABWH to join the members with what was then the current line up for Yes. The band ended up with 8 members and countless session musicians and other guests being involved in putting an album together that was originally supposed to be 2 separate albums. Then there was the fact that there was so much dissension among both bands. No wonder we ended up with such a messed up album.

Rick Wakeman and Bill Bruford had already recorded parts for the songs that were originally going to be on the new ABWH, but the producers and the label both thought that there wasn't any hit material from the music they had recorded, while Wakeman and Bruford both thought they had recorded some of the strongest material they had done in a long time. Some session musicians were hired to edit the material already supplied and Wakeman said that by the time they had finished editing and manipulating the material, that he didn't even recognize it anymore. Bruford said that the album is the "?most dishonest title that I've had the privilege of playing drums underneath?". All of the other band members have agreed that this was the most disjointed and inauthentic album Yes has ever produced. This is what happens when businessmen think they know better than musicians. Sure it sold well, but that was because of the band's previous reputation.

So, in the end, is it really as bad as what people make it out to be? Maybe about half of it, is my answer. There are some salvageable tracks on this album, but there are others that are just mediocre, not necessarily terrible, just so-so. Since most everyone has experienced this album for better or worse, I just want to summarize the tracks. I'll get the lesser tracks on the 1st side out of the way. I find there is just too much similarity in "I Would Have Waited Forever", "Shock to the System", "Without Hope You Cannot Start the Day" and "Saving My Heart". These tracks may have been great intensions that got flattened down to mediocre songs by the corporate machine, and they sound too much the same to me, overly rocked out.

On the better side of things, "Lift Me Up" was penned by Trevor Rabin for ABWH to use on their now defunct album and feels more real. "Miracle of Life" has that hard progressive edge of "90125", some tricky and changing rhythms, and probably the best track on the album. "Masquerade" is a guitar solo that highlights Steve Howe's guitar mastery. "Silent Talking", is reminiscent of the ABWH and older Yes sound, especially since it was credited to all four musicians from that band, but was probably changed to some extent for this album.

I find that "More We Live/Let Go" is a hidden treasure, not necessarily a typical Yes track as it is more of a down-beat track, but the shared vocals and harmonies are the highlight that packs an emotional wallop as it continues. It's a track that tends to get buried on the 2nd half of the album after the pomp of the rest of the album.

After that, things tend to be weakened. "Angkor Wat" sounds like something off of a lesser Jon Anderson solo album. It is actually ambient sounding, which is fine, but it meanders on too long. "Dangerous" is another mediocre rock song that tries hard to be more than what it is and ends up just fizzling out. "Holding On" is forgettable. "Evensong" is a short track written by Bruford and Tony Levin, who was going to join ABWH as their bassist, but it's short and over quickly before you even notice it. "Take the Water to the Mountain" is another Anderson solo style track which ends everything in a lackluster way. The European and Japanese versions had a bonus track called "Give and Take" which doesn't add or take away anything from the album.

I hate being so critical of one of my favorite bands, but I can't deny this is a mediocre album, mostly destroyed by the powers that be and a lot of disillusioned musicians. Too many hands were definitely in this fire. But, some say it's the band's worst, which it isn't, and others say that deserves 1 star, which it doesn't. There are some great Yes tracks here, which I've named, so I don't consider it a total wash, but even so, I can only manage to give it 3 stars as the highs and lows of the album even each other out in my mind. I can listen to the album once in a while, and it doesn't completely piss me off the way "Open Your Eyes" and "Heaven and Earth" does.

TCat | 3/5 |


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