Flashback: A super-sized Yes performs “Lift Me Up” (1991)

Back in the late 1980s, the progressive rock group Yes included vocalist Jon Anderson, bassist Chris Squire, guitarist Trevor Rabin, keyboardist Tony Kaye and drummer Alan White. At some point, however, Anderson started working with the members of the group’s 1970s “classic” lineup of guitarist Steve Howe, keyboardist Rick Wakeman and drummer Bill Bruford. Eventually, bassist extraordinaire Tony Levin was brought into the fold.

This group — essentially another Yes existing simultaneously with the Squire-led lineup — recorded an album using the name Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe (ABWH) and went on tour playing songs from the eponymous record as well as classic Yes staples.

A couple of years later, ABWH and Yes were both working on new albums when Anderson and Squire began inviting each other to contribute to the other’s project. Soon, the “classic” ABWH lineup and the then-current Yes lineup were brought together to record the studio album, “Union.” Unfortunately, what should have been a great moment of recorded musical history was plagued by the meddling of Arista Records.

First of all, instead of putting all eight members of the band in the studio to work together, the album became a combination of the material being recorded by each group at the time.

Most of the Yes contributions were unfinished demos from Rabin, who was shocked that the label used the tracks as is…with only Anderson’s vocals added to the mix. And nearly all of the ABWH portions of the record were re-recorded by session musicians as the original parts put down by Howe and Wakeman weren’t polished enough for the record company’s taste. Due to scheduling conflicts with Howe and Wakeman that prevented them from returning to the studio in a timely manner and because Arista wanted to rush the product out the door, the label brought in lesser players to replace the original guitar and keyboard parts. Squire simply added backing vocals to the ABWH tracks, which still featured Levin on bass (which, in that case, wasn’t a bad thing at all).

However, all eight members of the united Yes did embark on a world tour and they kicked ass doing so.

Above is a 1991 video of Yes in Denver, Colo., performing “Lift Me Up,” which was one of Rabin’s unfinished demos and served as the first single off “Union.” The live version is vastly superior to the glorified demo that wound up on the album.

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