Magnification

Yes


The key to the music of Yes has always been about how much texturing could be applied to jolt any given piece through the stratosphere. Anyone familiar with the brush strokes found in classics like "Starship Trooper," "And You And I" and "Close To The Edge" understands how a swirl of guitars and keyboards skillfully heaves its intricacies through the measures left open by Jon Anderson's lofty vocalizations. Guitarist Steve Howe and keyboardist Rick Wakeman always angled for an equivalent balance while Trevor Rabin's heretical axe punctuated the Yes sound of the 80s with much more guttural results. With Howe back in the fold, the band has attempted to regain their drive and finesse. While they have continually thrived on the live circuit, 1999's The Ladder hardly made the intended impact. Reduced to the fearsome foursome of Anderson, Howe, Chris Squire and Alan White, Yes restructured their strategy and veered off in a newly-orchestrated direction with Magnification.

Not since Time And A Word have Yes utilized an orchestra on an entire album. Much of the credit goes to longtime Yes fan, composer and conductor Larry Groupé. Touring with the group, Groupé and a series of pick-up orchestras were initially brought in to replace the keyboards. On Magnification, Groupé has introduced new textures, filled in the gaps, invoked harmonies and counterpoints, and positioned enraptured symphonic movements throughout. The opening title track draws out the ensemble as Anderson and Squire croon the chorus, and Howe discerningly sustains and bends each note amidst a tumble of strings and horns. The pop facade of "Don't Go" is much more reminiscent of what the band was churning out in the 80s, although the harmonies and Howe's guitar once again cut through the glut.

It is, however, no match for what comes next. Boasting a rich overture and a vibrant vocal courtesy of Anderson, "Give Love Each Day" may be the most mesmerizing Yes track since "Awaken." Squire asserts a more prominent vocal on "Can You Imagine," but falls short of taking the CD any further. Howe's eloquent acoustic guitar adorns "We Agree," "Soft As A Dove" and "Dreamtime," a palatable excursion that gives Anderson an opportunity to rattle off a metaphysical line or two. The minimal shades of "In The Presence Of" and "Time Is Time" merely call attention to the band's ability to reinvent themselves while remaining true to their roots.

~ Shawn Perry

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