on 6 August 2007
While writing the follow up to 1978's Tormato, singer Jon Anderson and keyboardist, Rick Wakeman left the group.
This lineup of Yes is definitely the most controversial in the bands history. Combining the musical talents of Steve Howe, Chris Squire and Alan White with those of The Buggles (video killed the radio star anyone?) seemed a disasterous one. However, they got away with it and Drama stands for me as one of Yes' best efforts, despite being a somewhat neglected record.
OK Trevor Horn could never replace Jon Anderson on vocals, and most of the songs are crying out for his angelic tones. But there's a charm and sincerity about Horn's vocal style, and with Chris Squires distinctive backing vocal to supplement him, as well as Steve Howe mucking in, the vocal side of Drama is quite alright.
Geoff Downes is a revelation on keyboards, and he handles the 'widdly widdly' stuff excellently while throwing his own keyboarding style into the mix. It's no surprise that he would continue to work with Steve Howe on this type of music in the incredibly successful Asia.
As for Steve Howe, he plays some of his heaviest, most aggressive sounding guitar since 1974's Relayer, and the Chris Squire/Alan White rhythm section seems re energised and more driving than before.
The songs on Drama are first class. 'Machine Messiah' is a huge, moody behemoth of an opener with some superb melodies, great vocal harmonies, swirling keyboards and heavy metal guitar, hammered home with some great rolling bass, and thumping drums.
'White Car' is a beautifully sung track, but suffers from being a short song which ends almost as soon as it's begun.
'Does It Really Happen' is a pointer to the more commercial sounding music Yes would make in the 1980s. Despite this, it's catchy, powerful, and benefits from some superb bass playing from Squire.
'Into The Lens', like 'Machine Messiah', is a whopper of a song. It's stop/start style is reminiscent of early Genesis, and again the vocal harmonies are spot on. Also, the individual playing is excellent throughout the track.
'Run Through The Light' is a fairly traditional Yes piece with some good acoustic guitar and some cool keyboard sounds. It has an unusual vocal display from Trevor Horn, which has you wishing that Jon Anderson had sung on the track, other than that, it's another strong number.
Closing track 'Tempus Fugit' is a song strikingly similar to the kind of numbers The Police would make in the early eighties. It's dominated by Chris Squire's bass and Alan White's drums (they would use 'Tempus Fugit' live in Squire and White's joint solo), and Geoff Downes adds some more top notch swirling keyboard effects.
The production on Drama is tight as a drum (Horn would go on to become one of the world's premier music producers) and every member of the band gives 100%
The whole package is also once again complimented by the welcome return of some Roger Dean artwork. It's a slightly darker concept than before but just as effective, and brings back the visual identity that the band lost somewhat after 1975.
Yes fans never quite took to this line up of the band and I suppose it's understandable. Rick Wakeman had been replaced before, but for both he AND Jon Anderson to be absent, was too much for most Yes fans to take. However, for me Drama is a better album than the debut and Time And A Word. It's more entertaining than Tales From Topographic Oceans and Relayer, and wipes the floor with Tormato. It's also better produced than all five of those albums. For a Yes album without messrs Anderson and Wakeman, that's quite an achievement.
There will still be Yes fans who cannot comprehend a Yes album with The Buggles playing on it. I'm a Yes fan, and I'm afraid I f*****g love it.
on 25 February 2004
Reading again and again how this recording is derided by comparing it to Anderson-era-Yes is particularly depressing, since this is a hell of a record in its own terms. Nobody seemed to like it when it appeared, while now more and more people realize how unjustly Drama was treated at the time. "Machine Messiah" and "Tempus Fugit" are sensational tracks. The rest is simply very good. Chris Squire's bass playing and Alan White's drumming in this CD are simply astounding. Yes, Jon Anderson is not there, but just listen to this music for what it is, without prejudice, and what you get is one of the prog-classics of all time.
on 20 September 2008
I have been a Yes fan since the seventies, but was put off investigating Drama all the way up to the year 2000. The reason being, as many may guess, is that this is the only Yes album with no contribution from Jon Anderson, who not only has a very distinctive voice (not liked by everyone), but is also a big song/music writer for the group. The idea that he could be replaced (along with Wakeman) by members of the Buggles was frankly unthinkable.
