Atlantic Records, 1978

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


The amazing thing about Yes -- besides the sheer fact they're all still alive and still capable of playing great live shows 35 years later -- is that as often as they've been brilliant over the years, they've also been terribly, terribly ordinary… or worse. It's as though the musical intelligence batteries take an increasing amount of time to recharge after each eruption, and in the meantime, what you get is occasionally-promising goo.

And there it is, your summary of Tormato -- occasionally-promising goo.

Interestingly, it's the two Yes-men who would depart after the failed sessions that followed this album and tour -- singer Jon Anderson and keyboardist Rick Wakeman -- who fare the worst here. Wakeman, after concentrating on rich, grand organ and keyboard sounds on Going For The One, inexplicably delves into some of the cheesiest, tinniest proto-'80s synth tones you'd ever want to shield your dog's ears from on this album.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Anderson, for his part, seems here to have lost his way completely as a lyricist, jumping all over the place like an ADD-ridden flower child. I mean, "Arriving UFO" -- what more need be said? How about this: the only thing more horrifying than Anderson wanting to put a song as teeth-grindingly twee as the wretched "Circus Of Heaven" on a Yes album, is the rest of the band letting him. Were they all drunk?? (Survey says: possibly.)

There are two high points… well, alright, one and a half. "On The Silent Wings Of Freedom" is an eight-minute Chris Squire piece in which he uses a harmonized Rickenbacker bass and pedals to produce some of the most amazing, buoyant bass tones and melodies you'll ever hear. The lyric is evocative and sung to good effect by Anderson; even a dose of too-chirpy synths from Wakeman can't spoil this party. The other half a highlight on Tormato is "Release, Release," a tight rock number whose punch is undercut by a silly chorus ("Rock is the medium of our generation"…eek) adorned with embarrassing faux-crowd noise.

The rest is no better than tolerable. Squire's somber "Onward" receives a better treatment live on 1996's Keys To Ascension than it does here. Wakeman's "Madrigal" seems derived from but hardly inspired by the Renaissance flavor of Going For The One's much more interesting "Turn Of The Century." The famously obscure Anderson suddenly springs a political message on Yes' audience with "Don't Kill The Whale," laying a stilted lyric over an undeniably cool beat. (But, those whiny synths! Ahhh!) As for "Future Times/Rejoice," well, if you don't have anything nice to say… uh-huh.

It would be heartening to think that Tormato was just a momentary stumble, that a better Yes album lay just around the corner if these guys had just stuck it out. But the results of the infamous "Paris sessions" -- the aborted effort to craft a follow-up to Tormato -- were so dismal that you wonder at guitarist Steve Howe's motives in unearthing them for inclusion on last year's In A Word box set. It's as if he was trying to finally win the argument with the fans: "Look, we gave it another go and we all saw it was bloody awful. It was time to change things around again." And indeed, in uniquely Yes fashion, they would.

Rating: C-

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© 2004 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 Atlantic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.