Forwardly marching on with my time machine forays into my personal history of Yes studio albums in tribute to Jon Anderson’s 70th birthday celebration and the band’s 45th anniversary of continued existence. I’m now up to the ninth studio album of Tormato which was the first Yes album that officially kept me in the loop as I was entering into my freshman year of high school.
The follow-up to the revitalized late seventies line up that started the ball rolling with Going For the One, which welcomed back Rick Wakeman to the first of his many coming and goings throughout the band in its’ later years had to contend with the sweeping new trends of both punk and the burgeoning new wave usurping the charts from other such prog rock stalwarts such as Genesis, ELP, Gentle Giant, and Jethro Tull– Yes had to compensate with eight more songs which were more variegated and shorter.
Brian Lane, clearing up some of the tax problems that plagued the group in forcing them to take refuge to record Going for the One in Switzerland, booked them back into London’s Advision studios and RAK for the mixing process (although Rick remained behind to live there- obviously his own tax problems were bigger than the band’s own). Yes were back producing themselves, once again not retaining the services of engineer supreme Eddie Offord – (but he’ll be back for one final time. Count on it.).
The result of Tormato, divided amongst critics and fans alike were lukewarm at best. This was the album that even the band members themselves couldn’t consider to be their best. Dissention among the ranks was beginning to rear its’ ugly head in the politics of putting the project together. No one really wanted to run the show, hampering the band to act this time as an cohesive unit. No one really knew who was who playing what, as Steve Howe would attest, when he would sit down to lay down a guitar track and Rick Wakeman’s keyboards would spiral into a whole different direction altogether.
And of course, there were plenty of goofing off in addition to the sloppiness of some sessions, the running of studio costs, and drunken debauchery going on behind the scenes. Some of the ideas were lacking in inspiration, that it took Maestro Jon A to percolate up a desperate idea after he took in a matinée showing of Close Encounters of the Third Kind as the foundation for ‘Arriving UFO ‘. Backed up by Rick Wakeman’s patent trademarked biotron ( a precursor to MIDI technology of linking two synthesizers to communicate with each other utilizing relay tapes) units, we bore witness to Anderson attempting to sing like an alien on “Arriving UFO,” yet only comically coming across like Charlie Brown’s teacher towards the end of the track, is utterly embarrassing at times (DISCLAIMER: sorry, I’ve learned ten years later from when I originally wrote this chapter, that was actually a guitar effect from Steve Howe that I’m referring to) .
Anderson also penned lyrics to a storybook idea once presented to his young son, Damion called “Circus of Heaven” (although the way the story is told in the lyric sounds unmistakably like something out of Ray Bradbury’s Something this Wicked Way Comes) where unicorns, Centaurs, elves, and other mythical creatures fight in a civil war that killed their mothership in a civil war of hate under the auspices of Zeus that took place in a circus tent was simply too much for hardcore Yes fans to absorb – even subjecting themselves to Anderson’s young son to the gaudy vocal mix of seeing no tigers, no bears, or no candy-floss was an untended irony that just comes off trite in the face of that song’s inane depictions of folklore creatures. But yet, Anderson rapidly reciting these complex but cheesy incantations on vinyl is still a feat unmatched by other vocalists today.
Although fractured as most of the material may be – the album’s main valuable asset is none other than Chris Squire’s maniacal bass playing. Chris does a fabulous job of bringing his sharp sounding highs in the treble bass playing to the foreground of many of the songs there’s no chance that it ever gets lost in the mix it’s always present to pay attention to and when it takes the lead spotlight on the intro to On the Silent Wings of Freedom, the near eight minute finale accompanied by a hard-driving Alan White’s drum beat – all bets are off! This piece of work with the traditional heady celestial lyrics provided by Anderson further cemented Squire’s position amongst the echelons of all time superb bass playing. With a strong opener of Future Times, On the Silent Wings of Freedom is positively hands downs, it’s my favorite satisfying Yes song of all time to end an album.
