Atco Records, 1983


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I always thought the best way to start a fistfight with a Yes fan was to announce to them you hated Tales From Topographic Oceans. Instead, what I've learned is that feelings run deeper for other albums -- and those feelings aren't always positive.

Take 90125, for example. There are some diehard Yes fans who consider this album to be the worst dreck the group ever put out, shunning their progressive rock roots and selling their soul to the devil of Album-Oriented Rock radio. Then there are those who say the introduction of South African guitarist Trevor Rabin was a godsend to a band who hadn't had a hit for the longest time.

No matter how I review this record, there are going to be some Yes fans who will be pissed off at what I have to say. (Then again, they're usually pissed off any time I review something by Yes; they still haven't forgiven me for what I said back in 1997 about Tales From Topographic Oceans.) So let's try to put emotions aside and tackle 90125 as it is.

On one side, 90125 is one of the most approachable Yes albums in their entire discography... namely because they do indeed turn away from progressive rock in the form they had been long identified with. Guitarist Steve Howe was no longer in the band (which had faded into the background after 1980's my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Drama), and the usual chunky guitar sound he provided went with him. Into his shoes stepped Rabin, who was more of a technological whiz, working guitar synthesizers into the mix. Also back in the fold were keyboardist Tony Kaye (who left after The Yes Album) and vocalist Jon Anderson (who jumped ship after 1978's Tormato).

The new approach to the music is evident on "Owner Of A Lonely Heart" -- and I'm sorry, diehard Yes fans, but I can't help but liking this song. As a simple slab of pop-rock, it's pretty damned enjoyable, working in an infectious rhythm with a catchy vocal line. (The keyboard tricks that Kaye throws in are nice touches.)

And I refuse -- let me emphasize that, refuse -- to apologize for liking a song such as "Leave It." Always picturing the video in my mind whenever this song comes on, "Leave It" demonstrated that Yes was now a band with, minimally, three strong vocalists -- bassist Chris Squire, Anderson and Rabin.

Of the songs played on radio, "It Can Happen" feels like the closest nod Yes gives to its prog-rock roots on 90125. It's not quite as strong, but it's still an enjoyable track.

The remainder of 90125, though, is very hit or miss -- and more often, the results are forgettable misses. "Changes" tries to work its way back to the complex prog-rock style that the long-time Yes fans were pining for, but it comes off like a technical mess, demonstrating more skill than emotion. Similarly, tracks like "Our Song" and "Hold On" lean too far into the pop vein, and just sound out of place with the group.

"Hearts" is a song which runs hot and cold with me -- though I will admit the chorus of this track is beautiful. (The beginning, as well as some of the verse structure, is a bit on the cornball side.) Like much of what is on 90125, this one essentially comes down to personal preference -- and in the end, I tend to believe this is a song that could have been much better, proven by the moments of brilliance.

Music has to evolve and change in order to survive, and 90125 showed Yes trying to adapt to then-modern times. Whether the diehard fans agree or not, I tend to think that the group occasionally succeeded... but there are times on the same disc where I think that the backlash might have some substance to it.

So what does this all mean for you? Should you buy 90125 or not? The answer is: go ahead, give it a try... but understand that the sounds you hear on this are not typical of what Yes had done in their career prior to this album. 90125 has its moments, but in the end, does show that Yes wasn't totally comfortable with this change in their musical philosophy.

Rating: C+

User Rating: B



© 2001 Christopher Thelen 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 Records, and is used for informational purposes only.