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4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 11 September 2001
Magnification sees Yes articulate a deft delicacy of touch that is as surprising as it is welcome, especially as many of the band's past albums could be sometimes be accused of having just "too many notes". But then, there are two recent members missing on this offering, which has opened things up considerably and created - the hardest notes of all to play - space (and as Anderson sings in the powerful Dreamtime, "Words never spoken are the strongest resounding"). Probably thoroughly fed up with the carousel of keyboard players over the years (five at last count) Anderson, Howe, Squire and White have contracted out the supply of musical textures to an orchestra. The core rock supplied by bass, guitar, drums and vocals is trademark but refurbished Yes, and the orchestra dances around the edges of the music like foam-capped waves, crashing and swelling at times, at others lapping gently, washing across the senses like a balm. Not that there aren't lots of notes, but everything is delivered - both orchestra and band - with great restraint and mutual respect for the other. Even the occasional driving riff is presented with calculated precision.
The problem with this album is that it is likeable almost immediately. And that's a problem because Yes records historically seemed almost designed to grow on you, and in the growing their quality and longevity was assured.
The first thing that strikes you about Magnification is the excellence of the production - yet it is not overproduced. There is a clarity to the recording which is quite astonishing; Howe's guitars sparkle, Anderson's vocals and multiple harmonies are smooth and seductive, White's drums and Squire's bass stake out their own proper place at the driving centre of the music. The orchestra is powerful without being overpowering, yet delicate and haunting when it needs to be. The band and Larry Groupe, who wrote and conducted the orchestral parts, obviously fed off each other extensively in the making of this album because the instruments are perfectly complementary at all times.
It is difficult to classify Magnification with respect to the existing Yes catalogue. It is quite unlike anything they or anyone else has produced before - the integration of an orchestra makes that read. If Yes are quoting themselves at all, it is from the Keys To Ascension studio tracks which themselves hark back to their seventies heyday. But whereas the Keys To Ascension tracks wandered around aspiring, yet failing, to be epics, the songs on Magnification almost make it on the first attempt. The seventies pedigree does not really show; all ten songs are fresh and challenging, taking Yes down another untrodden path in the prog rock mystical forest. Once again, the band is re-defining themselves and the very genre itself.
The highlights are undoubtedly the beautiful Give Love Each day, which creeps up on you through a 2-minute orchestral intro - Squire's striking "And you believe it" falsetto in Can You Imagine - the emotionally charged We Agree - the touchingly gentle Soft As A Dove, and the driving Dreamtime. Magnification is a sweeping, soaring record of complex mood changes and intricate musical interaction that will withstand many repeated listenings - which are the elements of a classic Yes record after all.
Highly recommended. Their best in many years.
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on 14 September 2001
Until the recent 'Ladder' album, Yes music had been stale for some years. And that's putting it kindly.
This music though is by far their best in 20 years. The 'Magnification' album just has to be heard to be believed.
The production and depth of sound quality is the best that I have heard on any album ever. Mixed on ProTools at Trevor Horn's LA studio, the instrumentation and vocals stand out beautifully.
It's no accident that Tim Wiedner is a producer from the Trevor Horn management stable - his open and airy production style washes all over this recording and he enhances the Yes sound in a way that we have not heard since Trevor Horn produced '90125'. Well done Tim!
As for the music, I can't believe how listenable this album is. The orchestral work by Larry Groupe has been incorporated into the writing of the tracks from the word go and it sounds like it.
Thankfully there's no bad Rick Wakeman keyboard sounds on this album. In fact keyboards are kept to a minimum - just piano that is played by Alan White, the drummer, in a rather percussive style.
Vocal and instrumental harmonies are the best in years. Finally, Steve Howe's guitar work is restrained when he needs to be and yet he comes to the fore in a great way when required. There is some lovely and varied guitar work on this album from him.
Bassist Chris Squire has returned to form over the past few years and he has his wonderful bass style stomped all over this album.
He's excellently backed up by Alan White on drums - this rhythm duo really carries the album and Squire continues to prove that he is the real heart and soul of this band.
Tim Weidner really gets the best out of Anderson and Squire's vocals. Jon Anderson really sounds wonderful. It's great to see Chris Squire singing lead on one song - I love his voice - he and Anderson should share more of the lead vocals as Rabin and Anderson used to in the eighties.
There are some interesting influences that Larry Groupe, the orchestrator, brings to this album. I really liked his music in 'The Contender' and 'The Usual Suspects' and he brings something really special to this album. Bond stabs, soaring flutes, wide strings and on 'In the Presence of...' even a Burt Bacharach style orchestral sound (which sounds great).
All up a great treat and a huge relief. I feared that this album would be a huge bloated mess. it's turned out to be possibly their best album yet.
