Yes, “The Calling” from Talk (1994): YESterdays

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The majority of Yes albums begin with a song which sets the tone for the rest of the material on the record.

– “Beyond and Before” on the first Yes outing in 1969 employs Chris Squire in a towering, single-note solo, announcing his own lead-bass intentions and the band’s insistence that the audience wake up and take note: Something’s coming and it’s going to be special.

Close to the Edge opens with a mystical soundscape filled with a blend of natural effects and spindly keyboards which builds inexorably and is then blasted away by an apparently chaotic and tonally-challenging band entry. It’s clear this album is going to blow your mind.

– Yes’ 2011 album Fly From Here even toys with the classical technique of an overture, setting out some of the material and the approach which is to be woven into the fabric of the rest of the disc.

So, when I first heard the opening bars of “The Calling,” the first song from 1994’s Trevor Rabin-driven Talk, I wondered if the same was going to be true. The answer was a resounding ‘YES.’

It starts with an introduction featuring trebly and somewhat American-sounding acoustic guitar from Rabin. It’s light years away from the sensibilities of those early Yes records. The choir of (presumably) Jon Anderson, Rabin and Squire enter with Big Generator-style harmonies, and the approach of the album is announced unequivocally by a huge Rabin power riff. This is accompanied by Alan White practically knocking the speakers off the shelf with the fattest, loudest, dirtiest rhythm I think I’ve ever heard him play. The stadium-filling monster music increases in intensity once again when Squire introduces a massive, pounding bass line, doubling another Rabin electric riff above.

The raw power and energy is infectious, and I find it an incredibly exciting opening. It’s only when Anderson’s vocal line appears that we get a clue this is Yes music – and, even then, his voice sounds husky, reinforcing the heavy rock feel. He later takes the second verse up an octave, which perhaps suits him better and reinforces the song’s Yes credentials.

As with the bulk of Talk, I suppose you won’t like the chorus if you’re not into American stadium rock, but I love its power and motion. “The Calling” is one of those songs which needs to be played at very high volume in an open-topped roadster as you speed down the highway. It’s also probably quite dangerous to do so, because the music keeps pushing you to go faster. Shake your golden locks to the chorus along with Trevor Rabin’s vocals and bask in the Anderson interjections as well. It’s not a simple bang and bash rock number though: There’s enough rhythmical trickery combined with ingenious harmony and melody to keep it interesting.

Half way through the track is a passage of guitar and keyboards which culminates in a fabulous Rabin solo, blended with Tony Kaye’s solo work. This recalls the Rick Wakeman / Steve Howe battles of old, but employs a completely different stylistic approach. A masterwork of Rabin production and instrumental arrangement, the more explorative, creative sections segue beautifully back into the main riff and the Yes chorus piles in again.

Despite being created entirely using four linked Apple computers by the technologically obsessed writer / producer / arranger / singer / guitarist / keyboard player Trevor Rabin, “The Calling” sounds almost like a live band recording. This is an amazing feat. The end is also beautifully handled, dying away via elaborately-arranged instrumental and vocal motifs.

For me, this is a dramatic, powerful tour-de-force that showcases some of the best aspects of Yes in this incarnation. I’d like this music whoever it was created by. At the same time, I won’t argue if you think this song and the whole album isn’t really Yes, but I prefer to think of the band’s output as a multi-faceted jewel, containing many hugely diverse delights. Along the way, “The Calling” became one of my many favorites.

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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