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Is it time to reassess Yes in the 1990s?

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    Is it time to reassess Yes in the 1990s?

    Yes in the 1990s is often considered to be, frankly, a bit of a mess - opportunities lost, some shocking management decisions and albums being released that even the members themselves like to distance themselves from.

    But as the years have passed I've come to appreciate the output of that decade more and more. Take Union for example. At the time I hated it - only the Yes west tracks sounded any good and it was profoundly frustrating to see the long list of sessions musicians. But last year I bought the vinyl version of it and have found the slimmed down version to be full of variety and an enjoyable listen.

    The rest of the decade saw another 4 studio albums released (I'm counting 'Keys' as 1 album, ignoring the ludicrous way in which it was released) - a healthy output for a band that started its life in the 60s - and the different line ups for each release meant that there was great variety in the songs. Something for everyone - from a Yes west release to one of the classic line-ups reforming and recording what for me is one of the great Yes epics in Mind Drive. Billy started his association with the band which laid the foundation for his return to the current line up and of course there was the Union tour which was a highlight for many a Yes fan - myself included.

    Away from studio releases the Keys live tracks were superb (we'll gloss over the terribly recorded DVD) - the version of Starship Trooper on that release with its interplay between Steve and Rick in Wurm is brilliant for example - and the Yes Years 4cd set has some great rare tracks on it which at the time were really exciting for this, still fairly new Yes fan (I discovered them in 1987 after buying Big Generator) to hear.

    What about you? As you look back at the 90s output, what are your thoughts?

    #2
    I've almost taken the opposite route to what you describe. When I first bought Union and Keys I loved every minute of it and to an extent I still do enjoy them albums when I listen to them but to be honest I don't see anything in those albums that have the spirit of discovery found in what Yes released 1968-1980. I know that is a much touted argument and I'm not trying to criticize the band as such, it's just that when I listen to Keys now it sounds like a bunch of people who'd been in a band in the 70s got together in the 90s to make a record that would sound like their 70s records.

    King Crimson seem to me the obvious example of the opposite way of working in that their 90s and 2000s output exists separately from what came before and can be listened to that way. If you play THRAK it's an objectively good record, regardless of whether or not Discipline or Red had come before it. I don't get that feeling from Keys or any of Yes's other 90s output.

    Comment


      #3
      In a way I enjoy the 2000+ output more, that is to say, by then I got over the fact the Yes were never going to get back to the high of the old times.
      The Ladder was probably their last deliberate attempt to return to where they were in the 70s, and arguably the best.
      Union, Talk and Keys were mostly looking back to whenever it was that that line up was best. And none of them got there. But there was still some/a lot of good music to be enjoyed.

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        #4
        It was very interesting period of mixed results. Definitely had a lot of changes of sound and lineups even for Yes standards. I think this changing identity hurt the band commercially and creatively in a way but it did offer variety and I like that.

        -Union: I happen to enjoy this album full of session musicians, there's alot to love here with a good mix of ideas from both Yes bands, The More we Live is a classic, Lift me Up and Shock to the System are great, other highlights: Miracle of Life, Holding On and Silent Talking. 8/10

        -Talk: Very solid album with some songs that go on too long for my liking. The Calling is a great song for Rabin era Yes in the 90s, I also love Real Love for its moody atmosphere and guitar work. Endless Dream is the best epic of the 90s, amazing vocal performance from Jon. 7/10

        -Keys to Ascension 1 + 2: badly mismanaged when released alongside the live material, the studio songs were left to the side and likely regarded as bonus when it should have been the star, should have been one double album originally instead of in the Keystudio package. Still I'm not the biggest fan of what the classic lineup offers here it feels forced- I do enjoy the epics Mind Drive and That That Is, with Children of Light and Footprints being solid enough. 6/10

