Yes, “Rhythm of Love” from Big Generator (1987): YESterdays

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Yes have had to come up with a “difficult second album” more than once. Time and a Word was the first, and featured the same line up as their eponymous 1969 release. However, changes in personnel began very shortly after this, which meant that second albums with new Yes lineups cropped up quite a bit.

Also, several “second” albums never saw the light of day at all. Material for Going for the One was worked on by Patrick Moraz but, when he was dismissed in favor of the returning Rick Wakeman, the Relayer lineup had only managed one record. Similarly, 1980’s Trevor Horn-and-Geoff Downes-era Yes produced Drama and then disbanded.

Later on, Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe’s second record morphed (in rather unsatisfactory style) into parts of Union, and the musicians present on Fly From Here were never to create another record because of the departure of Benoit David. You can probably think of other examples.

So, when the Trevor Rabin, Jon Anderson, Alan White, Chris Squire and Tony Kaye version of Yes went back into the studio to create a follow up to the global smash hit 90125, they needed to make a record which sustained the commercial and critical success of its predecessor – while still pushing forward musically and keeping the band and fans together.

Unfortunately, looking at the credits on the sleeve of 1987’s Big Generator, the alarm bells immediately start to sound. For example, wonder-producer Trevor Horn is still there but his name appears fourth on a list after Yes themselves, Trevor Rabin and Paul de Villiers. The number of different recording studios used is also a worry. I make it six – in Italy, London and Los Angeles. If previous Yes recording situations are a guide, this proliferation of producers and recording locations doesn’t point towards a harmonious and efficient process.

So, how does the opening song actually sound? “Rhythm of Love,” to use Trevor Rabin’s expression, is “animalistic” in approach, rather than what one might associate with the classic uplifting and affirming Yes aesthetic. However, for 39 seconds, we could be forgiven for thinking that Yes have returned to their progressive roots – albeit in a modernized form.

Wordless vocals combine with washes of keyboards, woodwind and other assorted instruments. There are echoes of the opening of Close to the Edge, maybe. Then White tears in with a heavy rock beat, accompanied by Squire’s pounding bass and Rabin’s lead guitar and we know that, in fact, we are in full-blown stadium rock mode.

Anderson comes in brightly, but it does feel more like he is singing a Trevor Rabin song very effectively than the opening song to a Yes album. The verse is very much in an ’80s-rock style. The bridge gives us hints of prog rock with a high, soaring Anderson line brilliantly supported by the wide-ranging pitch of the backing line – but then the chorus catapults us back into the world of Trevor Rabin, despite being adorned with a great set of vocal arrangements.

Just to be clear, I like this music. I like Rabin’s style. I like ’80s stadium rock. This version of Yes make it their own and infuse it with more creativity and musicianship than the vast majority of their peers. There are much more interesting, progressive-sounding songs on Big Generator, but this opening number has, perhaps, moved too far away from the personality of the band – even its 90125 incarnation.

The song undeniably has a great, driving pulse, interrupted by effective passages like the bridge section, and the instrumental performances are excellent, as you would expect. The melody is catchy and Rabin solos in characteristic style, with lots of notes and lots of creativity. It’s a rabble-rousing opening to Big Generator but I’m not sure it’s really Yes.

Where albums like Relayer (jazz-rock/fusion), Magnification (full orchestral arrangements) or even 90125 (pop-rock/prog) could be said to have expanded the concept of Yes music, “Rhythm of Love” – despite being fun, exciting and worthwhile – risks stretching the definition to the breaking point.

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

Kevin Mulryne

Kevin Mulryne is a husband, father to three, musician, creative soul, and host of the Yes Music Podcast. He listens to as much Yes music as he can, and talks about the band to whoever will listen. Contact Something Else! at
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  • brian t

    I’ve always liked this song for some reason, perhaps for being so unambiguously, unashamedly what it is. It’s a bit Gonzo, a bit balls-to-the-wall. Is it Yes? Does it matter? 😉

    • Preston Frazier

      It is good rock music!

  • Christian camlin

    To be honest this might be my favorite song on Big Generator but the writer here like most Yes fans is uneasy with this Album and that seems to color his review of this song. In the Fall of 1987 when Big Generator came out Classic Rock was enjoying a massive revival and had recently become a radio format with high ratings Coast to Coast. Pink Floyd , Jethro Tull, the Moody Blues, George Harrison , the Grateful Dead and many other Dinosaur Rock bands from the previous 2 decades had all been having late career success So the path was clear. But not to Yes.They were mentally still in the Early 1980’s where any band from the past was expected to modernize their sound and get with it. They tried that and wound up being a few years out of date with a sound that never was all that big. The album is mostly very good but sounds like a they took their sound From 90125 and updated it by using Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer & Big Time as their Musical Goal. But in 1983 when 90125 came out “Owner of a Lonely heart ” had been a hit because the song used streamlined straight ahead hard rock meshed it with some keyboard sounds that were popular in R&B Dance Music and then dressed it with some of the most complex vocal harmonies in Rock History . But too many cooks spoiled the broth. Calling the Album Big Generator was a mistake as it focused attention on what is clearly one of the worst songs ever by Yes. The song isn’t too modern as many say but simply too moronic. The Lyrics are a mess Yes fans were not amused by Lyrics like big Generator, Moving to the left, moving to the right. It sounds like something written at the Brill Building for Little Eva. Not something any ProgRock Group would ever record. The 2nd mistake was moving forward with Love Will find a way as the first single. I love the song but it was way too poppy for the Groups fan base and seemed to confirm the idea that Yes had sold out to both their fans and The Music Industry. Love will Find a Way is a simple pop song that might have been saved by the addition of thick harmonies and a more aggressive accompaniment .30 seconds of strings only serve to remind us it is not Rock with a Classical influence. Rhythm of love had the potential to be a massive hit but needed to be the opening single to reassure fans that while modernizing they had not sold their musical souls to get another big hit.. Rhythm of love might have been the only song on the album capable of returning the band to the top 10 on the Album. It is the only track on the album that shows any continuity with 90125. 4 years wasted and any hope of a successful follow up died when Yes fans heard Generator and Love Will find a way.Perhaps Love will find a way should have been released as a planned duet between Rabin and Stevie Nicks but not included on the album which might then have been called Rhythm of Love. With big generator and Love will find a way not on the album & replaced by other songs. And perhaps a fleshed out version of Holy Lamb may have put the Yes stamp on the album while staying hip.