Going For The One


Atlantic Records, 1977


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


For a band whose very name declares the positive, Yes has weathered an astonishing array of ups, downs, partings, joinings, battles, reconciliations, big hits and bigger misses in its now nearly 30-year career. Viewed by many as the seminal "progressive rock" band, Yes established itself as a musical force with The Yes Album (1970), Fragile (1971) and Close To The Edge (1972), a trio of increasingly adventurous albums built on a unique meld of fearless/peerless musicianship and the ringing vocal harmonies of co-founders Jon Anderson and Chris Squire. Through its 1970-78 heyday, the band's exceptional instrumental work served as a dependable musical anchor for its space-age, spiritually- tinged lyrics, which frequently ranged past meaning into pure sound.

For many fans of "classic" Yes music, Going For The One represents the band's last major accomplishment before it sank into nearly two decades of internal strife, line-up shifts, and unfulfilling attempts to pander to a broader audience that, by the mid-'80s, preferred big hair and small songs to music that dared to challenge the listener. Coming near the end of a bizarre cycle that found the band's compositions first growing longer and longer (peaking with 1973's meandering my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Tales From Topographic Oceans, a double LP with four side-long suites), then shrinking once again, Going For The One offers a mix of longer and shorter forms that rank among the band's most accessible and exciting work.

The opening title tune signaled an immediate departure from the statelier (and more ponderous) Tales era, kicking off with a blistering run on slide guitar from Steve Howe, the band's classically-trained six-string virtuoso. The lyric took ethereal lead vocalist Anderson places he had never been either, presenting an earth-bound subject matter (competitive sports), and an unprecedented dash of humor (self-deprecating, no less): "Now the verses I've sang / Don't add much weight to the story in my head / So I'm thinking I should go and write a punch line / But they're so hard to find / In my cosmic mind / So I think I'll take a look out of the window."

Next comes "Turn Of The Century," a strikingly beautiful story-song (a linear story line being another new addition to the band's repertoire) in which Anderson's delicate, assured vocals play off Howe's sublime acoustic picking and drummer Alan White's inventive percussion work. On the heels of this exquisitely soft interlude, "Parallels" hands the baton to bassist/harmony vocalist Squire and keyboard maestro Rick Wakeman, who launch the band on a soaring ride on the twin engines of Squire's driving bass figures and Wakeman's thunderous church organ (recorded live in St. Martin's Church in Vevey, Switzerland).

Side two (yes, I've got this one on vinyl and CD) leads with "Wonderous Stories," a harmless, airy little piece of fluff that doesn't do much for me but serves as an affectionate summing-up of Anderson's new age ethos for many fans. Following it, though, is the album's centerpiece, the closing 15-minute opus "Awaken." An archetypal piece of Yes work, its somewhat obtuse mystical-sound-painting lyrics are elevated by one of the band's most dynamic musical explorations, a series of shifting mood pieces ranging from the early highlight - a series of cascading guitar and bass runs from Howe and Squire under a chorus of Anderson/Squire chants - to the spare, evocative, keys-and-harp Wakeman-Anderson duet through the middle stretch, to the entire group's precision instrumental support of Anderson's luminous vocals in both the opening and closing minutes. Taken as a whole, "Awaken" marries the band's yin and yang as effectively as anything they've ever recorded.

For many long-time fans, Going For The One and its predecessors represent the musical style they'd like to see the band -- currently on tour with four of the five "classic"-era members on board -- return to. With these guys, though, you just never know... which is part of the strange, resilient allure of a band called Yes.

Rating: A-

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© 1997 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Atlantic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.