Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#806 in the Series) is Yes, Drama
I feel it necessary to give a disclaimer at the beginning of this review. Yes always has been and always will be my favourite band. Further, I believe Jon Anderson is not only the greatest singer of all time, but also my favourite songwriter and musician. I didn’t say he is the best, though I can’t think of a better harp player, but I’ve long felt that Steve Howe is the best guitarist. But if you listen to his body of work and include his solo releases, starting with Olias of Sunhillow, there are few artists that can fly so close to the sun.
The reason I give the disclaimer is obvious to long time Yes fans. This is the bands 10th release and first without Anderson, but it is still not only a cool album, but a really great one.
The title probably is related to what was going on with Yes at the time. It followed one their superb and under appreciated works, Tormato, which for some reason got an overall lukewarm response (the Tours of ’78 and ’79 produced some of the most memorable live shows I have ever seen). Not only did Jon leave but so did Rick Wakeman, him for the second time in the bands history. One of the biggest reasons this work is such a masterpiece is the production of Trevor Horn. He added an extra artistic touch (Xylophone on the bridge during the first track) and figured out how to combine vocal harmonies with Chris Squire (who may have sounded better before on his solo work, Fish Out of Water, but not since this record) and it sounded pretty close to the impossible, duplicate Jon’s voice (which is a musical instrument beyond power and doubt). Horn has gone on to produce many other masterpieces including Jeff Beck’s last release and even did the next Yes record. 90125, but the biggest absence there was no Steve Howe. Don’t even bother to pretend Trevor Rabin has the skill to even re-string Steve’ guitars.
The first track, “Machine Messiah,” was a multi-layered epic with impressive guitar, keyboard and drums in a typically fast then slow then fast Yes style. Alan White is on fire for this record and gets off to a great start with this one. It’s shorter than the standard classic (10:27), but does not feature a dull moment. They have a short interlude followed by a bass line classic with “Does It Really Happen?” then start side 2 with a fancy combo of mandolin, synthesizer and drums that gets punched up by Horns vocal highest, but carries great tempo. The last two songs are rock classics and fall into the category of the more you play them, the more you like them, without limits.
Some wrong people thought there was a bit of “New Wave” to it, probably credited to Horns previous artists that he sang or produced (The Buggles. Art of Noise, ABC). But this was actually a guy who loved Yes paying tribute and giving reverence to the incredible talented line up, which by the way actually was as good with Geoff Downes subbing for Rick Wakeman. (Tony Kaye the next record, not so much)
All songs share joint writing credit, but if there was a breakdown, a good bet would credit Steve Howe with creating much of this work. Drama from 1980 is a very cool album and though only six songs in length, it makes up for that with some art rock quality you will be impressed with when you listen.
— John Driscoll, Chicago, Illinois, USA
All songs written and composed by Geoff Downes/Trevor Horn/Steve Howe/Chris Squire/Alan White.
- “Into the Lens” – 8:33
- “Run Through the Light” – 4:43
- “Tempus Fugit” – 5:15
- Trevor Horn – lead vocals, fretless bass
- Steve Howe – guitars, vocals
- Chris Squire – bass, vocals, piano
- Geoff Downes – keyboards, vocoder, vocals
- Alan White – drums, percussion, vocals
- Official Yes Website
- Official Trevor Horn Website
- Official Steve Howe Website
- Official Chris Squire Website
- Officail Alan White Website
- Official Geoff Downes Website
- See our piece on Yessongs
- See our piece Jon Anderson Olias of Sunhillow
- See our piece on Close to the Edge
- Official Roger Dean Website
Listen to Drama in its entirety below.