Yes, “Circus of Heaven” from Tormato (1978) YESterdays

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The Jon Anderson-penned “Circus of Heaven” continues the trend of inconsistency which plagues 1978’s Top 10 album Tormato.

Yes begins promisingly with Alan White’s tasteful triangle work and Steve Howe’s inventive steel guitar work. Rick Wakeman provides some of his strongest work on the album, with a wash of synthesizers and a fleet-fingered keyboard breakdown. Unfortunately, Chris Squire is given little to do on what sounds like a fretless bass and, while Jon Anderson’s vocals are as strong as ever, his lyrics are not:

…A unicorn headed the mystical way
Surrounded by what seemed a thousand golden angels at play
Behind were centaurs, elves, bright fairies all in colors of jade
On the very final day…

Perhaps these words would have been better suited for an Anderson solo project, rather than a Yes album. The use of his young son Damion’s voice presses home that point. Like many songs on Tormato, “Circus of Heaven” starts off with great promise, yet the world’s greatest progressive rock band disappoints in the end.

Fortunately, the next song on Tormato meets and possible exceeds expectations for Yes.

Preston Frazier’s YESterdays is a song-by-song feature that explores the unforgettable musical legacy of Yes. The series runs every other Tuesday.

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Atlanta. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at slangofages@icloud.com; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Preston Frazier
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  • brian t

    I just listened to this again, after many years, and it’s not as bad as I remember. I did skip the baby talk, though – the poor kid is now over 40 and must be mortified!

    I think Tormato is an excellent-sounding recording with one glaring exception: Rick and that Polymoog. The keyboard was a technological tour-de-force of its time, but Rick made it sound like a toy organ – which worked for this song but that’s about all, I think. (Gary Numan got more mileage out of one by careful use of effects such as phaser.) I’ve had this problem with Rick’s playing over the years: amazing playing let down by poor-sounding patches e.g. in the Union lineup I thought he used a lot of factory presets.

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