SOUNDTRACK: YES-Tormato (1978).
Tormato might be Yes’ most hated album (I think people grudgingly respect Topographic, but they hate Tormato). I mean the cover is weird and, well, weird. The songs are not bad but they sound so far from Yes of old, that it could possibly not be the same band. And then there’s those lyrics. I find myself blaming Jon Anderson for this middling period style of Yes music. It seems like he was the impetus behind topographic and he has a number of songs that he wrote on the last two albums. If Anderson is the flighty stratosphere, Squire and White are the ground. And the ground is sorely lacking on the last two albums.
There’s no Roger Dean on this album either (more Hipgnosis with a giant tomato spill (get it, Tormato? No I don’t really either.) Wikipedia sheds some light, kind of:
Howe pitched the album’s original title of Yes Tor, referring to the highest point on Dartmoor, an area of moorland in Devon, England. Wakeman claimed to have thrown a tomato at the pictures taken for the album as he was disappointed with its design. The album’s title and cover was changed accordingly. Howe said it was someone at Hipgnosis who threw the tomato on purpose, something that he felt insulted about. According to White, the band “couldn’t decide on the cover. I think Po … put a picture of a guy with divining sticks on the front. He took it home one night and decided it wasn’t working. So he threw a tomato at it”.
I always thought it was drumsticks not divining sticks. Oh well. So there that in no way clears up the tomato business.
So what about the music?Even though Squire shows up a bit more here, the overall sound of the album is really tinny—a problem that to me plagued Yes throughout this period—there’s just no low end to speak of, even when Squire does some rumbling lines.
“Future Times/Rejoice” opens with an interesting riff and some cool bass lines from Squire. The song itself is bouncy and jaunty, moving along briskly with some wild riffs from Howe. It’s kind of refreshing. At 3 minutes the song slows down with some counting and replies from Anderson. The next section has a pretty classic Yes build up and then a return to the beginning of the song. There’s a very 70s sounding keyboard solo from Wakeman as the song reaches the end—which is a coda called Rejoice (starting at 5:44), which is mostly harmony voices until the repeat of musical themes from earlier.
Next comes the divisive “Don’t Kill the Whale” This is one of those major heart-on-your-sleeve songs. Musically it’s pretty interesting with some wild soloing from Howe, but those lyrics: “don’t kill the whale, dig it.” It’s hard not to agree with the sentiment but it’s hard to sing along to at the same time. The synth solo is also astonishingly dated and kind of nauseating at the end.
“Madrigal” is a ballad played on a harpsichord with vocals from Anderson. By the end some classical guitar is played with it. It’s a pretty piece.
“Release/Release” is probably the most interesting track on the disc. It’s got a great riff from Howe and although (some of) the synths feel dated it rocks along like a good mid 70s rocker should. I like the audacity of having a “live” drum solo tacked into the middle of the song. It reminds me in style of a King Crimson track with the staccato voices, although it is not produced anywhere as well.
“Arriving UFO” is, indeed, about seeing UFOs. The narrator is incredulous about them at the beginning of the song (which comes with very “eerier” keyboard notes) but I believe is a believer by the end. I do like the way the music builds for the bridge, although the chorus is bit much (as is the dreadful synth middle section). The solo section has some really bizarre sounds that I take to be “alien” conversation. Whether its made by guitar synth or voice I cannot say.
“Circus of Heaven” might just be the worst Yes song ever. It is all high notes (even the bass is high notes). Around 2 and a half minutes in the song shifts from its whimsical circus feel to a slightly more serious tone that hearkens back to better Yes moments, but it does not remain there. Rather, the narrator asks his son what he thought of the circus of heaven and then Anderson’s actual son tells him that he’s not impressed. It’s hard to listen to I have to say.
There’s more high notes in “Onward” which is more orchestral washes and Anderson’s vocals over the top. It’s not really much of a song, frankly, even with the string arrangement.
“On the Silent Wings of Freedom” is nearly 8 minutes long. It tries to hearken back to longer classic Yes songs but it never quite makes it. It opens with some loud basslines, some fiddly Howe guitar bits and a lot of synths. But none of it sounds as interesting as previous long song intros. Even the wah wah bass sound isn’t as interesting as the early 70s bass sound. Anderson comes in almost 3 minutes in and around 3:30 the song picks up speed and the elements gel in a really good way. Around 4:45 the song slows down to an interesting instrumental section with bass and percussion. After a return to vocals the fast part picks up again, although with a synth solo that is less than stellar. There’s a lot of “la la las” in the song and a mention of “celestial seasons” which I hope came out before the tea brand. The song isn’t bad, and if Yes didn’t have such a great catalog behind them I might actually say it ‘s quite good, but like the rest of the album it pales with their peak.
And that’s probably why Wakeman left again and, shocking, Jon Anderson split from the band too (which i find surprising since I feel like the past two albums were all about him).
Since almost every Yes album had different personnel, I’m going to keep a running tally here. With the middling success of Going for the One, this line up stayed in place for a second album!
Alan White (#2)-drums
Rick Wakeman (#2)-keybaords
Steve Howe (#2)-guitar
[READ: March 22, 2015] “Sleep”
This story was written in direct address, from an “I” narrator to a “you” subject. It really personalized the story and was interesting to watch as the story that started as one thing was able to travel to another thing entirely.
It begins with the narrator, an older man, talking in his mind to his young lover. The younger man’s parents are concerned that the narrator is older, but they do like him. I loved the way it was constructed with him reminiscing about how they met and about how the world allowed them to be together: “Germany, Ireland, the Internet, gay rights, Judaism, Catholicism, they have all brought us here.” The beginning of the story really stresses their differences, which he finds charming:
“Like a good American you wear a T-shirt and boxers in bed. I am wearing pajamas like a good Irishman.”
They have been sharing living space for a while, but the younger man is concerned that the older man’s dreams are plagued by nightmares. The nightmares are so strong that the older man often screams out loud –but does not wake up. (more…)
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