I thought Yes had made their come back on their last album The Ladder, or wasn’t it the studio cuts before that on the two Keys to Ascension live packages, or wasn’t it in 1985 with the groundbreaking 90125 when Steve Howe was busy with GTR and Rick Wakeman couldn’t be bothered (again)? Then, wasn’t it in 1980 when Jon Anderson and Rick left and they recruited the Buggles, or when Rick left the first time and they enlisted Pat Moraz? How about when they revitalized the team with stellar guitarist Howe way back in 1971 and followed it by bringing Wakeman in on the next album… The truth is Chris Squire and the boys have been reinventing themselves practically from the start. And this 2001 release is another well-done album from Yes with an interesting take on the concept, using a symphonic orchestra to complete the sound and essentially replace the keyboards on Magnification and the following tour. Symphonic Yes, indeed.
It’s all so beautiful and stunning, and the team has really put forth an effort to quality songwriting. Does it rock? Well… the dynamics and the source of power are different. The musicians in the band have to be sensitive to the fact that there are scores of players accompanying them. Howe is especially careful, and brings the electric guitar out rarely on this album, preferring to play beautiful acoustic passages with great aplomb. The record is well-produced and none of the soloists are eclipsed by the big sound emanating from Conductor/Composer Larry Groupe and orchestra. The different winds and strings are inventive and choices are made that may not have been chosen by a Rick or a Pat. Interesting colors, the symphonics have always worked for Yes. Here, it’s an actual symphony.
It is quite enjoyable where the symphonic orchestra takes the front seat on “Don’t Go” with the strings driving the beat, and “Dreamtime” which takes orchestral breaks at the beginning and end the song, even “Give Love Each Day” has an incredible beginning that recalls a film soundtrack. Kudos to Chris and his short and lovely “Can You Imagine,” sounding like an outtake from his solo album Fish Out of Water. It’s always nice to hear Squire’s voice out front, even though lead vocalist Jon is incredible always. His performance throughout this record is stunning. His sing-songy way with the high tenor is perfect for this band, and he proves it on cuts like “Soft As a Dove” and opener “Magnification.”
Disclaimer: This is not the Yes of the Close to the Edge era. This is the sound they had developed in the latter days of their career. It is much more in the Keystudio vein than Fragile or even Going For the One, perhaps even a bit sleepy sounding. There is less of a sense of strong melody than on the holy trinity of The Yes Album through Close to the Edge and a bit more meandering around. So if you’re looking for the next album after you purchased all the early 70s material, this is not it. However, if you are a prog fan, you’ll enjoy that bit of meandering around, I’m sure. It’s big, it’s epic, it’s just not as catchy or energetic as those early records. I would heartily recommend the live CD/DVD of the tour, where they perform pieces from that golden era with orchestra. It’s mindblowing.
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on December 18th, 2011