The Rhino re-mastered editions goes beyond this band’s troubled times to even worse times when the band in between two world tours supporting this album, went to Paris to lay down demos for some new tracks to be produced by Roy Thomas Baker, (the vinyl glossy producer genius behind the best-selling albums by the Cars and Foreigner ) – most of the demos proved to be unpredictable and have only been available through bootlegging channels. Rhino has officially relinquished them here to make the average Yes fan to ponder ‘Jeez, have I really been waiting twenty years to hear this?’ A sample of them are available on this re-master of Tormato (although it might be argued that they weren’t produced for the lost Paris sessions – but I would digress on some of them)– the best of the lot show up on the band’s next remastered edition of Drama. Bits and pieces have also appeared throughout the years on the box set collections of two career compilations: 1991’s YesYears and 2002’s In a Word…Yes. Two single b-sides songs , Abilene and Money are also included on the reissued Tormato.
The bonus songs made available here have made their way on various solo projects. Steve Howe’s composed High was later used as part of his solo spots on future Asia concerts and was retitled as Sketches in the Sun as well as another track of Steve’s called Countyside found new life on his 1991 solo album Turbulence. Jon Anderson’s Some are Born was recorded under better circumstances to be used as the single for his second 1980 solo album, Song of Seven – which is not really a personal crowd pleaser. This demo version is strictly unlistenable – with Maestro Jon A simply having a ‘bad hair in my throat day’ – with cracks in his voice and unreachable wrong notes galore, Upon aurally devouring these lost pieces, it’s safe for me now to have assumed that I had fully cracked the Di Vinci Code of how a dog whistle really sounds like when it’s blown.
However, all jibes and jabs aside, I’m eternally grateful for this album’s release because it was the first one I bought upon its’ official release date of September 20, 1978, just a few weeks into my freshman year in high school. I was all caught up now with the band’s sonic shenanigans.
The album’s value is so underappreciated – that Wikipedia doesn’t even have a whole lot of rejoicing goods about it:
The album received a mixed response upon its release; the main subject of criticism for the album is the quality in production, which led to a compressed and dull sound.
Rick Wakeman has said that Yes never got the best out of some of the material on Tormato, while Steve Howe admitted that Yes were unsure of themselves musically at the time. It would be the final studio album to feature Rick Wakeman until his return in 1991 (on the Union album), and the last to feature Jon Anderson until the band’s 1983 reformation.
Nonetheless, Tormato – which was the subject of another Hipgnosis cover design – was still a Top 10 hit worldwide, and produced the minor hit single, “Don’t Kill the Whale”.
The original album title was to be Yes Tor, referring to a geological formation in southern England. The photographs taken by Hipgnosis for the album cover were seen as so unimpressive that Rick Wakeman, in frustration, threw a tomato at the pictures. The cover and title were adjusted accordingly.
Released on 20 September 1978, Tormato peaked at number 8 in the UK and number 10 in the US.
SONGS / TRACK LISTING:
- Future Times/Rejoice (Anderson/Squire/Howe/Wakeman/White (“Rejoice” by Anderson alone) Total time: 6:46
- Don’t Kill the Whale (Anderson, Squire) Total time: 3:56
3. Madrigal (Anderson, Wakeman) Total time 2:25
4. Release, Release (Anderson, White, Squire) Total time: 5:44
5. Arriving UFO ( Anderson, Howe, Wakeman) Total time: 6:07
6. Circus of Heaven – featuring the voice of Anderson’s son, Damion (Anderson) Total time: 4:31
7. Onward (Squire) arrangement and orchestration by Andrew Pryce Jackman Total time: 4:05
8. On the Silent Wings of Freedom (Anderson, Squire) Total time: 7:47
2004 re-release bonus tracks
9. Abilene B-side to “Don’t Kill the Whale”(Howe) Total time: 4:02 Also appeared on the 1991 YesYears boxset.
10. Money (Squire, Anderson, White, Wakeman) Total time: 3:15 Also appeared on the 1991 YesYears boxset.
11. Picasso (Anderson) Total time: 2:12 – (Anderson has stated in an interview on the YesYears video that this was a track originally slated for the 1979 album sessions recorded with Roy Thomas Baker that never materialized. Why die-hard Yes enthusiasts never acknowledge this is unknown. My theory would make perfect sense for the theme of the album that I will be hypothesizing in length for tomorrow’s chapter ).
