Group Yes muses musically on life

Published April 1, 1998

THE MUSICAL GROUP, YES, was one of the standard bearers of the ’70s genre of musical excess known as progressive rock. Neo-classical song structures and a constant search for instrumental histrionics marked the band, as albums like The Yes Album (1970), Fragile (1972), and Close To the Edge (1972) saw success match its goals.

As progressive rock fell out of fashion and an always volatile lineup constantly changed, Yes faded from view until a reformation and comeback with 1983’s 90125. It was the band’s biggest success ever in a commercial sense, as the unit moved past some of the self-indulgent stylings of the past in favour of a hook-filled, infectious pop sound.

Thirty years and many lineup changes later, Yes is back for another kick at the can. Open Your Eyes, the band’s 21st career album, has many similarities with the 90125 sound, with support of the orchestral grandeur of earlier days.

Today’s Yes includes four long-time members – vocalist Jon Anderson, guitarist /vocalist Steve Howe, bassist/vocalist Chris Squire, and drummer Alan White. It also includes what has been the constant in the ever-changing Yes sound – the three-part tenor vocal harmony quarter backed by the diminutive Anderson.

While the entire band is credited, as always, with the songwriting, Anderson remains the band’s principal lyricist. At age 53, Anderson continues his muse upon the meaning of life, as is clear from even a cursory glance at such song titles New State of Mind, Open Your Eyes, Universal Garden and The Solution.

In short, Anderson spends the album suggesting that life’s answers, and true joy, are found from within. In that theme, the album opener, New State of Mind, sees Anderson exhort, “There’s a reason for your being. Focus your eyes to a new perspective – a new state of mind.”

Open Your Eyes pushes the envelope. Anderson urges the listener to avoid either following the crowd or escaping in isolationism. “Open your eyes and discover you’re not the only one” is an oft-repeated line from the songwriter who insists, “You’ve got a great imagination. Open your eyes. Show it.”

A life of love and tolerance is central to the ethic Anderson presents, particularly in the songs Wonderlove and Love Shine.

After 30 years of singing to thousands, it is not surprising that Anderson focuses on his potential role as teacher of the masses. From The Balcony and Man In The Moon are specific examples. As for a focus upon God, it pretty much has to be read into the material. The focus is a more new age teaching of self actualization, itself a fairly constant theme of Anderson’s life work. The one exception is Universal Garden, where Anderson admits, “Beyond the sun, beyond the sky, are where the real questions lie (in the) universal garden above.”

Open Your Eyes

Beyond/BMG On the central track The Solution, Anderson returns to his original thesis. “Looking for the solution? You hold the key … It’s all up to you.” That some thoughtful reflection misses the key point of our only solution being found in God’s grace is regretful. It is, however, sadly reflective of the thinking of our age.

Rev. Wilfred Langmaid is rector of Carleton, Saint John, and music critic for the Fredericton Gleaner.


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