Yes released the album Drama during 1980. At the time, I thought it was the final chapter of their career, as the band members dispersed in different directions. Much to my surprise, three years later a new Yes album was released. Much to my amazement, Jon Anderson was back as the lead singer and all was right with the Yes universe.
90125 (released in 1983) brought a lot of changes to the band. Jon Anderson was back after missing one album. Keyboardist Tony Kaye was back after missing a lot of albums. Guitarist Trevor Rabin had replaced Steve Howe.
Former Buggles member Geoff Downes was gone, and his bandmate Trevor Horn was sort of gone, as he had left the band but stayed around to produce the album. If you are keeping track, Yes now consisted of Anderson, Rabin, Kaye, plus holdovers Chris Squire and Alan White.
It was Rabin who probably exerted the most influence, alone and in combination with Anderson. He co-wrote all nine tracks and shared a writing credit with Anderson on seven. The songs veer away from their progressive rock roots toward what can be called arena rock. The guitar sound is up front and is backed by a thumping rhythm section. The songs are tighter and more polished than anything the band had released, which pushed the band toward the rock mainstream.
The track that best exemplifies Yes during this period of their career is “Owner Of A Lonely Heart.” There is a guitar riff, some ’80s synthesizer pyrotechnics, a polished melody, and is even danceable in an odd sort of way. It even became a hit single, reaching number one in the United States, an unthinkable prospect for the earlier incarnations of Yes. I have always liked the track in spite of myself.
My second favorite track is the album-ending “Hearts.” It was a collaborative piece by all five members and it soars. Rabin’s guitar and Kaye’s keyboards combine to form the foundation for the song. On the other hand, songs such as “Changes” and “City Of Love” have the feel of Anderson/Rabin duets rather than fully developed Yes songs. Elsewhere, “Hold On” and “It Can Happen” are more examples of flashy rock.
90125 is a hit-and-miss affair. Overall, it comes down to a matter of taste. Hardcore fans of the band will probably dismiss it as too close to pop for their liking. When exploring the Yes discography, it’s not a place to start. Still, while it may be different, it is enjoyable in places and is a good listen if you are not in the mood to concentrate.