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Yes - Union Live CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.57 | 94 ratings

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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.

patrickq | 3/5 |


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