12. Some Are Born (Anderson) Total time: 5:42
13. You Can Be Saved (Squire) Total time: 4:20
14. High (Howe) Total time: 4:30
15. Days (demo) (Anderson) Total time: 1:00
16. Countryside (Anderson, Howe, Squire, White) Total time: 3:11
17. Everybody’s Song (early demo of “Drama (Yes album) Does It Really Happen”) (Anderson, Howe, Squire, White) Total time: 6:48 (I would argue that this track was too scheduled for the aborted 1979 album – but Wikipedia seems to dispute that below)
18. Onward (backing track) (Squire) Orchestration by Andrew Pryce Jackson Total time: 3:06
“Everybody’s Song” is an early version of what became “Does It Really Happen?” on Drama. A solo on the piece sounds more like the work of Patrick Moraz than Wakeman, dating the song to sessions from before Going for the One; in a 2006 interview for Notes from the Edge, Moraz agreed that it probably was him. “Days”, an a cappella recording, and “Some Are Born” would later be re-worked by Anderson for his solo album Song of Seven. “Countryside” would be re-worked by Howe as “Corkscrew” for the album Turbulence. “High” would be re-worked by Howe as the instrumental “Sketches in the Sun”, later released on GTR. “Money” was previously released on Yesyears. It features a satirical voice-over by Wakeman pretending to be Denis Healey, Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer 1974–9 and disliked by more than one successful rock musician for his policies of high taxation rates for the wealthy. “Picasso” is a song about famous artist Pablo Picasso and would later be re-worked for Anderson’s yet to be released musical Chagall. This reissue was released again 9 years later (on 2 December internationally and 24 December in the US) as part of the box set The Studio Albums 1969-1987.
Reflecting upon the summer of 1978, I wanted to stay in and go to high school in the state of California, rather than piss in your mouth Parsippany, New Jersey and have my aunts Megan and Priscilla act as my legal guardians. I just wasn’t digging the east coast anymore as Southern California gave me a new perspective on life. Girls smiled and talked to me on the beach every afternoon during my routine of picking up a copy of the Herald Examiner (for my daily dose of the Amazing Spider-man strip) discovery of tacos and burritos (there were no Mexican restaurants in Parsippany, NJ – so this was all greek to me), and my portable cassette recorder which was usually belting out Yes’ Tales From Topographic Oceans or Relayer in my headphones)- I desperately wanted a blonde girlfriend back in New Jersey who wasn’t a dye job Italian or a Puerto Rican who had to pencil out her mustache every morning with a Crayola Peach colored crayon. I was in sorely need of a real buxom blonde of either English or German descent (although my tastes have dramatically changed since then, as I delved into the wonders of black, Hispanic, and Asian since my tenure here in Los Angeles) to help carry him over to the threshold and truly felt that breed only resided on the shores of Orange County. I would eventually find a good substitute over the next two years but she will be discussed heavily in an entry for next week. For now, Yes provided the perfect outlet for my increasingly ego-tripping personality, even though I did not feel I fitted amongst my peers, the majority of the band’s fanbase was more appreciated in such arena venues as Madison Square Garden or Philadelphia’s the Spectrum than most LA area venues, but those no die-hard Yes fans didn’t reside near me in Parsippany – at least none that I knew of. All the goons and jocks that I once got into fistfights or verbal exchanges with were all either into AC/DC or Ozzy Osbourne. Led Zeppelin was fine releasing their farewell album, In Through the Out Door (although not voluntarily), the following year their loyal legion of weed smoking fucktards were not a crowd I wanted to be associated with anymore. I was looking for a cult to call my own and that cult was Yes.
