on June 20, 2004
For most fans, Yes without lead singer Jon Anderson is a horror thought. But as history has shown, Anderson did leave the band after the tour for the "Tormato" album, with keyboard wiz Rick Wakeman in tow, and they were replaced by the duo known as The Buggles---vocalist Trevor Horn, and keyboardist Geoff Downes. Their only album with Yes, 1980's "Drama," is a surprisingly good album. While no one on God's given Earth can sing like Jon Anderson, Trevor Horn sings close enough (albeit in a *slightly* lower register), and he takes Anderson's place at the mic just fine. These days, Trevor Horn may be to Yes what George Lazenby is to the James Bond movies (i.e. he only made one, *and* he was filling a very large pair of shoes), but give the guy some credit: he was good! Geoff Downes, meanwhile, is a more than capable keyboardist for this classic English rock outfit, and he & Horn slot in alongside Chris Squire, Steve Howe, & Alan White very well."Drama" is a very short album---just 35 minutes---but in those 35 minutes is some great Yes music, the highlights for me being "Does It Really Happen?," "Into The Lens," and "Tempus Fugit," all top-notch, first-rate Yes rockers. Seriously, with all due respect to the great Jon Anderson, I would've been quite happy if the "Drama" line-up of Yes had decided to continue. And they might have---by all accounts, they were received quite well by U.S. audiences on the tour for the album. Unfortunately, British & European audiences were not so kind, and, subsequently, Trevor Horn got cold feet about continuing on as the group's frontman. Well, I can't really blame him. Yes broke up after the "Drama" tour was finished, with everyone splitting up to work on other projects---Horn becoming a producer, Howe & Downes forming the supergroup Asia, and Squire & White teaming up with Trevor Rabin for a project (hint hint), and it looked like Yes were finished for good. But come 1983, Yes roared back to life, with Jon Anderson back in the fold, for the smash album, "90125." But in the process, "Drama" has been sorely overlooked. I hope more Yes fans will check out this unfairly underrated album, and find out for themselves just how really good it actually is. Even without Jon Anderson, it's still Yes to my ears.
The "Drama" album will always be somewhat of an oddity in the Yes catalogue, for no other reason that it is the only album in Yes' 35 years that does not feature leadsinger Jon Anderson. If, however, you can get beyond this, you will discover that "Drama", much like its predecessor "Tormato" is actually a lot better than belies its reputation.
The "Expanded and Remastered" version of Drama (16 tracks; 79 min.) starts of with the original 6 tracks of the album. Among the best tracks: "Machine Massiah" is a return to the 10 min. epic tracks of earlier in their career, albeit with the guitars much more upfront. "Into the Lens" is an 8. min. romper (and later was redone as "I Am a Camera" by the Buggles). "Run Through the Light", a minor hit, is a super-catchy power-ballad.
The bonus tracks go from the unnecessary (single versions of "Into the Lens" and "Run Through the Light") to the mildy interesting (instrumentals "Have We Really Got to Go Trough With This" and "Song No.4 (Satellite)", to the fascinating last 4 tracks. Those tracks are from the Roy Thomas Baker (famed for producing Queen era-"Bohemian Rhapsody") sessions with Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman from the Fall of 1979 that eventually were abandoned. It gives a nice insight to what might have been the "logical" successor to "Tormato", but assuming that these tracks in fact were the best from those sessions, it's easy to see why the band didn't pursue them. "Golden Age" is the standout song of the four.
In all, I cannot give enough compliments to Rhino, which has done an absolute outstanding job not only with the "Drama" reissue, but with the reissue of the Yes catalogue in general. Lines notes, remastering, bonus tracks, it's all here. Even if "Drama" isn't on your top wish list of Yes albums, you'll nevertheless enjoy this particular reissue.
on March 22, 2012
First off, this album has well over a hundred reviews on Amazon already, so I realize that there is not a great chance that this review will be read. But, being a huge Yes fan, and a huge Drama fan in particular, I felt compelled to throw my two cents into the bottomless well anyway.
Progressive rock band Yes, formed in 1968, endured many lineup changes by 1980, when Drama was released. Bassist Chris Squire was the sole original member, and with him were Yes veterans guitarist Steve Howe and drummer Alan White. Famously, this album also features the duo known as The Buggles, vocalist Trevor Horn and keyboardist Geoff Downes. Because of the (at the time) ludicrous notion that Yes were continuing without founding vocalist Jon Anderson, many fans wouldn't give Drama a second look. Many still don't, as a matter of fact. Yet this is my favorite Yes album.
Now, I should qualify this by stating that I don't believe Drama to be the best Yes album. Such a title is reserved for five-star releases such as 1972's Close To The Edge, or perhaps The Yes Album from 1971 (some would argue Fragile, but I disagree). But it turns out the lineup change associated with this album was crucial. 1980 saw a changing landscape in the music world. New wave bands were all the rage, and progressive rock was supposedly dead (it wasn't, yet, but more on that later). Yes' previous album, 1978's Tormato, had some good moments, but it was clear that the members were out of modern musical ideas, and clearly out of their element trying to stay relevant- kind of like your best friend's dad trying to act "hip" in front of you and the other kids. It was kind of embarrassing.
With the arrival of Horn and Downes came Yes' new wave credibility. Horn in particular had an ear for modern songwriting and production that the Anderson-led Yes just didn't have in the late-'70s. It also helped that prior to joining he was a big fan of the band; I will argue any day of the week that Drama is the strongest technical performance of the trio of Squire, Howe, and White, and I believe this to be due to a new influence (Horn) pushing them. Squire's bass lines are back to being assertive and memorable. Howe's guitar work is all over this album, the most it's been since his first foray into Yes world, on The Yes Album. And White gets pushed way forward in the mix, and honestly he's never sounded better; for the first time, you really get to appreciate how nuanced of a drummer he is (something that was dumbed down again with 1983's 90125). My favorite elements of Yes returned with this album; compare the intro to "Tempus Fugit" with "Yours Is No Disgrace." Compare Squire's springy bass lines on "Does It Really Happen?" with "Roundabout." Compare White's ferocious drumming on "Machine Messiah" with "Sound Chaser"- just a few examples. Perhaps it is sacrilege to compare such Yes classics with songs off of an album such as Drama. But clearly, this band is still Yes.
So what about the new guys? I'm not going to pretend Downes is like Rick Wakeman. Downes is more textural, like original keyboardist Tony Kaye. The sound of his synths, while perhaps dated today, were cutting edge in 1980, and it made Yes sound modern again. New singer Horn has a lower vocal range than the departing Anderson, and I'm not going to pretend he was a complete replacement, either. But while Anderson was breathy and playful in his singing, letting the melody carry his power, Horn is a lot harsher of a singer. With a bit of imagination, he sounds like Anderson singing a key lower and pushing his diaphragm hard. With Squire's vocal harmony, it helps the whole thing feel like Yes.
The early '80s, strangely enough, is my favorite era of progressive rock. It was the era of '70s technical ability meeting with 80's production sensibilities, meaning the talent and discipline of the musicians were harnessed and refined to their maximum potential. Some prefer the more free-form and/or psychedelic style of first wave prog, and some like the neo-prog that first emerged with bands like Marillion and Pallas in the mid-to-late '80s. For me, it is albums like Drama, Rush's Moving Pictures, King Crimson's Discipline, and Saga's Worlds Apart that are my favorite: new wave-inspired prog. I will never try to change the mind of someone adamantly opposed to accepting Drama as a good Yes album (a bit like trying to persuade someone to change their political party, it seems), but as someone who owns every Yes album, from the self titled first release all the way to 2011's Fly From Here [Edit 10/27/14: and 2014's Heaven And Earth], and all the live albums (and enjoys them all), let me urge you to at least give this one a chance if you haven't yet. It just may grow on you. 4 stars
Remaster notes: in 2004, Drama was remastered with bonus tracks. These included single edits, studio demos and run-throughs, and demos from the aborted sessions for the original Anderson-fronted successor to Tormato. The single edit of "Into The Lens" is pretty uninteresting, as it's just a shorter version of the album cut. However, "Run Through The Light" is presented in an alternate mix, and the rearrangement of the instruments is interesting, but perhaps not essential for one's collection. The incomplete studio tracks sound just that: incomplete. But for relatively completed versions of these songs, check out "Go Through This" on the Yes box set The Word Is Live, or search "xyz telephone secrets" on YouTube. The studio run-throughs of "White Car" and "Tempus Fugit" are for the fanatic who wants to see how the songs developed. Finally, there are four songs that, in my opinion, are included only to show those who hate Drama how bad a new Yes album really would have been had Anderson and Wakeman stayed in the band. Included are liner notes and pictures in a jewel case (unlike the other Yes albums featuring Roger Dean album art, which are in digipaks). The remaster sounds great, I think it is worth getting if you are considering replacing and updating your collection.
on August 2, 2004
After the lackluster "Tormato" went splat and Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman left the band, Yes made the unlikely move of adding singer Trevor Horn and keyboardist Geoff Downes from the two-man new wave band the Buggles (of "Video Killed the Radio Star" fame) for this 1980 album. And while Chris Squire has referred to the Horn/Downes era as one of the low moments in the band's history, the one album that came out of it is actually very good. Horn makes an endearing attempt at Anderson's vocal style (though he strains at the high notes) and contributes his excellent production abilities, while Downes makes a credible keyboard wizard. Their new-wave sensibility helped perk up the beats back to rock tempo after the laziness of "Tormato", and by throwing a touch of pop back into the Yes mix, set the stage for the band's "90125" success. "Tempus Fugit", keyed by a tremendous Squire bass line, is one of the great Yes songs of all time, up-tempo and up-mood; in the Boston area, this song got Yes its most radio play since "Roundabout". By rights, it should be on any Yes "best-of" album. "Into the Lens" takes a core pop song (later simplified as "I Am a Camera" on the Buggles' "Adventures in Modern Recording" album) and surrounds it with a repeated, soaring Steve Howe guitar melody over a stutter-stepping rhythm section. "Machine Messiah" is another strong piece that allows both Howe and Downes to shine. "Run Through the Light", a relatively straightforward rocker, and the proggish "Does This Really Happen?" are weaker cuts. "Does This Really Happen?" gives Alan White a chance to play vibes. "White Car" is an excerpt from a longer keyboard piece (played in full on the tour) by Downes. Perhaps it's the lyrics that Squire thinks don't live up to the Yes legacy? Most Yes fans, myself included, have never had any idea what the heck Anderson was singing about -- these lyrics are no sillier than any of Anderson's.
This remastered version adds 10 bonus tracks, which are interesting but don't provide any hidden gems. "Have We Really Got to Go Through This" and "Song No. 4" are backing tracks Howe, Squire, and White wrote before Horn and Downes arrived. "Go Through This" sounded pretty good on tour after lyrics/vocals had been added, but here they both sound like the half-finished pieces they are. There are practice runs through "Tempus Fugit" and "White Car" and single versions of "Into the Lens" and "Run Through the Light". The biggest find is 4 cuts with Anderson and Wakeman from an aborted recording session with producer Roy Thomas Baker (Queen), in which the band goes farther down the "Tormato" road. The tracks sound tinny and weak compared to "Drama", but, who knows, big "Tormato" fans may turn out to love them. One of the cuts is an early take of "Run Through the Light" that sounds more techno than the version with the Buggles.
(1=poor 2=mediocre 3=pretty good 4=very good 5=phenomenal)
on November 5, 1999
Despite how some Yes fans feel about this album, I think "Drama" is the greatest work of the band's long career. The only problem with this record is it's too short. From start to finish, "Drama" is a brilliant effort; Trevor Horn turns in some terrific vocals (proving himself more than worthy of taking Jon's place)--the harmonies with Chris and Steve soar higher than on any other Yes album. Chris Squire does the best bass playing of his career on "Drama", Andy White and Steve Howe likewise. The single most noticeable difference between this lineup and any other is the sheer heaviness of the sound; while there are many gorgeous and exquisite passages to be found, "Drama" rocks heavier than any other Yes album. Maybe this was due to the new members Horn and keyboardist Geoff Downes (who by the way is awesome too) but it seems to be the rhythm section really driving it. Lyrically, the songs are dark and forward-looking, then more inward; and you'll be hard-pressed to find better lyrics than "Machine Messiah" and "Tempis Fugit" on any progressive-rock album by any artist. In fact, I consider those two tracks to be the very greatest Yes songs yet. Why they have seemed to have fallen by the wayside is just beyond me. I liked "Drama" when it came out in 1980, but over the years I've grown to love it more and more--it not only still holds up, it seems to grow more relevant and contemporary with the passing of time. Most of Yes's work does, it's true, and I love every album (except maybe "Big Generator"), but there is something special about "Drama". Those of you who didn't like the album in 1980 should definitely relisten to it now (the cd remastering is superb)--considering all that has transpired in the years since, you may appreciate the album now. Those newer Yes fans who may have never heard "Drama" MUST pick it up; it's an essential work and a true milestone in their career. Not everyone will agree with me, but "Drama" is pure Yes.
on March 8, 2004
Outside of all the interesting facts that make "Drama" stand by itself in the Yes catalog (including the subraction of Jon Anderson/Rick Wakeman and the addition of Buggles Geoffrey Downes/Trovor Horn)Yes was in need of an overhaul, and "Drama" proved to be an energized change. "Going For The One" and "Tormato" had some monumental moments mixed in with things that would have been outtakes on earlier albums. They were a progressive rock band but they were not progressing as much as they had in the past and the staleness show.
Although from listening to some of the fascinating bonus tracks included here from the "Paris sessions" it sounded like Yes (including Anderson/Wakeman) were looking to change their sound a bit, but the melodies were still a bit tired and world weary. The sessions were scraped.
"Drama" was still very much a Yes album but with one decided difference- it had a raw energy that had not appeared on a Yes album since "Relayer" (interestingly, that album had an outsider come in and shake things up as well). I'm not saying that the song writing was more inspired than on "Going For The One" or "Tormato", but on "Drama" everyone sounds like they are excited to be playing the music and you feel it. Steve Howe especially sounds rejuvenated by the changes and plays about as intensely as he did on "Relayer".
For the most part there really aren't any duds on this album (although the first thirty seconds of "White Car" sound like the intro to a seminar on self improvement). "Machine Messiah", "Does It Really Happen?" and "Tempus Fugit" are the standouts for me. While "Into The Lens" seems to have an interesting mix of progressive rock and new wave.
The sound of the re-mastering is immaculate, and bonus tracks prove interesting. There are plenty of worthy Yes albums that I would recommend way before this one. But if you are curious but nervous about later Yes albums due to their reputation I would go for this one because of its exciting energy and consistency.
on February 14, 2000
I just listened to this record for the first time in about ten years (in preparation for the Yes concert in London on 20/2/00). This was the Yes album I was determined to hate. How could they continue without Anderson? Wakeman had left before, and would again, so that was no surprise, or tragedy, but an album without the man who characterised the band?
As it turned out, the instrumental core of Yes - Chris, Alan and Steve - were still intact and more enthusiastic than at any time since 1977, and the replacements lend a clean, dynamic touch to the record that was lacking from the previous album.
The massive chords and multitracked vocals are precursors to the 1990s Yes, and the production values point the way to 90125. Most reviewers feel this is the album that took Yes into a new era. True, but they also have their feet in the virtuosic brilliance of the earlier records.
The Drama lineup could never last, and the album has the feel of a transitional work. But Yes would arguably never have survived without this record, and its influence remains in The Ladder, Union, Open Your Eyes and the Rabin albums. In the upcoming concert, I would love to hear the current lineup doing Into The Lens or Tempus Fugit, and publicly acknowledge the pivotal role this record played in keeping the Yes flame burning.
on September 23, 1998
This album is a far different cry than 1978's Tormato. Rick Wakeman and Jon Anderson left the band...replacing them were former Buggles' front man Trevor Horn and keyboardist Geoff Downes. The album has a harder edge than previous albums, demonstrated in songs like Machine Messiah and Tempus Fugit. Trevor Horn, sounding a bit of a cross between Jon Anderson and future member Trevor Rabin, does surprising well on the album(during the tour, criticisms though flared). Geoff Downes, although not as flashy as Wakeman, shows for the time that he was a very good replacement, at the least, shining on songs like Does It Really Happen. Remaining members Chris Squire, Steve Howe, and Alan White give the album a very driving sound. Some incredible guitar and bass on this album. Although this album doesn't necessarily have the Yes sound of old, it definitely is a hidden gem in their collection, and one of my favorites by the band.
on July 22, 2005
This is the best YES album since "Close to the Edge". Released in 1980, when disco was almost dead and MTV-type rock and pop was on its way in, this was a daringly progressive album which hooks you right from the opening riff of "Machine Messiah". By the time it's ended with the awesome "Tempus Fugit", you're ready to play it all over again. While Jon Anderson would seem irreplacable, Trevor Horne filled in nicely, with a high-pitched voice that proved him a worthy successor.
I've seen YES live (5) times since 1987. I've always been disappointed that Anderson never learned to perform any of the songs from this album for a live show.
As much as I enjoyed the next YES album, "90125", it was a shame to see the band go from one musical extreme to the other, simply because musical times of the '80's were changing with the likes of Michael Jackson and Boy George (Good God!!!)
on April 14, 2004
Pop this CD in, hold on to something grounded, and get ready to be blown away ...for the first 50 minutes. The remastering is impressive. Rhino's "Drama" finally adds the balls & punch that this album always deserved. Unfortunately, the bonus tracks add a punch to the balls. Ow.
With 10 extra tracks, how could they go wrong? Here's how: the bonus tracks (excluding fluff single edits, demos and incomplete instrumentals) are yanked from an entirely different session that featured Anderson/Wakeman and was colored by Queen's producer. It's an unsettling mix of prog, pop and disco all mushed into one amorphous blob, and we see exactly why the definitive Yes lineup needed to take a break post-Tormato. As curios, these tracks may interest and amuse the Yes enthusiasts. But I'm afraid they throw a damper on the 6-song powerhouse masterpiece known as "Drama". From the opening grind of "Machine Messiah" to its manic swansong "Tempus Fugit", this album is like an unstoppable freight train that barrels across an unreal landscape."Drama" itself is unlike any other Yes album; the closest thing would come 16 years later when that rhythmic vitality and indefatigable power would resurface with "Mind Drive" (Keys to Ascension 2).
When Tempus Fugit (song #6) ends with its magnificently catastrophic crescendo resolving into the syncopated harmonies fading out on "Yes, yes, yes..." I just want to die in my own broth. That's how affecting it is. But hark! Rhino doesn't let it end there. Enter 30 minutes of blah. In this case, LESS WOULD HAVE BEEN MORE. But Jeffrey W. Richman said it much more concisely than I did...