It looked like a Yes album, it sounded like a Yes album, it even had musicians that had created Yes albums, but it wasn’t an official Yes album. Well it sort of was but not really.
Jon Anderson was quarrelling with Chris Squire and was not happy with the direction Trevor Rabin was taking Yes, so he quit the band. What he did was bring together former band members, Bill Bruford, Rick Wakeman, and Steve Howe. All of a sudden 4/5 of the Yes line-up that produced such classic Yes albums as Fragile and Close To The Edge were back together. The addition of bassist Tony Levin completed the band. Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe may not have been the most creative name for their band, but it got the message across. The album release number of 90126 was very clever.
Their self-titled album was released during June of 1989, and while it may not have been the equal of their best releases of two decades before, it was still very good, and a welcome return to their brand of progressive rock.
The original release was a combination of longer epic type tracks mixed with some shorter pieces. While it was uneven in places, when it was good it was very good. The only real negative was the absence of Chris Squire, who not only was – and is – one of the more creative bassists of the last four decades, but his vocals were always an integral part of the Yes harmonies.
The opening track “Themes” is divided into three parts and is more complex than anything Yes had produced in the past decade. “Sound,” “Second Attention,” and “Soul Warrior” all explore various musical themes.
The best track was “Quartet,” which was divided into four parts. It is a song that builds from its acoustic beginnings to a full blown, heavily orchestrated number. It was classic progressive rock. The most adventurous composition was the ten minute, three part “Brother of Mine,” which allowed room for solo excursions by the various band members.
“The Meeting” was a piano-based piece. It is a track where Rick Wakeman kept his grandiose inclinations under control and produced a song of beauty. The other track of note was “Teakbois,” which incorporated some Jamaican rhythms into the mix.
Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, the album and the group, was a treat at the time of its release as it was an unexpected trip back in time for these four previous members of Yes. Sometimes this album remains hidden in the Yes catalogue, but it is worth seeking out for a listen or two.