How can a successful progressive rock replace irreplaceable members and still come up with one of the best albums of their career? Yes did by utilizing a deep bench on 1980’s Drama, as the song “Does It Really Happen” attests.
The song got its start at the aborted Roy Thomas Baker-led sessions in Paris, and was reinvigorated and completed with the help of Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes. “Does It Really Happen” seems to hit on all fronts, with Alan White providing some of his most prominent drumming since 1973’s Tales from Topographic Oceans. Geoff Downes makes the song his own, layering Hammond Organ pads, Fairlight synthesizer parts and simulated tuned percussive textures.
Steve Howe employs his Gibson Les Paul Gold Top model with stunning effect. His sweeps up and down the fretboard are mesmerizing. It’s almost goes unnoticed that Howe has no guitar solo on the song. The soloing is instead handled by Downes, whose style is melodic and layered.
Additionally, Chris Squire provided some of his best-recorded bass work ever on a Yes album. His sound is dramatically captured by engineers Hugh Padgham, Gary Langan and Julian Mendelsohn. It manages to be rich, deep yet trebly. Squire’s moves the melody forward, accenting Alan White’s timbale-like tom tom flourishes sometimes or providing a counter melody to Downes’ synthesizers at others. Squire’s solo at the end of the song is impeccable.
Trevor Horn rises to the occasion, as well. Lyrically, he’s vague yet compelling and totally in the zone of the best Yes songs. His multi-tracked lead vocal is sung with power and precision. During the middle stop-time section, his harmonies with Chris Squire demonstrate a perfect blend. It is the Yes choir, only in a lower register, but with all the power and precision you would expect from the world’s greatest progressive rock band.
This is, indeed, Yes at its finest, sounding vibrant and relevant as ever.
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