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Music Review: Yes – Talk

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Any band that has existed for as long as Yes has usually produced a number of great albums, a few good ones, some average ones, and no doubt a few clunkers along the way. And so during early 1994, to channel Tennyson, Trevor Rabin led Yes into the valley of death and released Talk.

Just three years previous, Yes had consisted of eight musicians. Rick Wakeman, Bill Bruford, and Steve Howe had left, leaving a line-up of Jon Anderson, Tony Kaye, Chris Squire, Alan White, and the aforementioned Trevor Rabin.

Rabin and Anderson co-wrote all of the tracks with some help from Squire on two tracks and Roger Hodgson of Supertramp on one. Rabin wanted to return the band to the polished rock of 90125 and Big Generator, while Anderson wanted to return the band to their classic progressive roots. What emerged was an unsatisfactory hybrid that probably traveled closer to Rabin’s vision, but ultimately proved unsatisfactory to both styles. It was a commercial failure by Yes standards, not even reaching gold record status for sales. The accompanying tour, likewise failed to fill halls that prior incarnations of Yes, including their Union Tour, had filled to capacity.

Rabin was the main culprit, as in addition to his writing chores he produced the album and played an array of instruments, including electric & acoustic guitars, keyboards, plus programming, and even provided some lead vocals.

“The Calling,” which led off the original album, is at least listenable. It was constructed in the “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” vein, and while it did not have its polish and appeal, at least it was a good try. The song is built upon a guitar riff which may not be memorable enough for a truly outstanding seven-minute song. Tony Kaye makes his only outstanding contribution on this track.

Things go south quickly thereafter. “I Am Waiting” is a seven-minute Journey rip-off; if I want good Journey music I will go to the source. The album just about hits rock bottom with “Walls,” which is amazing as it was composed by Anderson, Rabin, and Hodgson, who all created good, and in many instances, great music during their career. It sort of bumbles and whines along for five interminable minutes.

The final track was an attempt at a classic Yes epic. “Endless Dream” has three parts; two small sections with the 12-minute “Talk” in the middle. In the past some of their longer tracks have just flown by, but here it drags. The guitar and synthesizer parts, both played by Rabin, combine to drone on.

Talk is one of the weakest albums in the Yes catalogue. Rabin took pride in the fact that he mixed the entire album on an apple computer. He would have been better served to have remained in the studio. There may be some hardcore Yes fans out there who appreciated this release, but when exploring their music this is not a place to start or end.

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About David Bowling

  • Bob Rowland

    I’m sorry, with all respect to your music knowledge, etc., you are dead wrong about this album. Not all the tracks are gems, but most are very good, and Talk, along with its instrumental surroundings, is a fantastic song! The arrangement, polyrhythms, vocals, lyrics, and mix of straight rock instruments with synth bass and keys are absolutely brilliant. I agree that Rabin is heavy handed and puts himself forward too much in this album, but Jon Anderson’s influence makes it all beautiful. Just my opinion based on 37 years as a professional musician and composer. Thanks.

  • Hans Petter Kaggerud

    Sorry you had a bad day listening to “Talk” and allthough I agree that some of the songs are rather thin – “Endless Dream” stands out not as an attempt but as an accomplished prog classic to me. I sense you’re not a Rabin fan – fine by me – but the man has shown a stamina within both musicianship and composing that should not be overlooked by anyone…

  • RawOnions

    The biggest problem with Talk to my ears is the distorted bass on some of the tracks. It seems to be muddy yet at the same time is oscillating or wavering at a high rate of speed. I think a fat, clean sounding bass would’ve been nicer. Perhaps I need to listen to the album with better speakers that can recreate the bass better. There may be a few tunes that drag on, but the album has grown on me. There seems to be some cliche riffs built into the structure of a few tunes, but I suppose that goes with the territory of being more pop-rock than progressive-rock. Overall, it’s an interesting album, though I do prefer the classic Yes sound pre-Rabin. I have started listening to the Rabin albums after avoiding them for all the years since they were released. Very different than the Howe and Banks albums, but as it turned out, a different enjoyment can be found in them.