Top positive review
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Finesse, delicacy, space and emotion.
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.