Open Your Eyes (1997)


  
1. State of Mind 2. Open Your Eyes 3. Universal Garden 4. No Way We Can Lose 5. Fortune Seller 6. Man in the Moon 7. Wonderlove 8. From the Balcony 9. Love Shine 10.Somehow,Someday 11.The Solution

 

Don’t be fooled by this album cover. This is not an “old style” retro Yes-like album. This album, once again, finds Yes in another transition phase, and sadly, things don’t work out too well. The Keys to Ascension experiment, I felt, worked pretty well. The old classic (well, one of the old classic) lineups reunited for a successful set of shows which were released on CD as well as some pretty good studio tracks. After those two records, for whatever reason, Rick Wakeman left the fold yet again.

For this album, his replacement (and I use that term rather loosely) is a gentleman by the name of Billy Sherwood. Sherwood served as a backup musician during the Talk tour, and now looks like he’s a permanent replacement. Sherwood can also play the guitar. That’s good. Right? Well, not necessarily. It seems like, for whatever reason, Sherwood is also the primary guitar player on this record, and Steve Howe takes a bit of a backseat. So this is a Yes album without Wakeman, and with very little Howe.

Never to be daunted with personnel change issues, Yes plods on with what they have. Sometimes in the band’s history, this works. Here, it does not. This album overall just sounds subpar. It many ways, this record almost sounds like the band is trying to replicate the Trevor Rabin era Yes. Sadly, though, there’s no Trevor Rabin. So most of the songs sound flat, over-produced, and feels as though the guys are directionless, yet trying too hard with too little material.

With all the instrumental bungles, it’s a bit sad to note that the lead vocals on this record leave a lot to be desired. Yes, Jon Anderson is here, but in many cases, it sounds like the lead vocals are shared between himself and Chris Squire at the same time. Squire is o.k. to sing an occasional lead on an occasional song, but it sounds like both guys are sharing the duties, and the finished result just sounds wrong. To be fair, though, even many of the tracks where Anderson is given the chance to handle the singing by himself, just aren’t that good.

Things start off o.k. The first two tracks New State of Mind and Open Your Eyes really aren’t that bad. They take a bit of time to warm up to, and a listener may have to give these songs repeated spins, but after a while, most can find a few things to like. After this, things go downhill. They actually hit rock bottom on Fortune Seller and Man in the Moon. These two songs are purely awful. One wonders how such songs could have ever graduated from the recording studio onto an actual commercial release.

There are a couple of back end tracks that are merely o.k. From the Balcony is the purest sounding authentic Yes song here featuring only Anderson and Howe on acoustic guitar. Even at two and three-quarter minutes, it still sounds a bit long, however. The very last track The Solution is also rather bearable, but since it comes at the end of so much muck, it’s incredibly easy to dismiss. One simply wishes for the album to be over by this point.

I’m not entirely sure of the history of this record, but some sources say that this project began with the intention of not even being a proper Yes album. Some say that Chris Squire and Billy Sherwood intended to make this a separate project, and for whatever reason, other members joined in during the recording process. Hence the ‘Yes’ name. Well, again, such an experiment worked before (most notably on 90125, so maybe the thought was it might work again? Fortunately, this album was released shortly after Keys to Ascension 2 and shortly before The Ladder. Since both of those albums are much stronger, it made this unpleasant experience slightly more forgettable.

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