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Music Review: Yes – Big Generator

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It’s not a good sign when a band takes over two years in the studio to produce a new album. So it was with Yes as tensions were running high between Jon Anderson and Trevor Rabin. Anderson wanted to return the band to its progressive rock roots, while Rabin wanted to continue to move in a more mainstream rock direction, as represented by their commercially successful 90125 release. It got so bad that producer Trevor Horn quit part way into the recording process.

Big Generator was released September 28, 1987 and proved to be a commercial success despite being pulled in two musical directions. Both Anderson and Rabin left their individual imprints upon the album and produced some very good, if a little dated, music.

The pop side is best represented by “Rhythm Of Love” and “Love Will Find A Way.” The first has layered harmonies, soaring guitar lines, and is representative of 1980s arena rock. The second was a Rabin solo composition. The early use of strings on it leads to some catchy guitars and melody. It was the type of well-crafted commercial music that Rabin was so adept at creating. “Love Will Find A Way” would top the American Mainstream Rock chart.

Anderson’s influence can be felt on his own “Holy Lamb” and “Final Eyes.” “Holy Lamb’s” message of peace and ecology sounds dated but the music and Anderson’s vocal make up for it. “Final Eyes” is a nice slice of progressive rock, as Tony Kaye’s keyboards lead the way for another fine Anderson vocal performance.

“Shoot High, Aim Low” is the best track. It treads the middle ground as all five group members share the writing credit. The keyboards are airy and dreamy; plus, Rabin’s guitar work, both acoustic and electric, is moody. The dual lead vocals between Anderson and Rabin were some of the most creative of Yes’ career. It’s too bad that the band could not have been more united throughout the process, because this was an excellent track.

Big Generator is one of those lost albums in the Yes catalogue, as it is only partially admired by fans of both the classic Yes and the Rabin Yes. It may not be essential to the Yes catalogue of music, but it remains inoffensive, and in some places, a good listen.

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