Review Summary: Ironic as it is due to the absences of both Wakeman and especially Anderson, Drama is the last truly great Yes album.
As could be said about many, if not all of their progressive rock kin, things weren’t running quite so smoothly for Yes towards the end of the 70’s. Their most recent releases, Going for the One
, especially the latter, had been qualitatively disappointing compared the group’s classic LP’s, an obvious result of trying to adjust their tunes to the mainstream market. The band was clearly running out of good ideas, and eventually two of its members departed. Rick Wakeman left for a second time, taking Jon Anderson with him. With Steve Howe, Alan White and founding member Chris Squire left behind, Yes’ future was unclear.
As fate would have it, synthpop/new wave duo The Buggles, who had recently enjoyed success with their worldwide #1 hit Video Killed the Radio Star
(the first video to be shown on a newly-launched MTV), were tinkering in the same studio as Yes’ remaining members. Both vocalist Trevor Horn and keyboardist Geoffrey Downes were long-time fans of the band, but felt their decline over the recent years, and offered to help them out. Eventually it was decided that the two groups would actually merge, resulting in an entirely different-faced Yes. This particular line-up would only last for one album: Yes became even more unstable in their later years. Drama
, released in 1980, remains an unique part of their discography, not only for the fact that it is their only record to date not featuring Anderson’s distinct vocals, but also because it is the last that could truly live up to the high standard they generally set in the 70’s.
Downes is no Wakeman by many, many miles, and Horn does try a bit too hard at times to imitate Anderson, but listening to opener Machine Messiah
, it has all the necessary content of a Yes epic, and some of the heaviest riffs the band has ever played (read: Sabbath-esque). Up-tempo rockers Does I Really Happen?
and Tempus Fugit
are some of the best things the band had done in years, and the other half of the tracks, where the creative influences of Horn and Downes are best felt (Into the Lens
is actually a reworked Buggles song), quite easily measure up. The possible exception is White Car
, an one-and-a-half-minute interlude that has not a single trace of Yes in it, but still blends in well enough with the rest of the album.
We all know what happened in the mid-80’s, but Drama
was a very hopeful sign that Yes might be able to survive with their strengths intact. The new wave influences of The Buggles are certainly felt, though not overbearing: this is clearly not a pure 70’s prog album, but change is always necessary. In Drama
's case, it was for the good. Yes sounds different while still sounding very much like Yes; it even goes so far as to say Yes sound more like Yes here than they recently had with their classic members. Ironically, the band would never reach this level again. Drama
was their last truly great record.
Drama’s Yes was:
- Trevor Charles Horn ~ Lead Vocals, Bass Guitar
- Stephen James Howe ~ Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
- Christopher Russell Squire ~ Bass Guitar, Piano, Backing Vocals
- Geoffrey Downes ~ Keyboards, Vocoder, Backing Vocals
- Alan White ~ Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals
TO BE CONTINUED...