On August 18, 1980 "Yes released its tenth studio album "Drama".
In the annals of progressive rock history, there are albums that serve as pivotal crossroads, marking not only shifts in sound but also transformations in artistic direction. Yes' tenth studio album, "Drama", stands as a testament to the band's audacious willingness to embrace change while keeping their core essence intact.
The album's backdrop is one of departure and renewal. The exit of Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman, key figures who had shaped the band's unmistakable sound, left a void that seemed insurmountable. Yet, "Drama" saw "Yes" rise to the challenge, introducing a fresh lineup featuring Trevor Horn on lead vocals and Geoff Downes on keyboards (both from the Pop-Rock band "The Buggles"). This revitalized ensemble brought an intriguing fusion of progressive rock and new wave influences, resulting in an album that defied expectations and showcased a band reborn.
"Machine Messiah" the album's opening track, is a testament to the band's unyielding creativity. With an opening "Black Sabbath"-like guitar riff that surprisingly delves into heavy metal territory, the song unfolds into a sprawling narrative that combines intricate musicianship with diverse moods. The blend of Horn's commanding vocals and Downes' innovative keyboard work alongside the seasoned expertise of Steve Howe and Chris Squire and the energetic Alan White drumming, presents a sonic journey that bridges past and future. It is undoubtedly a progressive track, but it unfolds the sound and influences of the music era.
A departure from the norm, "White Car" is a minimalist experiment. Driven by Geoff Downes' exploration of the Fairlight CMI synthesizer's sampling capabilities, the track's distinct crunch factor adds an unexpected dimension. The anecdotal tale of spotting Gary Numan driving his Stingray paints an intriguing backdrop to this musical venture.
As "Does It Really Happen?" unfolds, the listener is treated to an amalgamation of "Yes'" signature rhythm section with Chris Squire's catchy bass line and Alan White's excellent drumming, augmented by Horn's emotive vocals and Downes' innovative keyboards. But, as the song's dynamic shifts, we suddenly presented with the Pop and New Wave influences brought by Horn and Downes, that mirror the broader theme of "Drama" itself: a journey of evolution marked by twists and turns.
The second side of the album embarks on an equally compelling progressive journey. "Into the Lens" is a complex composition predating Horn and Downes' entry into "Yes", that finds new life in the hands of Squire and Downes. The track's vocoder-infused vocals and innovative keyboard work illuminate the band's willingness to explore uncharted musical territories.
"Run Through the Light" stands as a prime example of collaboration and introspection. Howe's on Les Paul guitar, Squire shifts to the piano, while Horn plays fretless bass, it all blends into a harmonious whole, exploring contrasting emotional landscapes. The track is a living testament to the album's knack for blending individual contributions into a cohesive unit.
The album's finale, "Tempus Fugit" is a whirlwind of energy and complexity. A fitting conclusion, the Latin title translates to "time flies," reflecting the album's own ephemeral journey and Chris Squire's tendency to be late everywhere. Through rapid key changes and intricate guitar work, "Tempus Fugit" encapsulates the essence of "Drama" – a fleeting moment that leaves a lasting impact.
(Photo: Michael Putland)
In retrospect, "Drama" is perhaps one of "Yes'" strange and unique albums. it was a revolutionary transition. "Yes'" willingness to embrace change, fuse genres, and welcome fresh perspectives culminated in an album that defied categorization. The fusion of progressive rock and new wave elements, Trevor Horn's robust vocals, Geoff Downes' innovative keyboards, and the foundation laid by Howe and Squire result in an opus that echoes the past while forging a distinct future. It is a crossroad album and a bridge to the way the band members will sound in the near future, Chris Squire and Alan White on "90125", and Steve Howe and Geoff Downes on "Asia".