Yes, “Without Hope You Cannot Start the Day” from Union (1991): YESterdays

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Yes barely appears on the song “Without Hope You Cannot Start The Day.” Union producer Jonathan Elias wrote the music and a framework for the lyrics, which were completed by Jon Anderson.

Narratively, the song combines Anderson’s vivid imagery and a pointed romantic realism.

Fire burning wild, burning in the night, chasing in the wind
Shadows always dance in the rain, ringing into the fire
Doesn’t matter who, who can see in the smile
Hope in the rain, open the flame, coming back in the night
I can see the rhythm of the rain; I can see it shout back under
I can see what you’re thinking of
I can see what you think you need
I can see what you’re thinking of
I can see that it must be love …

Musically, “Without Hope You Cannot Start The Day” contains a hodgepodge of elements which sometimes work. The piano is simple, yet elegant and supportive. Elias played the piano passages after the ones submitted by Rick Wakeman were deemed unsuitable for the song by the producer and Jon Anderson. Elias felt that Wakeman’s piano flourishes distracted from the main theme.

Steve Howe is again absent from a Yes song. He never submitted parts of the song and was not asked to do so. Instead, Jimmy Haun makes another stellar appearance. The LA-based guitarist seems to combine elements of both Howe’s phasing and Trevor Rabin’s intensity. Haun’s fills and leads dance with the melody. His acoustic parts are equally up to the test, providing different elements of contrast to the main theme.

Unfortunately, the barrage of synthesizer effects, electronic and acoustic percussion and vocal effects distract from what could have been a very strong song. Also, the addition of several backing vocalist distracts instead of adding focus.

The rhythm section almost escapes the overproduction on “Without Hope You Cannot Start The Day.” Tony Levin’s bass is prominent, and fits the main riffs. Bill Bruford’s drums are dry and, quite frankly, sound mechanical. It’s hard to tell how much of his parts have been overdubbed or even if Elias stitched together Bruford samples.

In the end, “Without Hope You Cannot Start The Day” could have been a good Yes track, even without Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman – if only …


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

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