Talk

Yes

Victory Records, 1994

http://www.yesworld.com

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/10/2001

It seems every band that survives for even a fraction of Yes' incredible run -- now in its fourth decade -- goes through peaks and valleys. Welcome to the valley.

Mind you, the arena-rock 1980s edition of Yes - of which Talk was the last, dying gasp - was not without its redeeming qualities. At its best, the creative tension between the band's old guard, in the form of singer/lyricist/space cadet Jon Anderson, and the new, in the form of guitarist/vocalist/leather-pantsed showman Trevor Rabin, resulted in music that was interesting in ways beyond the ken of most other 80s rock. The problem was always this: Yes wasn't invented in 1983 when Rabin and bassist/vocalist/keeper of the flame Chris Squire joined forces; by then it had a storied 15-year history of challenging musical convention, a legacy to which the more commercially-inclined Rabin was a most uncomfortable heir.

By 1994, Yes's notorious revolving-door lineup had reached a point perhaps best described as "last man standing." Creative tensions between Rabin and Anderson had simmered through two studio albums until Anderson quit in 1988 to form his own band of Yes-men, the eponymous Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe. A subsequent legal battle over the name "Yes" resulted a merger between the two groups into a kind of "Mega-Yes" that toured eight men strong in 1991, but the companion Union album, stitched together from separate sessions undertaken by the two factions, was a botched mess. In the aftermath, Anderson was apparently convinced to throw in with Rabin for one last stab at commercial success with the 80s lineup, which also included Squire, Tony Kaye on keyboards and Alan White on drums. The rest of the band basically gave Rabin free rein for Talk; he produced and was the primary writer and player on every song.

The result was an album that tanked, a tour few people saw, a quick exit by Rabin and Kaye, and the revival of the "classic Yes" lineup featuring Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman. Why, you ask? Well, let's take it song by song. Or perhaps more appropriately, blow by blow.

"The Calling" was the album's main shot at a hit single, but fails the basic "Owner Of A Lonely Heart" test: if you're going to build a seven-minute song around a simple guitar riff, make it a memorable one. A song that ought to rock, plods instead. Tony Kaye at least gets to play a few notes on his Hammond - the only place on this entire album where his presence is detectable.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

"I Am Waiting" is one of the album's - hell, the band's - low points, a ten-years-late Journey ripoff with lyrics so embarrassingly dim Steve Perry himself would've turned up his nose at them. "Highways, starways, many ways to be open tonight." Oh, please. As far as the music, I can't help but agree with Daily Vault alumni Loznik's acid assessment: "utter pants."

"Real Love" and "State Of Play" both attempt a yin-yang vibe, playing grinding Rabin riffs off airy Anderson vocals. And both fall flat, thudding along sounding as flabby and pompous as anything Yes has ever produced. The '70s lineups could get away with a little pomposity because they had the musicianship to back it up. On these tracks, however, Rabin struts his three-chord riffs and effects-laden solos like they're Beethoven, only to end up sounding like a hopeless wanker.

"Walls" carries the dubious distinction of being among the most frequent nominees for "Worst Song Ever Released" by the band, a semi-regular exercise over on alt.music.yes, the erratic, ornery newsgroup for Yes aficionados. The amazing part is that it took three people -- Rabin, Anderson and Supertramp frontman Roger Hodgson -- to come up with a lyric that brings fresh meaning to the word insipid. When John Mellencamp sang about the walls tumbling down in 1982, he sounded like he was gonna kick'em down himself. On this track, Yes sounds like they're hoping the walls will crumble if they just whine loud enough.

"Where Will You Be" is pleasant fluff, a little Anderson flower-child poem set to looped electronic percussion with Rabin thankfully hanging back most of the time, his only real contribution some flashy acoustic string-bending in the bridge.

"Endless Dream," this lineup's only shot in its twelve-year lifespan at a Classic Yes-length epic, is, well, endless. For the instrumental opening, Rabin doesn't even bother to try to come up with something new; he just lifts the percussive synth loop and tempo right out of the intro to his own "Changes" back in '83, adds a few power chords, and calls it new. White is the only guy who sounds the least bit challenged, banging out some fairly wild time signatures that are the closest this entire album comes to sounding like classic Yes.

The rest of this interminable 15-minute track is a pastiche of airy Andersonisms and thumping Rabinisms that tries hard in places, but ends up sounding like a parody of Yes - long and complex, to be sure, but also slick, showy and virtually weightless. Only Anderson's strong lead vocals and some nice harmonizing late in the game with the criminally under-utilized Squire prevent this track from being a complete bomb.

The final nail in this album's coffin is the production. Rabin took great pride at the time in being a pioneer, recording and mixing the entire album on an Apple computer. The problem is, the album SOUNDS like it was recorded on a computer. Nothing feels alive or organic; it's all tinny and metallic, shiny edges on the highs, cavernous bottoms on the lows, processed vocals and electronic percussion. It could have been subtitled "Music for CPU and Modem."

As much as I long to be finished reviewing this particular album, I cannot depart without drawing your attention to the moment, about 3:30 into "Endless Dream," where the music falls back, leaving space for a little duet between a cheesy processed guitar riff and a pseudo-freaky synth effect. It was as the two obnoxious noises played off each other that I looked at the credits one last time and recalled that Rabin played all the synths on the album, too. And laughed out loud, as I realized how deftly this little interlude captures the essence of Talk -- Rabin is playing with himself.

Rating: D

User Rating: A


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© 2001 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Victory Records, and is used for informational purposes only.