When I had to face the cold hard fact that I wasn’t going to stay in California (and to put off resuming the search for my real life father that I which was rumoured to be residing on the west coast) to attend high school and had to face going back piss in mouth Parsippany to endure more abusive tyranny of my stepfather for a duration of another FOUR MORE YEARS (yeah remember that George W Bush campaign slogan?) who once flat-out told me your days of smoking giggle weed with your aunts are now over. I came up with a plan: once upon arrival back home from a grueling five-day Greyhound road trip from Anaheim and picked up at New York’s Port Authority by my stepfather because my mom didn’t want to drive in the city, I decided I was going to pick up YES concert tickets from Ticketron first thing in the morning after seeing an ad in an issue of Circus magazine advertising the tour. I snuck over to Willowbrook Mall in Wayne, NJ .the first thing in the morning to pick them up because they would be blowing into town within a matter of weeks. I really didn’t have the desire to ask anyone to go with me – but I bought a pair and wanted to use one of the tickets as a ruse to aggravate my stepfather’s authority or at least the uncontrollable lack of it.
Ugh. Where am I? Oh, I’m back in the Village. 100 Vail Village. A Prisoner for another four years.
The ruse was simple: at the dinner table, I simply stated that since I’m almost fifteen years old and have shown considerable talent of taking care of myself throughout most of my California sojourn and had blatantly lied about my increased cognitive awareness abilities after easing into a post pseudo blunt smoking lifestyle (I may have smoked – but I didn’t inhale) I made a firm decision to make the announcement to attend the Yes concert that Friday night and I would leave right after school (without coming back to bathe – which wasn’t very hygienic at the time for me) My stepfather laughed, and mockingly assured me that the only way that he would allow me to go into New York City by myself was over his dead body. I assured him that I had already bought the ticket and I couldn’t refund it. My stepfather asked to let him see it. In compliance, I whipped out A TICKET and showed it to him. He then swiped the ticket from out of my hands, as I suspected he would, inspected it, and then just I anticipated, he ripped the ticket in half just like he had used to do my silver age era of comic books when I was younger. I could read that asshole like a book printed on fresh Charmin tissue paper.
Later, after he went to work at whatever dive bar he was bartending at, I took out my other ticket and kissed it.
So needless to say, I made my first trip to Madison Square Garden (well, technically my second time, since my grandfather had once took me to the circus there when it was the old modeled arena), and on one of the four dates scheduled there, I saw Yes perform In the Round – a circular stage set in the middle of the arena that was remote-controlled to circulate the members of the band so that all the audience can get a close up and fair look at their fingering techniques. Even though I was in the nosebleed area (for this tour and the 1979 summer tour whereas I got official ‘parental’ permission to attend ) I still can’t get over the first feeling of seeing my musical heroes in the flesh. I even recall Rick Wakeman getting smacked in the head with a frisbee thrown on stage by some schmuck during the performance of Circus of Heaven. I left the show a little early (missing the traditional encore of Roundabout) and still managed to beat my stepfather home from work (as a bartender he was probably drinking up all the profits and wrapping his Eldorado around a utility pole that night anyway), but unfortunately my mom got around to doing most of the smacking that night when she waited up that night wracked with worry after becoming wise to my carefully crafted scheme.
Album personnel: Jon Anderson – vocals and acoustic guitars – Steve Howe – shitloads of guitars and back up vocals, Chris Squire– bass guitars and vocals higher than Jon’s – Alan White– drums, percussion, and drum synthesizer, and Rick Wakeman – quasitronic patented biotron space helmet and keyboards. Special guest star: Damion James Anderson on Circus of Heaven for being “the chip off the old block”
Favorite lyric: Power at first to the needs of each other’s days/ Simple to lose in the void sounds of anarchy’s calling ways / All unaccounted for in the craziness of power/ In the craziness – Release, Release (Anderson/White/Squire).
Tomorrow will be a whole new blog – a chapter I haven’t really covered on the old BlogSpot blog. Discussion and interest has come to the forefront recently of what could have been a Yes album released in the parallel dimension year of 1979 had Roy Thomas Baker, the producer behind the band’s recent release, Heaven & Earth could have done to crack the whip over the misbehaving Yes Lads. My theory of what could have been – “Yes – The Golden Age.”