Tormato was the ninth studio album of the progressive rock group Yes, released in 1978. It continued Yes' trend of shorter, catchier songs first begun on 1977's Going for the One. In fact, it is the first Yes album to have no songs longer than eight minutes since 1970's Time and a Word. Tormato was very much a transitional album. With it, Yes tried to combine elements of their classic, ethereal sound with more mainstream rock and new wave. It's hit and miss, and quite different from much of their other work but it has a few excellent moments.


But look out, in the night
Wait, for they arrive,
To start such sciences anew!
Here it is, the coming of outer space,
Such a pure delight
The coming of outer space!

-Arriving UFO


Lyrically, Tormato is more straighforward than much of what Yes had written since the 1960's. Yes' New Age philosophic leanings are front and center as much on this album as on any other, but on several songs they express them in much clearer language than they'd ever really bothered to before. On a few songs, they stray into the socio-political realm, including Don't Kill the Whale and Release, Relase. And they even include an honest-to-God love song (Chris Squire's Onward). But the clarity of the language is the most noticable thing to me. While Jon Anderson does stray into his "shining light of love" mode now and then, there aren't many shining, flying, purple wolfhounds on this record, except in the deliberately fanciful Circus of Heaven. To me, this is a refreshing change. Though Jon Anderson's voice has always been a joy to listen to, the often painfully obtuse lyrics he wrote and sang could be distracting. Yes seem to make a more concerted effort to connect to their listeners on a more literal level this time around, and it works pretty well. While I'm not as excited as Yes are about benevolent aliens arriving to usher in a New Age of Man, I can at least enjoy the lyrics as interesting stories.

Musically, the band seem to be drawing from similarly diverse influences on Tormato as on their previous albums. Yes had elements of country rock on several albums, largely due to Steve Howe's Chet Atkins influences. Close to the Edge and Relayer brought in clear classical influences, along with some elements of jazz and jazz fusion. Here, they started to draw on the emerging new wave, with its simpler and more aggressive songs and faster tempos, while still retaining elements of jazz fusion in the complex musical lines over Alan White's rock drumming.

Yes also experimented a bit with the sound in studio. Chris Squire's bass sound is the most obvious. He used an envelope filter on many of the tracks, giving the bass lines a funky (bwomp bwomp) sound. Rick Wakeman's bleeding-edge-of-technology leanings continued, with heavy use of the Polymoog along with his very own invention -- the Birotron (a glorified Mellotron that used 8-track tapes rather than the Mellotron's fragile wire loops). He even rolled out a harpsichord on one track, though it couldn't quite top the Cathedral pipe organ on Going for the One. On two songs (Onward and Madrigal), Yes brought in a small orchestra, including a French horn to play the lovely solo melody on Onward. Finally, on the closing track, On the Silent Wings of Freedom, they pull out all the stops and put together a great jazz fusion rocker -- a perfect conclusion to the album. Although the music often sounds dated, it's still interesting and very well-played, despite Yes moving to shorter-format songs. Tormato seems to lean quite strongly in the direction the band would take in the 1980's and later in the 1990's.


On the back of your forty-second screamdown
Do you choose to be lost midst the challenge of being One?
On the flight of regardless feelings
As you hurtle to fear, midst the challenge of everyone?

-On the Silent Wings of Freedom


Tormato was recorded at their old haunt -- Advision Studios in London -- in 1978, and was released worldwide on September 20 of that year. As with 1977's Going for the One, the band handled most of the production themselves. Yes undertook a huge (and very successful) world tour that lasted into 1979 in support of Tormato; the band staged the concerts "in the round" with a circular stage so that every seat in the house had a good view. This format was very popular, and the band returned to it for the Union tour ten years later.

The track (timing) listing is:

  1. Future Times (4:04)/Rejoice (2:40)
  2. Don't Kill the Whale (3:56)
  3. Madrigal (2:23)
  4. Release, Release (5:46)
  5. Arriving UFO (6:03)
  6. Circus of Heaven (4:29)
  7. Onward (4:02)
  8. On the Silent Wings of Freedom (7:46)

Note that the real track timings are occasionally different than what is printed on the CD tray liner. In the UK, Don't Kill The Whale was released as a single, with the B-side being a country tune called Abilene. The B-side was later included on the Yesyears boxed set. In the US, the single was Release, Release, with Don't Kill The Whale as the B-side.

Yes' lineup for this album was their "Classic" one:

The album also featured Jon's young son Damian on Circus of Heaven, complaining about there being no clowns or toffee apples at the circus. Andrew Pryce Jackman arranged and conducted the orchestration on Madrigal and Onward.

Tormato was originally released by Atlantic Records on LP, audiocassette, and 8-track, with catalog number 19202. It was re-released on CD in one of the waves of reissues in the early nineties, and On the Silent Wings of Freedom was remastered for the Yesyears boxed set of 1990. The whole record was properly remastered recently in its entirety from the original master tapes, and this remastered CD sounds very, very good. The remaster is Atlantic 82671-2. It has now been re-remastered and rereleased in the Rhino Records reissue of the Yes catalog in 2003-2004.

And now of course, I have to mention the album title and cover. Originally, the album was slated to be called Yestor, in honor of Yes Tor, a rocky hill "two-and-a-half miles from Okehampton, Devon in England. On a clear day, from the top, you can see far away places with strange sounding names" as the liner notes say. The original cover (by Hipgnosis, not Roger Dean) featured a man holding a dowsing rod, standing on said hill. The (by all accounts true) rumor says Rick Wakeman was so unimpressed by the cover art that he threw a tomato at it during a lunchtime meeting. The link between Tor and tomato was just too good to pass up, so they called the album Tormato instead. To make matters worse, they added a splattered tomato to the front and back cover photos as well. History does not record Hipgnosis' reaction to this, though they still have credit for the cover.

Sources:
Tormato, liner notes
Yesyears, boxed set booklet
http://www.nfte.org,
and foggy memory


On the dreamy ground we walked upon,
I turned to my son and said:
"Was that something beautiful, amazing, wonderful, extraordinarily beautiful?"

"Ooh, it was OK, but there were no clowns, no lions or tigers, no bears, no candy-floss, toffee apples. No clowns."

-Circus of Heaven

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