An album, along with a small handful of others, that truly rates a ten in my book.
When it comes to choosing a landmark album which has played a significant part in my personal musical education and enlightenment, it takes very little time to come up with this choice. It's an album which fits the bill on so many counts. Instantly evoking a time and a place – the dim and distant mid-seventies when Rock, Prog Rock in particular, was king and the cool kids at my all-boys grammar school wandered around with albums tucked under their arms, their bags and folders ablaze with strange and exotic logos of bands the likes of whom I'd never encountered on 'Top Of The Pops'. It was time to grow up, step up to the mark and nail my colours to the mast.
'Going For The One' turned out to be the first Yes album I came across, having already dipped my toes into the welcoming waters of the Prog Rock pool via Genesis who seemed to be a good band to idolise. They had a cool logo and maybe it was inevitable that Yes would follow.
With no preconception of side-long epics they were known for, I was initially drawn as I still am, by the cover. Never judge a book, I know, but a recent shift saw them move from the trademark Roger Dean-scapes to the modern Hipgnosis slant which had recently found a home not a million miles from Led Zeppelin's 'Presence', yet retaining that classic logo. Gatefold sleeve? Pah! A double fold opening out into a vast cityscape as the butt naked figure (and the thought did cross the minds of the cognoscenti if it was the same guy who wandered onto Rush's 'Hemispheres' a couple of years later) stared up at the complex towering contemporary structures.
Then the inner portrait; the five band members shot individually beside Lake Geneva – all very celestial and arty and including, of course, Rick Wakeman, who was back and full of enthusiasm for a band and the music he'd become disillusioned with a couple of years earlier. An inner lyric bag provided all the tools necessary for a complete listening experience and a chance to pore over a set of classic Jon Anderson words which would have him commenting onstage at Wembley the following year "we're all a bit cosmic sometimes."
Finally, there is the music. An album, along with a small handful of others, that truly rates a ten in my book. Just five tracks, but every one of them a bonafide winner in the Yes canon. The unpredictable Funk of the title track and finding out many years later in an Anderson interview, that it was just about a horse race – obvious when you read the words! The Anderson/Steve Howe combo in acoustic mode in 'Turn Of The Century', building sublimely before you suddenly realise you're listening to a glorious cascade of electric guitar set against an Anderson-led choir of angels. A track which very occasionally finds itself in the spot as the highlight of the album. It might be a tad mawkish in its concept (sculptor creates statue of dead love giving it life) but as a Prog Rock love song it can't be bettered. In contrast, the gigantic chords and rhythm section of 'Parallels' sees the Chris Squire and Alan White rhythm section (although they provide so much more than a beat) firing on all cylinders, Howe's cascading guitar notes and the rampant Vevey Church Organ making a first appearance as Anderson sings of the "shining towers" of the sleeve design. Forget the perennial encore numbers like 'Roundabout', 'Parallels' is the real proof that Yes can Rock.
There was even a single! It was on one of those strange new phenomena (at the time) – the 12" single and on blue vinyl to boot. Opening side two in a pastoral cameo, 'Wonderous Stories' beckons, short but typically mystical, like 'Owner Of A Lonely Heart' in the eighties, it may have been the music which opened the door for many beside me at the time. It may simply be the appetiser to what is surely "the" Yes song of all Yes songs. 'Awaken' has it all and is deserving of a thesis to itself, yet it's the spine-tingling "master of images" section which is wholly uplifting and bordering on an overwhelming religious encounter. Passing through tribal invocations, mystical harp and keyboard runs, manic guitar phrases from the mind of a master and once again, Wakeman on Church Organ, the live version required the Squire triple neck for the full effect. Worth checking YouTube for Anderson's performance of 'Awaken' with Icelandic outfit Todmobile in 2013, which is as good a performance of the song as any. Saving the best till last it may be, but what precedes the majesty of 'Awaken' isn't too shabby either and remains a run of songs that wouldn't be on my list of desert island discs; 'Going For The One' would be my desert island disc. Singular. Period, as they say.
In 2017, forty years on (also the title of our school song) there's still a thrill as the needle drops and White begins the count in. We sit awaiting a gloriously Steven Wilson treatment revealing even greater majesty.