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Time And A Word vs. Magnification – 474

Produced by Jeffrey Crecelius, Wayne Hall and Preston Frazier

Unusually for recent weeks, it’s just Mark and me this week having some fun considering the relative merits of TAAW and Magnification. Quite a distance apart in time but linked by some pretty obvious themes as we shall see later. Do give us your opinions on these albums via your comments in the show notes below.

  • Which album uses the orchestra better?
  • Which one is more progressive?
  • Why did Yes try out orchestra here?

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

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Producers:

  • Jeffrey Crecelius
  • Preston Frazier and
  • Wayne Hall

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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

5 replies on “Time And A Word vs. Magnification – 474”

Thank you for this latest episode..very interesting discussion. For the first time in awhile…I disagree with you both. I really enjoy the songs on Time and a Word …apart from the lower key version of the title track. Yes had played a number of these songs live and I would suggest live at the time they may have played them better. To me this sounds like a band on fire…who may have taken a slightly off route. I still love the record and the original album cover was very much of the time. The songs are great.
Since it came out I have never thought much of Maģnification….I like Can you Imagine and certainly enjoyed the tour….but to me the album just sounds like Yes by numbers. The rumour was that they went into the studio with no ideas…obviously that cannot be correct. I actually hate the Magnification art work it just seems like a poor version of some Roger Dean Art work. I do not think the band actually thought much of it too. When Rick came back and they attempted In the presence of…that was pretty good.
To me Magnification is a bit like Talk….they are great but ultimately a bit boring and tired.

Well there is my two pence.

Best wishes

To me Magnification sounds much more like a Yes album than T&AW and is also a much more successful meld of rock and orchestral instrumentation..

I like T&AW very much and play it at least a couple of times a year but despite the strength of the material (Clear Days aside) the band sound defanged a lot of the time. Reminds me of the James Last Orchestra’s occasional attempts at rocking out (check out their live version of Uriah Heep’s Easy Livin). Though Bill does his best (and often succeeds) to give the whole enterprise some jazz club energy.

The orchestrations on Magnified remind very much of the arrangements on Change We Must (which is my 2nd favourite Yes member solo album after Fish Out Of Water). The orchestral section of Give Love Each Day is a wee bit Copland by numbers but is undeniably very pretty, much more going on here than cinema-score-by-numbers, and the blend of the band with the larger forces works really well. The only aspect of the keyboard palette that I am missing is maybe some grand piano. This is actually true of the whole album.

Melodically the writing is for the most part very decent but the lyrics are almost uniformly awful (a lot of it make the words of Clear Days sound like the height of poetic insight) and unfortunately the more prosaic the sentiment the more cloying some of the melodies tend to be that accompany them. These are cosmic platitudes on the same level as The Living Tree. Some people really go for that kind of thing. I don’t. What I would really like is to hear Magnification remixed without the vocals.

With or without the singing, it definitely needs 15-20 minutes shaving off of the running time and some of the mix choices are a little questionable (it’s that damn snare assaulting my ear drums again!). So I would be very happy to see Don’t Go and We Agree go into the archives with the two you mentioned.

Arrangement downsides? Steve is fighting off the strings in his customary register far more often than is ideal but at least he is there and the guitar is a vital (the most vital?) part of the sound picture. Not true of T&AW. Steve does sound a little reined-in here and there where his instinct might to go a little wilder and further “out” per Relayer but as compromises go it is at least in service of the experiment rather than him being erased from his own record like Peter Banks. Thank goodness we have a red blooded Astral Traveller to enjoy.

So between the two it is Magnified that I think is the superior album though with reservations and if I had to jettison one of the two from my collection it is actually Magnified that would go because there are too many songs on T&AW that I wouldn’t want to be without. How about that for a contradiction?!

Love Magnification for the most part, although not in my top 5. If I want to quibble I’d say it is sometimes more ambient music than Yes at their best. Enjoy Time and a Word — I agree that there are some great Bruford drums, and some good work with Bruford and Kaye together. Not so much with the guitar . . . . They clearly are a confident band, with the let’s see what we can do attitude that will really pay dividends on the next album when they add Steve’s virtuosity.
The lyrics on M are often not great, admittedly. Better when the band isn’t really trying to say anything linear (e.g., CTTE). So that ties this episode in with the last one!
Relatedly, I just received the new Olias CD pack, which is truly wonderful. (I had the LP decades ago but it slip away.) Looking at it and listening to it, I realized that I’d never really paid attention to the lyrics on that album. I know there is a concept, but I don’t really care (I mean, really, everyone get on the Moorglade Mover?!). But it really is kind of an ambient masterpiece – great layers of simple sounds put together so that the whole is greater that the sum of its parts. So I’m still not really paying attention to the lyrics. Jon’s voice is one of instruments (and a damned good one!).

A little late with this. There are many magic moments on both albums but on the whole I would prefer Magnification. “In The Presence Of” is certainly a Yes masterpiece and it fits quite well with the other long songs. Still Time And A Word has a great rock edge to it, more than Magnification.

One thing I would like to comment on is post-Magnification Yes. It was disappointing that they could not get it together and write some tunes. This is hindsight of course but looking back I think they should have created another symphonic album. After touring and playing with symphony orchestras Yes was now in their comfort zone. With Rick back in the band they had someone very capable of writing the orchestrations. They could have also had the orchestra live with them for the recordings. With a trove of material to choose from they could have been very different shows the second time around. Perhaps an opportunity missed.

These album comparison podcasts have been quite satisfying. And T&aW & Magnification are both excellent YES albums IMHO. However, Kevin & Mark’s comments comparing & contrasting these records are missing a significant historical point. T&aW is part of the proto-prog-still-somewhere in psychedelia-pre-Steve/Rick YES. Magnification, with its Prog-epic writing, picks up where 70’s YES leaves off, engaging in medium & long-form orchestral Prog in which Steve’s guitar & the voices of Jon & Chris work in a concerto-like fashion set in contrast with the strings, wind & brass, all set against some of the heaviest bass & drums since Drama or even Relayer (or dare I say Open Your Eyes). These 2 albums are almost apples vs. oranges, an ingenious early work set against mature YES. Also, I’d like to put in a plug for the song We Agree—unlike the typical Jon-mysticism (In the Presence Of, Give Love, Mag title track), this song addresses the refugee/migrant crisis in our world with compassion and critical introspection, obviously as relevant now as when it was written. And it is not totally out of place. Are not the tribes on the Moorglade also refugees?

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