REVIEW: Yes – Drama (1980) – The Meat Challenge

The Meat Challenge:  Listen to an album we’ve never heard before, and write about it while listening for the first time on headphones.  I was given Drama by Yes.

YES – Drama (1980 Atlantic)

Because context is always important, a quick glance at Wikipedia tells us that Drama the first Yes album “to feature Trevor Horn as lead vocalist, as well as keyboardist Geoff Downes. This followed the departures of Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman after numerous attempts to record a new album…Drama was recorded hurriedly, because a tour had already been booked before the change in personnel.”

Heavy-footed “Machine Messiah” begins like a metal epic, with a dense, galvanizing guitar riff, and then goes through multiple lighter sections of acoustics and keyboards.  Regal and bouncy, “Machine Messiah” is uplifting despite (and because of) its complexity.  Clouds form about halfway through the song, darkening the landscape, but that guitar returns for second round.  Tricky bits are three-dimensional, snakelike and winding, but satisfying.  An enticing start!

After a 10 minute opener, you’re fairly warmed up for anything, but “White Car” is surprising nonetheless for its lushness and brevity.  It sounds like there should be more, but then Chris Squire brings the bass of “Does it Really Happen”, reminding me that he’s truly one of the all time greatest four-stringers in history.  His fingers gallop.  What a crisp, tight bass sound.  Hard to describe this track — it moves, and it’s full, but not immediate.  Builds nicely up with organ, vocal layers and guitar chords though.  I dig the bass licks right after the false ending.  Chris Squire was the man!

Drama‘s second side starts with “Into the Lens”, and another bass pulse by Chris Squire.  Bouncing from section to section, it’s hard to pin this song down to one style.  It’s easy to say it’s great though.  It’s a big song, always interesting and going someplace.  From the camera lens, we “Run Through the Light”, opening with gentle acoustic picking and elegant singing.  Then the electric guitar and keyboards lay down the hooks.  This is my favourite song so far.  Trevor Horn’s vocals are enticingly catchy with a Police-like chorus, but then there’s a squirrely and cool Steve Howe guitar solo.

We end the set on “Tempus Fugit”, the only track I was previously familiar with.  Like a space race with time, this song goes into hyperspace with engines powered by Chris Squire.   In a flurry, the album is over.  Drama.

That wasn’t a bad first listen.

4.5/5 stars

34 comments

  1. I fucking love Yes!!! I sent Michael a review of Big Generator a long ass fuckin’ time ago with zero context.

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      1. I figured as much. Not enough shitty baritone like Blaze. Anderson’s got a high fuckin’ voice. Talk is still a wildly underrated album. I like every song except “Where Will You Be”. Meat should do that one next.

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        1. Meat can only do albums he hasn’t heard. I am thinking of giving him an old Budgie next. He was thinking of giving me Ween next but it’s undecided yet!

          I don’t really want him to give me another Yes, I want something different.

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        2. Aww, shit. I thought it was Meat that did this Drama review since he did Roky yesterday and it’s called the Meat Challenge. Shows you how much attention I was paying to the title. It did seem too refined for Eric.

          **Goes away kicking myself in the ass silent comedian style.**

          Why is he Uncle Meat anyway? Does he touch his weiner a lot or something?

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Yes but that’s not why. I always forget the story though.

          He loves to touch himself though, make no mistake. He too “goes for the record” I’m sure.

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  2. Great album. I got it after I read a Dream Theater interview in the 90s and this album was mentioned.
    The first time I dropped the needle on it was just me, the record player and my headphones so I didn’t disturb anyone.

    And after listening to so much 80s and early 90s, this album sounded like something from the 70s even though it was released in 1980. Because when I compare the sounds to British Steel, Heaven And Hell, Back In Black, this album is very different. But still great.

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  3. Prog rock needs more love. It’s treated like a bastard child of the genre. Some of it is noodley boring ass excess, but a lot is rewarding and demands attention since it builds and descends over a period of twenty minutes. Not something for a mixer, but over the speakers or headphones its great to get lost in the world. It’s bombastic stuff, and I’d take it over punk any day. Well, most days. Never Mind the Bollocks is a relentless ball of fury that I still love to listen to when I’m pissed. A lot of other great punk, but you have to sift through a lot more shit bands there than you do with prog.

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      1. “You don’t have Blonde on Blonde? That is perverse!” – Jack Black in High Fidelity.

        “You don’t have Close to the Edge? That is perverse!” – Me right now.

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  4. Welcome to the awesome world of Drama, which should only grow in stature for you the more you hear it. It’s been a 5/5 for me since I first heard it in 1980. A lot of Yes “purists” won’t give it the time of day but they’re missing out. They should listen with open ears, and not judge based on expectations of who should be in the band.

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    1. Chris Squire was a fucking legend. Nobody better in rock. Geddy Lee had great taste being influenced by that guy.

      Cool thing about Yes is that they had a jazzy influence that’s not quite as prominent in other prog bands of the era. I do love some of those early Genesis recordings like Selling England by the Pound and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, but Yes just has this spontaneous lively factor that can be contributed a lot to Bill Brufford and his ghost notes. Yes is just accessible, lively, and jazzy. Love ’em. Love jazz. Dexter Gordon’s Go! is a CD I want so fucking bad and haven’t found lately. I NEED IT!

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