Have you ever listened to a piece of music, and suddenly you feel like you're in touch with something sublime but intangible? Like you've felt something transcendent and yet unexplainable at the same time?
Going For The One is the eighth studio recording by the
progressive rock group Yes, recorded in Montreux in early 1977, and released on July 7, 1977 by Atlantic Records. It marks a turning point in the band's sound and history -- almost leaving behind the complex, extended songs and arrangements that had previously defined the band, in favor of a more approachable and upbeat sound. Of the five songs on the record, only one (the luminous song Awaken) approaches epic length. However, all of the songs, even the single-length Wondrous Stories are woven with the synergistic magic that made Yes what it was, showcasing the band's the collective brilliance along with a touch of the
modern rock and new wave eras then dawning. Keyboardist Rick Wakeman returns to the band after a 1-album hiatus, bringing back the Classic Yes lineup of Wakeman, vocalist Jon Anderson, guitarist Steve Howe, drummer Alan White, and their stalwart bassist Chris Squire. The album reached #1 in the UK, and #8 in the US.
The album was originally released with five tracks, three on side 1 and two on side two:
- Going For The One
- Turn Of The Century
- Wonderous Stories
If it weren't for that Roger Dean Yes logo at the top, you almost wouldn't realize you were listening to a Yes album when the needle first hit the groove. Is this a country record? Is it honky tonk? No, that's Steve Howe alright. And Chris Squire. Oh yeah, that's Jon Anderson's voice, too, in absolute top form, angelic as ever, like carillon bells ringing. What a voice.
Get the idea cross around the track,
Underneath the flank
Of a thoroughbred racing chaser.
Getting the feel as a river flows,
Would you like to go and shoot the mountain masses?
And here you stand no taller than the grass sees...
The title track of Going for the One is probably as close to a shameless rocker as Yes had ever performed, and ever would before Trevor Rabin ushered in the Yes West era. Is it country rock? Is it a joke? They're making fun of themselves, aren't they?
Now the verses I've sang
Don't add much weight to the story in my head,
So I'm thinking I should go and write a punch line.
But they're so hard to find
In my cosmic mind
So I think I'll take a look out of the window....
Anybody who figured Yes as this ponderous behemoth, crossing Fortean Times with the Bhagavad-Gita, Ralph Vaughan Williams with Mahavishnu Orchestra were probably left either horrified or bemused by the title track. But its theme is classic Yes -- time passes, we change, we learn, we grow. Yes had just come off of a hiatus that found all five members recording acclaimed solo works, and also found long-time bandmate Rick Wakeman rejoining the fracas. What better way to celebrate their reunion than with a bit of fun? But beneath the upbeat, rock n roll sound of the song lies something serious and genuine, Yes' philosophy in a few short lines -- time flies like a racing horse, like a raging river, so live your life in happiness and joy, and love one another.
And should I really chase so hard,
The truth of sport plays rings around you,
Going for the one!
Following the title track is Turn of the Century, a song I've already written about. It's a 180° change from the preceeding song, exchanging arena rock for a lush acoustic sound, and Anderson's utterly, heart-breakingly ethereal voice. The story of a man's loss of a loved one and their ultimate reunion, the song takes Yes to emotional and profoundly personal heights even they rarely reached elsewhere. One of their best ever.
Ending the first side is Parallels, another rocker, driven by Chris Squire's pulsing bass line and a real pipe organ played by Wakeman. The pipe organ was recorded in St. Martin's Church in Vevey, Switzerland, and would reappear (gloriously) later in the album. Lyrically, the song is simple enough: we share the same space, we live our lives travelling in parallel together through time, so let's at least try to love one another and work together to make a better future. The song itself isn't very complex either, other than the bridge where Wakeman plays a rousing solo on the pipe organ. The organ really works to great effect here -- organs are designed to create a visceral as well as intellectual response in the listener, and those big, fat chords he plays during the choruses really impart a huge amount of energy into the song. But of course, it's really Chris Squire's song (he wrote it), and it draws most of its energy from the bass line. Steve Howe plays a nice guitar solo toward the end, but ultimately it's the energy that carries the song, and it's a great way to end the first side.
