College Countdown, The First CMJ Album Chart, 3

yes tormato

3. Yes, Tormato

The very first lyrics heard on the Yes album Tormato are “In the fountains of the universe: Set time in accord/ Sits the boychild Solomon: Every turning round and round,” sung over electronic trilling that sounds heavily fussed over. The song in question, “Future Times,” melds seamlessly (maybe imperceptibly) into the song “Rejoice,” which announces, “Rejoice forward out this feeling/ Ten true summers long/ We go round and round and round and round/ Until we pick it up again.” All of this is delivered without a hint of irony. Instead, there’s clear conviction in the profundity of the song, which I can admit is admirable in its own way. It is not, however, my kind of music, and those lyrics paired with that music establishes that with remarkable speed.

To allow that maybe I’m not entirely operating from a place of predetermined bias, Tormato is not exactly a favorite album of devoted Yes fans either. This was a band celebrated from their epic song workouts, often stretching across the entire side of an album. Tormato is filled with comparatively concise songs, with only one of the eight tracks clocking in at over seven minutes. For some bands, that might be evidence of greater focus. For Yes, the opposite is probably true: shorter runtimes are likely to me they were giving up on songs before they had totally worked them out. More problematically, the production is infamously bad on the record, evidently the result of longtime producer Eddie Offord leaving midway through the process of making the album and his replacements (the band and Brian Lane are officially co-credited as the album’s producers) misinterpreting how Offord had recorded the material. I’m not entirely convinced that a production snafu is the primary reason songs such as “Madrigal” and “Arriving UFO” are so painfully dopey.

Even the band wasn’t so happy. For one, they didn’t care for the cover art that was provided by seventies rock design superstar Hipgnosis. The eventual official cover featured a tomato that had been smashed against the original commission, reportedly the actual review of a band member. (The album title was changed from Yes Tor to Tormato to better coincide with the image.) That was a minor snit compared with the conflicts on the way. Within a few months of the September 1978 release of Tormato, both lead singer Jon Anderson and keyboardist Rick Wakemen had quite the band, the former staying off the roster until into the nineteen-nineties. Anderson was back sooner, returning to the fold in time to help his bandmates shave off the prog trappings to better appeal to the booming MTV audience, which in turn brought them their biggest U.S. hits by far. I’m sure they were hit with “sell out” charges by the faithful, but that material, while still not great, sounds a lot better to me. It’s certainly better than anything on Tormato. Apparently, there are a lot of fans who would agree with that assessment.

An Introduction
–26: Darkness on the Edge of Town
–25: Give Thankx
–24: Caravan to Midnight
–23: Next of Kihn
–22: 52nd Street
–21: Crafty Hands
–20: Luxury You Can Afford
–19: Some Girls
–18: Mr. Gone
–17: Stage
–16: Pieces of Eight
–15: Bloody Tourists
–14: Along the Red Ledge
–13: The Bride Stripped Bare
–12: On the Edge
–11: Parallel Lines
–10: More Songs About Buildings and Food
–9: Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!
–8: Twin Sons of Different Mothers
–7: Comes a Time
–6: Bursting Out
–5: Dog & Butterfly
–4: Living in the USA

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