Album Review – Yes: Magnification

Magnification was the nineteenth studio album by the Brit-International Progressive-rock group, Yes.  It was one of the few albums to not feature a dedicated keyboard player.  Instead an Orchestra was employed and to wonderful effect.  This is also the last Yes album to feature the voice of Jon Anderson . . .  read on!

Cover art to Magnification

I may do a song-by-song review of the album sometime, however for the moment here’s my summary of the strengths of the album and a view on why it deserves more recognition as a classic Yes album.

This album should be universally loved by Yes fans.  But it isn’t, which is confusing to me but not of great concern – I still get to enjoy it.

 

The Orchestra

Magnification has sensational orchestral arrangements by Larry Groupe who, I feel, doesn’t get the credit he deserved for this work.  The orchestra was clearly not ‘tacked-on’ and forms an integral part of the arrangements.  Which is a very rare example of a well integrated orchestra in a modern (rock) music context and that includes bands like Epica and the like…  The orchestra adds depth, texture and most importantly mood.  The production (including arrangement by all concerned) in merging band and orchestra is sensational.

 

Vocals

Jon Anderson sings wonderfully on this album.  This actually feels like the last Yes album to me – the last time we hear Jon and Chris sing together.  The blending of their voices, both in top form is a thing of beauty.  Jon’s tuning and strength are bang-on.  We also get to hear a great co-lead/lead vocal from Chris Square, which you’d think most Yes fans would be hailing from the roof-tops as the greatest stuff since invention of the Mellotron (I jest).

The words to Yes songs have always been un-usual – and Jon’s move to romanticism was long entrenched prior to Magnification.  You just have to deal with it – or love it.

 

Bass

Chris’s bass is muscular and front and centre throughout Magnification.  Again, you’d think this would real in the Yes Fans by droves.. but it is largely un-acknowledged.  Sometimes I feel they over-did it a little..  Good variety in tone – and muscular (like . . . ya know, Chris Squire!) is how I’d describe it.  None of the “missing in action” that some people criticised Open Your Eyes for…

As mentioned at times I have to turn down the stereo because Chris’s bass blasts out – I feel some more compression could have been applied so that at times he doesn’t then feel like he’s disappearing out of the mix… Bassists don’t tend to like compression so I suspect this was Chris’s preference to employ significant dynamics.

 

Guitar

Again, this is an album which let’s everyone shine.  If Steve Howe didn’t enjoy himself on this album, it’s not due to lack of opportunity.  This album has Riffs and plenty of thematic and arrangement twists and turns to ensure Howe gets to play a variety of guitars / tones along with playing styles.  He even gets the nylon string out for a spin – again nice and front and centre.  I won’t do a song by song review in this post but suffice to say, Howe enjoys a lot of limelight in my view. Lots of use of slide -which adds to the vintage Yes vibe.

 

Drums

I have a love-uh! relationship with Alan White’s drumming.  I have seen Yes live a few times and I felt that the band’s racing ahead of the beat left Alan looking decidedly behind – by too much for comfort.  He is a creative and under-appreciated (outside of Yes circles) drummer though and on Mag, he plays a pivotal role to the Prog of the album.  Alan’s (and the Producer’s) use of the kick drum on this album, is Super-Tight.  Locked in with the bass; the kick and bass-guitar combination on a lot of the songs on this album should be compulsory listening for aspiring musicians – particularly drummers and bassists.  This is Progressive Playing to an incredibly high standard, without resorting to over-mushy distortion or supper ‘clicky’ drum effects.

The drums are natural sounding, complementary to the other instruments which can lead initial listening to conclude that the drums are under-done.. but investigate and hear what’s going on and you’ll discover subtleties and depth to the playing that should put this on the “great drumming album’s” list.

 

Production and Mixing

The mix is awesome.  The recording clean and captured some truely inspired and dedicated performances.  The album easily stands up to repeated listens and is not ‘harsh’ sounding or ‘dull’ – it sounds full and well articulated.

 

The Songs

As a general comment, the songs are varied and what particular song sounded too pop and out of place on the album, when I first purchased it, now feels right at home.  Of course, Yes will be Yes and Jon will have his romantic moments but better that than the type of lyrics that pass for entertainment in the top-40.

 

In Conclusion. . .  do grab a copy of Magnification if you are a fan of Yes – and if you already have it and it’s not been your cup of tea, please give it another few spins.  Magnification is a classic Yes album and could do with more promotion and love from the Yes Community, including current touring line-ups of associated Yes acts (Yes Official and AWR).

 

A version of this was posted to YesFans

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