Herman Linte celebrates the band with one of the most confusing lineages of all, prog-rock legends YES on The AIR, Thursday with a new episode of Prognosis. You can listen at the website, or on this embedded radio player…
YES is considered the archetype of the progressive rock band. Their songs are complex, intelligent and a little spacey. The members of the band must be virtuoso musicians. They continue to evolve and grow as a band, so much so that, more than once, they have split into two separate bands, the way they are today.
Back in the late 1980s, while the line up of the band that created the hit 90125 and Big Generator albums was mired in a rut, trying to come up with a way to follow those two albums, Jon Anderson, one of the founders of the band and their most distinctive vocalist teamed with former YES members Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman and Bill Bruford, and formed ABWH, who released one great studio album and toured with a show they dubbed “An Evening of YES Music Plus.”
While there was no shortage of animosity between the two camps, eventually a detente was achieved, and it was decided that the band would go on a very lucrative tour. Unfortunately neither band had a new studio album ready to release, and the decision was made to give the scraps of what the official YES was working on, and the bare bones of what would have been the second ABWH album to an outside producer, Jonathan Elias, who would combine them into a complete album while the band rehearsed for the tour with thier new eight-piece line up that featured two guitarists, two keyboard players and two drummers.
The resulting studio album was a disaster. Rick Wakeman refers to “Union” as “Onion…because it brings tears to my eyes.” Elias, who was apparently oblivious to the fact that Howe and Wakeman are among the most respected musicians in the entire world, decided to wipe their contributions from the disc, replacing their work with generic session musicians, including members of Toto. It is universally considered to be the absolute worst album in the YES discography.
What’s been lost in the details though, is that the resulting tour was a triumph. Seeing the combined virtuosity of eight of the dozen or so musicians who had been in YES up to that point was a memorable high point of the band’s now fifty-plus year career. The line-up for this touring version of YES is the one that was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year. That did not happen because of the studio album. They only managed one tour as an eight-piece. Reportedly Steve Howe and Trevor Rabin didn’t get along well, and the drummers struggled to find a way to merge their different styles. But when they were playing together it was incredible.
Thursday on Prognosis, Herman Linte presents YES, from the Union tour live, for the full two hours. Herman brings the band performing songs like “Roundabout,” “Heart of the Sunrise,” “Owner of A Lonely Heart” and more to his listeners, as fans of the band currently ponder what will happen as there are, once again, two bands made up of longtime members of the band touring the world and releasing new music.
Prognosis can be heard every Thursday at 3 PM, with replays Friday at 7 AM, Saturday at 10 AM, Tuesday at 8 PM and Wednesday at 10 PM, exclusively on The AIR. Also tune in Monday at 11 PM for a weekly eight-hour marathon of the best of Prognosis.