Wednesday, August 29, 2018

From the Archives: The Yes Chronicles. Part 3: Time and a Word (1970).

The U.K. (left) and U.S. (right) covers of Time and a Word.
The following several posts come from a website I created way back in 2001, in honor of my favorite band, then and now: Yes.

Some of the writing makes me cringe 17 years later, but I feel it's good enough to live on. That Roger Daltrey (yes, that Roger Daltrey) was given some of my text to speak as narrator of the Yesspeak biographical DVD is testament to the quality of at least some of the prose, I guess. 

I pulled down my site, called The Yes Chronicles, years ago. But thanks to the Wayback Machine, which does its part to make sure that nothing published to the internet ever dies, I was able to find archived copies of my reviews. Another site, Yes in the Press -- which appears not to have been updated for about 11 years now -- also saved the reviews. I notice in the introductory blurb that the keeper of Yes in the Press attempted to contact me with no success. I'm not sure what happened, but if that person stumbles across this blog -- hello, it's me. 

All text is original from 2001. Links have been updated where possible. Happy reading.


"We perceived music to be more important than the individual at the time, and if one person wasn't pulling his weight, it would be better that he moved on."
-- Jon Anderson, from the Yesyears video (1991)

"I was kicked out!"
-- Peter Banks, 1991, as documented in Tim Morse's Yesstories: Yes in Their Own Words (1996)

"When I heard the final mix of the album, I was very upset. I felt like crying. The guitar
was gone."

-- Peter Banks, 1972, as documented in Yesstories (1996)

Time and a Word
Atlantic 1970
Rating: ***
Best song: "Astral Traveller"
Produced by Tony Colton
Engineer: Eddie Offord
Cover (UK) by Loring Eutemey
Orchestral arrangements by Tony Cox

Jon Anderson: vocals
Peter Banks: guitars, vocals
Chris Squire: bass, vocals
Tony Kaye: keyboards
Bill Bruford: percussion

Track listing (standout tracks in bold):
No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed
Sweet Dreams
The Prophet
Clear Days
Astral Traveller

Time and a Word

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On their second effort, Yes tried to expand on the orchestral sound they were chasing by adding...well, an orchestra. It was the thing to do in those days -- Deep Purple and, more notably, the Moody Blues had already done their orchestral efforts; and Pink Floyd would roll out the "Atom Heart Mother Suite" the same year that Time and a Word hit the stores.

For Yes, this was largely a failed experiment. Unlike the other aforementioned bands that had brought in orchestras to flesh out their sounds in the late '60s and early '70s, the members of Yes had the chops to sound like an orchestra without the extra backing. To be fair, though, in 1970 they hadn't quite figured out how to do it yet -- but they would soon. For the time being, though, the extra musicians simply got in the way of the band and its increasingly colorful compositions, with one exception -- Jon Anderson's short ballad "Clear Days," on which his golden voice glides over the top of a perfectly lovely piano and simple string-section accompaniment. This has been called Anderson's attempt at making another "Eleanor Rigby," and while it comes nowhere near to matching the brilliance of the famous Beatles tune, it does stand up well on its own merits. It's somewhat of an overlooked gem in the Yes canon.

When the strings and horns aren't getting in the way through the rest of the album, we hear pieces that show the band growing in its confidence, pulling off mood and tempo changes within relatively short song structures with a graceful, seamless ease. Chris Squire's bass gallops through the more uptempo pieces, and Bill Bruford's skittish percussion style reaches a new level of intensity, as he pounds out insistent 16th-note patterns on two pieces--the snare on "Then" and a tomtom on "Astral Traveller," the latter of which is by far the best, and thematically darkest, piece on the album. (Yes isn't always Pollyanna peace, love, and pie-in-the-sky optimism, as critics would like to believe.) And in contrast to his work on the debut album, Tony Kaye puts in a strong appearance on organ this time around, with a heavy, crunchy attack that opens up the Richie Havens cover "No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed" and the low-register burbling that breaks into a screeching wail to introduce the mini-epic "The Prophet." His insistent rhythmic playing also propels the classically inspired instrumental break in "Astral Traveller," contributing to a passage full of fussy precision playing that would soon become one of Yes's musical trademarks. This is one of Yes's most keyboard-dominated albums, in fact, and it is easily Kaye's finest hour with the band.

It's good that he stepped to the forefront, though, because Peter Banks is relegated to not much more than a rhythm guitarist on this album. That diminished role certainly must have weighed in Banks' parting ways with the band following the recording of Time and a Word, marking the first of many personnel changes to come. His replacement, of course, would be Steve Howe, who appears with the band on the cover of the American release of Time and a Word, even though he didn't play a single note on the album! The American covers on the first two albums, actually, differ from those on the UK releases: The band appears on the covers of both American releases, while on the covers elsewhere around the world, Yes featured the word "YES" in a cartoon speech balloon against a plain black backdrop, while Time and a Word featured a sketch of a naked woman's body with a butterfly on her hip. American audiences would get a glimpse of the Time and a Word lady, though, when she made a cameo appearance on the cover painting for the 1975 Yesterdays compilation album.

This album is also notable for providing the only song that Yes still plays from its original lineup--the title track. Which is odd, because it's one of the weakest moments of the album, with some especially trite peace-and-love lyrics from Anderson ("There's a time, and the time is now and it's right for me, it's right for me, and the time is now/There's a word, and the word is love and it's right for me, it's right for me, and the word is love") and an overly anthemic, wave-your-lighters mood created by the orchestra in the long closeout to the song. If "Clear Days" was meant to be "Eleanor Rigby," maybe the guys thought "Time and a Word" was "Hey Jude." But it's far from it. Rumor has it that it wasn't even Banks but rather David Foster, a pre-Yes musical associate of Anderson's, who strums the acoustic guitar throughout the song. Evidently Anderson is the one with the affinity for this song that keeps it alive, while stronger pieces like "Astral Traveller" have been all but forgotten. Even "Sweet Dreams," a very infectious, bouncy piece that closes side one, hasn't been heard in the band's repertoire for ages, despite Trevor Rabin's attempt to revive the song many, many years later. But on the brighter side, Yes's cover of Stephen Stills' "Everydays" would mark the last time the band would venture into lounge-lizard territory.

Overall, a mixed bag that shows great ambition and even more of a taste of greater things to come.
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