STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
It’s officially billed as “The Album Series: Drama + Topographic 1 & 4.”
What it means is the band Yes — which is now guitarist Steve Howe, singer Jon Davison, drummer Alan White, Billy Sherwood on bass and Geoff Downes on keyboards — will perform the ignored-for-decades album “Drama” and the marathon tracks “The Revealing Science of God” and “Ritual,” which were sides one and four, respectively, of the 1973 double album “Tales from Topographic Oceans.”
Both works were ambitious and ground-breaking for different reasons. “Tales from Topographic Oceans” was a concept album comprised of four 18- to 22-minute compositions, and was the first to feature White on drums. “It’s an iconic Yes album for a lot of the die-hard fans — as much as ‘Close to the Edge’ and ‘Fragile.’ It’s quite an amazing piece of music,” Downes said in an interview via Skype.
Referring to “Drama” as a “turning point,” Downes said: “It propelled Yes into a new genre of music in the ‘80s.” It featured a heavier rock sound, more-modern-sounding keyboards and a vocoder.
Downes — who was recruited to join Yes in 1980, along with fellow Buggles member Trevor Horn, in order to complete “Drama” — said that although it took a long time, “the album has grown on the fans.”
At that time, original lead singer Jon Anderson and keyboardist Rick Wakeman had left the band over artistic differences. As a result “Drama”’s sound was different from previous Yes albums. “When it first came out, there was a feeling this wasn’t Yes,” said Downes, who later joined Howe in the supergroup Asia after Yes disbanded in 1981.
When Anderson joined a reconfigured version of Yes in 1982, and stayed on as lead singer until 2008, the songs from “Drama,” which were sung by Horn, were shelved and became obscured by time.
During a few of Yes’ recent concert dates in the U.K., Horn joined them on stage, Downes said.
Following the album performances, Yes will perform hits and fan favorites. Downes mentioned “Roundabout,” “I’ve Seen All Good People,” “And You and I” and “Starship Trooper.”
The tour comes to the American Music Theatre in Lancaster July 25 and the Sands Bethlehem Event Center July 31. “We’re very much looking forward to this. Philadelphia was really a stronghold (for the band) for many years. When I first joined the band, we rehearsed there,” Downes said.
Rejoining Yes in 2011, Downes said that Howe and founding member Chris Squire — who passed away from leukemia in 2015 — had brought up his becoming the band’s keyboardist “a couple times” over the years. “It never materialized until they got stuck into the ‘Fly from Here’ album,” he said.
“We were all very, very upset last year when Chris died, and none of us expected it. A huge gap is left in the band in many ways because Chris was such a kingpin,” Downes said. “His spirit is still there in the music. We’re proud to continue that legacy.”
When asked about his thoughts on Anderson, Wakeman and 1982-1994 Yes guitarist Trevor Rabin also going on the road performing the band’s catalog, under the name ARW, he responded: “Yes music is just as much a part of their legacy as Steve, Alan, and myself, to an extent. Good luck to them, really.”