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The Recording of Union

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  • The Recording of Union

    Does anybody know exactly how this came to be so messy as a procedure? Now, I happen to enjoy Union quite a lot despite its structural flaws as the music itself works on a fundamental level for me, however I know that the album is very messily put together. I know Elias was an overbearing producer and that the discord was the symptom of two Yesses putting their pieces on one effort, with extra session musicians (somewhat unnecessary?) to boot.

    Does anyone know the development of this album in the studio and how it came to be not to the band's liking, with Rick famously referring to it as "Onion"?
    The Definitive YES Albums

    -The Yes Album-Fragile-Close to the Edge-Tales From Topographic Oceans-
    -Relayer-Going for the One-Drama-90125-Big Generator-Union-Talk-
    -The Ladder-Magnification-Fly From Here-The Quest-Mirror to the Sky-

  • #2
    There are extensive interviews with Elias.
    Sh*tshow all around/managers/record labels/ Anderson scheming with Elias/ wives/ alimonies/
    tax manouevres....

    Corporate Yes Rock Band falling apart.


    • #3
      It's all been well-documented over the years, even if some of the accounts from interested parties differ in some of the details, as to who did or did not do this, that and the other.
      What we're left with is the album as released. Who did what to whom, who played on this or that track? I don't really care at this point, 30 years on. When I listen to it, I omit the three Rabin tracks since I don't like them. The rest I can enjoy with the need for qualification, though the so-called bonus track, Give and Take, is fairly forgettable.
      Sometimes the lights all shining on me, other times I can barely see.
      Lately it occurs to me what a long strange trip it’s been.


      • #4
        In the pre-grunge musical climate of 1990/1, classic rock bands like Yes were still hot property, or at least very warm property. It's well documented now, but once the decision was made to fuse the two camps to hopefully simultaneously have a hit single and appeal to the fan base of the 70's-era band(s), things moved rather quickly. Basically, Union was a rushed affair - summer tours were booked, and the effort was made to get an album out as quickly as possible. These days if a band reforms, they may do the tour without with-out hassling with a new album - just look at the 2002 post-Magnification tours with Rick, the HSW 2008 tour or of course ARW.

        But those day, a new album still meant something, in this case whether it was ready or not. So, bickering bandmates or a lack of material - no problem. Bring in the session guys to help meet the deadline. Most in the band have disowned the album but enjoyed the tour. Everybody had their grubby mitts on the pie, to detrimental effect.

        All that said, I've always enjoyed Union regardless of how it was created. It's a fun, snappy album with some fine playing - from both the session fill-ins and from Yes themselves. The songs are Yes enough for me, it's a positive, pick-me-up type album. It's always a good listen whenever I pull it out. Never had a problem with the written musical material. To me it's a fun album. Just don't have your volume turned up too high when you put it on. No soft intro to ease you into the album, just an abrupt launch into I WOULD HAVE WAITED FOREV-ERRRRR exploding out of the speakers.

        It may be disjointed and the seams visible, but that eclecticism may be its charm: we have the Rabin radio single, an acoustic track from Steve Howe, the ethereal new age of Ankor Wat, definite prog moments, and even a dance-pop track like Dangerous. Like Yes and Madonna weren't too far apart. Wasn't there an unreleased extended mix of that? Then we have Yes camps switching out their sounds: Rabin's Miracle Of Life sounds rather Classic Yes with some cool but sparse organ moments while when I first heard Shock To The System live before the album was released, I thought that was one of the Rabin-led/90125 band tracks. And Evensong? That belongs on a King Crimson album. A Bruford/Levin duet, it was half of the 80's Crimson, so it literally could have been King Crimson - you have King Crimson appearing on a Yes album, even if it's only for 56 seconds!

        Of course Union is not without its flaws other than having too many chimps pulling out wires and ripping up upholstery in the parked Yes vehicle. What could have been is very much of interest. Take The Water To The Mountain is basically edited and chopped in half - the poor sound quality demo I've heard omits a really Yessy second half which recalls Tormato/Paris era Yes. Without Love You Cannot Start The Day sounded better in pre-released form. The sound quality of Give & Take isn't too hot, it's a lesser track that sounds muddier when listened to in the context of the rest of the album. So the album was definitely monkeyed with and was a textbook case of corporate intervention, but I've always enjoyed Union nonetheless.

        What does anyone else think of Union?


        • #5
          I like Union a good bit actually, though a few songs toward the end could vanish without me missing them. After reading about it over the years, I actually credit Elias and Anderson for making the thing listenable. That said, I don’t think think the Rabin tracks needed much help. The rest of it seems like it was a real mess.
          "You too can become a vegetarian!"


          • #6
            I too like Union quite a lot, even if I can't for the life of me figure out what they were thinking… By which I mean, from the Yes Classic side, Bruford and Levin indeed seem to be the only credited drummer & bassist, so that implies enough of the rhythm tracks were solid, it's the guitar and keyboard parts that were either demoed and needed work, or hadn't been figured out at all, or what. Now, I'm no musician, so really have no idea how they make records, but it would seem to me that laying down drums and bass without a plan is not the greatest move in the world, esp. as Bruford and Levin aren't themselves the most prolific composers in the Yes cannon. Someone must have had an idea of where these songs were going, but how they connect to any kind of arc after ABWH, well, I don't see it… ABWH has always struck me as a "we should remake Fragile and Close to the Edge with a modern twist", and it mostly worked to my ears. But then what? Follow that with Tales with a modern twist, or Tormato? The best guess I have is — and I haven't heard the demos that were in the Jon box from the Before Times — that they had some loosely worked out demos, Howe and Wakeman got bored/had other commitments/lost faith, and Anderson/Elias salvaged what they had, within the limits of the already completed rhythm parts, and made the album. O-or, who knows, maybe the Union credits are complete BS, and they brought in another drummer and bassist?

