Although I’m part of the clear minority when it comes to my appreciation for the much- loathed 90125 album, there’s no doubt that Yes‘ music became increasingly difficult to defend as time went on. Even sparing the fact they had shifted gears to the point of being virtually unrecognizable, the pop-centric Yes lost creative impetus pretty quickly.Big Generator was released four years after 90125, and two of those years were spent working on it. Clearly, the honeymoon period brought on by Trevor Rabin was over by this point; Tony Kaye and Trevor Horn had been at each other’s throats, and Jon Anderson was expressing doubt around the direction the band was taking. It’s this sort of artistic division that first sent Yes on the downward slope with Tormato, and Big Generator saw fit to reproduce this scenario with their pop era. It’s undeniably a weaker album than 90125, even possibly the first album the band released I might consider truly weak. Much like Tormato though, Big Generator has some strong moments. It’s not enough to earn a recommendation, but its enough to deserve some sort of defence against some of the ‘worst album ever’ comments made against it.
I’ll admit, even if my initial instinct is to defend it, Big Generator is a pittance compared to just about everything that came before it. Had it been received more warmly by others, this review would have likely turned out much nastier- such was the case with the terribly overrated Drama LP. I had written a bit of a review about Big GeneratorYesterday after my first couple of listens, and much of it agreed with the generally panned reception. Listening to it on the coattails of the far-superior 90125, it was instantly clear that Big Generator wasn’t as coherent or effective- if you take a look at the album’s recording history, it’s hard to blame it. Perhaps it managed to grow a little bit with some more intent listening, but a few tracks really stand out to me now. As much as I cannot stomach the song titles, “Rhythm of Love” and “Love Will Find A Way” are solid pop tunes. The former even has some surprising Beach Boys-y vocal harmonies, which is totally coming from left-field on a Yes album. The chorus on “Final Eyes” is admittedly weak, but the verse is a beautiful showcase for Jon Anderson’s voice- the same goes for the mellowed “Holy Lamb” at the end.
“Shoot High, Aim Low” is probably the most impressive track here, and it sounds like something Rush may have released on Presto or Hold Your Fire. There’s an exotic and meditative atmosphere to the song that distances it from the more straight-laced pop rock. Speaking of which, “Almost Like Love” is probably the worst song they had put out up to this point- I guess Anderson’s weird vocal phrasing is interesting enough, but I’m probably digging for gold in a coal pit at this point. I suppose its a testament my generally contrarian nature, but the song people point towards as Big Generator‘s only saving grace- that being “I’m Running”- is probably the most irritating song on the album for me. “Almost Like Love” is easy enough to ignore for how bloody middle-of-the- road it is, but “I’m Running” tries to conjure up some of Yes‘ adventurous spirit. The result of which is a peppy, unfocused mess that somehow reminds me of Ska enough to cringe. I guess it’s a sign of hope that the Rabin-era Yes was still interested in pursuing longer songs, but for the sake of Big Generator, they may as well have forgone it entirely.
There’s a certain masochism when it comes to reviewing. Sometimes I find myself looking for albums I know I’ll hate, in the hopes that it might result in an enjoyably heated rant of a review. Before giving Big Generator a listen, I might have pegged it as such an album. The album art is atrocious, and any LP with a song called “Rhythm of Love” would almost certainly make faeces smell good in comparison. It’s really not the case here; call it a guilty pleasure or an outstretched effort to hear quality in one of my all-time favourite bands, I think Big Generator‘s got some great moments. Other than that, it’s an inconsistent record at best; each of the band members seem to have wanted something different to come of it. Oh well, we’ll always have Fragile.
1. Rhythm Of Love (4:49)
2. Big Generator (4:31)
3. Shoot High Aim Low (7:59)
4. Almost Like Love (5:58)
5. Love Will Find A Way (4:48)
6. Final Eyes (6:20)
7. I’m Running (7:34)
8. Holy Lamb (3:15)
* Jon Anderson – vocals
* Chris Squire – bass and vocals
* Tony Kaye – keyboards
* Alan White – drums
* Trevor Rabin – guitars,keyboards and vocals