How wrong I was. For a start, Trevor Horn's voice is actually very good - he has a similar tone to Anderson, but more nasal and earthy. Downes can play as well, there is some great interplay between himself and Squire on the first track "Machine Messiah". And while we're on the subject of Squire, I think this album has some of his best Bass riffs ever - his intro for "Does it really Happen?" is epic. "Into the Lens" is another highlight, with many strangely timed sections and a catchy chorus. "Tempus Fugit" is also a great track, although the "Yes!" lyrics are a little grating (no more than Jon's were sometimes though). In fact, there are no weak tracks on this album at all. It doesn't quite attain the creative peaks of the classic Yes albums, but it is better than Tormato and all of that "Yeswest" AOR nonsense that followed.
I would have really liked to hear another album from this line-up, the songs may be shorter, but it is %100 Prog. If you like Yes, you must buy it - it's an essential purchase. If you like the sound of Yes but not Anderson's Choir-boy noodlings, you may also enjoy it.
on 3 April 2006
Drama is a surprising album. Surprising because it unites one half of the "classic" Yes line up (Steve Howe, Alan White, Chris Squire) with 80's pop duo, "The Buggles" (Trevor Horn, Geoff Downes). On the face of it not the most likely of partnerships and one that for Yes fans would seem doomed to fail since this particular inacrnation of the band was less its principle songwriter and singer, Jon Anderson.
In their 70's heyday, Yes produced sprawling Prog-Rock epics that went under ungainly titles such as "The Revealing Science of God" or "The Gates of Delerium". But by the early 80's, Yes and other bands of their ilk were a spent force in musical terms; having the metaphoricals kicked out of them by the aggression and nihilism of Punk.
The Buggles at the time, however, were flush with the success of their Top 5 hit "Video Killed the Radio Star" a song which seemed to signal a fresh and succesful decade for pop and the new art form of the music video.
So in some ways The Buggles had more to lose than the remaining members of Yes by chancing their arms on this collabrative venture. But Sqiure et al still had their reputations as superlative musicians to think about and there was no way that this album was ever going to be compromise on that front. The resulting album was not therefore a curious pop-rock record but still an unashamedly prog one.
Hovever, the playing is less frilly and the presentation less wayward, benefting from the directness Horn and Downes were giving them. Although Horn's vocals don't come anywhere near to Jon Anderson's range and delicacy he manages to more than hold his own in what must been a very daunting situation to find himself in. Production and overall sound of the album is excellent with Steve Howe electing to go for a heavier guitar sound than rather shrill presentation of previous albums and compliments Downes' straight forward style very well. Alan White's drumming is superlative, delivered with high precision and power thoughout while Chris Squire produces arguably his best performance on a Yes album, before or since. Lyrically it doesn't do much, but compared to some of the nonsense from previous albums it is a vast improvement.
In short Drama is a real gem and represents a breath of Fresh air for Yes, after their listless performance on the previous album, "Tormato" which lead to the departure of Anderson and keyboardist, Rick Wakeman.
Becoming increasingly aware of just how big the shadow of Jon Anderson was casting over the lead singer spot in the band, Horn only lasted the album and a subsequent tour but went on to produce the mega-selling, AOR follow up to Drama, 90125.
Although this isn't classic Yes music in the strictest sense of the word and will be considered by many fans as a bit of an oddity, this album is paradoxically one of their strongest and best.
on 7 May 2008
Haha Yes with the Buggles ? "You cannot be serious !" most people said at the time of the release of Drama. Closer inspection reveals that far from being a ritual or a roundabout effort, it's really quite good. The opening track `Machine Messiah' is an extended workout. I still remember the trepidation waiting for the first burst of Trevors vocals to sound. I needn't have worried as although it wasn't Jon it wasn't too far off the Yes sound we know and love. The song has a middle section that goes all quiet and then it starts up again afresh. Some great instrumentation there with Squires bass much to the fore. The next track `White Car' is frankly a waste of time. Far too short and unremarkable. `Does it really happen' follows next and is quite striking with some Yes-like nonsensical lyrics. `Into the lens' is another extended song with very Buggles like lyrics about cameras and being "taken so easily". A pun no doubt. `Run through the Night's is a wonderful song but the final (original track) `Tempus Fugit' is the albums high point. Great riff, great bass and guitar and features the "Yes, Yes" refrain. It's still included in Squire and Whites instrumental `White Fish' piece.
