Going for the One
Atlantic SD 19106
Released: July 1977
Chart Peak: #8
Weeks Charted: 21
Certified Gold: 8/2/77
Rock & roll's dependence on, and imaginative extension of technology makes it a science-fiction medium by nature. Even Chuck Berry, whose images of transcendence -- cars -- were mechanical, was able to suggest an otherworldly dimension by idealizing his cruising machines into virtual rocket ships. "You Can't Catch Me" is a science-fiction hymn.
By the late Sixties, rock festivals had become explicit science-fiction landscapes, and groups began to produce program music for drug-inspired futurist fantasies. But it wasn't until the current decade that rock bands began to institutionalize sci-fi -- the utopian idealism of such Sixties sci-fi masters as the Jefferson Airplane was replaced by the dispassionate technology of Led Zeppelin and Yes.
Yes had solved its programming goals, but like all closed systems it was subject to entropy. As the band continued to run through the possible program readouts, less and less creative energy became available and Yes sank into cosmic torpor.
Going for the One reverses this process in a fascinating move that ties the band even more closely to Zeppelin. The title track is the most vital piece of music Yes has recorded since The Yes Album, opening with Howe's fiercest guitar playing in years, a gut-wrenching slide pattern pinned down by Alan White's straight-ahead rock drumming. Howe's tone is darker here than it's ever been, and the newly returned Wakeman refrains from throwing wholesale Bach clips into the arrangement, instead using his keyboards for tasteful fills and added texture. Even Anderson's normally squeaky voice is a lot less stylized than usual -- he actually sounds like part of the band. He even includes a few self-critical lines:
A sense of humor is the last thing I expected from this band. Anderson goes on to sing percussive, four-syllable couplets over Howe's wobbling electric guitar, a totally Zeppelin-like trick that works extremely well.
"Turn of the Century" is more typically Yes, a mostly acoustic cameo about a sculptor trying to preserve the memory of his lover in a piece of art. "Parallels" uses Wakeman's church organ to good effect and features another gritty guitar solo. "Wonderous Stories" and "Awaken" are more fantasy/sci-fi mythologizing, with Wakeman playing nicely layered Polymoog backing on the former and Howe adding Page-like guitar (while White slugs out John Bonham-like garbage-can drums behind) on the latter.
By letting the Chris Squire-Alan White rhythm section construct a bottom for Howe's guitar, and by using Wakeman's unquestionable keyboard talent intelligently, Going for the One takes the right step toward downplaying Anderson's conceptual stranglehold on the band. Entropy can work to your advantage. You just have to be selective about where the energy is taken from.
- John Swenson, Rolling Stone, 9/8/77.
This boldly experimental classic rock quintet, with original keyboardist Rick Wakeman rejoined after a gold album career on his own, is clearly going all out here to create its most ambitious and awesome work yet. Recorded in Switzerland, with one cut done on location in a church to feature Wakeman on a thunderous organ with a full choir, the LP contains five long songs. Jon Anderson's lyrics and high tenor vocals set off a mood of futuristic romantic poetry which the lush, romantic interplay of the four instrumentalists extends into a haunting sound tapestry. Yes is science-fiction rock in its spirit, rather than in lyric catch phrases or instrumental gimmicks. It represents the spirit of fantasy in contemporary advanced pop music probably more thoroughly than any other contenders. Best cuts: "Going For The One," "Wonderous Stories," "Awaken."
- Billboard, 1977.
The title track may be their best ever, challenging a formula that even apologists are apologizing for now with cutting hard rock guitar and lyrics in which Jon Anderson casts aspersions upon his own "cosmic mind." But even there you wish you could erase Rick Wakeman, who sticks strictly to organ pomp and ident noodles throughout, and elsewhere Steve Howe has almost as little to say. C
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
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