Yes, “Angkor Wat” from Union (1991): YESterdays

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“Out of the brightest tree the moon became the morning sun,
And there again reflected on the dreams of everyone.
Out of the starlight night the telling of all our lives,
And racing faster than the Northwestern World.
Starpoint to signal our endlessness
Starpoint to signal this evermore
Starpoint to compass: We look to the North
To return to the center: Angkor Wat.”

“Angkor Wat” from 1991’s Union embodies the surrealism and vision of Jon Anderson, yet is weighed down by a ponderous backing track devised by Yes producer Jonathan Elias. It’s also one of the few songs where Rick Wakeman receives a writing credit, yet has a distinction of being another Union song where there is little if any of Rick Wakeman’s playing.

The song, named after a Cambodian temple and including the Cambodian poem read by Pauline Cheng, utilized keyboards and sonics devised by Elias and played by him and his gang of Los Angeles-based synthesists, because Elias believed the parts supplied by Wakeman were not in keeping with the simplicity of the melody.

The result is a Yes song which is mostly forgettable and borders on pretentious. Is “Angkor Wat” a new low for the world’s greatest progressive rock band? Perhaps, yet I wonder if Rick Wakeman’s keyboard noodlings could have at least made it interesting. As it is, “Angkor Wat” represents another regrettable musical decision on Union.


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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