So that's the album as was. What you get here are a mixed bag of extras. High points for me are the single remix of `Run through the Night' which is not just a dodgy edit of the original track unlike the single mix of `Into the Lens' (this should never have been a single anyway - why not `Tempus Fugit' ?). An instrumental outing entitled `Have we really got to go through this' is barnstorming. Lowpoints are `Song no. 4' which goes on a bit and the final four tracks are unremarkable, unfinished efforts from the abandoned Paris sessions with Roy Thomas Baker producing and Anderson and Wakeman still in the band but about to leave.
I guess you shouldn't moan about extra tracks as there are a lot here. The only gripe for me is why not include all the Paris session tracks (i.e. the ones that were on the `In a Word' box set) and why not include the Buggles version of `Into the Lens' (which was re-titled `I am a Camera') ? This makes much better listening than the single edit.
on 8 April 2007
So there was this hugely successful prog-rock group, their star perhaps no longer in the ascendant; and there was this overnight sensation of a bubble-gum electro-pop song by a couple of geezers in shiny suits blazing a brief flash of light across the top of the singles charts.
Now, not even Harvey Goldsmith would put forward Cilla Black and Hawkwind as the ideal musical partnership - so how in the name of all that's holy could you put Yes in the studio with the Buggles? It still seems unlikely today, but that's exactly what happened, for "Drama": the band's first album after the departure of their signature voice, Jon Anderson.
With the benefit of hindsight, "Drama" is a novel outing, an oddity in the canon, and yet one that is very successful in itself. The key is discipline: there's altogether less showing-off, though the music retains all the rhythmic diversity and the skilled playing that makes Yes music interesting. Each member of the band is focussed on the project in hand, not all playing as fast as they can all-at-once like some overcharged electronic Dixie Jazz combo. Alan White's drumming is clear and full, and Chris Squire's bass excels. Though as intelligent and creative as ever, the interplay between these two has tightened almost to perfection: White can hold the square fours without boring you, yet still fascinate by setting contrasting rhythms against the rest of the band; Squire dazzles, but just as much with the control of simple phrases as anything virtuoso. Guitarist Steve Howe mostly sticks to electric, with a bit of slide and steel, but is right there with rhythmic figures to complement the expected flashes of brilliance. Not surprisingly, this pre-echoes the work he was soon to do with the band Asia, where he would play with Yes's new man on the keys, Geoff Downes. Downes, too, keeps it solid, from chunky, almost Keith-Emerson-but-reined-in Hammond organ to the very last note of fiery synthesiser runs. Buggles's frontman, Trevor Horn, of course, went on to huge success as a producer, but it's clear that fronting Yes daunted him ("I'm not standing up on that stage and singing "Starship Trooper" instead of Jon Anderson!"). Still, his creative input is apparent, even if his voice isn't quite designed to be as high as they make him sing.
As ever, the lyrics are opaque, although they generally sound like they mean something (and anyway it's not for a band like Yes to start singing songs about the Queen being a [...] Regime). One great bonus track is "Have We Really Got To Go Through This", where Squire, Howe and White jam to a boogie beat, and it's more like "Thank God We Don't Have To Play `Ritual' Just Now"; but even as you get into how they've got it going on, you also notice and appreciate their skill and control.
So "Drama" is the album where proper riffs return to Yes music, giving it a bit of backbone, as though the band are aware that their near future success depends on the rock market in the USA. Prog with an edge, Rock with brains. Not bad, if you like that sort of thing.
In retrospect this odd-ball 1980 album with Jon Anderson (uniquely) and Rick Wakeman (yet again) absent stayed faithful to the classic Yes sound and has worn the years well. The freshness Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes brought to the party was badly needed at the time, and the result is a lot more enjoyable than its disappointing predecessor `Tormato'.
Although Trevor Horn's vocal range does not quite match Anderson's distinctive soaring falsetto, his vocal style is so close you hardly notice the difference (Horn had always been a big fan of Yes' music) and his lyrical flourishes do fit the classic Yes mould. The more-than-competent Geoff Downes was Yes' fourth keyboard player in 12 years, and as with Patrick Moraz his playing blends seamlessly with Steve Howe's fast virtuoso guitar licks, Chris Squire's masterful bass lines and the precise & energetic drumming of Alan White to create a mouth-watering cocktail whilst adding a uniquely individual flavour to the sound.
`Machine Messiah' for some fans easily makes it into the top 10 of Yes' best numbers, and it's a pity that on his return to the band, Jon Anderson always refused to sing it (or any of the `Drama' songs) onstage.
