Big Generator is the twelfth studio album by the English rock band Yes, released on 21 September 1987 by Atco Records. After touring worldwide in support of their previous album, 90125 (1983), which saw the band move from progressive rock towards a pop-oriented and commercially accessible direction, Yes started work on a follow-up in 1985 with producer Trevor Horn. It was a laborious album to make; recording began at Carimate, Italy, but internal and creative differences resulted in production to resume in London, where Horn ended his time with the band due to continuing problems. The album was completed in Los Angeles in 1987 by Rabin and producer Paul DeVilliers.
Vinyl edition front cover
|Studio album by|
|Released||21 September 1987|
|Singles from Big Generator|
Big Generator received some mixed reviews from music critics, and the album reached number 15 on the Billboard 200 and number 17 on the UK Albums Chart. In April 1988, the album was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for selling one million copies in the US. Like 90125, it was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. The album spawned three singles, "Love Will Find a Way", "Rhythm of Love", and "Final Eyes". Yes supported Big Generator with a tour of North America and Japan from November 1987 to April 1988, after which Anderson left the group. The album was reissued in 2009 with bonus tracks.
In February 1985, Yes – comprising vocalist Jon Anderson, bassist Chris Squire, keyboardist Tony Kaye, drummer Alan White, and guitarist and vocalist Trevor Rabin – ended a twelve-month world tour in support of their eleventh studio album, 90125 (1983). That album marked a considerable change in direction for the group, moving from their pioneering progressive rock sound of the 1970s towards more accessible and pop-oriented music, helped by the production of Trevor Horn and Rabin's demos, which formed most the songs. 90125 became the band's highest selling album, largely thanks to the US number one "Owner of a Lonely Heart", and earned the band their first and only Grammy: the Best Rock Instrumental Performance, for "Cinema".
In 1985, Yes entered plans for their next studio album with Horn resuming his role as producer. Rabin felt nervous and pressured when their label, Atco Records, informed him that they wished for another hit like "Owner of a Lonely Heart", but he wished to move from the band's past and do something different regardless of its success. At Rabin's suggestion, the band agreed to relocate to Lark Recording Studios, a facility situated by Castello di Carimate, a castle in Carimate, Italy. He thought that such a location would help the band bond together and bring some new ideas to the music which would create a better album as a result. Rabin first spoke of the friction between Anderson and Squire during this time three years after the album's release, which suited him as it "created a great vacuum for me to work in". Squire maintained that Rabin made the choice to record there as a step to save money and for tax purposes, and called it the wrong move, a view that Rabin denied years later and clarified that "It was never the intention to save money, although I don't want to waste money." Squire recalled more time being spent on what recording equipment to use than the music itself during the entire project, which also affected the tense situation.
After three months in Carimate, most of the backing tracks had been put down but progress on the album was affected by internal problems. Rabin recalled a lot of partying going on and not enough substantial work getting done, calling it "a real drug time" which affected unnamed members to focus on work. This led to Horn suggesting they halt production and resume in London. For the next several months, recording took place at SARM East, SARM West, and AIR Studios in London. However, when the move was not enough to improve internal relations and differences in the album's direction, Rabin felt it was time to relocate the recording once more, this time to Los Angeles where he had settled, when he once entered the studio by himself on a Sunday to work, and later found it the happiest time of the entire experience. While in London, Horn found himself unable to finish producing the tracks as the band could not agree and ended his association with the project, adding: "It wasn't a case of being a committee. It was just warring factions trying to kill each other". Rabin later revealed that Horn's departure was also partly due to his differences with Anderson and Kaye.
After failing to finish the album in London, Rabin returned home to Los Angeles and completed it at Southcombe, Westlake, and Sunset Sound Studios with producer and engineer Paul DeVilliers. Rabin also worked on the album with a 24-track studio at his home studio in the Hollywood Hills, which inspired him to work on all of his musical projects in the studio which he named The Jacaranda Room, since 1988. Rabin estimated the album cost $2 million to make.
At the beginning of the songwriting process, Rabin recalled the group used Abbey Road (1969) by The Beatles as a model and influence for the music on Big Generator. He explained: "If we come up with an idea, why pressure ourselves into making it a song? Just have it there. If you can't come up with a chorus, don't throw it out because it's not a complete song and don't put a bad chorus around it". Such an approach led to the album having tracks longer than common pop songs of the time, peaking at seven minutes in length. Rabin described Kaye's role as a greater one than he had on 90125, but continual clashes between Kaye and Horn resulted in his keyboard parts being recorded in another studio away from Horn.
The idea behind "Rhythm of Love" is, according to Rabin, "just sex". By the time of the recording, he felt Yes had pushed away from the cosmic-inspired lyrics that the group were known for in the 1970s with "Owner of a Lonely Heart", and thought a sex lyric would be a "nice little tease". Anderson claimed the group were strong for its chorus, but he felt unsure and needed the lyrics "fashioned" and changed some words.
"Big Generator" is one of the album's three tracks credited to the whole group. It developed from a riff by Squire and Rabin, originating from a specific tuning Squire had on his 5-string bass which helped to create the song, which involved contributions from White on the drums. In its early development, White felt the song needed some "Yes stamps" incorporated into the arrangement, and instructed the group to play a section and not listen to his playing. "I just stopped and started ... like the drummer fell off his stool and then got back on trying to catch up the beat. Playing very slowly and then faster ... and then I was back in time". Once he was, "I reversed the beat around backwards so I came in with the bass drum on two and four instead of one and three".
