Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Yes 2: Time And A Word

For their second album, Yes took the bold step of incorporating an orchestra into their recorded arrangements. This did not sit well with Peter Banks, who was bounced from the band upon Time And A Word’s release. (As before, the American arm of Atlantic Records substituted a different cover, most likely because of the nudity on the original. Problem was, the band shot they used included Steve Howe, who replaced Peter Banks on lead guitar henceforth—but not on the back cover.)

While there are only two as compared with the first album, covers dominate the program. Even with the prominent Hammond organ and plenty of bass, “No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed” sticks closely to the original by Richie Havens. (Also, that repeated orchestral motif we always thought was from “Rodeo” by Aaron Copland is actually the theme music from some Western from the ‘50s.) The other cover is Stephen Stills’ “Everydays”, from the second Buffalo Springfield album; unfortunately, the jazzy potential is overwhelmed by the trite strings, particularly during the dueling solos.

Beyond those, Jon Anderson comes to the fore as the key songwriter, credited alone or alongside either Chris Squire or David Foster, a previous bandmate and not the egotistical ‘80s producer. “Then” is an edgy little number, subsiding for the choruses, with an extended instrumental break that foretells future epics. The opening verse returns in a more contemplative place, but a horn outburst derails it. “Sweet Dreams” was actually a single, and doesn’t feature an orchestra at all, but relies on some twangy, jangly chords. It too has a precisely arranged middle section, as all good prog songs should.

“The Prophet” begins side two with a lengthy organ fugue; once the song kicks in proper, it’s clear this is not one of Jon’s best lyrical attempts. Musically it’s got something in common with their version of “Something’s Coming”, but the orchestral touches don’t really help. “Clear Days” is rainy-day chamber pop that turns somber, and thankfully brief, but “Astral Traveller” is another step closer to the spacey mystique their album covers would convey. The orchestra is silent again, allowing the organ and guitar to do their thing better, nicely panned across the stereo picture. The closing title track is the rare case where the orchestra actually enhances the arrangement, mostly because it doesn’t happen until the coda. Notice also that underwater guitar sound, which will figure in albums going forward—that’s Peter Banks, not Steve Howe.

Time And A Word has its moments, to be sure, but they hadn’t quite landed on The Sound. Still, it’s clear Peter Banks had a lot to do with the template, so he deserves a better legacy. (The expanded version of the album added the contemporary B-side “Dear Father”, which may or may not have helped the album, along with three alternate mixes.)

Yes Time And A Word (1970)—2
2003 remastered CD: same as 1970, plus 4 extra tracks

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