A very different Yes returned on August 22, 1980 with their tenth studio album. Rick Wakeman was gone once again but the big news was the absent Jon Anderson, who had quit the band due to creative differences. He would quickly return and this would be their only album to date without his lead vocals. The band’s Fly From Here is due in a few months and it will mark the second Yes release without Anderson’s participation.
Drama would mark a change in the band’s sound, mainly due to their new members. Vocalist Trevor Horn and keyboardist Geoff Downes had played together as The Buggles. Their song, “Video Killed The Radio Star,” had been a Number One hit in the U.K. and reached the American Top 40. If I remember correctly, it was the first video ever played on MTV. They were basically a new wave group and their style and approach would influence Yes. They would not be with the band very long, however, so although it was unintended at the time, Drama would be a transitional or connector album. It would become another commercial success reaching Number Two in their native country and 18 in the United States.
All five members of the band take writing credits on all of the tracks, although one must wonder if that was for the sake of convenience rather than reality.
The first and the last tracks come the closest to their progressive rock past. “Machine Messiah” clocks in at 10:27 and is reminiscent of their past extended tracks. It is a group effort, and the new members mesh well with the old. “Tempus Fugit” is an often-overlooked song in the band’s extensive catalogue. Chris Squire’s bass playing is nevertheless a highlight.
The center of the album travels in a different direction. “White Car” was an odd track at just under a minute-and-a-half in length but it has been performed live as a part of a longer piece. “Does It Really Happen” signals the beginning of the harder edged tunes. “Into The Lines” travels in a pop/new wave direction. “Run Through The Light” is a straightforward rocker that looks ahead to the work of Downes and Howe with Asia.
Drama is an often overlooked Yes album due to the band’s lineup. Still, it was energetic and polished, remaining highly listenable over three decades after its release. It may be different but it is also very good.