Let me write from experience about what it is to be a Yes fan. Sometimes, “Yes Derangement Syndrome” (YDS) can take hold.
This happens when a new Yes album comes out and it’s like your beloved spouse coming home with a wildly different pair of glasses, or a radically different hairdo, or a crazily different wardrobe theme. Your first reaction is you know you don’t like it. But this reaction is way more emotional than rational, and it’s almost entirely subjective in that it is mostly founded on very deep mental patterns of subjectively-cultivated habituation. You have created a vast mental universe of inner love, and suddenly reality is asking you to consider radically new data.
It’s been really interesting to read about the reactions of Brad and Erik, both today and back in the day, to Yes’ Talk. For me this is one of my Top Ten Yes Albums, but it took me a long time to assign it that five-star ranking.
Incidentally, I challenge all Progarchists to list their Top Ten Yes Albums, an exercise like the Top Ten Rush ranking we did recently. Yes has 20 studio albums (I am counting Keystudio as one), or 21 if you want to include Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe (ABWH) — as I do. So, it’s an interesting mental exercise to divide the oeuvre into two playlists: a Top Ten and a Bottom Ten.
However that may be, let me tell you about my three cases of YDS.
The first was Talk. I remember when I first bought this CD. I listened to it once, found myself hating everything except “The Calling,” and then used the excuse that its bundled software didn’t work on my Windows PC (anybody remember that?) as the way for me to return it to the record store and to get my money back! Yep, I got my money back. Only years later, upon hearing “The Calling” again (an overwhelming nostalgic experience which instantly melted my heart), did I break down and buy the whole album once again. After many listens, I now really love everything about it and rank it in the upper echelon. But note my initial crazy reaction. I mean, how many albums have you ever tried to return to the record store in your life?! And, how many did you succeed in getting your money back for?!?! I marched this one back without even making a cassette recording of it. Crazy! YDS, indeed.
The second case of YDS was when ABWH came out. After three listens, I launched into a vicious diatribe against it that melted the ears of my Yes-loving best friend. I still remember his face. He was visibly wincing at my hatred for the album. Then, weeks later, I had completely reversed my opinion about the album, and I endlessly praised it to him. To the skies. He looked at me like I was a crazy person; I remember that look too. Sound familiar? Yes, fans, we may call it YDS. Thank God there was no bundled software on this CD, otherwise the record store may have seen me arguing on a technicality again.
“We don’t accept returns of opened products.”
“But I haven’t been able to open it. The software won’t launch properly on my PC. So, virtually, it hasn’t been opened.”
The third case of YDS is with the new Heaven & Earth. We know what that looks like, and it ain’t pretty. I had an extreme critical reaction to this disc, but over time I have to admit that it is steadily ascending in my mental universe. So far it’s gone from one star to four stars in my hidden mind drive. Who knows where it will stop? More on that later. But the point is this: I have learned from my previous two cases of YDS. And I have wisely resolved not to repeat it a third time.
So, back to Talk. There is much to love about this album, infused as it is with so much Rabin-era goodness. Like all the best Yes, it is magically positive and spiritually uplifting. The opening track is pure awesomeness, and I love how Erik describes it as a perfect meld of 90125 and the 70s.
But I don’t want to go over every track in detail right now, because I think it is more important to answer the five YDS-tinged complaints from Brad. Let me conclude with my rejoinders to his all-too-familiar YDS insanity:
1. The title is brilliant. 90125 is inarguably one of the stupidest titles ever, but Talk is most definitely wonderful. Like the band’s name, it is one syllable. Perfect. Further, it subtly references a subsection of the epic track “Endless Dream.” So, it pulls the listener into acquiring a deeper familiarity with, and appreciation of, the hidden dimensions of the album. It invites the prospective listener into the magical depths of prog. And what will the listener find in this magical place? Only one of Jon’s most beautiful Yes melodies ever. So, I refute this first point by directing you to the epic “Endless Dream,” beginning at 3:48 with all its titular glory.
2. I love the colors on the cover. It’s a beautiful spectrum, symbolic of the dazzling musical palette of the inimitable Yes. The point that it looks like emergent writing seems to be lost on the haters who liken it to a child’s scrawl. Obviously, that is the entirely deliberate point of the art design. It depicts the beginning stages of the acquisition of linguistic communication. The emergence of the Word is pregnant with all the possibilities of communicative color. The album title is thus iconically represented in this picture and it all ties in perfectly with the first words of the album:
Feel the calling of a miracle
In the presence of the word
The awakening of communication in a child’s word and in the non-verbal space of music is invoked by the album image. So, I slay the objection by replying with the opening lines of “The Calling.”
3. YDS can fixate on entire albums, or it can suddenly scapegoat a single song. There’s no arguing with such craziness. I can only say that I really love the two tracks Brad excoriates. They are excellent and I can’t comprehend the haters, except to say that I have been there once too. I even got my money back! But now, I have seen the light.
For what it’s worth, if I had to scapegoat a least favorite track on Talk, it would be the loopy “Where Will You Be.” However, I would rather choose to view it in context instead, as a refreshing pause before the epic finale track.
4. The album integration is cohesive as it is, pace YDS. The favorite fantasy that a Yes fan can indulge in is: “How I could make this awesome album even more awesome.” (Another guitar lick in this empty space here. A little more cowbell there. And so on.) It’s crazy! Give it up! In this case, the YDS fantasy is simply fueled by Yes’ own auto-suggestion in the third line of the opening track, “The Calling”:
Now we hold the right to rearrange
Yeah, sure you do. And you have the right to return your album too. Whatever! Let it be, my friend.
5. Create your own playlist if you want to monkey with track order. Or do a remix or mashup with 90125 if you are serious about the fevered suggestions you make. But the album is awesome as it stands, no matter how many imaginary universes we can conceive of where it qualitatively “goes to 11” and is “just that much” better.
Talk begins with all guns blazing (“The Calling”) and ends with an epic assault of sonic awesomeness (“Endless Dream”). A strong beginning and a strong ending! Totally brilliant — and a contrast with 90125, I would opine, which I always thought kind of peters out with its last two or three tracks. (“Two Hearts”? If you want to be a hater, throw your “sap” and “boredom” here! But then you may as well as give up on Jon Anderson entirely.)
Hey, these are my favorite kinds of arguments. Arguments reserved for we few, we happy few, we band of brothers. He that wigs out today on Yes with me shall be my brother, be his criticism n’er so vile!