Saving Grace: Yes's Tormato
Regardless of taste or aspiration, great artists are bound to fail every now and again. And as they fail, we all sit back idly, wishing it wouldn’t have happened, but slightly elevated by the fact they did – “ah yes,” we think, “they are humans, too.” But great artists rarely fail completely. For that particular reason, it’s important to look at failures not with a grain of salt, but with the same critical eye that we might look at the rest of their albums. After all, assuredly there must be some type of saving grace to even the worst disasters. With that in mind, we present Saving Grace, a feature in which we examine the shinny spot on what is otherwise a steaming pile of poo.
Yes's Tormato is often considered the beginning of the end for the prog-rock pioneer. Released as the '70s were winding to a close and giving way to the '80s and its fantastic bass thumps and shorter pop songs, the album showcased a side of the band that was far from Fragile.
Probably rightfully so, the majority of twenty-somethings likely associate Yes with neck beards, 12-sided dice, dad-shirts and cosplay – but the band, like it or, gave us a distinctive sound that helped usher in a new world of rock music. Unfortunately, that same sound -- the often tinny, falsetto groove that made Yes famous, was blanketed by Rick Wakeman’s unbelievably tacky keyboard lines (of which we’d hear repeatedly throughout the ’80s, from Nintendo to T’Pau) on Tormato. Even the largest Yes fan won’t argue with you about the remarkably stupid presentation the record gives the listener. It's a truly a remarkable feat that one worthwhile song emerged from it.
“Onward” is not a typical Yes song in that it has no real guitar or keyboard showboating. An orchestral track with writing credit given to the guitarist Chris Squire, the track itself has the trippy feel of early Tangerine Dream, with Jon Anderson gently crooning over the soundtrack caliber noise in his high-pitched triumph of a voice. It’s moving in a remarkably pathetic way – and certainly this track could be plopped at the end of nearly any “life-changing” movie and be met with sniffles from the likes of Oprah to Elway. When you finish “Onward,” teary eyed and full of hope, you might find it best to hit repeat instead of moving on, as the closer, “On the Silent Wings of Freedom” gives a hearty blast of late ’70s garishness.