This was a change of direction for Yes, and the last great album by the classic group lineup. Rick Wakeman had returned to the band after being gone for a couple of years.
Going for the One is not a rock album, it is more of a New Age collection of esoteric and ethereal compositions. If you are looking for Fragile or The Yes Album, keep looking. This is closer to Close to the Edge, and eons from Tales of Topographic Oceans.
Yes was not into plowing the same ground once they had harvested. After Going for the One would be Tormato, a mess of an album and the end of the classic lineup. Yes was always a volatile lineup.
Going for the One starts with a change of album art. The naked man against the skyscraper background. Roger Dean’s Lord of the Rings type paintings were rejected by the band in favor of the slick artwork by Hipnosis, Pink Floyd’s preferred art designer.
The album was recorded in Switzerland as the band became tax exiles. The studio they used was home to Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
Longtime producer/engineer Eddie Offord was also gone, which allowed the band to experiment with their sound. The album was produced by Yes. Wakeman has also begun using newer technology synthesizers in his arsenal of keyboards.
The songs were more of the length of their earlier albums, not entire album sides. What you heard were sculpted compositions, not layers and layers of sound. The production was clean and smart, you heard the individual instruments in the mix. While these were more complex arrangements, what you don’t get is the energy and big group sound of The Yes Album or Relayer. Those albums crackle with rock energy. You might dance to those, but you nod and appreciate Going for the One. Very different listening experiences. This was not a”show off” album, it was a serious album of mostly delicate songs. Some reviewers called this a simpler album than the previous two, that is somewhat true, but this is still a very intricate song tapestry.
“Going for the One” Jon Anderson 5:30 An upbeat song, pleasing but rather lightweight by Yes standards. It gives the band a chance to stretch out a bit, but it is hardly a classic.
“Turn of the Century” Anderson, Steve Howe, Alan White 7:58 A very fine song powered by Howe’s acoustic guitar and Anderson’s angelic voice. The arrangement is very gentle, you get a full measure of the composition and the fine musicianship.
“Parallels” Chris Squire 5:52 My favorite song on the album, I love the church organ that provides the backbone for the song. This is about as rock an roll as you’ll find on the album, which shows you where Yes was in1977. The song was written by bassist Chris Squire who had considered this song for his solo album, but held back.
“Wonderous Stories” Anderson 3:45 A gentle acoustic folk song, with a strong melody. Layers of vocals and acoustic guitars, with keyboard textures. One of the best songs on the album.
“Awaken” Anderson, Howe 15:38 One of Yes’ most complex suites of musical ideas. A wonderful opening by Wakeman, segues into a nice guitar riff by Howe. Overall, a nice balance of vocals by Anderson and more serious guitar runs by Howe. The song changes directions many times, giving Wakeman opportunity to inject musical cues, while White handles the labyrinth of percussion textures. Of the very long Yes compositions, this is one of the best, there is not a lot of waste or fat tucked into the arrangement. This song has a grand arrangement building to a crescendo.
Listening to this album bring back a lot of memories. The band would continue on for another five decades but not surpass the quality of this album. Yes, they would have bigger selling albums in the 1980s, but not better ones.
The resulting tour featured folk singer Donovan opening for Yes. They stopped in Kansas City where I saw them at the Music Hall. This was a stripped down show, the focus was on the music, not elaborate stage sets and big lighting effects. I can’t say that I remember much from this show of 43 years ago. I do recall Donovan had just released an album and was attempting to fit in with a progressive rock crowd.