Yes, “Holding On” from Union (1991): YESterdays

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Yes’ “Holding On” – not to be confused with “Hold On,” from 1982’s 90125 – starts of with great promise. The swirling backing vocals don’t quite sound like the Yes choir, but they certainly are engaging. Samples of Bill Bruford’s drum contributions are electronically spiced together is a convincing AOR-type manner to draw the listener in. Even Tony Levin’s initial bass work cops Chis Squire convincingly.

Still, the rhythm guitars clearly are not Steve Howe. Despite cowriting the song with Jon Anderson, Howe’s contributions are limited to a total a brief 46 seconds of the main riff, thanks to producer Jonathan Elias. Once again, Jimmy Haun provides Howe-like leads, and several other original guitar sonics to give the song a Yes feel, while making it contemporary. The keyboards are less obtrusive than the other Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe songs on 1991’s Union, but are not memorable. Lyrically, Anderson is as effective as ever.

Perhaps cutting back on some of the percussion effects and utilizing a Chris Squire backing vocal arrangement (as well as Squire’s vocals on the song) would have raised “Holding On” from just OK, or even to the level of Yes’ similarly named “Hold On.” Instead, “Holding On” is short a few elements, keeping it from Yes greatness. It’s ironic, given the song is packed full of so many production tricks.

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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