        -Open Your Eyes
        : An uneven album in quality but the good songs really shine here, the addition of Sherwood was great for the band and allowed it to continue after the mishandling of Keys. Strong tracks to me include: Open Your Eyes (should've been a hit IMO), Man in the Moon (a guilty pleasure), Universal Garden, Fortune Seller. 6/10

        -The Ladder:
        The band really returned with a bang here, love this one many great tracks full of energy and sounds like a more modern prog album that Yes had been searching for since the mid 90s. Great pieces for me: Homeworld, To Be Alive, Finally, The Messenger, New Languages, Nine Voices. 8/10

        A very interesting era of the band and one which I enjoy quite a lot not as great as before (or after IMO) but still very fun, the ending of the Rabin era and a couple of interesting other lineups including the last studio albums of the classic lineup, which many enjoy more than I do.

        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-

        Comment


          #5
          I like the ABWH tracks on Union, plus The More We Live. Keys live is terrific, Keys studio is very enjoyable. I love The Ladder. Talk and Open Your Eyes I've no interest in so don't have an opinion.

          It was Ben Wakeman who told me they'd got together for the Keys albums, done the live album etc. in 1996. He was doing the merch stall at one of his dad's shows on tour in 96 and we were both outside having a smoke. Ben commented on my Tales t-shirt. I'd not expected anything like that to happen, so I was tremendously excited when I heard about the Keys to Ascension. It's still my favourite live Yes album I think.

          I think the Symphonic Yes album came out in the 90s, the one Bill was involved in. That wasn't as good as I'd hoped. The ABWH live album was a 90s release as well I think, after Union? That was great too.

          As with so many aspects of their long history, it was a very different experience to live through it than to be someone who discovers it after it had all passed by and was already history, experienced second-hand or vicariously. You really had to be there to appreciate the excitement that learning of the Keys shows was, rather than simply reacting to how it turned out afterwards, for good or ill.
          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.

          Comment


            #6
            I like a few songs here and there, but in general Jon is just too over the top on most of the band's 90s output for me to enjoy. I recently heard the demo of Can You Feel My Love with Jon singing and I couldn't believe how good he sounded, I miss that Jon. Sorry! 😟

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              #7
              Originally posted by Davy View Post
              I like a few songs here and there, but in general Jon is just too over the top on most of the band's 90s output for me to enjoy. I recently heard the demo of Can You Feel My Love with Jon singing and I couldn't believe how good he sounded, I miss that Jon. Sorry! 😟


              I'd never heard this before! Do you know if this is an original demo from the 90125 period?

              Comment


                #8
                Me either! Yes, it was a demo from the 90125 era. I really like it, not sure who posted this recently, may have been Luna?

                Comment


                  #9
                  Ye Gods, that's dreadful! Mid-tempo stodge.
                  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.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by kilianltia View Post
                    Do you know if this is an original demo from the 90125 period?
                    It is; it's one of those songs Trevor brought to the project.

                    Originally posted by Davy View Post
                    Me either! Yes, it was a demo from the 90125 era. I really like it, not sure who posted this recently, may have been Luna?
                    It was our kind patron, John.

                    Ash - it's not really a favorite of mine either, but I do think Jon did a better job of it than Trevor.
                    Last edited by luna65; 03-16-2022, 09:35 AM.
                    Rabin-esque
                    my labor of love (and obsessive research)
                    rabinesque.blogspot.com

                    Comment


                      #11
                      I think the Rabin material on Union is decent - the rest is only moderate to awful for me.

                      I like a fair bit f Talk - to my ears it's the most Yes-sounding of all the YesWest material. That's probably Anderson's influence in ways that appeal to me - we all take different things it seems.

                      I think the Keys stuff - at least the two long tracks, are the best things from the 90s, albeit with flaws, that still makes them very significant.

                      Weight and significance that's more or less totally lacking on OYE - I listened through again a few months back and there's absolutely no way I'll do that again. Some of it is truly awful and the best of it isn't exactly stellar.