Overall verdict: very good. It's a pity so many diehard Yes fans can't get past the absence of Jon Anderson on this album, but in Trevor Horn's defence it's difficult to imagine any replacement singer at the time who could have delivered a better performance. And Horn went on to produce the great 1983 follow-up `90125' which saw Anderson return to the mike fronting the band.
Final note: it's difficult to dissent from the general view that listeners are best to stick with the original six album tracks, and pass on the `pointless additions' to the later CD releases which do not enhance the reputation of Yes.
on 9 February 2012
I bought this as a 12-inch vinyl long ago after hearing a couple of tracks reviewed on some late radio show. And even today it's an earful: no question.
At the time, traditional rock fans were scandalised by the coalition of their heroes with a one-hit-wonder candy-band called `The Buggles'. Their dudgeon drastically blunted sales.
The album opens with a toweringly pompous track called `Machine Messiah'. It's so complex in musical structure that - frankly - it often appears to overwhelm both the musicians and the studio crew alike. There are several moments when both the guitar-work and multi-tracking seem a little slurred and harsh and uncomfortable on the ear. That said; it's a tour-de-force of imaginative songmanship. It's got just about everything. There's quiet contemplative passages, striking moments of melody, and great crashing cords. Its final blast nearly knocks your brains out. And its long, too - over 11 minutes. That monster is contrasted by one of the shortest tracks on record - `Man In A White car'. A cool, sophisticated piece of orchestration presages a single verse. I won't waste time describing the other pieces; they can be sampled for free.
The album is a much-neglected concept piece. Not all of it is particularly smart, but the smart bits are quite inspirational and set a benchmark that few modern bands could dream of matching. It's not a very commercial work. It's certainly not `pop'. I don't think any of the tracks were (or could be) released as singles. It's very full-bodied, like the oft-mentioned `wall of sound', quite distinct form the clearer pronunciation of old YES albums. Their fans didn't care for it. And BUGGLES fans (if such creatures existed) probably wouldn't have understood or even survived it.
Drama was pretty much a one-off. It this respect it was a concept album even if that wasn't the band's intention. What happens when a progressive rock band containing some of the idols of the time, mates with a candy-popsickle? Here's your answer. In the clearer perspective of some 30 years; it's a tremendous stand-alone work.
on 27 March 2006
On the opening track, "Machine Messiah", I could have sworn Jon Anderson was still there. Prog purists had already dismissed this album before it was even released. They never gave poor Trevor Horn a chance, but I feel he made a valiant effort, and feel that he, and Geoff Downes, gave Yes the kick up the arse it badly needed. In my opinion, "Drama" was a vast improvement on "Tormato", and should take it's rightful place as a classic Yes album.
Chris Squire is in superb form, and along with Geddy Lee from Rush, confirms his place as one of the best bass players in the world. Squire and White, are one the tightest rythm sections you will find anywhere. Steve Howe, however, does not get to showcase his talents, as in previous albums, but is still in fine form. Downes, even though he is no Rick Wakeman, makes an excellent contribution, and should be applauded.
I feel saddened that none of this album was included in the 35th anniversary collection, because quite a few tracks on "Drama", are better than some of the tracks that were included.
If you are a true Yes fan, and have not listened to this album since it's release in 1980, give it a chance, it's a grower!!!.
Many Yes fans reportedly asked for refunds on tickets for a forthcoming tour on hearing that the Buggles duo had replaced Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman prior to this 1980 album. Neither I nor the friend who bought 'Drama' on release had any such qualms. I've always got on well with this album though I don't listen to it frequently. Its style is instantly recognisable as Yes and its execution and production are flawless.
The major difference is in the content. Gone are Anderson's spiritual and personal mythologies, replaced by contemporary subjects. 'Machine Messiah' is the kind of lyric you'd be more likely to find on a Pink Floyd album and 'Into The Lens' is right up Buggles' street. Indeed, it found its way on to their second album as 'I Am A Camera'.
Where 'Drama' loses is in its relative lack of any outstanding artistic quality. The material is uniformly good but never great. The runs and riffs are all neatly executed in almost regimented fashion. This is not an album that ever really stretches out. While earlier Yes albums enter the forest, 'Drama' stays in the safety of the town. In fairness, 'Tormato' had revealed that Yes was a band at a dangerous age in a changing age. 'Drama' is a good prog album and an accessible one but it sits a long way down the hierarchy.