I would’ve guessed 1985 for the year 90125 was released, but it was actually 1983. I’d say the members of the band Yes were already considered Progressive Rock Gods at that point, but I was no expert — I was barely in my teens and was really just starting to discover music. Some hardcore Yes fans may despise this album, but I LOVE it. It’s very special to me not only because it was the first complete album (albeit on cassette tape) I ever bought, but it was fantastic! 90125 in no way disappointed me.
I’m pretty sure I was turned on to the HITS off the album via MTV videos. “Owner of a Lonely Heart” had some dark-headed dude with a buzz cut freaking out with different animals and a rooftop scene. It was “very MTV”, but it didn’t ruin it for me. Hearing those power chords at the beginning of the song, told me it was time to rock. “Leave It”, on the other hand, had an “A capella” intro. The video had some weird special effects to it. The band was upside down with their heads spinning around, etc. While the album 90125, in my opinion, musically stands on its own, I have to give MTV credit for turning me on to Yes. (And yet I still don’t know what some chick scrubbing the pavement has to do with David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”.) I will also say I bought the official Yes 90125 World Tour shirt through MTV as well.
Getting back to the actual MUSIC, the thing that sticks with me about the overall sound is the great harmony for starters. There’s fantastic harmony and musicianship on several tracks off 90125. Listening to it now, the album’s production is pretty “slick”. (It was produced by Trevor Horn.) It’s an interesting combo of a pop/rock sound with sophisticated arrangements from their “prog” days. Listen to the song “Hold On” around the 2:20 mark and you may hear what I mean.
“It Can Happen” had a sitar intro which was more than fine with me. Similarly, this song starts one way and detours into something else, but it sure works to my ears. The song detours around the :35 mark.
There’s also a spoken word bit around 3:12 into the song. Here’s Wikipedia’s explanation:
“The dialogue that can be heard under the guitar solo – about 3 minutes and 13 seconds in – on the 90125 version, is taken from The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. The lines, “…Come, old boy, you had much better have the thing out at once….” and “…that is exactly what dentists always do. Now, go on! Tell me the whole thing” are spoken by the character Algernon Moncrieff, in the play. ” (Now THAT’S trivia!)
Maybe “symphonic rock” would be the best label to put on this album. The great Yes guitarist Steve Howe was not involved in this effort, but Trevor Rabin rocked anyway. Rabin received a songwriting credit on all but one of the songs. If you’re not into harmony, there’s always the instrumental “Cinema”, which was apparently the name of the project before lead singer Jon Anderson got involved. Anderson’s voice is a unique one — what can you say? Great range, great singer. I don’t have the world’s best ear for basslines, but the mega-talented Chris Squire’s bass shines through nicely. It’s even featured in the intro to “City of Love” — another great cut.
To my knowledge, 90125 is the only album named after it’s original catalog number, but I could be wrong. It makes you wonder if they fought about the album title, if they just didn’t care, or if they were “big enough” to do that. One thing hardcore Yes fans might not like about the album cover is there’s no artwork from Roger Dean. In his defense, his artwork on Yes album covers is amazing, but this was a different effort for the 1980s — different time, different guitarist, but a sensational album in my book.
Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!