Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Flux and Mutability - 40 Years Ago

1977 may be the most eclectic year in rock history. The diversity of albums is unending. Debuts from new icons (My Aim is True, Television's Marquee Moon and Talking Heads '77), Two of Bowie's best from the Berlin trilogy (Low and Heroes), the Sex Pistols and the Clash, News of the World, The Stranger, Slowhand, Aja and Rumours - few years equal the incredible output of 1977; none the multiformity. I sometimes marvel at the concept of the dog as a single species. Really, a Chihuahua, a Komondor and a St. Bernard share similar DNA? The analogy fits 1977; the fact that Yes' Going For the One and the Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks emerged from the same year is a seeming anomaly, except the pairing is far from exclusive. No other year competes in this three ring free for all. Interestingly, many of us were listening to this great disparity simultaneously, switching effortlessly from Talking Heads to Animals. It was, though, the swansong of progressive rock (round 1), with many prog bands disassembling or decimating.

Going for the One (AM6): Having spent the previous two years getting solo albums out of their system, the individual members of Yes were pressed with the task of being Yes again. First up was a move to Switzerland (for tax reasons) to record, and second, ironically, was to dump their Swiss keyboardist in favor of an old friend. Rick Wakeman had a successful solo career over the past three years, but was up to the call, bypassing a possible role in U.K. with Bill Bruford and John Wetton. Absent from the album were two other mates: Eddie Offord and Roger Dean. Yes self-produced the album and the cover sported skyscrapers (The ABC Entertainment Centers' Century City Alcoa Building) and a nude man's posterior, courtesy of Hipgnosis, yet as Steve Howe's slide guitar blasts open the album on "Going For The One," the changes are revealed as far from superficial. Anderson, in an act of minor literary justice, even pokes fun at his "cosmic mind." Yes is still larger than life, but one thing is definitely sure: they emerge from their sabbatical invigorated and up to task. "Turn of the Century" is the Pygmalion story, again featuring the versatile Howe on acoustic and twelve-string electric guitars, and Chris Squire's "Parallels" is one of the strongest tracks on an LP that remains underrated in the Yes canon. Jon Anderson's "Wonderous Stories" was the throwaway single, however, the bulk of the second side is taken up with the massive "Awaken." Yes may have learned a lesson or two from their previous releases, but Going For The One would not have been a Yes album without a "big" piece of music. "Awaken" clocks in at a mere fifteen minutes, but feels like a much longer trip. The band still managed to push all the right buttons: flashy keyboard intro, ripping guitar solo, ethereal middle section, quasi- spiritual concept, and big symphonic refrain. Although New Wave was in full swing at the time of the album's release, Britain maintained its appetite for Yes. The album rose to No. 1 on the British charts, and even scored a No. 8 in the US, where the band toured with Donovan in support. Nonetheless, it was with Going For the One that interest in Yes waned; by Tormato, no one would care.