Yes released their second album July 24, 1970. Time And A Word would not chart in The United States, although it would reach number 45 in their home country. It would be the final training ground for the commercial and critical success of their next two albums, The Yes Album and Fragile.
This is a very different album than its predecessor. The use of an orchestra on many of the tracks give it a different sound and it remains a unique issue in the large Yes catalogue. It was also the last album for original guitarist Peter Banks, who would be fired as soon as the studio work had finished. His replacement, Steve Howe, appears on the American album cover, even though he does not play on the album. Banks has always been an unrated guitarist, but there is little doubt that Howe was a better fit for the band.
This is an album that is difficult to rate because it is so different. If you are going to explore the music of Yes, this is probably not the place you will want to start. Yet when taken on its own terms, it comes across as a good, if not great, album.
My favorite tracks are the ones where the orchestra is missing or at least ramped down a bit. “Astral Traveller” is straightforward rock or even psychedelic rock if you want to label it as such. It is the last hurrah for Peter Banks as the guitar work is exemplary throughout. The band would continue to perform the song live with Howe on guitar and, I have to say, it was better. Still, the recording is a fine performance by Banks and a highlight of this release. “Sweet Dreams” is nice pop/rock with has a catchy chorus. It would have fit their first album as it represented their original sound.
Perhaps the oddest track was the band’s cover of Buffalo Springfield’s “Everyday.” While I prefer the original version, they at least make it interesting by taking it in a dreamlike and airy direction. “The Prophet,” at just over six-and-a-half minutes, is as close to progressive rock as they come here and looks ahead to their work in the near future.
Time And A Word catches Yes in between their pop/rock/melodic origins and the classic progressive rock band they would shortly become. It remains a good release, but the best was yet to come.