Open Your Eyes

Yes

Beyond Records, 1997

http://www.yesworld.com

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/18/1998

One of the essential qualities for being a long-time fan of Yes is a certain doggedness bordering on masochism. You can't like them just a little, or you'll never last through the lineup and/or stylistic changes that always seem to be just around the corner. And yet liking them a lot has got to be one of the most frustrating experiences there is in life, right up there with phone sex and standing in line at the DMV.

Open Your Eyes finds the band that put progressive rock on the map 25 years ago trying to find its feet once again with Yes incarnation number 12. No, the latter figure is not a misprint, although Rick Wakeman has run up the score a bit by joining and quitting the band four, count 'em, four separate times in their long history, most recently in 1995-6. This time around the band tries out its first two-guitar/minimal-keyboards lineup, with guitarist/co-producer/co-songwriter Billy Sherwood taking over what has traditionally been Yes' keyboard slot. Keyboard player Igor Khoroshev -- hired as a sideman just weeks before the current tour and this album surfaced side by side in the aftermath of Wakeman's latest exit -- contributes on three songs, but the sound is still distinctly guitar-heavy.

This is a good thing and a bad thing. In the masterful hands of classic-era Yes guitarist Steve Howe, the nimble electric leads of songs like "Fortune Seller" and "Universal Garden" and the sweet acoustic picking on both the latter and "From the Balcony" melt in your ears. These moments are but brief interludes, however, on an album dominated by bassist/harmony vocalist-for-life Chris Squire and newcomer Sherwood, who sound like they're still fighting through the latter stages of a hangover from the band's long, unfortunate flirtation during the '80s with arena rock wankery.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Even so, the talent assembled in this band can't help but spark a few memorable moments. The title track is a ringing piece of radio-friendly prog-rock, reminding you what the band that made 90125 in 1983 might have been capable of if it had chosen a more inventive musical path. There are flashes of brilliance in the mix of Howe and Sherwood's driving guitar lines with Squire's aggressive bass work on both "Open Your Eyes" and the aforementioned "Fortune Seller," and Squire and angelic lead voice Jon Anderson remain a dynamite vocal duo.

What appears to have happened in too many cases on this clearly rushed album, though, is that Squire and Sherwood presented the rest of the band with a series of rather poppy basic tracks that were then hurriedly layered over with Anderson's new age lyrics and the all-too-occasional bursts of melodic soloing from Howe. What you're left with are a couple of decent tracks and a mish-mash of compromised songs like "No Way We Can Lose," "The Solution" and the frankly abysmal "Man in the Moon." The latter offers the sharpest contrast of all, practically a musical contradiction in and of itself. There's a painfully cliched lyric ("Round and round and round I go / Where I stop no one will know / I am the man / I am the man in the moon"), forgettable power chords, Anderson sounding dangerously like Pat Boone as he chirps "It's that old devil moon"... and Howe chiming in during the final minute with a diving, trilling solo that leaves you shaking your head at what might have been.

But Yes has a dark history of schizophrenic shifts in quality. What other band could come up with both the transcendent rock symphony of Close to the Edge and the lifeless, vapid Talk? At this late date, hanging on as a fan of Yes is almost an act of faith. It's affirmations like the band's current tour -- in which they are playing their classic '70s material as well as they have in 20 years -- and their other album from last year, the neglected, Wakeman-inclusive gem Keys to Ascension 2, that keep the long-time fans tuned in. If not for these reminders of the band's already-written legacy of greatness, botched rush-jobs like Open Your Eyes might leave even the faithful questioning their own patience.

Rating: C

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© 1998 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 Beyond Records, and is used for informational purposes only.