Magnification (2001)

1. Magnification 2. Spirit of Survival 3. Don't Go 4. Give Love Each Day 5. Can You Imagine 6. We Agree 7. Soft as a Dove 8. Dreamtime 9. In the Presence of: 10.Time is Time


Here’s the way I figure it might have gone down: Like so many of their contemporaries, Yes probably realized that the days of dominating the charts were years behind them. It wasn’t that their material wasn’t good anymore, it’s just that times and tastes were changing. Their last studio release, The Ladder was critically acclaimed and fans seemed to love it as well, but unless you were a fan of prog rock, the whole release probably fell well under your radar. Then, they yet again found themselves without a keyboard player. Apparently, Igor Khoroshev was involved in some inappropriate behavior and was promptly sacked.

So someone came up with the idea to make this thing with a full-fledged symphonic orchestra backing up the remaining four members. Only a band like Yes could pull something like this off. Even then, there’s no guarantee that something as bold as this would work. Was the orchestra supposed to simply replace the keyboards? If that was the original idea, it was quickly tossed as the orchestra does quite a bit more on this record. It’s almost as though the three remaining musicians are playing second fiddle (pardon the pun) to the massive arrangements.

This type of arrangement gels quite well with a band such as Yes, and for the most part, the songs succeed in ways that one might have had a difficult time imaging. Unlike their second album, Time and a Word (released over 30 years ago), this thing isn’t merely accompanied by a group of string players. The orchestra truly becomes the “fifth member” of Yes.

Having Jon Anderson’s signature voice along with Squire and Howe’s bass/guitar playing leaves the listener with no doubt that this, in fact, a Yes album. It’s just so much more. Even when a few songs don’t quite measure up to the top tracks, the bold new arrangements more than make up for any shortcomings. In other words, the album isn’t flawless, but most Yes albums aren’t perfect.

Yes, the majority of what is here could have worked fine in the standard way, but a song such as Give Love Each Day cries out for the type of treatment that it receives here. Other tracks are pretty standard as far as what you might expect the band to release. Not surprisingly, they toured with an orchestra to support the album. As far as I recall, the masses weren’t exactly overwhelmed, so the style featured here was quickly shelved after this one experiment. As it was, it would be another ten years before they would release a follow up. And (of course) by then, there would be more lineup shake ups.

I wish there could have been more.

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