Sunday, February 13, 2011

Michael Fremer Album Review

Time and a Word


Atlantic/Friday Music FRM8273 180g LP
Produced by: Tony Colton
Engineered by: Eddie Offord
Mixed by: Eddie Offord
Mastered by: Ron McMaster and Capitol Studios



1970 Sophomore Effort Reissued With Original Artwork
by Michael Fremer
January 01, 2011

The second Yes album begins with a strutting cover of Richie Havens' "No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed."

It opens with a pretentious organ/synth fanfare and descends into ripping off the familiar and exhilarating theme to the Western "The Big Country." It's as if the boys didn't know what to do first other than to play in the studio.

The song itself is one of those self-examination tunes "Take a look at yourself, take a good look at yourself" that lead singer Jon Anderson would himself later specialize in writing. He got real busy after this record exhorting listeners to sit down, stand up, look around, and so on.

While Yes is best known as a "prog-rock" outfit, the accent here is on jazz, a genre this instrumentally talented bunch could easily play. Bill Bruford is a jazz drummer after all. The cover of Stephen Stills' brilliant "Everydays" is a standout and "Sweet Dreams," Anderson's collaboration with David Foster shows compositional sophistication and playing to match.

Anderson's high pitched, delicate vibrato surely influenced Sting. In fact, unlikely as it may at first seem, I'd say the entire instrumental palette affected him and The Police. I could be hallucinating.

The players and their musical personalities are so strong, that even on the first album the group had developed a unique sound that's only enforced here, particularly the rhythm section of Bruford and Chris Squire. Original guitarist Peter Banks didn't have Steve Howe's chops, but he more than made up for it with excellent taste.

The group was still in its developmental stage here, moving slowly from its jazz phase to one that was "heavier," but if any band could be said to have invented "prog rock" it would be Yes. Could they be precious and pretentious? You betcha! But listening to songs like "The Prophet" is to listen to the birth of a decade long musical movement and that makes for exciting listening, even if the added orchestration may today sound like a bit much.

Recording engineer Eddie Offord would be there for later Yes masterpieces like the big leap the group took with its next record The Yes Album. Offord's production took a big leap there too. Here, he's developing the sound but it's not quite complete. There's plenty of compression applied and the presentation lacks the subtlety of later productions. That's not surprising considering the time: at the end of rock's first great era.

So the sound on the original is somewhat hard and spatially flat and closed in, though part of that may have been Atlantic's choice, so that the record produced more "noise." The reissue is a bit brighter and spatially flatter than the original, and it has less bottom end weight, but it's also more dynamic and far cleaner overall (at least compared to the one original pressing I have). Neither version is the sonic spectacular that later Yes albums would be.

Friday Music chose to reproduced the original UK cover art that Atlantic probably felt was too "racy" for America and it chose the green/blue label that Atlantic used on earlier releases. By the time this album came out in 1970 Atlantic had switched to the familiar green and red label.

This is the first Friday Music album reviewed here and overall I think they've done a good job with this album.

Thanks to Michael over at  for the exclusive rights to reprint this material. Stop by for more reviews and features.

©2010 & Michael Fremer - - All rights reserved

Reprinted by Permission

No comments: