“Perpetually overlooked… the right album at the wrong time. It’s fascinating to hear Jon Anderson’s voice sounding rather throaty and, well, dirty”: Yes’ Talk 30th Anniversary edition

An untitled Trevor Rabin instrumental and an incredible 10-minute demo of Endless Dream crown the bonus elements of the 1994 ‘Yes West’ record

Yes – Talk
(Image: © Spirit of Unicorn)

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For a band as accustomed to turbulence as Yes, the 1990s seemed especially unstable. If the 70s were their crowning progressive years and the 80s an MTV-assisted commercial triumph, the next decade looked confusing and clouded – not made any easier by 1991’s ill-fated Union, which brought together the various disparate factions of the band with less-than-stellar results.

Lost in the middle of it all was their 14th album, 1994’s Talk, a record that’s been perpetually overlooked, thanks in part to its alluringly light touch. This reissue – released 30 years on in four-CD box set, two-LP white vinyl and basic single CD editions – goes a long way to elevating it to its rightful place in the Yes canon.

In the wake of Union, expectations were low when former Atlantic Records boss Phil Carson approached Trevor Rabin about reuniting the line-up that recorded 1983’s hugely successful 90125 and 1987’s equally slick Big Generator for JVC’s label Victory. That was the so-called ‘Yes West,’ featuring Rabin, Chris Squire, Jon Anderson, Alan White and Tony Kaye. Agreeing to Carson’s proposal, Rabin brought in Anderson immediately to work up some material, playing eye-to-eye with acoustic guitars and boomboxes in a hotel room. 

Talk was of one of the first albums to be recorded directly to hard drive (at Rabin’s home studio) and the band had to endure software hiccoughs. Yet for a record with just seven songs and an average track length of seven and a half minutes, there’s little flab. The members seem energised by being together again, and all five play to their strengths.

Marrying AOR with prog, The Calling is a superb opener, with Anderson at his most strident, Rabin power-chording away like himself and soloing like Steve Howe, and Tony Kaye nodding to Rick Wakeman. It’s a stunning reassertion of the power of the group, offering a potted history of the band. Anderson’s exhortation to ‘give me more of the same/There’s a fire burning in my heart again’ captures it perfectly.

I Am Waiting finds Yes in power ballad territory, while the delicate Where Will You Be compensates for the raging loud/quiet of State Of Play and Real Love. The multipart Endless Dream is the standout, however – the band turning in a 15-minute-plus song for the first time since 1977’s Awaken. Pacy, packed with drama, it updates the group’s formula equally as well as what Pink Floyd were doing the same year with The Division Bell.

Of the additions to this box set, one disc features three versions of The Calling – a radio edit, a single edit and a ‘special version’ – all pleasant yet largely inessential. The same goes for the instrumentals Where Will You Be, Walls and an excerpt of Endless Dream.

It’s amusing to hear just how excited Anderson is about performing on The David Letterman Show

But the disc is enlivened by a crazed, untitled  Rabin instrumental and an incredible 10-minute demo of Endless Dream, with Anderson extemporising over a fixed mid-90s drum machine pattern. It’s fascinating to hear such a perfect, crystalline voice sounding rather throaty and, well, dirty.

The final two discs of the four-CD edition features a (mostly unreleased) June 1994 show from Finger Lakes Performing Arts Center in Canandaigua, New York. Augmented by Billy Sherwood on keyboards, the line-up romps through material from throughout their career, alongside six selections from Talk. The most uproarious reception is given to 70s warhorses And You And I, I’ve Seen All Good People and Roundabout

Squire is on fire throughout, and although Rabin lacks Howe’s intricacy, he makes up for it in sheer power – hinting towards the ARW shows of the 21st century. It’s amusing to hear just how excited Jon Anderson is about performing on The David Letterman Show the following evening.

Yes – Talk

(Image credit: Spirit of Unicorn)

In 1994, Talk was the right album at the wrong time. Although ambient dance acts were publicly worshipping it, prog was still a four-letter word. More damagingly, Victory went bust almost as soon as Talk was released. Within two years, Rabin and Kaye were out of the band, while Howe and Wakeman were back – a line-up that would last just a couple more years.

In a way, Talk is unique in that Yes themselves seem also to be identifying as their own fans

Listening to the record today, divorced from the politics and the prog-hate of the era, it’s a fine, tuneful, brawny addition to Yes’s frequently jewelled catalogue. It comes with the note “Dedicated to all Yes fans...” and, in a way, Talk is unique in that Yes themselves seem also to be identifying as their own fans, and simply revelling in the music that they were making. 

Squire once said that the original idea for Yes was “always good playing and good singing.” The elegant Talk has an plenty of both.

Talk – 30th Anniversary is on sale now in multiple formats via Spirit of Unicorn Music.

Daryl Easlea

Daryl Easlea has contributed to Prog since its first edition, and has written cover features on Pink Floyd, Genesis, Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel and Gentle Giant. After 20 years in music retail, when Daryl worked full-time at Record Collector, his broad tastes and knowledge led to him being deemed a ‘generalist.’ DJ, compere, and consultant to record companies, his books explore prog, populist African-American music and pop eccentrics. Currently writing Whatever Happened To Slade?, Daryl broadcasts Easlea Like A Sunday Morning on Ship Full Of Bombs, can be seen on Channel 5 talking about pop and hosts the M Means Music podcast.