Going for the One (1977)


  
1. Going for the One 2. Turn of the Century 3. Parallel Lives 4. Wonderous Stories 5. Awaken

 

The first Yes album in 3 years, and a very welcome return. This album marks the evolution of the band from being heavy on the prog rock to being more accessible in the pop department. No, this is not a ‘pop’ album by any means. Nor is this thing littered with hit singles. The band simply sounds like they’re not trying so hard to be so complex in songwriting and arrangements.

First, the obligatory lineup change report: Rick Wakeman is back in the band, making him either the third or fourth keyboard player within the group (depending on whether or not you count ‘re-entries’ or not). Apparently, he heard some work that the guys were doing in preparation for this album, decided it wasn’t as disastrous as Tales From Topographical Oceans, and by mutual consent was now back in the band.

Speaking of Wakeman, he’s the one responsible for most of the apparent “changes” on the record. It seems he’s discovered more advanced synthesizers, and also more primitive instruments – such as a pipe organ. At least I think it’s a pipe organ. It’s definitely a church organ – not sure if the two are always synonymous. What could have been an embarrassment of sound turns out to be quite the welcoming change. Although the organ is prevalent on the entire record, it never quite overwhelms, and adds style and atmosphere where appropriate. Now, the fact that I’m a non-musician means that I could be totally wrong here, but this record also seems highly toned down in the rhythm department. Alan White and Chris Squire don’t sound so overpowering on this record. They sound much more, well, like a rhythm section – providing a somewhat steady backbeat while the keyboardist, guitarist and singer take front stage. Chris Squire usually has a very distinct sound, yet I don’t hear that sound quite so much here.

So with all of these changes, how does all of this translate into actual songs? Well, I would say mostly good. First, though, the bad. Now, I’m definitely in the minority amongst Yes fans, but I never really liked the song Going For the One. The fact that it’s the first track, the first single, and the name of the album means that a lot of people must have had faith in it. I just don’t get it. This song sounds like Yes is trying too hard to be contemporary and too hard to try to have a hit single. Steve Howe sounds like he’s trying to be Chuck Berry and Jimmy Page at the same time. This is simply the type of music that Yes was not meant to play. When you add all of the keyboard effects and Jon Anderson’s screeching, it sounds quite embarrassing to this reviewer’s ears. Remember, though, I’m in the minority. Most seem to like the song.

After that episode passes, the rest of the album is simply breathtakingly amazing. They evolve as I’ve mentioned, not sounding so laborious like Yes of old, but managing to be fresh and surreal at the same time. My favorite track is Turn of the Century. It’s a 180 degree turn from the song Going For the One, with it’s beautiful New Age feel that is much more up the band’s alley. This is the music the Jon Anderson was created to sing lead vocals to. Parallels is another song where the band sounds like they’re trying to sound relevant and hip, yet this song does o.k. It’s not really that notable, but manages to incorporate their new sound without alienating old fans. Wondrous Stories rivals Turn of the Century and is probably the song on the record that diehard fans can warm up to the easiest.

Then we come to Awaken. This is the last recorded epic Yes song that still gets played in concerts during latter day shows. Again, a beautiful song. Unlike many of their other epics, this piece doesn’t try to do too many things. It’s probably the smoothest, slowest, easiest thing they’ve ever done. There are no instrumental jam sessions where the guys let loose. No, this is a much more laidback effort, the highlight, again, being Rick Wakeman’s church organ that really adds some nice mood and texture.

The album charted and was successful with fans and critics. It was welcomed due to its change of pace, without alienating many older fans, and it had been a few years since they last put out a record. Like the stock market, though, there were still plenty more ups and downs in the band’s future, and things were about to go downwards for several years before things would look up once again.

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