Monday, January 18, 2010

Yes - Yes: Remixes (Original TC Review)


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Rhino Entertainment Company: Cat. # R2 73872
Released 2003

Track List:
1. Tempus Fugit (5:07)
2. Arriving UFO (5:52)
3. Heart Of The Sunrise (5:57)
4. Starship Trooper (7:33)
5. Awaken (7:47)
6. Sound Chaser (5:23)
7. Ritual (6:19)
8. Siberian Khatru (5:26)
9. 5 Per Cent For Nothing (4:40)
10. No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed (4:44)
11. No Clowns (3:15)


(2010 Update:
One of my early cases of finding ways to worm unconventional EDM music into TranceCritic's archives. I don't think this was a terribly popular review, simply for the fact no one really knew who Yes is, or cared about a remix album from a classic prog rock group anyway. Shame, as my writing had definitely improved by this point, though a little over-anecdotal at times. Oh, and I think this was also the first time I took a blatant swipe at another website. Good times!)



IN BRIEF: This ain't your daddy's Yes.

Don't give me that look. I know what you're thinking: “Great, these guys at TranceCritic.com aren't even reviewing proper EDM like Special D. or DJ Sammy anymore. They're getting all pretentious with that rock crap with the guitars and stuff. That's it, I'm going back to Trance.nu.”

Burns aside, it may seem a bit odd to see a release by Yes in the review archives here. Most famous for twenty minute epic, noodly prog rock-athons and Jon Anderson's choirboy vocals, it could be argued their lengthy songs resulted in the whole punk movement. Well, you'd win that argument because their music really was lengthy, complicated, and quite difficult to dance to for a long time. That is, until they had their 80s make-over, where suddenly it was quite cool to like Yes again as a retro band, but that's not where the focus of this remix album lies.

Yes: Remixes isn't a cobbled collection of DJ friendly four-to-the-floor updates. And thank God for that, I say. While Max Graham's remix of Owner Of A Lonely Heart wasn't too bad, I could see its success spurring on plenty of crappy imitations hoping to milk a very brief 'Yes is cool' revival.

Rather, this release is something of a concept album. There is only one remixer to be had here, by the name of Virgil Howe. Haven't heard of him? Doesn't surprise me. He's Steve Howe’s son. What? You haven't heard of Steve Howe? Why, he's the guitarist for the classic Yes lineup. The guy could absolutely shred like few others. There was a reason all the new kids jumped to punk music when they couldn't emulate Steve Howe: the man was phenomenal with the ol' six stringer. Anyhow, back to his son.

As is detailed in the incredibly difficult-to-read liner notes, Virgil Howe took it upon himself to do a remix of the old Yes classic Heart Of Sunrise using nothing more but the original LPs and an Akai MPC2000XL sampler. It was more of a test of the hardware's capabilities than any real attempt at making a release but, when he showed the results to his old man, The Verge was encouraged to do more of them.

I can't say I was a huge Yes fan growing up, but my father was so that influence was bound to rub off on me. Of course, I enjoyed the 80s styled version of the group but the 70s versions often flew well over my head. A kid like I would have a hell of a time sitting still for twenty minutes to comprehend what was going on in, say, The Revealing Science Of God, much less a 'shorter' nine minute track like And You And I. Slowly but surely, though, I warmed up to the big ones, and have gradually grown to enjoy those older epics. So, seeing a remix album like this was intriguing and I gave it a shot. I'm here to tell you, now, that unless you have a very open mind about little projects like these, you aren't going to get much out of this release.

These are not simple “clutch a verse and chorus, loop them over, and add a house beat” remixes. Aside from rhythms and effects, there are scant few new electronic elements added to the songs; rather, all the songs have been sampled and re-sampled from their original vinyls and re-arranged into new interpretations.

Opener Tempus Fugit, the only track here to not feature Jon Anderson on lyrics (although his replacement certainly did a close interpretation) could originally be described as the bridge between 70s and 80s Yes. Here, it is given a jungle rhythm to complement those oh so catchy guitar licks. The more prominent bits get looped to build tension, as is pretty standard to do in EDM, and the results are a fun, energetic romp. Plus, you've got to love Virgil's cheekiness in taking the "yes" bit from the verses and looping it during the peaks of this song. Arriving UFO works too, getting a funky workout to go with the original's happy-go-lucky theme.

Unfortunately, Heart Of Sunrise can't quite manage to match pace. It starts out promising enough, as Steve Howe's original fierce guitar playing in the original intro works fine with the added jungle rhythms. Once the track settles into the quiet parts though (heh, folks who aren't familiar with the original song probably haven't a clue what I'm talking about), it kind of just bumbles about without much focus. The piano bits sound nice, of course, but Virgil really needed to tighten this remix up to make it more engaging.

Starship Trooper fixes those problems up. I'm amazed at what Virgil managed to craft here, as the original's willful pace jumping wouldn't really make it conducive to EDM's more straight-forward approach. The ending's a blast, too, as he takes the final guitar sequence, a fairly laid-back bit from the original, and uses it as the backdrop to some energetic rhythms and a Moog synth solo that wouldn't sound out of place at a Yes concert (actually, I wonder if it was). Just as inspired is his take on Awaken, seemingly reversing the sections so the riveting opening serves as a climax to the gentle ambience that surrounds it.

From here, though, this album seems to run out of ideas. I get the impression Virgil had no clue how to approach a number of these given the original songs’ dynamic nature. It doesn't help he's using very little equipment to do this project, of course. As a result, tracks like Sound Chaser, No Opportunity Necessary, and Siberian Khatru don’t sound much different from the original, sans all the same sorts of effects and rhythms already displayed. The songs themselves are still great, of course, but as remixes they leave a bit to be desired. It's especially apparent when Virgil does show some clever tricks by taking the super short 5 Per Cent For Nothing and turning it into a five minute funk-fest, or condensing the super-long Ritual into an easily digestible ambient dub outing. It begs the question, though, why would you want to listen to some of these when you can just as easily listen to the originals and not lose much in the process.

Apparently, this album was given a severe backlash from many, many, many old time Yes fans, which isn't too surprising -most of them aren't hip to all this new fangled computer noise called techno, so any electronic element that isn't a Rick Wakeman synth solo is un-welcomed. Their idea of a remix ends at live show interpretations.

Likewise, many EDM fans probably never gave this much notice, mainly for the fact that this is a Yes album, something you find in the rock section of your music stores, not the dance/electronica section way off in the corner. You'd have to be a fan of both Yes and EDM to even know this album exists. Enter yours truly, I suppose.

And, as such a fan, I do admit I enjoy what I hear on Yes: Remixes. However, most of that enjoyment is due to the originals still outshining the electronic elements. Virgil may have been faithful to the Yes legacy almost to a fault by not taking the concept of remixing to further extremes but the lack of more equipment (extra hardware, master tapes, etc.) doesn't leave much room for experimentation. The score I give here reflects that aspect more than the strength of the songs themselves, as I expect more from remix albums. In general, though, if you're an EDM-only fan and want to see what the big deal about Yes was without having odd glances thrown your way for having Tales From Topographic Oceans in your collection, by all means do check this out. Just don't expect to be able to copy that Steve Howe solo in Sound Chaser... ever!


Score: 5/10

ACE TRACKS:
Tempus Fugit
Awaken


Written by Sykonee. Originally published 2006 for TranceCritic.com. © All rights reserved.

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