Buy it and you won't be disappointed. All I wish now is that a major label would pick this band back up and put some serious advertising behind them. This new and innovative music deserves to be heard by the widest possible audience.
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on 5 September 2001
"Magnification" is a rousing, joyful opener. Right at the beginning, Howe's guitar and Squire's bass are immediately distinctive. A deceptively simple piece, "Magnification", as with the album named after it, repays attention to its detail. Anderson's lyrics throw a bundle of images at the listener. The music is richly textured and the orchestra doesn't just provide a bland wash of strings as so often in orchestral/rock crossovers: it is an equal 'member' of the band. Groupé even gets in some solid riffs.
Groupé has something of the feel of George Martin in his work. A Martin-esque crescendo ends the first track and we segue into the melancholic and then violent "Spirit of Survival". Up-tempo, driving bass, stabs from the horns and strings, Anderson's strident lyrics, Howe's solos... The flip side to "Magnification", they are both great tunes, both only slightly let down by simplistic choruses. Anderson's lyrics are that strange and unique mix of the prosaic and spiritual.
"Don't Go" is the most 'pop' affair on the album and the least orchestral. For all its similarities to ELO, I love its quirky nature. The lyrics suggest a complex story, yet hearing the whole album doesn't make the story much clearer. There are hints, recurring lyrical themes, but this isn't a coherent, single narrative and I think it works better for that.
"Give Love Each Day" is the centrepiece of the album for me. An extended orchestral opening section feels very modern with similarities to Oliver Knussen. There are similarities The Ladder, the band's last album, but I think Yes have upped their game. This is a piece of emotional contrast between maudlin verses and an aspirational verse. Again, a Martin-like use of horns in the coda: make no mistake, Groupé certainly has his own style, but I also hear influences from albums like Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Magical Mystery Tour.
"Can You Imagine" was originally recorded by Squire, White and Jimmy Page in 1981. In this re-working, the orchestral backing adds to the piece. A short piece, but it works well in the context and flow of the album.
"We Agree" may be the first time that Howe is to the fore as a composer. His versatility of styles is very apparent on Magnification and it's interesting how he uses some country licks in this piece, not that it sounds anything like country. Anderson's lyrics speak of what the moral theologians call corporate sin: in a piece of apt timing, he sings of the problems of refugees in another song tinged with darkness, but which feels as though it is moving to the light, helped by a gut-wrenching Howe solo. "Soft as a Dove" may be the weakest track: the opening bars grate, save for an understated bass part. However, the piece develops in a more interesting way: notable is the use of flute and a mediaeval feel. "Dreamtime" is the longest track. A classical guitar introduction leads into an segment led by the orchestra, with the three Yes instrumentalists well integrated into the piece with, again, a very contemporary classical feel. Accelerating, bass, tuned percussion and strings produce another burst of Yes music that drags the listener along. Once more, this is emotionally ambiguous music, with Anderson's lyrics pulling against the darkness of some of the music. It's also a band and orchestra working together seamlessly. There's just all sorts going on: martial elements, Celtic ones, Howe pulls some fascinating timbres from his guitars. The end section, just the orchestra, is has echoes of Bernstein.
"In the Presence of" does not have some of the same jaw-dropping playing or soloing as elsewhere on the album, but it may have the most formally complex structure. The piece is heightened by its position in the album, both musically and lyrically.
"Time is Time" is a short coda to the album with an acoustic feel. Another review made a comparison to John Lennon - it's an interesting one, helped by the similarity in White's playing. Howe even sounds a bit like Harrison, while the final bars, played by the strings, belong to Groupé, again sounding Martin-influenced.
Magnification is a fantastic album. It's distinctively Yes, but it isn't a re-tread of a previous sound. It's a development from The Ladder and those turned off by recent Yes may not enjoy it, but I think most fans of Anderson, Squire, Howe and White will hear plenty to enjoy. Strong on dynamics, on contrasts, on emotion. You can dismiss any fears that the orchestra are misused: band and orchestra work together well, better than most past rock/orchestra projects I've heard. It sounds like the album the band wanted to make, rather than the album they thought would get them airplay. This is a very mature album. It's not an album that Yes could have made 30 years ago. You're in for a treat.
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on 8 August 2014
Yes have been through many lineups over the years and their music has provided one of the soundtracks to my life from the early Yes of the late Sixties to the classic Yes of the Seventies (Anderson, Howe, Squire, Wakeman, White/Bruford) through to the Buggles Yes and Yes West Coast with Trevor Rabin in the Eighties and Nineties followed by various permutations to the current Yes line-up of the twenty teens without Anderson and Wakeman.

