The Record's Weekly Entertainment Guide
cover story: April 12, 1991
by Barbara Jaeger, music critic
Several years ago, Rolling Stone magazine noted that "the Yes genealogy is as convoluted as anything Alex Haley ever dug up for 'Roots.'"
Indeed, it would take a mural-size canvas to paint the Yes family tree. But, while longtime fans have come to expect personnel changes from the British band, the latest lineup is unique even by Yes standards.
Eight veterans of the group, whose affiliations span a number of Yes incarnations, have joined forces for what drummer Alan White refers to as "a big band-- a Yes orchestra." They'll play concerts in Atlantic City and at Byrne Arena this weekend, two stops on a grand tour with a grand title: "Yesshows '91: 'Round the World in 80 Dates."
"The sound is very big and dynamic but very clear," White says. He is joined in the expanded lineup by original Yes members Chris Squire (bass), Jon Anderson (vocals), Bill Bruford (drums), and Tony Kaye (keyboards), as well as keyboardist Rick Wakeman and guitarists Steve Howe and Trevor Rabin.
On the eve of the kickoff of Yes' world tour in Pensacola, Fla., earlier this week, White discussed the reunion, which came about only after the settlement of creative differences and legal difficulties.
The reunion seemed unlikely months ago. Two Yes factions-- Kaye, White, Squire, and Rabin in one; Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, and Howe in the other-- appeared to be going their separate ways.
"There was some animosity in the beginning," acknowledges White, "but the whole thing was overplayed by the media and, to some degree, management."
The "thing" White refers to is a federal lawsuit that materialized more than two years ago. White, Kaye, Rabin, and Squire-- who hold rights to the Yes name and were, at the time, under contract to ATCO Records-- sought to prevent references to Yes' heritage by Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, and Howe, who had come together for an album and tour.
The U.S. District Court in New York in June 1989 ruled that Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe-- which is how the quartet billed itself-- could refer to Yes' songs and history in promoting its selftitled Arista Records album and 1989 road trip.
While the various members have kept in touch, it took a meeting between Anderson and Rabin in Los Angeles earlier this year to set the wheels in motion for the reunion-- or, to use White's term, "union," which, coincidentally, will be the name of the new Yes album due April 23.
"Reunion seems sort of forced and calculated," says White. "Union implies more a meeting-of-the-minds attitude, more permanence. It's a much more intimate term that is more suited to our present situation."
Anderson had traveled from Europe to work on vocals for the second Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe album. When he arrived in Los Angeles, he called Rabin, who seized the opportunity to play for Anderson some of the songs he was working on. Anderson offered to add his ethereal tenor to the tracks, as well as to songs Squire, White, and Kaye had written.
The harmonious spirit that surrounded these sessions led Anderson to invite Squire to add his distinctive voice to the already completed tracks for the Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe project. Ultimately, it was decided that the eight musicians would pool their talents for an album that would recall not only the group's musical heritage of orchestral-style arrangements underlying rich vocal harmonies, but the leaner, cleaner sound that characterized Yes' Eighties breakthrough "90125," the collection that yielded the band's first No. 1 single ("Owner of a Lonely Heart").
"Our [recording time] was short compared to the typical Yes album," says White. "The other guys had begun work on their album about a year ago. We only put our tracks down in the last three months. But there was tremendous give-and-take, and we had the artistic license to finish the songs as we wanted.
"A lot of the songs have a classic Yes feel, but the first single, 'Lift Me Up,' a song writtenby Trevor and Chris, has more of a '90125' feel to it."
To make the union a reality, myriad legal details had to be ironed out. Ultimately, Arista agreed to pay an undisclosed sum to ATCO to release White, Kaye, Rabin, and Squire from their recording contract. The four then signed with Arista.
ATCO, however, retained rights to the Yes catalog and will issue a five-CD boxed set of Yes classics and rarities this summer, according to White.
Yes performs in the United States through the end of May. The band then takes off for a series of European dates that will keep the group on the continent through June. Yes returns for a second string of American dates, beginning July 5 in Miami.
White says the rehearsals, which began in Los Angeles early last month and moved to Pensacola shortly before the start of the tour, went "better than expected."
"I really thought we'd have problems, dividing things up and working out who would play what. But it's been a fairly easy process, and things have worked themselves out quite nicely."
White acknowledges that it often took considerable compromise to work out the musical roles each would have. But he also stresses that from the beginning there was a gentleman's agreement to make the project work.
"We all know we have a job to do and that's to entertain the public and be positive doing it" says White. "There's no room for, nor have there been any, petty disagreements or negativity."
The shows, performed in the round, will cover the band's history, as well as offer several selections from the upcoming album.
"While playing in the round affords everyone a good view of the stage, it's also nice for us," says White, explaining that the musicians will be positioned around the lip of the stage, with Anderson anchoring the middle. "It's a very intimate setting up there; we're actually facing one another."
The excitement of creating another chapter in Yes history is evident as White talks. But he's forthright about the group's future.
"I certainly see a version of this band carrying on. Whether everyone will totally be interested in doing that or have the time, given other commitments, remains to be seen. All I know is the commitment is here now, and people are remaining open-minded about the future."
Yes performs tonight and Saturday at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City and Sunday at Byrne Arena. On April 20, Yes will be at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island.
Donated to the Museum by diane