                      The Ladder has Homeworld, which is a latter day pastiche of the 70s Yes sound, but enjoyable for all that. I really liked the album for several weeks - it was something of a relief after its predecessor, but it just as quickly paled on me. None of the tracks are terrible, there just isn't a great deal of substance to them.

                      So all in all, not a great era for the band. So far as I'm concerned they really came back into form again on 2001's Magnification. A false dawn, alas.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by Chris2210 View Post
                        I think the Rabin material on Union is decent - the rest is only moderate to awful for me.

                        I like a fair bit f Talk - to my ears it's the most Yes-sounding of all the YesWest material. That's probably Anderson's influence in ways that appeal to me - we all take different things it seems.

                        I think the Keys stuff - at least the two long tracks, are the best things from the 90s, albeit with flaws, that still makes them very significant.

                        Weight and significance that's more or less totally lacking on OYE - I listened through again a few months back and there's absolutely no way I'll do that again. Some of it is truly awful and the best of it isn't exactly stellar.

                        The Ladder has Homeworld, which is a latter day pastiche of the 70s Yes sound, but enjoyable for all that. I really liked the album for several weeks - it was something of a relief after its predecessor, but it just as quickly paled on me. None of the tracks are terrible, there just isn't a great deal of substance to them.

                        So all in all, not a great era for the band. So far as I'm concerned they really came back into form again on 2001's Magnification. A false dawn, alas.
                        Magnification’s still pretty mediocre for me. Fly From Here was the true return to form.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          The 90s were a chaotic time for Yes. Whatever we thought of all the personnel changes in the 70s, the 90s put them to shame. And with all those personnel changes, the musical style was all over the map. We had YesWest with Talk, their most confident sounding but synthetic sounding album, the mishmash that was Union, the abortive return of the classic lineup with Keys, and then a deconstructed version of the classic lineup giving us OYE. There's something to love on every album from this period, but again, it was chaotic. The true bright spot started in 1997 with the OYE tour and lasted 7 true summers long with nearly constant touring. That was a great time to be a Yes fan!

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Yeah the nineties was a blur for me. Returning to Sydney from 7 seven years in Van Diemans Land (for good behaviour). Then marriage and children.
                            Only found out about Talk and Union through the book by Tim Morse. Twas before the internet.
                            The Keys albums were exciting. Love the epics and Humankind. The rest not so much.

                            Open Your Eyes had 3 great songs. Started to go on internet for uptodate info. Exciting times in fandom. Chat forums. YES doing game music. With Homeworld.
                            The Ladder was bright and bouncy. Strong songs. Ditto Mag with orchestra. One of my fave albums.

                            So saw them Live in 2003 on Full Circle Tour.

                            It's been a ride with some twists to come, no doubt.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              The 90's were Yes' second most prolific decade. Lot of ups and downs and turnarounds. This was the last era where Yes were fighting to be a relevant current band with somewhat frequent new albums and some of the tours featuring a decent amount of material from these albums. Most albums from the 90's have a complete different lineup than the one before it, it was a schizoid decade for them, but that's Yes and that's a Yes selling point. On two occasions, a previous lineup reforms(90125 band & Tales/Tormato band), only to disband just as quickly. Boy, they hopped around like a frog!

                              UNION: vibrant and fun album, as spring & summer '91 were vibrant and fun for me. True, I wasn't keen on the slapped-together nature of the album or the fact that everybody and their grandmother's parakeet is on it as a session entity either, but the music is fine. If you didn't know about the session people and the behind the scenes stuff, nobody would really have a problem with the actual songs and music on Union. On first listen, it's just as Yes as anything. It was also the last time they had decent sized hits and promotion. 1991 was classic rock's last big year before it became nostalgia market.

