Ahhh, the return of Roger Dean artwork to grace the cover of a Yes album. Always a good sign! Put the disc on… listen to the band swell into a cacophony of sound. This sounds like it’s going to be a great Yes record, and it is! I wasn’t overly ecstatic with the direction Squire and company took on the last album Tormato. I thought they had lost a bit of their symphonic style in search of a more aggressive edge. Drama takes that move toward aggression and puts an accessible and symphonic spin. It has commercial appeal while still keeping the classic Yes sound, unlike later when they popularized their sound on 90125. Not that 90125 wasn’t a great record, it was.
Opener “Machine Messiah” is relentlessly driving and fast paced, featuring great bass playing by Yes stalwart Chris Squire, who’s been on every record since the first Yes album. Drama is a showcase for his bass playing, especially on cuts like this, “Tempus Fugit,” and “Does It Really Happen” where he especially rips it up to the max! Kind of “taking it to eleven” in Spinal Tap terms.
There are couple of slightly softer songs to break up the powerful nature of this album on the middle of each side when it was initially released on vinyl like “White Car” and “Run Through the Light,” but the appeal of this record is in the amazing ability to write a melodic song in the Yes style while taking an even more hard-hitting approach.
Jon seems to be reaching a little bit more for the high notes than usual… Wait. This isn’t Jon? Let me see those liner notes! Hmm. The Buggles? Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes who were responsible for “Video Killed the Radio Star” replacing Wakeman and Anderson? Who woulda thunk? They even perform a Buggles song with “Into the Lens,” (called “I Am a Camera” on the Buggles album), which is vastly improved by Howe and Squire’s incredible mastery of their stringed instruments.
I know there are those who will not agree with me, but I feel this is the best Yes record since Close to the Edge. It is also nice to hear Chris Squire’s voice featured as prominently as it is here. It gives credence to the thought that no matter what, as long as Squire is involved it will be a Yes album. It has the strong commercial appeal of a 90125, the progressive songwriting craft of Fragile and Close to the Edge, with the aggressive edge they were working towards on Relayer and Tormato. Don’t be put off by the absence of the two Yes heroes Wakeman and Anderson. This record works, even without them.
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on September 7th, 2010