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Big Generator vs Drama – 458

Produced by Jeffrey Crecelius, Wayne Hall, Preston Frazier and Bill Govier

It’s been a very interesting task to compare and contrast Big Generator and Drama this week. Mark and I have hopefully come up with some thoughts which are of interest to you. As always, please add your own comments to the show notes for this week – we’d love to hear what you think of these two albums in our latest shoot-out.

  • Is it possible to compare these two albums?
  • Which is ‘best’?
  • What are the links to Yes’ past and future?

Listen to the episode and let us know what you think!

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Show notes and links:

YMP Patrons:

Producers:

  • Jeffrey Crecelius
  • Preston Frazier
  • Bill Govier and
  • Wayne Hall

Patrons:

Aaron Steelman

Dave Owen

Mark James Lang

Paul Tomei

Joost Maglev

David Heyden

Martin Kjellberg

Paul Wilson

Bob Martilotta

Lind

Michael O’Connor

William Hayes
Brian Sullivan

David Pannell

Miguel Falcão

Lobate Scarp

Chris Bandini

David Watkinson

Neal Kaforey

Rachel Hadaway

Craig Estenes

Dem

Paul Hailes

Mark ‘Zarkol’ Baggs

Doug Curran

Robert Nasir

Fergus Cubbage

Scott Colombo

Fred Barringer

Scott Smith
Geoff Bailie

Simon Barrow
Geoffrey Mason

Stephen Lambe

Guy R DeRome

Steve Dill

Henrik Antonsson

Steve Perry

Hogne Bø Pettersen

Steve Rode

IanNB

Steve Scott

Jamie McQuinn

Steven Roehr

Ken Fuller

Terence Sadler

Michael Handerhan

Tim Stannard

Jim

Todd Dudley

John Cowan

Tony Handley

John Holden

Joseph Cottrell

John Parry

Keith Hoisington

John Thomson

Barry Gorsky

Alan Begg



Robert and David

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Theme music

The music I use is the last movement of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. This has been used as introduction music at many Yes concerts. My theme music is not take from a live concert – I put it together from the following two creative commons sources: thanvannispen and archive.org

16 replies on “Big Generator vs Drama – 458”

I love both albums, saw multiple shows on each tour, meeting the band on both tours. Trying to pick one based on the music is like choosing one of your children. If forced at gunpoint I would choose ‘Drama.’ But being an FBI sharpshooter I don’t think I could be forced at gunpoint! Going by the covers, ‘Drama’ wins by a mile- one of my favorite Dean paintings.

The second track on “Drama” is called “White Car”. There isn’t a Yes track called “Man In A White Car”. Its brevity even extends to its name!

At Kevin’s urging, I recently gave Talk a second chance… and it succeeded in moving ahead of BG in my rankings… sadly that means BG moved to second from the bottom just barely ahead of Heaven and Earth…. So, considering that Drama sits securely in my top ten… This competition was like a Heavy Weight vs. a Feather Weight. No contest. This would have been a fine Trevor Rabin solo album. When this album came out, I pretty much gave up on the future of Yes until ABWH.

Drama was the first new release Yes album I purchased, so it holds a place in my heart for that reason alone. By contrast Big Generator came out at a time when I’d drifted from Yes towards bands like Husker Du – so BG made no impression on me at the time. Decades later, Drama still gets me, especially Chris’s amazing work and the overall tightness of the rhythm section – not to mention Steve’s guitar sound, which to me pushed further into a hard rock genre. And I still struggle to like BG. It’s pleasant but not an album I pull out much at all. But as is usually the case, you guys have given me food for thought to pull Big Generator out again (but the last couple minutes of Does It Really Happen still overwhelm me).

What a very interesting and informative discussion. I first got seriously interested in Yes 6 months after they split after the Drama tour …at the time after getting obsessed with the earlier albums I did not like Drama and did not like 90125 either when it came out but still went to the tour.
Like many others I now really enjoy Drama ..it is so vibrant. I love 90125 although Mr Squire’s bass could be a bit higher in the mix. To me Big Generator was a bit different to 90125 and could have benefited from a full Trevor Horn production…but I love it….there is loads of great bass from Chris… Alan drums like a mad man….particularly in that insane section in Big Generator where he changes the rhythm and then reverses it. Tony Kaye and Alan made a number of compositional contributions to this album. I love it …my feelings regarding Talk are less positive …the live shows were good …but to me Talk and Magnification are obviously good…obviously they are Yes albums….but I do find them rather dull and boring. The 90125 cover work perfectly at the time and I still like the colours and layout…..unfortunately the BG LP , cassette and CD covers and graphics are rubbish. I think BG May have benefitted from a Mr Dean cover if the band had any sense.

I genuinely like both Drama and Big Generator…..musically .but Drama was created in a very short period of time and the band seemed “ hungry again”………..Big Generator was formed during a long period of time and certain “ indulgences”…..not sure if Trevor Rabin called it the drug or more likely coke album sometime back. Of course back in 86/87/88 in LA and satellites…coke was everywhere.

So after all that Drama edges above the BG for me….by the way is that John Parry the same person I went to University in Newcastle with and plays keyboards and loves Gentle Giant ?

Gary,
Sorry, not the same John Parry. I own a piano and like Gentle Giant a little bit, but I’m from the States. My first Yes concerts were in venues near Cleveland, Ohio!

