1001 Albums You Must Die Before You Hear

#47: Yes – Open Your Eyes (1997)

Widely considered their worst album, MAT KELLY somehow manages to listen to all 74 bloated minutes of the Yes album that nobody likes.

 

Rick Wakeman had worked hard on the Key Studio tracks and was annoyed when he learned they weren’t coming out as an album. Further instructed to cancel upcoming solo gigs in order to make room for Yes tour dates, he boiled over and flounced out the door, cape no doubt billowing dramatically behind him. He was replaced by both new keyboardist Igor Khoroshev and multi-instrumentalist Billy Sherwood who could play both keys and guitar in addition to being a fine harmony singer.

So, what did this new youthful lineup of Yes produce? The album widely regarded as their worst. Listen to the wretched ‘No Way We Can Lose’ and the problems are immediately apparent – sickeningly cheerful, with childishly obvious melodic lines and some of Anderson’s most syrupy lyrics yet. And I’m not just talking about the more extreme example of ‘No Way We Can Lose’ – these problems persist.

 

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Stepping back from the full-on prog of Key Studio, OYE finds the band in happy clappy sugar-pop mode, though without the relative sophistication of 90125 and Big Generator.

Chris Squire’s awkward lead vocal on ‘Man In The Moon’ (“I am the man in the moon/And I hope to shine upon you very soon,” he solemnly intones) is another lowlight.

Meanwhile, ‘Wonderlove’ has got to be one of the worst songs Yes ever made. It has absolutely no business being six minutes long: stale, hook-free pop rock that irritates immensely with its unearned positivity.

There’s the album’s 74-minute runtime too, but this is somewhat misleading – 21-minute closer ‘The Solution’ is five minutes of dreary, ungainly song followed by SIXTEEN MINUTES of new age ambient birdsong, ocean noises and wind chimes. Occasionally an alarmingly enthusiastic multi-tracked Anderson turns up to spout rubbish such as:

“Feel the love

Feel the love that shines through space and time

Time is like a river that flows

And where that river ends nobody knows

Round and round and round I go

When I stop, no one will know.”

To be 53 and writing lyrics like this would make even Timothy Leary blush. By this point, you think we’d be used to what an old softie Anderson is but he takes it to new depths here, the maudlin cliches too overbearing to forgive as the band naively chirp, “Open your eyes and discover you’re not the only one” on the title track. More like Rolling Your Eyes.

The over-the-top approach taken on the all-out aggressively upbeat assault of ‘New State of Mind’ and the title track could have worked – listen to them in isolation and it’s not so bad. They’re a bit silly but kind of enjoyable. Across an entire album though, the lack of emotional range and the refusal of the songs to do anything with their runtimes really start to wear a listener down.

Yes were always a bit hippy-dippy, even at their best on classics like Close To The Edge, but it was leavened by enigma and dynamics. Here they just bang on relentlessly with their manic fish hook smiles and the attempted euphoria doesn’t convince. They come off as a sad old bunch of washed-up flower children that have run out of creativity and self-awareness.

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Matthew Kelly is the most important person in the music industry – the type of obsessive nerd without whom it would have no reason to produce box sets and nine-hour long documentaries.

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