Close to the Dredge

Talk. 30th Anniversary Box Set (4CD, Spirit of Unicorn Music)

Wow, a box set of Talk Talk. Well overdue. Anything new on it?

Don’t be an idiot, it’s a new box set of Yes’ Talk album. Nothing to do with Talk Talk. To be honest, I wish it was.

Why? I love Yes… Tales from Close to the Starship’s Edge, Not Fragile, Going for the Nun. All great albums.

Really? Sounds like you don’t know a lot about the band or their album titles.

Well, okay, I haven’t heard them for ages. Probably because I lost all my records in a move. Anyway, I preferred Hawkwind and Deep Purple.

I can imagine.

Imagine what?

You preferring those kind of bands, and losing your LP collection.

Well, anyway. Back to the box. What’s it like? I’ve never heard of the Talk album.

Most people haven’t as the record company went bust a couple of weeks after releasing it, and it’s been out of print for ages. This 30th anniversary box is putting that to rights and adding two CDs of some live recordings and another with demo/studio versions of the music on too.

Well, that’s good isn’t it?

Umm, it’s not a great album to be honest, and the live stuff is easily available on bootleg websites. The demos too, although they are mostly Trevor Rabin solo stuff anyway.

Who is Trevor Rabin?

The guitarist.

I thought that was Steve Howe?

It was, it is, well mostly it’s Steve Howe. But there was a period of time when he wasn’t in the band, same as Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman.

No cherubic choirboy vocals about trolls and angels? No swirling cape and multilayered keyboard workouts? No steel guitars and flash-fingered guitar solos?

Not all the time, but look, Talk has Jon Anderson singing on it, but instead of Rick Wakeman there’s Tony Kaye, returned from earlier incarnations of the band. He’s a monster Hammond organ player. I saw him live with Yes a few years back.

But what about all the synthesizers? And Steve Howe?

Trevor Rabin plays keyboards and guitar on the album. He was brought into the band after the Drama album, when the follow-up didn’t work out and Yes pretty much split. Howe went off to do Asia with Geoff Downes, Chris Squire and Alan White did some stuff then got together with Rabin and Kaye, and eventually Anderson agreed to do the vocals. So they became Yes again. You must remember ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart’?

Yeah, some poppy synth band back in the 80s, yeah?

No, that was Yes.

Don’t be ridiculous!

I’m not. It was 1980s poptastic Yes, with Trevor Horn (the other half of Buggles, who had been Yes’ singer on the Drama album) on production duties.

Death to all pixies, elves and sci-fi hippies!

I dunno about that, but the same version of Yes kind of limped on for a bit, then combined with what had been another band, Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe, to make a car-crash album, Union, that was mostly cobbled together in the studio using session musicians for overdubs. They then toured as a 8 piece band, with two drummers, two guitarists, and two keyboard players.

Sounds like a nightmare.

Well, some of the musicians involved said that the tour was fun, but apparently Talk, the next studio album, was more difficult to record and they ended up using loads of Trevor Rabin songs rather than band compositions. Anderson wrote lyrics over Rabin’s music and then the band added to the final songs.

So there are some fairies and spaceman and hobbits?

No. Listen, Yes have never written about that kind of crap, it’s just media bullshit. And idiots like you.

Really? So what are these songs about then?

I guess inner thoughts, spirituality, love and peace. The usual stuff. Dreams, hopes and aspiration. But no fairy tales or sci-fi. Although the record label is called Spirit of Unicorn.

Well, it sounds OK. I mean the subject matter, not the record label.

Parts of it are, but it doesn’t really sound like Yes. Rabin is more of a straight rock guitarist, and everything is a bit over-produced for my taste. There’s a couple of good tracks though: ‘The Calling’, which opens the album is okay, some good riffs and massed vocals, but ‘I Am Waiting’, which follows, is too syrupy and ethereal for my taste. 

Well, that’s half an album isn’t it? Two tracks.

Nope, they’re about 7 minutes each. There’s only one long track really, the closer, ‘Endless Dream’.

The grand finale? A major epic? A return to form?

Err, not really. It kind of crashes in but that heavy bit is only a minute or so long, a prelude to the majority of the track, which is indeed almost 12 minutes long.

Well, that sounds good.

Umm, not really. It has lots of cod keyboards from Rabin on it, and Anderson’s vocals are sunk somewhere in the mix. The lyrics are shit too, like the drums, which sound like they are either electric or treated with effects. It’s all so 1980s, so shiny and clean. Ugh.

That’s just you then?

Probably, but quite a lot of Yes fans don’t like the Rabin version of Yes either and were relieved when the classic band reformed a couple of years after Talk to record some of their best tracks and write new music again.

So you could say it was part of the journey the band were on?

You could, but I might smack you. It’s a low point of the band’s career, or part of a sustained dip.

In your opinion.

In my opinion, yes.

Surely the live recordings is less polished though?

You’re right, but most of the tracks are pop Yes, only ‘Heart of the Sunrise’, ‘I’ve Seen All Good People’ and ‘Roundabout’ are original Yes. ‘And You and I’, too, I guess, although that’s messed up with a Rabin piano solo leading into it.

They’re good though?

They’re okay. Let’s just say Steve Howe and Bill Bruford are sorely missed on ‘Heart of the Sunrise’, and no-one needs another live version of ‘Roundabout’, however good a song it is.

You’re just a miserable old sod.

I know, I know. But it’s not a great album, and the fact it was one of the first albums recorded totally digitally doesn’t help the production. It sounds dated, it doesn’t rock, it isn’t what I want from Yes. And anniversary box sets are supposed to be full of new surprising and previously unavailable extras, not recycled bootlegs.

You should have stuck with Hawkwind and Deep Purple, like me.

I should have stuck a cork in your mouth.

Rude! How would I be able to drink?

You wouldn’t.

Well, I wouldn’t be able to invite you to the pub then, would I.

Good point.

Shall we?

Yes please. I could do with a pint and a talk.

Boom boom.

Oh do shut up.


Johnny Machine Head Brainstorm





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