Friday, April 28, 2006

Yes: 90125

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

You like that? I came up with it. Just now.

Ok not really, but just as that phrase by Dickens sums up just about every moment of human existence, so does it sum up this album, which showcases the best of 80's rock: its epic scope, it's willingness to try new types of songwriting and new technology. It also showcases the willingness to overproduce albums to death, hiding the actual music beneath layers of synths and echo vocals.

Even truly great bands like Rush succumbed to this technology, probably since it was just plain cool and as we all know any new technology is irresistable to men.

Since this flashy new production technology was a way to show you were hip, other bands from the 70's making comeback albums that wanted to make a splash and attract some attention also used this method, including the Blue Oyster Cult and Yes.

90125 took Yes from a band that made incredibly dense songs that featured virtuoso muscianship and lyrics that might make sense to you if you were very, very stoned and repackaged them as a radio friendly band perfectly situated for heavy rotation on MTV.

After a 3 year hiatus, longtime Yes members Jon Anderson (vocals), Chris Squire (bass guitar) and Alan White (drums) were joined by Trevor Rabin (guitar) and Tony Kaye, a member of the band in the late 60's and early 70's (keyboards). This album was given a slick production by former Yes vocalist Trevor Horn and sold over 6 million copies, making it Yes' most financially successful album.

With five of its 8 tracks receiving significant radio and/or MTV radio play, 90125 stayed on the charts for 53 weeks.

A further side note to illustrate how much electronics affected this album is the fact that its cover was generated on an Apple II.

Track Highlights

Track 1, "Owner of a Lonely Heart", one of the most sampled rock tracks ever recorded, an enormous radio and MTV hit, this song introduced Yes to a whole new generation of fans. This track is Yes' only #1 single to date and was even a hit on the R&B charts.

Track 3 "It can happen" another big hit from this album, this track is all about Jon Anderson's vocals.

Track 5, "Cinema" this incredibly complex instrumental, which was recorded live in the studio and won the Grammy for best rock instrumental proved that this new, slightly different Yes lineup could play with the virtuosity that had made their earlier incarnations famous.

Track 6 "Leave It" Another hit off this album which features one of the most stirring vocal tracks on any single.

Track 7 "Our Town" my personal favortie from this album, this track features some of the best synthesizer work you're ever going to hear.


A great album that still succeeds today despite how dated its electronics sound today (they were state of the art in 1983). In fact, today this album almost succeeds in spite of its production which seems to do everything possible to overshadow the music at times. Still, this is a great "classic" rock album (hard for me to think of it as classic since it hit the charts when I was in high school) that does hold up today.

Grade: A-

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