Esquire Music 2016
Third, and apparently last, chapter in the saga of a comet-like prog collective.
A hurried pace never had a place in this band’s story; these artists have preferred to take their time in search of an impressive result. Having emerged in 1982, when art-rock was deflated to pedestrian level, creative alliance of singer Nikki Squire and multi-instrumentalist Nigel McLaren produced – aided and abetted by the former’s then-husband Chris and his colleagues – the group’s self-titled debut only five years later, to follow it up with “Coming Home” in 1994, and return now as if to mark the group’s 35th anniversary. Sadly, McLaren didn’t live to see the album out, but Squire made sure it would proudly join the ensemble’s catalogue.
It’s a solidly sensual work, even though some numbers may feel rather superficial. Yet if “Human Rhythm” barely rises above demo state, the PROCOL HARUM-influenced “Heaven Blessed” rolls on organ wave to get high on urgency, thanks to its clock-like rhythm. Much calmer,”Ministry Of Life” thrives on folk-tinctured subtleties to such an extent that the piece’s epic scope will take a back seat to the heartbeat-propelled pop momentum and insert a breathing space between Nikki’s voice and Nigel’s riffs-and-ripples until another dimension is opened – into YES’ universe, where the likes of “It’s Over” exist as well – which coils only to expand into a joyous, spiritual choir.
The idealistic coda has, in fact, a continuation in the acoustic psychedelia of “She Said” whose bluesy swirls, courtesy of Robbie Blunt’s six strings, emerge unexpectedly to tie the otherwise ethereal song down to earth – a dream in the heart of this track can be real after all – and reappear delicately in “Tonight” pumping genuine emotions through its pulsing veins. So while McLaren’s vocals keep “Friends & Enemies” from exploding in colors despite Squire’s celestial harmonies which also fill the waltz “Where Is The Love” with cosmic consciousness, “Stay Low” is extremely soul-warming because it’s slightly raw and, thus, vulnerable, especially with children joining in on refrain. The album’s fragility motif is obvious here, and if it’s the band’s last record ever it had to be done this way.