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MUSIC : Critics May Differ but Fans Still Shout Yes : There have been lots of changes in the band but it keeps going strong. It performs at the Santa Barbara Bowl Sunday.

July 21, 1994|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

With a lineup that has changed only slightly less than the Dodger bull pen, Yes has continued to make cerebral, bombastic, symphonic, complex and arty rock since the band's debut in late 1969. Yes will perform Sunday afternoon at the Santa Barbara County Bowl.

It would take about 20 pages to recount the lineup changes in the band. But we'll just discuss the highlights. Original singer Jon Anderson continues to hit those high notes in his eminently identifiable voice, and Chris Squire is still the bass player. Tony Kaye was the original keyboard player, then was replaced by Rick Wakeman in 1971, but has been back in the band since 1983. Drummer Alan White has been with the group since 1973. Trevor Rabin, who produced the new album "Talk" is the new guy--he's only been a Yesman since 1983.

The surreal album covers of Roger Dean from the mid-'70s to the early '80s are long gone, but the surreal music survives none the worse for wear. Also, at each show on this tour, there is a special section that allows a select few to experience an expanded listening experience, but more on that in a minute.

A South African native who now lives in L.A., Rabin got the band back on track after they broke up in the early '80s. He was responsible for "90125," a 1983 release that has been the band's biggest hit, containing the smash single, "Owner of a Lonely Heart." Rabin discussed the latest Yes news during a recent phone interview.

How is "Talk" different than the previous zillion Yes albums?

Well, the last one ("Union" from 1991) wasn't very cohesive because there were various factions involved. It just didn't gel. But the new one was made for the right reasons with the right motivation. On this one we used computer technology; there was virtually no tape as it was done on the hard drive. People think that computers somehow eliminate the human aspect, but really it allowed us to do more.

Over the years, Yes has been labeled an art rock band. What does that mean?

It doesn't mean anything to me. I hate how things must be classified. How this is applied to musicians implies that they somehow contrive their products and have studied the demographics of the audience. That's not us.

On this tour there is a Special Enhanced Audio section. What's up with that?

We spent a lot of time on the sound as well as the lights. We're trying to provide a new kind of sound experience, so we brought, in essence, a mini radio station to the show. We've done about 20 shows so far and have had a good response to it. It's sort of like audio binoculars. The people bring Walkmans and put on the headphones to receive a slightly different mix--the more powerful the better. And they still can feel the power from the speakers on the stage.

How did your arrival change Yes?

That's hard to say. At the time, I was working on an album as a solo project which ended up becoming "90125." I moved from London to L.A. and one of the companies that heard the tape was Atlantic, the Yes label. So Chris Squire and Alan White heard it, and so we put a band together, the three of us. It felt really good. As a solo artist, I would have had to put a band together, so what better rhythm section could I find than these guys? After we finished the album, Jon Anderson heard it, and ended up singing 70% of it. Since the band had broken up, there was no pressure, and just seemed very natural.

Despite the numerous personnel changes, what keeps Yes going?

I've been here for 12 years. I think the high point for all of us was this new album. Yes can be very volatile; we never know how each project is going to turn out.

The critics have been unkind to the band over the years. Why?

Yes has a slightly soft underbelly because we've been around for such a long time. And there's been a lot of personnel changes. People think we adhere to some sort of industry standard, but we don't. When "90125" came out, even the critics liked that one. On the other hand, there're Yes fans that don't want the band to change or progress in any way, so it's very difficult for us. Sometimes, we please the critics, other times the fans.

Why are Yes songs so long?

They're not. Some of them are very short. The new single is only 3 minutes long. If you go back to Led Zeppelin, most of their songs were pretty long.

Has the band ever played South Africa?

No, we've never played there as Yes. Before I left, I was in a band called Rabbit which is the most popular band ever in South Africa. People want me to come back with Rabbit, not Yes. We'd like to play Russia sometime, we're working on something for maybe next year.

What is Yes music like to you?

It's ever-changing; that's the enduring thing about Yes. When you listen to a Yes album, you should listen to the whole thing through headphones with the lights off. You can't judge an album by a single song, it's like judging a book by only reading a single chapter. There's usually a unifying concept or cohesion to a Yes album. It's like when we play--it's definitely a show. We're trying to get better and better at what we do.

Details

* WHAT: Yes

* WHERE: Santa Barbara County Bowl, 1122 N. Milpas St.

* WHEN: Sunday 4 p.m.

* HOW MUCH: $31.50, 29.50, 27.50

* ETC: 568-2695

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