We’ve already talked about the band Yes once in this years Rocktober series and it wasn’t pretty. On 90125 the band their legacy of being the purveyors of mind bending and mind bend-ingly good progressive rock, and threw it to the wolves in favor of a more commercial approach to making the wearing of capes in public acceptable. On 1987’s Big Generator the band, still rolling in awful 80’s mode, packed up the healing crystals and set off on yet another trip across time, space and the lack of even a shred of good taste.
Big Generator is a fractured record full of nothing but fail that somehow got burned into the collective consciousness of anyone who grew up with in earshot of the era in which it was released. With Trevor Rabin again pushing his vision of cleaner, poppier, more futuristic Yes, the group pushed forward despite the fact that numerous members of the band, who, you know, were actually IN Yes when they were great, complained and pushed for a return to the more traditional space-whale-friendly sounds of the bands youth. That return to form was not to be though, and what we’re left with was one of the greatest examples of what happens to a band when you replace their mystic healing crystals with a bunch of Hypercolor shirts and a Casio keyboard.
Shortly after the albums release singer John Anderson began playing again with even MORE ex members of Yes (Anderson Bruford Wakemen Howe) to pursue what he felt was the true heart of the band. That groups efforts, while commercially a dud, were at least, creatively speaking, more interesting than those of psuedo-Yes, but it meant that now their were TWO groups laying claim to the Yes throne. And so it is written that rather then retire one or the other (or more mercifully, BOTH) versions of the band, the decision was made to FUSE the two together into some sort of uber-Yes on the 1991 album known as...wait for it....Union.
That. Actually. Happened.
The history of Yes from that point on continues to get more hilarious by the day (Anderson is now out in favor of Benoit David, previously known as lead singer of the Montreal-based Yes tribute band, Close To The Edge) as their legacy is not so much tarnished as it is assaulted and left in a ditch by the very ones who gave birth to the band some 40 years prior. Yes, those older records still exist, and they should be sought out because they contain some of the best music to come out of that time period from anyone.
But the sad truth of the situation is that if people are going to discover Yes these days it’s going to be through the the bands late 80’s one-two punch of suck, which is honestly why I had to share this “magic” with you for this year’s Rocktober. In hearing this album again after all these years, I’m confused as to how I got from point A (90125 / Big Generator) to point B (Yessongs, Close To The Edge, Fragile) but it doesn’t matter because in the end I got there, proving that no matter how bad you think a band is/has become, there’s always something to be learned from their music, even if it’s just that you should stay the hell away.
More often than not though a bad album or albums from a great band will simply serve to tip the listener off that there may be something worth exploring further back in the bands history. That’s one of the greatest journey’s anyone can take, and one that makes the initial pain of discovery feel like nothing more than a pinprick by trips end.
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