Yes returned with Tormato, its ninth studio album, on September 20, 1978. It was less ambitious than many of its prior releases, as there were no long and extended tracks. The songs ranged in length from 2:25 to 7:47 minutes.
Tormato was welcomed at the time, as it was an easier listening experience and continued the band's commercial success on both sides of the Atlantic, reaching as high as number 8 in the U.K. and number 10 in The United States album charts. It was also true to Yes' progressive rock roots but was more melodic overall, and the songs were more polished.
The original vinyl release suffered from poor production, especially with Chris Squire’s bass. I have heard a CD reissue of the album and the mix seems much better.
This would be the lineup at the time’s last album together. Squire, drummer Alan White, and guitarist Steve Howe would continue but keyboardist Rick Wakeman and original member Jon Anderson would both be gone before their next album release, and would not return for years.
Tormato was not Rick Wakeman’s finest effort but I have always liked his harpsichord work on “Madrigal.” My only complaint is the track is too short to really settle into and enjoy.
Another fine group effort was “Circus Of Heaven.” The melody is pleasing to the ear, as the lyrics explore the realm of fantasy. “Release, Release” is energetic and competent rock, as it settles into a good groove.
The final two tracks travel in different directions. “Onward” is classic Yes, as it makes use of an orchestra. “On The Silent Wings Of Freedom” is the longest track at just less than eight minutes. It is a somewhat somber affair but sort of lulls you and was a nice way to conclude the album.
As I have been traveling through the Yes catalog, the constant pleasure has been the guitar virtuosity of Steve Howe. Whether electric, acoustic, or somewhere in between, very few musicians can claim the consistent excellence of his body of work.
Looking back on Tormato, it was a little change of direction for the group. I remember playing the album quite a bit when it was released. Now, when I turn to Yes for some music, I tend to prefer their albums that contain longer, extended tracks. It remains an OK listen, but not a starting point in exploring the Yes catalog of music.