Big Generator


Atco, 1987

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


Ever watched a scene in a movie or TV show that in hindsight you really wish you’d fast-forwarded through? It can be like that with albums, too.

After a 21-year holdout, I decided the other night while browsing through the used section of my local music emporium that my life as a Yes fan simply was not complete without a full listen to Big Generator. I of course had heard the singles on the radio and had them plus an album track or two in my musical library thanks to the band’s two boxed sets. But I’d never heard the full album in sequence, or heard a couple of its more obscure cuts at all.

And so, I thought to myself, how bad could it be? I mean, I made it through Tormato. I survived Union. It’s the same lineup -- Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, Chris Squire, Tony Kaye and Alan White -- that made my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 90125, which, well, didn’t suck. For seven bucks used, why not give it a shot?

How many reasons do you want?

There are moments of not-suck-ness, granted. Leadoff cut “Rhythm Of Love” is the obvious analog to 90125’s big hit “Owner Of A Lonely Heart,” a slick but appealing slab of arena rock with layered harmonies and little stabbing orchestral flourishes dressing the edges. The airy, intriguing “Shoot High Aim Low” features perhaps the best arrangement ever of the Anderson-Rabin dueling lead vocals that characterized this era of Yes. And Rabin’s solo composition “Love Will Find A Way” is obvious commercial AOR fodder, even if it doesn’t really seem to have much to do with Yes.

But! The rest of this shambling disaster of an album verges on unlistenable. “Big Generator” sounds like a lost episode of Jon Anderson Sings The Night Ranger Songbook; I would rather have my ears chewed off by rabid squirrels than be forced to listen to this song again. “Almost Like Love” has all the jittering musicality of a caffeine-induced seizure; there’s no word for it but embarrassing. And “I’m Running” shoots for epic but comes off like a complete psychotic break, a blithering flood of incomprehensible lyrics over a neck-snapping barrage of musical snippets that seem related only in their artificiality and triteness.

As for the Anderson closer “Holy Lamb (Song For Harmonic Convergence),” one can imagine the dialogue in the studio as they argued. Anderson: “Trevor got a song that was all his own, so I get one too.” Squire: “Yes, Jon, alright, fair enough, but does it have to be THAT one?” Rabin: “You’ve got to be frigging kidding me.” If this song were any more fingernails-on-the-chalkboard twee, it would simply curl up and vanish in a puff of smoke. 

Three passable songs are not nearly enough to rescue this sinkhole of an album. The idea that the group that released this disc is in any way related to the group that issued Close To The Edge seems preposterous -- and the fact that it is, merely sad.

Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. Nothing to see.

Rating: D+

User Rating: B



© 2008 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 Atco, and is used for informational purposes only.