                              TALK: this may be the best Yes album of the 90's, where they still dared to do something new yet still in the spirit of Yes. That's the thing - some may complain that it doesn't 'sound' like Yes but it totally has the spirit of Yes. I'd rather have the original adventurous spirit of something than just the carbon copy of earlier adventures, where you're just listening to the outer shell. I began noticing at the time that Talk's cinematic atmosphere was something of a then-current thing: a more atmospheric direction, dark and modern. Marillion's Brave was another album with a similar atmospheric direction, Saga's 'Generation 13' another. That was the 'new prog' at the time: moody and atmospheric. Endless Dream is the 90125 lineup's 'Awaken'. Same length, same journey. I prefer Endless Dream to Mind Drive, actually. Mind Drive has the Yes sound, ED has the Yes soul. A shame Talk didn't enjoy some of the same love given that same year's Pink Floyd album The Division Bell.

                              KEYS TO ASCENSION: I count them as one album but refuse to call it 'Keystudio' because that rhymes with 'Susudio'. Keystudio is a mentally wrong title. To me, Keys To Ascension is the name of a 1997 Yes studio album, the follow-up to 1994's Talk. I prefer the tracklisting of:

                              Mind Drive
                              Be The One
                              Footprints
                              Bring Me To The Power
                              Children Of Light
                              That, That Is
                              Sign Language

                              Mid-late 90's weren't the best period for me personally, so Keys and OYE are kind of colored by that a bit. But sometimes I can listen to these without going back to that era and it may just hit the sweet spot. I find the production to be, well nothing wrong with it, but a step backwards compared to the glossier Talk. But that's just an observation, like they were trying to not only go back to 1977 but trying to ape the production and sound of a 70's Yes album. Whenever Rick is involved, they go retro. But it's a good retro. With Keys, they basically gave the fans what they wanted - some 70's-style Yes music - but then proceeded to shoot themselves in the foot, blasting off every toe in the process, by marketing a new Yes album of music in the style that the fans wanted as a bonus disc on a live album - and losing Rick Wakeman again as well. But we know the story, I won't go on and on.

                              One track I adore is That, That Is. Excellent acoustic guitar interludes, the bass, I can even overlook Jon's gangsta 'Olias In The Hood' references to crack babies and such. One of the best 90's Yes tracks. Footprints is another great one with great Chris moments.

                              OPEN YOUR EYES: Rick bails, a Chris Squire/Billy Sherwood Conspiracy album gets rebranded as a Yes album in the same way Cinema gets morphed into Yes. Some half-baked stuff delivered to meet a deadline. That said, OYE is one of the best sounding Yes albums for its punchy and vibrant production and clear sound. It has its moments, it starts off decent, but trails off by the end of the album. But some fun rock songs. People hate this album, but it wasn't like they were going to make OYE-style albums forever afterwards. The title track should be resurrected for the live set. Weakest album of the 90's but still enough to like.

                              THE LADDER: last album of the 90's is a bright and cheery album that is full of positive songs and moments. This was the last tour with Jon to feature most of a new album in the live show. Yes ended the 20th century with a very good album that probably is their best attempt at a balance of some of their 70's style with a more accessible angle. It's prog, but it's not unapproachable and highly melodic. This album sounds great at any time, especially around Christmas. Love New Languages, To Be Alive, Can I/Face To Face. Igor had a good sound on this album, keyboards are great. Missed the tour though, by the time they came around my area it was the Masterworks tour so I missed hearing Ladder material live. The Ladder has a lot of magic moments.

                              It was certainly a timespan to live through, anticipating the albums as they came out. I particularly remember feeling that the wait between Union and Talk was so long. I was ready for some Yes in 1992! I remember the tickets for 1997 tour going on sale and hearing that the lineup included Billy Sherwood but no Wakeman. Did Sherwood play keyboards, I wondered? I thought he was a bass player/singer of some Trevor Rabin-style group called World Trade. I remember Wakeman was supposed to have played on Talk, but it didn't happen. Everyone loved the Union tour.

                              ​​​​​​​The 90's...

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