Rock Around The World • October 1977

on timelessness and a word

by Franc Gavin   L to R: Rick Wakeman, Jon Anderson, Man White, Steve Howe, Chris Squire

Century City is the vast and valuable acreage adjacent to Beverly Hills which once housed a great portion of the 20th Century Fox Film lot. For the past decade, instead of movie world fantasy towns, there stand the remnants of modern society –a shopping center, glass skyscrapers leaning toward the heavens, the Century Plaza Hotel and ABC Entertainment Center, separated on “Avenue of the Stars” by a glistening fountain.

A strange place to shoot a Yes cover. But the graphics company, Hipgnosis, is like that, yeah they are. Earlier in the summer there was Alan Parsons’ 1 Robot, with its airless people-movers, and now the Yes 1p, Going For

The One, in which L ‘Hornme Naturel faces up to a topsy-turvy world.

It would appear the graphics-folk grow increasingly fond of the cool, seamless largesse that architect Mies (“Less is More”) Van Der Rohe pioneered. “Tubular Decision” as an associate of mine once described the ultra-simplistic nature of modern urban structure. It looks like we are supposed to imagine the 21st century might appear. Never you mind that in the fourth decade the same mistake was made with Art Deco, an early futurist movement. Art Deco is nothing as much as it is an instant reminder of the Thirties. So it will probably be with regard to Century City. Another 20 years and the Radio City Music Hall of Los Angeles.

Yet this is not meant to cast aspersions on the place, for it is certainly beautiful in its fashion. It does mean that Yes and Century City have a lot in common. They represent a type of ideal, the kind that gathers a sweeping momentum behind it and then announces to the world: “This is what your environment should be—and we will make it so” and no sooner said than done, Jack. This

has been the Big Solution to Western Civ’s problemes d’art for going on some two millenia now.

In the new Yes effort you hear a group of musicians struggling for the timeless, while remaining timely, something that has characterised their best and worst aspects. In the experience of true art, the lasting impression derives from that curious balance maintained, between cultural reflection, and something has always existed in the Platonic sense. Is this Yes? Mayhaps. Time has a way of unveiling the truth.

What Yes strives for, at its most sincere, is that Air of

the Breathless that makes for good stuff. It made its debut in “Time and a Word ” when they did Steve Stills’ “Everydays” the way it should have been done, adding a gloss of suburban dreaminess that worked incredibly well. These periodic spurts of genius have usually alternated with the baser instinct for clever pastiche; listen to the Richie Havens/Elmer Bernstein in “No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed” in which they intersperse snatches of theme music from the film The Big Country. Indeed.

Then came the Yes album, the ascent of Rick Wakeman, “Fragile” and “Closer to the Edge,” and an almost-sudden and complete adulatory following by whole batteries of young people whose minds tended to wander, usually in search of heroes who were purported to dwell somewhere out in the Magellanic clouds. Then Tales of Topographic Oceans, their most ponderous

and ambitious statement and the cause for El Wakeman’s retirement from Yes ranks. Patrick Moraz, bailing out of the barely airborne Refugee (a band with which he fit into with much greater facility), and the subsequent and indifferent “Relayer” (indifferently produced, indifferently received), and the two year run-off of solo-projects and that often euphemistic term, hiatus.

Fanfare. The return of the progigal keyboardplayer, that confirmed omnivore Mssr. Wakeman. Here we are in the years, Going For The One.

Where does Pastiche end and true Romance begin? With Going For The One, Yes comes closer, as a unified entity, to transcending that conflict between the reality of an experience and the attempt at accurately conveying it in a way that successfully captures it in stop-action, for closer and repeated examination.

While the title track tends to reaffirm the high-energy stance of yesterdays that made numbers like “Starship Trooper” and “Roundabout” such heartstoppers, part

of that total statement that they have almost suceeded in making, “Turn of the Century,” the second cut, stands out as a self-contained masterpiece.

Like leave we touched, we danced We once knew the story

As Autumn called and we both

Remembered all those many years ago © 1977 Topographic Music

The lyrical statment is a dream-context, in which images of the artist, in love with his creation past the bonds of time and eternity, slide in and out of one another’s short, shaded stanzas. Melodically, strains of Keith Jarrett and Albeniz drift unassumingly forth in this quiet, haunting number that eliminated the dilemma that once plagued Yes, which was that reliance on a piecemeal virtuousity that produced a fragmentary effect. In “Turn of the Century” they play as a whole entity. “Parallels” is powerful underscore-followup to this depective idyll, and while “Wondrous Stories” breaks no new ground, it does not detract.

On first listen the same could be said of “Waken,” but closer scrutiny reveals a vitality that smacks of obsession in its unity. Instead of that stop-start catalogue of myriad styles, the vocal-chorales, the gypsy-flavored guitar-keyboard interplay, and restrained reiteration of theme make for smooth transitions that reveal a new cohesion and enthusiasm within the ranks of Yes. As Ezra Pound once said in his poem Surgit Fama

Once more is the chant heard

Once more are the never abandonded gardens Full of gossip and old tales’

There is the genuine presence of human urgency in “Waken” that truly transports, spinning out endless polymer-strand of the fantastic. It escapes modern neuroses, filled with metaphor, it confronts. Groups like Yes, Genesis, Focus, The Nice Jackson Heights and ELP have succeeded in part or occasionally as a whole because the experience they offered was usually an interdiscipline of the metaphysical, the historical, and the fantastic. The usually introspective quality of progressive and lyrics led down an inward path, sometimes triumphing magnificiently, sometimes failing pretentiously.   _—

Like Century City, the new Yes goes for broke in the sense that its total concept may carry it into the future, or restrict to the past as a mere relic. Whether musicologists and cultural historians look upon this ambitious blend as the most representative/reflective works of the years that made it, or as irrelevant period-piece, only the passage of time will ascertain.