"Shoot High Aim Low", the second group track, was one of the songs recorded in Carimate, and features reverb that was captured naturally around the castle's acoustics, rather than reverb added electronically in the studio. White came up with the chords while he was playing in the studio with the drum box. When Rabin arrived at the studio, he told White to continue playing the beat while he started singing a melody that was used in the song. It features Anderson as "the guy in the helicopter going in at ninety miles an hour and I'm going to blow everybody up", yet has Rabin's backing vocals sing a love lyric that involves a couple enjoying their company in a car. He summarised the song's message as "To live beyond war". Rabin later called the song his favourite on Big Generator.
Rabin called "Almost Like Love" a track that did not quite work in the end and wished it was not included on the album. He disagreed with the addition of a horn section, comparing it to soul music and "Sussudio" by Phil Collins. Squire was particularly into the song's riff, yet Rabin felt the song around it was substandard, like "polishing a vase while the building was falling down".
"Love Will Find a Way" is solely credited to Rabin. He had originally worked on the music and lyrics with singer-songwriter Stevie Nicks and was close to recording it with her, but White heard the song and suggested Yes record it for Big Generator. Rabin was a fan of the song's title lyric, and particularly enjoyed conducting the orchestral arrangement at the beginning. However, he found that some fans thought the song was too far from what Yes music stood for.
Rabin enjoyed working on the production and arrangement for "Final Eyes", but deemed it a particularly difficult song to make, owing to its many changes in mood and style, yet he liked the acoustic guitar with Anderson's vocals.
"I'm Running" is the last of three group-written tracks, and was recorded at SARM Studios in London. When a take had been put down, Rabin recalled, White's drum tracks were deemed unusable, leaving him to re-record his parts "note for note". Rabin took a riff that Squire had come up with which he was uncomfortable, but developed a guitar part that had a Latin flavour. He was not completely happy with the song, but thought its strange quality made him like it.
"Holy Lamb (Song for Harmonic Convergence)" originated by Anderson and deals with Harmonic Convergence, one of the world's first synchronised meditation events that occurred in August 1987 and raised awareness of a specific alignment of the planets at that time. Anderson had met some spiritual people during a visit to Las Vegas several years prior to writing it, and told him that he would be singing about it.
"Jon Anderson had an idea for that sleeve, which was basically a drawing of a scroll," designer Garry Mouat (who had worked on 90125) told Classic Rock. "It was like something you may have done at school. I remember saying, 'I like where you're coming from, but how about another idea?' The band were all looking out of the windows, avoiding eye contact and leaving me to pay lip service to Jon."
Released on 21 September 1987, Big Generator peaked at number 15 on the Billboard 200 during 30 weeks on the chart, and number 17 on the UK Albums Chart. On 8 December 1987, it was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for selling 500,000 copies in the US. On 29 April 1988, it was certified platinum for selling one million copies. Like 90125, the album earned Yes a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
Three singles were released from the album. "Love Will Find a Way", the first, reached number one on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart and number 30 on the Billboard Hot 100. The second, "Rhythm of Love", peaked at number 40 on the latter chart. In 1988, "Final Eyes" was released as the third single.
Big Generator was remastered in 2009 by Japanese producer Isao Kikuchi and released in Japan by Warner Music Japan as part of a series of Yes reissues on Super High Material CD. A remastered album was included in the compilation box set The Studio Albums 1969–1987 (2013).
|1.||"Rhythm of Love"||Tony Kaye, Trevor Rabin, Jon Anderson, Chris Squire||4:47|
|2.||"Big Generator"||Rabin, Kaye, Anderson, Squire, Alan White||4:33|
|3.||"Shoot High Aim Low"||White, Kaye, Rabin, Anderson, Squire||7:01|
|4.||"Almost Like Love"||Kaye, Rabin, Anderson, Squire||4:58|
|1.||"Love Will Find a Way"||Rabin||4:50|
|2.||"Final Eyes"||Rabin, Kaye, Anderson, Squire||6:25|
|3.||"I'm Running"||Rabin, Squire, Anderson, Kaye, White||7:37|
|4.||"Holy Lamb (Song for Harmonic Convergence)"||Anderson||3:19|
|2009 reissue bonus tracks|
|9.||"Love Will Find a Way (Edited Version)"||4:18|
|10.||"Love Will Find a Way (Extended Version)"||7:11|
|11.||"Rhythm of Love (Dance to the Rhythm Mix)"||6:55|
|12.||"Rhythm of Love (Move to the Rhythm Mix)"||4:26|
|13.||"Rhythm of Love (The Rhythm of Dub)"||7:50|
Credits are adapted from the album's liner notes.
- Jon Anderson – vocals
- Trevor Rabin – vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, string arrangements
- Tony Kaye – Hammond organ, piano
- Chris Squire – bass guitar, backing vocals
- Alan White – drums, percussion, backing vocals
- Soul Lips-James Zavala – horns on "Almost Like Love"
- Lee R. Thornburg – horns on "Almost Like Love"
- Nick Lane – horns on "Almost Like Love"
- Greg Smith – horns on "Almost Like Love"
- Jimmy Zavala – harmonica on "Love Will Find a Way"
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