This double album showcases two of their transitional line-ups from 1994 (Talk) and 2001 (Magnification). Talk was produced by Trevor Rabin and followed 90125 and Big Generator. All three of these albums used Tony Kaye from early Yes on keyboards rather than Wakeman with Rabin on guitars rather than Howe and Talk was digitally produced by Rabin featuring excellent renditions of Anderson's vocals and White's drums. The album is a revelation and three songs, 'The Calling', 'I Am Waiting' and 'Endless Dream' can easily take their place in the Yes canon.

Magnification features the classic Yes line-up with the exception of Rick Wakeman on keyboards. A full orchestra adds the missing symphonic dimension to the Yes music and integrates very well with the songs with such highlights as 'Give Love Each Day' and 'In The Presence Of' which demonstrate the life affirming lyrics and soaring music of the best of Yes. These albums are both highly recommended.
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on 15 April 2014
If you don't mind not having the original covers this is a good value CD. For me, Magnification is the best thing by Yes since Going for the One. Although it is completely different than earlier recordings it has the same spirit, which I think has often been missing in between times, however good the playing. Four of the 5 mainstays of the 1970s are present, with the orchestral writer and arrangers contributing a lot, in place of Rick on the keyboards. I think it works brilliantly, although Steve Howe does not feature as prominently as he should. I bought the Yes Symphonic DVD after this, which includes three of these tracks and some remarkable versions of earlier ones.
Talk was a bonus for me, I like the long track, 'endless dream' and 'where will you be', but it is Magnification that gives this CD its stars!
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on 22 October 2014
Two great albums for the price of one, they are the special editions to boot.
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on 4 November 2015
Good Value Package.
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on 3 October 2001
First let me say that it is absolutely inspiring to hear guys in their 50s play and sing this well. But even more impressive is the songwriting.
Finally, the compromise that 70s Yes fans have been waiting for... Magnification updates the band's sound and retains a progressive feel without replicating prior styles. This is not 'Tales' or 'Close to the Edge' style Yes with extended solos and jaw-dropping instrumental sections. But thankfully it is not 'Big Generator' or 'The Ladder' either.
The album consists of (mostly) strong, surprisingly melodic songs, with creative and tasteful orchestrastions, great vocal arrangements and powerful ensemble playing by the remaining four band members.
If any comparison can be made to older Yes, it might be 'Time and a Word'--at least in terms of the melodies themselves (you can hear echoes of the songs 'Time and a Word', 'Then' and 'Clear Days' in certain spots on Magnification).
Other than the ho-hum "Don't Go", every track ranges from good to excellent. Highlights include the epic and intense "Dreamtime", the lovely and lush "Give Love Each Day", and the soaring "In the Presence of". Even the maligned "Soft as a Dove" (probably due to its too simplistic melody line and trite lyrics) has merit due to a splendid medieval flavored instrumental passage.
The orchestra was a great idea, adding interesting color and texture, while melding perfectly with the band. It provides a rich, organic feel to the record that might have been lost with digital keyboards.
Overall, Magnification is the most consistently good Yes album in over 20 years.
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on 17 September 2001
After recent Yes albums weren't bad but somewhat failed to capture the magic that *is* Yes to many fans ears, they did it again this time. "Magnification" is not an attempt to do another "Close to the Edge", it's an album by a mature, aged version of the band.
The songs are really great - beautiful melodies, Jon-type lyrics and great playing. The orchestra works *extremely* well. Sonically, it's about as good as you'll get - gone are the plastic sounds of "The Ladder".
Magnification is an album that should appeal to all Yes fans (except those who prefer the Rabin-led 80's version). It's a very emotional album with the orchestra adding a lot to the overall sound & picture.
So, to sum it up - if you like Yes but were disappointed with recent albums, buy Magnification at once. If you liked what they did recently, you'll love the new one, too!
I believe this one will really stand out as a classic in the band's catalogue.
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on 1 October 2001
Personally - I thought the last two Yes studio albums ("Open Your Eyes" and "The Ladder" were pretty weak affairs that promised too much and provided too little. Given the quality of the studio recordings on "Keys to Ascension", I knew they still had the potential. When the postcard promoting "Magnification" landed on my doorstep, I noticed one word that put me off: "Orchestra". Yes are unashamedly self-indulgent, and I feared that adding an orchestra would make another Time and a Word style disaster.
How wrong I was!
Unlike most rock/classical cross-overs, Yes have actually got the balance right: to enhance the music, but not to overpower it. They've ditched the usual keyboard theatrics, stopped Jon from trying something too ludicrous and bribed the producers to turn Chris Squire's bass up! This is the Yes we want to hear!!
It's majestic, it's soothing in places and, most importantly, it's actually a different-sounding Yes album (but nothing to put off the purists). There is not a single dull moment of music on the album - although Steve Howe cost them that fifth star: his playing on this album is unusually thin in comparision to his usual efforts.
Well done boys - I knew you still had it in you.
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