also by Yes:
The most notorious of all prog rock albums, this is most often cited as demonstrating all the worst excesses of the genre. Needlessly long tracks, based on an incomprehensibly pretentious concept, filled with musical and lyrical overindulgence... But in the end it's probably good that this album was made. After all, musical history needs extremes. Punk would never have seemed so refreshing.
Of all its excesses the lyrics are the most dominant. Jon Anderson seems to be in charge for most of the album. The first two pieces, especially, seem to be mainly a vehicle for his hippyish ramblings on the Shastric scriptures, with musical interest of lesser importance. There's not even any indulgent instrumental soloing in the first half. Rick Wakeman tells tales of how he used to get a roadie to bring him curry to eat on stage during the boring bits in gigs of this! Track 1 is an upbeat symphonic piece, listenable enough but it pales in comparison to "Close To The Edge". The second piece contrasts pastoral, folky passages with bursts of spaced-out atmospherics on Rick Wakeman's mellotron.
It's only by "The Ancient" that the music starts to warm up. Here they mess around with a bit of dissonant jazz, with Steve Howe's eerie slide guitar soaring over the band's itchy improvisation. For a complete contrast, the third track finishes with a gentle ballad and some imaginative acoustic guitar work by Howe. "Ritual" has some nice moments of straight bluesy rock and anthemic choruses, but there's not enough decent musical ideas here to fill 21 minutes. It just seems to be stretched out for the sake of symmetry.
Overall it's certainly too long and rambling to bear frequent listening, but it's interesting to dig it up occasionally as a curiosity.
December 4, 2003