Open up the CD insert of this disc and you will see a picture of the band featuring Steve Howe looking like Elrond from The Lord of the Rings, and Rick Wakeman in a plaid blazer looking like a used car salesman—appropriate considering that when fans stampeded to get this album featuring four-fifths of the classic Yes lineup they soon realized that they had bought a lemon.
Being both a prog-rock fan and a stalwart Yes fan, I can’t help feeling like a heel for panning this disc. After all, these guys have made their quota of nasty reviews from the so-called “neo-Marxist” school of rock criticism. But pan we must lest we prove the forces of anti-progressive rock correct.
First and foremost are the awful keyboards. It sounds as if Wakeman pulled the Roland and Korg synths right out of their shipping boxes and played them without any deviation from the factory presets. The result is that each track is awash in a bland sound typical of every popular song produced during this time. Perhaps it’s not his fault. Look at the musicians that “augmented” the group in the credits— keyboards, programming, orchestration, and vocals—that’s a lot of augmentation by some random dude named Matt Clifford.
The other members fare little better. Howe sounds like he is playing scale exercises from a book of etudes. Bruford’s drumming is overwhelmed by a mush of reverb and bassist Tony Levin (admittedly an excellent choice to fill Squire’s shoes) is woefully buried in the mix. Anderson is his usual exuberant self but is out of place in the middle of a band sleepwalking through the arrangements. He goes overtly political with his lyrics in “Birthright” and makes us miss the mystical, syncretic baloney we love him for.
Then there are the songs themselves. It is one vamp after another with ensemble sections sounding as if they were made up an hour before rolling tape. The most embarrassing track by far is “Teakbois”, a Latin-rhythm extravaganza that borders on porno music. One can almost imagine Trevor Rabin and Chris Squire at this time, cueing this song up and laughing their asses off. This disc’s redeeming value is that it got the boys back together who would prove on subsequent recordings that they still had a few good ideas left, as well as offer up some wonderful tours. This disc is for the completist only and then it should be one of the last things he buys.