A more constructive comment from me! Apologies for my compulsive pedantry above. Great episode. It was a good balanced contrast to last week’s to this week really revel in the two of you chewing over a topic. It’s a delight to listen to you together. I love both of the albums and their similarities and differences are fascinating. The episode primed me for a re-listen to “Big Generator”, which stirred up lots of thoughts.
Both the albums are extremely well sequenced, with “Big Generator” arguably being the final Yes album to be timed and programmed to fit on to two sides of vinyl. Side One is close to perfect, with each of the four pieces standing in contrast to the other three.
The title track is worth an episode of its own. It sounds to my ears like the musical form of the cubist art pieces. If “Drama” is what happens when five musicians with nothing to lose have weeks to capture five and a bit songs that could all have been played live, then “Big Generator” is in complete contrast a politically-charged years-long committee project. As a result, pieces like the title track have a chance to emerge, with the protagonists really using the studio as an instrument. No one player could conceivably have sat down and strummed this song to the others and asked them to “pick it up as you go, lads”. It sounds more like Yes using Brian Eno’s “Oblique Strategies” cards to deliberately send them in a different direction every sixteen bars. If “Owner of a Lonely Heart” is a Yes song as painted by Rembrandt, then this is what you’d get if you asked Picasso to copy it.
You’re spot on, Kevin, about this album not really sounding like a continuation of “90125”. It’s its own thing. “90125” bequeathed a set of bullet-proof live songs, but this is weirder and more interesting in itself, I think.
Thanks for a great chat prompting a glorious re-listening.

You have a very good comment there regarding sequencing of songs particularly in relation to Big Generator. I will have to check but I am sure that in an issue of Jon Dee’s Yes Magazine (or perhaps from elsewhere ) when the band started work on their next album after 90125 Trevor Rabin talked about side two of Abbey Road being a possible model for the structure of parts of the recording. I do have the source somewhere….so the sequencing and using bits of ideas in a sequence was in Trevor Rabin’s thinking at the time. For me I think Side 2 of BG is excellent..and flows perfectly. As I have said before I like Talk but it is not very interesting musically…it is a very good progish album.but..just because some songs are long does not make something Prog. Anyway I am arguing about the number of angels on a pinhead here.

For me Yes is a bit like Doctor Who it has been going for over 50 years you love it ,it is part of your life, you have occasional times when your obsession wavered..but fundamentally it is part of your life and it is impossible to leave that dear friend and when you forget about it for awhile when you do return you love it even more.
To be fair there is not one period of Yes I do not enjoy to some extent…My 53 year viewing Doctor Who certainly has had its difficult moments particularly recently but I am sure the show will go onward beyond and before heaven and indeed Earth to be Close to the edge of That that is Future Times so we can all rejoice and look forward to wondrous stories. Oh dear this Lockdown is not good for your sanity!!

Yet another interesting episode – thank you. If nothing else it made me listen to Big Generator again. When I do listen it’s like the first time I have heard a lot of the songs as they are so instantly forgettable. I do love Rhythm of Love, Shoot High,Aim Low and Love Will Find a Way but the rest could be any band stadium rock band of the 80’s. Drama on the other hand (which took me a couple of weeks to buy as it had those two pop blokes on) was a great album then and to my eyes is still fresh. In fact it feels like the least dated album in the whole catalogue.

Good eps as always – I feel the competition was a bit raw. It feels every 3 eps you two talk about how much you love ‘Drama’ and the last time I seem to remember you bringing up anything from BG was the cover on the Yesterday and Today cover album with Sonic Elements version of I’m Running which I think there was a comment of “it could have been left off”?
A better comp I would have thought was BG vs Open Your Eyes and Drama vs Talk – but these are all just fun ideas.
BG cover is , to me, one of the worse – but the music is 80’s fresh.
Good stuff!

Really interesting to contrast and compare these two albums. Thanks for doing so. ‘Drama’ has grown and grown in status and reputation, both with me and with many other listeners. It was representing it live that achieved that, I believe. As you say, BG is a very different animal to ‘90125’. Its longer tracks pay much more attention to the early Yes sound, whether intentionally or otherwise. For me, “I’m Running” is one of the most underrated and overlooked pieces in the Yes catalogue. My speculation is that with a Rabin solo piece (something like ‘The Cape”) instead of “Love Will Find A Way” (fine pop song, just not really what’s needed fora Yes album), plus a Dean cover, BG would receive far more plaudits among the Yes cognoscenti than it currently gets. After ‘Relayer’, I’d love to see the current Yes iteration tackle parts of BG and ‘Talk’ live, together with a few tracks from ‘Magnification’. There are some buried gems and deep cuts which very much deserve to be resurfaced and repolished as part of cherishing the band’s legacy.

Well said Simon !!
I completely agree with your comments regarding Big Generator…if it had been released with a Roger Dean cover perhaps incorporating the 90125 symbol and as you say having something like The Grudge on it too I think many Yesfans would have more positive thoughts…
There are many excellent songs on the album and as you quite rightly there are elements which seem influenced by the earlier years; parts of Almost like Love with the Tony Kaye Hammond could be from the first album and indeed the Yes choir toward the end of I’m running could be too. Tome there is not one dud on BG and in many ways it is actually very progressive unlike Talk.

Not sure what The Grudge is although Trevor Rabin did work on the soundtrack for Grudge Match . I ment to say Sludge and The Cape would have been welcome additions to Big Generator.

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