Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Yes - Union Live CD (album) cover



Symphonic Prog

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Bookmark and Share
Symphonic Team
3 stars United on stage

Recorded on tour in the early 90's, Union Live was finally released on CD and DVD in 2011. The Union tour followed, of course, the release of the studio album Union. The title refers to the unification of the Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe line-up with the Yes line-up that had recorded Big Generator, hence the larger than normal number of people involved. The Union tour featured no less than eight men in Jon Anderson, Bill Bruford, Steve Howe, Tony Kaye, Trevor Rabin, Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman, and Alan White--which means no less than two drummers, two guitarists, and two keyboard players on the stage!

In my opinion Union is a great album in its own right and easily the best of the Rabin-era, featuring some of Rabin's best songs ever. I don't understand the bad reputation that this album has acquired. Union Live is a bit of a misnomer though as there is actually only a single song (Saving My Heart) from the Union album being included on this live recording. I would have loved to hear Shock To The System, Lift Me Up, Miracle Of Life, and I Would Have Waited Forever. Some of these songs were actually performed on this tour but they are not present on this live album. Instead, this enlarged version of the band gave the audience a selection of older Yes classics from Yours Is No Disgrace and I've Seen All Good People from 1971's The Yes Album to Rhythm Of Love from 1987's Big Generator. Wakeman adds novel keyboard solos to the latter as well as to Owner Of A Lonely Heart, which is very nice.

Along the way Wakeman, Squire/White, Rabin, and Howe also get little solo spots. Out of these Wakeman's (featuring selections from his Six Wives Of Henry VIII) and Squire's/White's (featuring The Fish and Tempus Fugit) are the best. Excellent though these solo spots are, they have been done before. Howe's and Rabin's respective solo spots are pleasant but rather pedestrian. In the case if Howe, I would have preferred a performance of his lovely instrumental solo piece Masquerade from the Union album--it's one of his best acoustic numbers ever. The Bruford/White drum duet is not featured on this live album, and neither is Kaye's solo spot.

I have yet to see the video version of Union Live, but this live album is a welcome addition (now available for streaming on Spotify). Good though it is it must be said that there are several better Yes live albums out there. Many of which feature complete concerts as opposed to this one which is missing some tracks.

Report this review (#1083936)
Posted Sunday, December 1, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars In some ways, Yes' 1991 tour represented the zenith of corporate rock. Advertised as 'Yesshows '91: Around the World in 80 Dates,' it brought together the eight(!) best-known members of the group for a two-and-a-half-hour show, well over half of which featured the whole octet. The backstory is that there had been two rival Yes groups since 1989, and by late 1990 it was looking like neither was going to be commercially viable on its own. So they sued each other, but that didn't help, so they merged into a single group, released a mediocre album with songs by the separate groups, and went on tour.

Having been at two of the concerts (4/18 and 7/18), I can say the show was phenomenal. The April show, which was 'in the round' at the Hartford Civic Center, was the best Yes show I've seen. Lead singer Jon Anderson sounded great, and of the instrumentalists, I remember guitarist Trevor Rabin, keyboardist Rick Wakeman, and drummers Bill Bruford and Alan White standing out.

Union Live can't recapture the event for me, but it's pretty good nonetheless. The downsides? First, harmonized vocals are a trademark of the Yes sound, but too often, bassist Chris Squire's backing vocals are weak, providing insufficient support to Anderson, especially later in the show. Second, the mixing over-separates the instruments, reducing the 'live' feel. On 'Roundabout,' for example, the bass guitar nearly disappears in places. I originally assumed that Union Live was mixed from scratch for the CD release, but now I wonder whether it could've been a live soundboard mix with the audience added (injudiciously, in my opinion) after the fact. My final complaint is, I believe, the most substantial: the exclusion of a number of songs from the set, despite the availability of around 45 unused minutes between the two CDs. By my count, here's is what's missing: two Union songs ('Lift Me Up' and 'Shock to the System'), 'And You And I,' 'Changes,' the drum duet, and Tony Kaye's solo spot. I'd hold my tongue if just 'Lift Me Up' and 'Shock to the System' had been included. To begin with, live audio versions of these two songs aren't available legitimately - - plus, both were done very well in concert, especially 'Shock to the System,' which sounded better than the album version.

The upsides include the interesting twists added to the songs, especially by Rabin and Anderson. My favorite is the keyboard solo appended by Wakeman onto 'Owner of a Lonely Heart.' It's a part originally written by Rabin (as evinced on the demo of the song on Rabin's 90124), but Wakeman makes it his own. Most of the performances are very good, although the band must've been exhausted - - Union Live was recorded on August 8, 1991, the eighty-first and final concert of the 1991 tour, which had begun four months earlier. (They played a final five-date Japanese leg in February and March, 1992).

Union Live is no Yessongs, but it's as good as the average Yes live album. And at least until another recording from this tour is released, Union Live is an important part of Yes's discography.

Report this review (#2281278)
Posted Thursday, November 14, 2019 | Review Permalink

YES Union Live ratings only

chronological order | showing rating only

Post a review of YES Union Live

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.