Saturday, July 28, 2018

Going for the One - Yes

Understand that in 1977, I was at a loss. In high school, my heart and soul were devotees of Yes, of prog in general, following the band from one stadium show to another. Then, ho-hum, came the time when we friends found our own paths and parted ways. Certainly, there was Queen and the new realm of art rock, from Roxy to Bowie, but the lush, ethereal music on which I'd spent my formative years was suddenly de rigueur at best. With Wakeman finding his way back to Yes there was hope for the hopeful, but the result, Going for the One, wasn't what we'd wanted, and although I joyfully exulted in the title track, insistent that Yes had evolved, my enthusiasm was false at best; I'm not sure in retrospect that I even listened to Going for the One all the way through.

At the dawn of the 70s, Yes combined the 60s pop-rock sensibilities of the Beatles and the Zombies with a strong experimental jazzy prog rock influence and became one of the finest and most innovative prog rock bands of the era. Other competitors like Pink Floyd, Genesis, and Emerson Lake & Palmer were still toying around for a proper sound, but Yes and King Crimson were already well underway to jumpstarting the prog-rock movement. The band continued to impress new fans and critics alike with Fragile (1972) and Close To The Edge (1973), with follow-up releases Tales From Topographic Oceans (1974) and Relayer (1974) praised by die-hard fans though lamented by the critics.

Nearly two and a half years after Relayer, Yes finally unleashed Going For The One, but it's taken 40 years for this writer to acknowledge the LP as a part of the canon. It was a time when punk had surged forth, and Johnny Rotten & Co. had a field day ripping up Yes, Pink Floyd, Queen and prog pretentiousness in general. Yet it seemed the members of Yes didn't give a damn about the trends of the day, as their usual cosmic, soaring, mystical aesthetic pervades the album in a big way that I hadn’t realized in 1976.

After 40 years, giving Going for the One a truly positive review (and understand that makes the LP an AM6, or so) is particularly satisfying. I would never be a punk, but I understood the punk sensibility and the critique of prog in a world that would soon embrace the Reagan/Thatcher era. There were no "Wondrous Stories" there. I'd find my post-punk sensibilities in the 80s, but, like my peers, I was having trouble processing the end of the prog era. The British were so angry, and understandably so, but we lived in the sub-suburbia of Ventura County, California with the beach just down the road and our own cars and girls, and anger just didn't play into it. And yet, our music was chastised and worse, our bands had failed us. Gentle Giant would give us Free Hand, then lose it on Interview (and worse on Giant for a Day), ELP gave us what may be the worst record by an iconic band ever released, Love Beach, and the rest would hobble along. It was mind-numbing. Luckily I found my jazz jawn through Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan and Weather Report, but this wasn't the music of High School boys – I was forced unwillingly to grow up.

40 years on, prog has found its legs with bands like Dream Academy and Porcupine Tree; Steven Wilson is as important to me now as Eddie Offord was in 1974, and a new generation has selectively found its prog roots. Those with that kind of foresight are lucky to pick and choose. They're not burdened by The Final Cut or Tormato, they get to discover Supertramp and 10cc and Camel, in all its freshness and leave the rotting tormatoes on the vine.

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