Opening the second side is Wonderous Stories, the "single" (and yes, that is the spelling of wondrous they used). Clocking in at 3:45, it hardly qualifies as a Yes song, and (gasp) could fit on one side of a 7" without editing. But seriously, it's a fine song, a lilting ballad written by Jon Anderson about a mystical encounter with the storyteller. Does it matter who the storyteller is? What was the story? No one knows, maybe not even Jon. But that's alright, we all know what he's talking about -- we've all been there one way or another. Wonderous Stories was the only post-Close To The Edge song that made it onto the
Classic Yes compilation released after Yes supposed demise in 1981, and was (of course) a single as well. It's a perennial fan favorite and bit of whimsy. And believe me, it's a bit of whimsy that you need before you get to the album closer....
The song is indescribable. It's the pinnacle of the Yes songbook, the closing chapter of a book begun with Close To The Edge, and continued in The Revealing Science of God and Gates of Delirium.
This is where they were headed. This is what they meant.
Does it have Close to the Edge's intricate web of dark energy?
No. The religious ponderings of
Revealing Science of God? No. The stormy, anti-war bombast of
Gates of Delirium? No. What does it have?
Yes were (and still are) in search of something larger than themselves, using music and poetry to try and connect
with transcendent experience, to unite art and sound and human passion in
an attempt to reach and celebrate all that is best about humanity, to affirm
the positive meaning inherent in the band's very name.
The spiritual message Yes had been dancing around and toward for all
those years was finally rendered clear in a single song, a single word:
Starting off with a swirl of piano and quiet guitar, the song is transformed
into a symphony of sound, fifteen glorious minutes of some of Yes' most
inspired music and Anderson's unique poetic vision. It catches its breath
in the middle with an almost tentative solo section for Anderson (on harp),
Wakeman (on organ), and Howe (on guitar) before the song beginning a
minutes long crescendo until it literally explodes in sound,
Wakeman playing a thuderous pipe organ solo, augmenting the instrumentalists
with a glorious choral arrangement by Wakeman. It's not
even a song anymore, it's a prayer. Whatever godhead they were
trying to connect to here, they found it. Finally, the song eases
away in its final moments; Squire, playing a quiet, slow march; Howe playing
quiet chords; White, drawing the energy down with short kettle drum rolls;
and Anderson's cherubic, contralto voice trailing away, singing Like the
time I ran away, turned around and you were standing close to me over and
over again, before Howe's short guitar flourish ends the song.
There used to be a writeup called I alter my consciousness with music.
Awaken doesn't alter consciousness. It transcends it.
Thirty-five years on, Yes are still singing about the same ideas and
vision for humanity, but this is where they peak. This is where you
turn if you want to "get it". This is Yes.
It shouldn't surprise you at this point that Going for the One is my favorite
Yes record. Sure, I listen to Close to the Edge, Fragile,
Relayer, or even more recent work like The Ladder and
Magnification, but this is the record I turn to when I need to
connect to what the band has been telling us all this time. They've never
said it more eloquently and enjoyably than here. It's a relatively short
record with a transitional sound, but one where their skill as musicians
finally meets their maturity and unity of artistic vision. In my opinion,
Going for the One is Yes at its best.
Going for the One, written by Jon Anderson, published by Topographic Music, 1977. Partial lyrics transcribed
in keeping with the principle of fair use. Complete lyrics available from the band's official website: http://www.yesworld.com
Going for the One was recorded at Mountain Studios, Montreux, Switzerland, and produced by Yes. Additional choral performances by Ars Laeta (Switzerland) and the Richard Williams Singers. The cover design was by Hipgnosis. Originally released by Atlantic Records. It has since been remastered and rereleased by Rhino Records, and includes several live rehersals and bonus tracks, including Montreux's Theme, Vevey, and Amazing Grace, all of which first appeared on the YesYears boxed set.