Wednesday, July 25, 2012
FORGOTTEN MUSIC THURSDAY-DRAMA
Given the set of circumstances that surrounded the recording of the tenth Yes album, its title could scarcely be more appropriate.
Following a brief hiatus from recording they returned and managed to produce two discs in the late seventies (Going For the One and Tormato) with the same lineup. Wrapping up a world tour in 1979, it seemed reasonable that Anderson, Wakeman, Howe, Squire and White would regroup to work on new material to usher in the new decade.
Attempts were made to do so, though creative sparks did not fly.
Exit Anderson and Wakeman...
Yes without the signature vocals of Jon Anderson seemed unthinkable. Over a twelve year period players had been fired, replaced, had quit, rejoined...but the singer?
Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes of The Buggles were unabashed admirers of the prog rock legends. Replacing the departed, the unenviable task of filling Anderson's shoes fell to Horn. To hardcore followers this was sacrosanct. Opinions were naturally divided when Drama was originally released in 1980, though it was given a much warmer reception in the UK than in America.
Trevor Horn probably still drops to the ground in a fetal ball when thinking about the tour in support of the LP.
Nevertheless, the passage of time reveals this to be quite a good record. Squire wrapped his harmonies around those of the new recruit (abetted by Howe) giving the illusion that Jon had indeed contributed to the sessions. Close inspection reveals otherwise, though the revamped quintet catches fire, tracking with a harder edged approach. Everyone acquits themselves admirably, obviously inspired by the adoption of fresh ideas.
Six tunes were spread over two sides of the original vinyl version. Highlights are "Tempis Fugit", "Into the Lens" and the sprawling "Machine Messiah". The remaining tracks are certainly inoffensive, though not spectacular. You can hear the sonic metamorphosis taking place that would result in the first Asia project and the formation of "Yes-West". These developments would see many long time listeners turn away in disgust, while younger devotees came on board in their place. This was still a couple of years away, though.
Back to 1980.
White and Squire lock in furiously, the latter soloing with abandon in the middle of "Machine Messiah". Downes utilized the most contemporary synth voicings in very imaginative ways, without sacrificing technique. His nimble fingers effortlessly match the scale burning of Howe and Squire. Howe's style and guitar tone are radically transformed as he leans heavily on a more metallic sound. While it isn't quite "metal", it is a far cry from the more delicate, jazzy runs that he had previously favored.
With so much going for it, the disc still languishes in the cut-out bin of forgotten music. When an established act deviates from the expected stylistic framework, there is usually mutiny amongst the faithful. To many, Anderson was simply irreplaceable and that sealed the fate of this incarnation of Yes. Revisiting Drama definitely has its share of rewards, as the playing and production are solid. Perhaps those who had hitherto ignored this one might now listen with a more mellow viewpoint (hey, it's been 32 years!) and discover its charms.