[Review] Yes: Time And A Word (1970)

The heavily orchestrated second album topples over like an ambitious cake, underbaked in spots, overfrosted in others.

Kronomyth 2.0: And the word is no.

I’ve been writing from a parched pen for the past few days, relegated to wandering over familiar haunts in the search for some lost elixir of inspiration that might have been missed in earlier travels. Time And A Word seemed a fitting destination, since clearly it couldn’t have warranted such misplaced invective as “grandiloquent goo” (my original assessment). But a benediction from me will have to wait for a better day.

I’ve heard some of these songs in the context of Yesterdays and suffered no ill mood, but listening to the 1994 Atlantic remaster once more has rekindled my cranky disposition. Nowhere in their catalog is their celestial messenger so rudely handled as here, suffering the ignominy of string arrangements and caricatured in a cacophonous mix that buries the band under Chris Squire’s overburdened bass lines. Songs that might have soared of their own majesty (“Time And A Word,” “Then”) are here hijacked and harnessed to the body of a grossly gilded butterfly in the form of Tony Cox’ orchestration. The poor thing, as you might imagine, struggles to fly, flapping its wings noisily in a great commotion.

The tragedy here is that Time And A Word might have been a better album than this. “Sweet Dreams” and “Astral Traveller” indicate that the band’s “Survival” skills remain intact, but producer Tony Colton apparently had some sort of commercial death wish for them. The original red rating (a reference to the old Progrography) should of course be taken in context. Yes fans are a resilient lot, capable of subsisting on the nectar of a cactus flower where occasion calls for it. Still, I’d be remiss in not attaching to Time And A Word a word of caution. There’s little to be gained in listening to this album, chalking it up to the band’s inexperienced handlers, and slipping the disc back into the forgotten files, but much to be gained from exploring parallel universes like Flash or the solo work of Jon Anderson. Look at this as an open invitation to expand your world. No doubt you can squeeze something sweet from this lemon, but better to embrace sweet mystery, leave Time And A Word to nameless possibilities, and venture into someplace unexpected, perhaps even into the gardens of Gentle Giant or the harsh universe of Van Der Graaf Generator.

Original elpee version

A1. No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed (Richie Havens) (4:47)
A2. Then (Jon Anderson) (5:42)
A3. Everydays (Stephen Stills) (6:06)
A4. Sweet Dreams (Jon Anderson/David Foster) (3:48)
B1. The Prophet (Jon Anderson/Chris Squire) (6:32)
B2. Clear Days (Jon Anderson) (2:04)
B3. Astral Traveller (Jon Anderson) (5:50)
B4. Time And A Word (Jon Anderson/David Foster) (4:31)

CD reissue bonus tracks
9. Dear Father
10. No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed (original mix)
11. Sweet Dreams (original mix)
12. The Prophet (single version)

The Players

Jon Anderson (vocals), Peter Banks (guitar & vocals), Bill Bruford (drums), Tony Kaye (organ), Chris Squire (bass & vocals) with Tony Cox (orchestral arrangements). Produced by Tony Colton; recording engineered by Eddie Offord.

The Pictures

Cover photo (american version) by Barry Wensal. Original cover design by Loring Eutemey. Photographs and design by Laurence Sackman. Design co-ordination by Graphreaks.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track in July 1970 in the UK (Atlantic, K 40085) and Germany (Atlantic, K 40 085), on November 2, 1970 in the US (Atlantic, SD/TP 8273) and in 1970 in Brazil (Atlantic, 4020 023); reached #45 on the UK charts. UK elpee features girl w/ butterfly cover. 8-track features different track order plus “The Prophet (Reprise)” at the end.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1973 in France (Atlantic, 40.085) with lyrics sleeve and UK cover [red-purple label].
  2. Re-issued on elpee in Japan (Atlantic/Warner-Pioneer, P-8014A) with lyrics sleeve.
  3. Re-issued on elpee in 1975+ in the US (Atlantic, SD 8273) [green-orange label feat. 75 rockefeller address and “w” logo at the bottom].
  4. Re-issued on cassette in Australia (Summit, SUH 5095).
  5. Re-issued on compact disc and cassette in the US (Atlantic, 8273).
  6. Re-issued on elpee in Brazil (Atlantic, 6709 345).
  7. Re-released on direct netal mastered elpee in Russia (Russian Disc, R60 00507) with UK cover (in color).
  8. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 1994 in the US (Atlantic, 82681).
  9. Re-issued on remastered compact disc in Japan (Atlantic, AMCY-6281).
  10. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc on January 14, 2003 in the US (Rhino, 73787) with 4 bonus tracks.
  11. Re-released on super high material cmpact disc on July 22, 2009 in Japan (Atlantic, WPCR-13513).
  12. Re-issued on expanded, remastered compact disc in 2016 in Japan (Elektra/Rhino, WPCR-80304) with 4 bonus tracks feat. UK cover.
  13. Re-released on super audio compact disc on February 22, 2017 in Japan (Atlantic, WPCR-17602) with UK cover.
  14. Re-released on 180g vinyl elpee in 2018 in Germany (Atlantic, R1 573896) to commemorate Record Store Day, features cover artwork from the first Yes album.
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