            How much the YesWest group actually plays on the album too, I don't know — Rabin handed over demos of three songs, but were those demos of/by him and him alone, demos by the band, or demos augmented afterwards by Squire and White (I'm guessing not Kaye)?

            But I agree, the interesting thing is how easy it would be to mix up the various factions on the album: if the credits had put Miracle of Life as a Classic Yes song, and Shock as a YesWest song, I'd almost believe it. I'm guessing the average listener wouldn't tell the difference at all.


            • #7
              I like UNION.

              I have a funny relationship to it - it marked my first YES tour when I was 18 (I loved 90125, my first YES "tape" (LOL), and BIG GENERATOR too. When ABWH formed, I absolutely *loved* that tape - yet was equally CRUSHED when the ABWH tour failed to do any Florida dates).

              **THE TOUR: The UNION Tour awed me for a *different* reason than most YES fans: for me, that 1991 summer night in Tampa, Florida was my INTRODUCTION to YES live.

              It changed my life.

              I was *floored* at the time that "Brother Of Mine" wasn't played live (nothing from ABWH was). But I loved the show that I got.

              **THE ALBUM: I loved 5 songs on UNION ("I Would Have Waited Forever", "Shock To The System", "Lift Me Up", "Miracle Of Life", and "Dangerous") really liked "Masquerade", and was so-so with the rest of the CD. While it was a huge, HUGE moment in the development of my YES fandom... the truth is that the rest of the YES catalog blew that away, and I just honestly very rarely listen to it anymore. I don't care to lambast it as many (like Rick! LOL) do - I would even say by and large I don't fault the album itself; it's good if you ignore the politics behind getting it rushed to record racks. It's just not as good as GOING FOR THE ONE or CLOSE TO THE EDGE or even THE QUEST(!).

              The truth is, my copy of UNION doesn't get much play for me anymore. But I'll own up to this, and admit I still have a great deal of fondness for the UNION "era". 1991 was a hell of a good time to be a YES fan.

              -Douglas /AgentA\
              Last edited by agentarmstrong; 01-04-2022, 08:30 PM.


              • #8
                It’s not my favorite by any stretch, but it’s also not something I never play. The album is kinda fun and the various bootlegs that offer a glimpse of the backstory are pretty interesting listens too.
                “Well ain’t life grand when you finally hit it?”-David Lee Roth


                • #9
                  I very much like it despite the band politics and studio shenanigans. I give huge thanks to Jonathan Elias for managing to deliver a full album out of the song fragments he was given. Almost all the "ABWH" tracks work for me as well as the Sherwood/Squire collaboration as opposed to the "Yeswest" songs which I found just rushed, run of the mill material. Rabin would agree I believe..


                  • #10
                    I love Lift Me Up, and the other Yeswest tracks I enjoy as well. Of the ABWH material, I really only like Holding On and Masquerade. For me, Without Hope, Dangerous, and Silent Talking are the nadir of Yes music.


                    • #11
                      I particularly like the interview with Jimmy Haun on the Union album. Anyone have a link?


                      • #12
                        After years of not listening to the CD I ended up buying the vinyl reissue last year after finding the best record shop I have ever been in while on holiday in Wales (the shop is in Swansea) and seeing it there. It's a slimmed down version of the album to keep it one disc and I actually think it works much better as a result. Or maybe it's just that I've become more tolerant these days (I've even come to accept Genesis as a trio - mind you, that took years!). Anyway I rather like the variety of having some YesWest there with some ABWH - or should I say, AB and a load of other musicians which may occasionally feature W and H. Still wish for more of W and H of course but it is what it is. And at least Masquerade made the cut on to the vinyl version so there is definitely some H on there!!


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by pianozach
                          I particularly like the interview with Jimmy Haun on the Union album. Anyone have a link?

                          And this is the link to the Jonathan Ellias interview

                          It's from Henry's website and he conducted both interviews. Yes was quite the dysfunctional band at the time...
                          Last edited by Mr. Holland; 01-05-2022, 08:28 AM.


                          • #14
                            thats a great interview with Jimmy, Henry! Very interesting to hear the breakdown of the songs he was on.

                            Wow Elias hates Steve Howe doesn't he?
                            Last edited by soundchaser09; 01-05-2022, 09:04 AM.
                            The Definitive YES Albums

                            -The Yes Album-Fragile-Close to the Edge-Tales From Topographic Oceans-
                            -Relayer-Going for the One-Drama-90125-Big Generator-Union-Talk-
                            -The Ladder-Magnification-Fly From Here-The Quest-Mirror to the Sky-


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Homemade Parachute
                              How much the YesWest group actually plays on the album too, I don't know — Rabin handed over demos of three songs, but were those demos of/by him and him alone, demos by the band, or demos augmented afterwards by Squire and White (I'm guessing not Kaye)?
                              Those demos were Trevor's - the originals of "Lift Me Up" and "Miracle of Life" are out there, both officially and not. "Saving My Heart" was originally from the project he was working on with Roger Hodgson. Tony is in the credits but I don't necessarily believe he was there at the sessions. Everybody is in the credits but how much the songs were actually augmented beyond Jon and Chris' vocals it's hard to say, IMO. Eddy Offord is only credited with co-production for "Miracle of Life" with Trevor receiving production credit for the other two songs which makes me think that "Miracle" is the most augmented of the three TR songs. But I think the credits as they were included plays into the agreed-upon narrative of a "union."
                              Last edited by luna65; 01-06-2022, 06:41 AM.
                              my labor of love (and obsessive research)