“It could become a slow-burn grower like Yes’ Talk album”: Trevor Rabin’s Rio

His first vocal release since 1989 is the long overdue answer to fans’ prayers

Trevor Rabin - Rio
(Image: © InsideOut)

You can trust Louder Our experienced team has worked for some of the biggest brands in music. From testing headphones to reviewing albums, our experts aim to create reviews you can trust. Find out more about how we review.

Trevor Rabin has hardly been idle for the last 34 years, what with his work with Yes on the Union and Talk albums, his hugely successful career as a movie soundtrack composer (his eclectic CV includes everything from Armageddon to Snakes On A Plane), his late-2010s collaboration with Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman, and 2012’s mostly instrumental solo album, Jacaranda.

But the South African musician and multi-hyphenate hasn’t delivered what so many of his fans have wanted since 1989’s Can’t Look Away – specifically a solo record with Rabin’s voice front and centre.

Rio is the long-overdue answer to their prayers. Named after his daughter, it’s very identifiably the work of the man who had his hand on the creative tiller of Yes from 1983 to 1995. In other words, a big chunk of the album features the kind of prog-infused arena rock that made the British band a household name all over again in the 80s.

It’s very easy to imagine Anderson singing the high-keyed vocal line that opens Push, a track also replete with the kind of chattering, interlocking keyboards found on 90125’s Changes or the opening section of Endless Dream from Talk.

There are many interesting diversions, however. Goodbye speeds off in country hoedown mode with guitar picking that would presumably meet the approval of Chet Atkins nut Steve Howe, before periodically slamming into a stadium-sized chorus; a witty and prog-friendly juxtaposition. On Egoli, Rabin mixes in his native South Africa’s musical stylings with pattering percussion, rhythmic choral voices and bright, busy guitars.

The extended a capella introduction to the plangent Tumbleweed is given a slightly creepy feel by the phasing and autotuning effects: imagine the vocal track of Yes’ Leave It performed by 50s jazz vocal group the Four Freshmen, then played through a transistor radio in Stranger Things’ The Upside Down.

These Tears is decorated with gorgeous guitars, from washes of pedal steel and some highly technical Rabinisms, before veering into trancey psychedelia. Elsewhere, Oklahoma demonstrates why Rabin’s been in such demand soundtracking films. It’s difficult not to picture drone camera shots sweeping across the Sooner State’s great plains, pushed on by Rabin’s soaring vocals and string arrangement.

There’s a lot to take in, but experience suggests it could turn out to be a slow-burn grower like Talk and Can’t Look Away. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another three and a half decades for a follow-up.

Rio is available now via InsideOut Music in multiple formats.