Time and a Word (1970)


  
1. No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed 2. Then 3. Everydays 4. Sweet Dreams 5. The Prophet 6. Clear Days 7. Astral Traveler 8. Time and a Word

 

As experimental as their first album was, and as much as one now likes it in retrospect, it really didn’t sell that well. I’m not sure, but this might be the reason why the band pushes the envelope on this album. This album sounds like they’re going after the same formula, but being bolder, broader, and encompassing more elements. Sadly, I’m not really sure that this is necessarily a good thing.

The first thing that I notice is that they, again, do two covers – Richie Havens’ No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed and Buffalo Springfield’s Everydays. As much as I loved when they tackled other people’s material on their freshman effort (while significantly alternating the arrangements), it sounds as though they’re trying a bit too hard. The Richie Havens song, for example (which opens the album), starts off rather nicely – a heavy, thick sounding powerful organ intro by Tony Kaye – but then the band assaults, and I mean assaults us with a rather overbearing orchestra. It’s too much, and it really doesn’t sound much like a “Yes” thing. We must remember though that not even Yes probably knew what a “Yes” thing would be at this point. Sadly, this orchestra is prevalent through most of the record, and in most cases, it’s a tad too much. In fact, word has it that it caused the band’s first causality – guitarist Peter Banks. Apparently he didn’t like it either. Not surprisingly, his guitar work seems rather muted on this effort, and this led to his eventual exit from the band directly after they were done recording.

The songs are all carefully crafted, they just don’t sound as engaging. Some songs like The Prophet and Then definitely have the band’s signature feel, but seemed a bit too heavily forced. I’d like to hear, for example, The Prophet with a slightly different arrangement. Definitely without the string section. Bill Bruford doesn’t sound like he’s playing drums, but rather a machine gun. Impressive? Sure. But it just doesn’t seem to work as well as the first record. Astral Traveler sounds like they’re trying to by psychedelic with a freaking song about space travel. Such things just don’t work for a band like Yes.

I must confess, though, that two songs doseem to benefit from the orchestra feel. Clear Days basically only has a string section, and it seems to fit quite well with Jon Anderson’s soft, delicate voice, although the track is barely two minutes long. One wishes it was a bit longer. The last song on the album, the song Time and a Word was clearly made for orchestral accompaniment, and serves as probably the best, and most known track from the album. It really is a beautiful piece.

We shouldn’t judge too harshly. It’s always nice to see a band that refused to conform to any sort of normality. The album is generally o.k., and for a bunch of kids that were still trying to make waves and get noticed, they stumble, but only slightly.

Trivia note: They must have been pretty serious about getting rid of Peter Banks, because that isn’t even him on the cover. They’ve already swapped his picture with new guitarist Steve Howe. I guess people didn’t care that much back in those days.

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