Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
Album: GOING FOR THE ONE
[Welcome to Forty Year Friday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1977]
I’ve professed my love of progressive rock here many times over the years but somehow my favorite artist in that wide-ranging genre, Yes, has only received passing mentions in discussions about other artists. The closest I came to covering their music was in reference to the Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe album in Part 1 of my One And Done series. Singer Jon Anderson, drummer Bill Bruford, keyboardist Rick Wakeman and guitarist Steve Howe were all members of the legendary early ‘70s Yes lineup that recorded the classic Fragile and Close To The Edge LPs, and all but Mr. Bruford were present for the band’s eighth studio album, Going For The One, along with founding bassist Chris Squire and drummer Alan White. After one album without Wakeman, the keyboard maestro returned to reunite the lineup that recorded the controversial double-LP Tales From Topographic Oceans four years earlier. Going For The One showcases a more streamlined & accessible side of the band, with only one extended track, while still pushing musical boundaries. It was also their fifth consecutive Top 10 album in the US, so even though it’s somewhat overlooked as compared to some of their more popular releases, it’s highly regarded by most Yes fanatics (like myself). The centerpiece of the album is “Awaken,” a 15+ minute multi-part prog-rock suite that incorporates pretty piano & dazzling synth work from Wakeman, classic Steve Howe guitar runs, Anderson’s elliptical, mystifying lyrics and a wonderful melodic hook at the four-word ascending vocals prior to “awaken gentle mass touch(ing).” It’s one of their most accessible epics and a fitting way to close out the album.
By contrast 5-1/2 minute album opener “Going For The One” is almost straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll. Of course this is Yes so things are not always as they initially appear: White’s drum pattern is punctuated by stops, starts & rhythmic shifts, pedal steel guitar is Howe’s instrument of choice and Anderson leaves us scratching our heads at lyrics like “Listen in time, taken so high, To touch, to move, listen to life; Touching, touch time, travel, twilight, Taken so high, taking your time.” Anderson & Wakeman shine on “Wonderous Stories,” one of the most delightful (and shortest) songs in their discography. With subtle accompaniment from the rhythm section and Howe on 12-string acoustic, vocals & keyboards take center stage on this lush, spiritual masterpiece. Howe’s gentle, pretty acoustic guitar is the ideal partner for Anderson’s dreamlike vocal arrangement on “Turn Of The Century,” before the song perks up over its final couple of minutes. The steady rhythmic “Parallels” features some stinging guitar lines, but is most notable for the gargantuan church organ sound which Wakeman recorded on site at St. Martin’s Church in Vevey, Switzerland, a short distance from their studio in Montreux. This album seems to gain in stature each time I play it, and it’s hard to believe such vital, creative & challenging music was created 40 years ago. Also worth noting is the sleek Hipgnosis-designed cover art, which marked a drastic shift from the elaborate Roger Dean landscapes that adorned many of their previous record sleeves. Along with Rush’s “Starman” logo, nude male posteriors were all the rage in mid-‘70s prog-rock circles.
For more on Yes, including a brief synopsis of Going For The One, I urge you to check out Bruce Jenkins’ 10 Albums To Say Yes To post.