Union (Yes album)

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File:Yes - Union.jpg
Studio album by Yes
Released 30 April 1991
Recorded 1989–1990
Genre Pop rock, Progressive rock
Length 65:23 (LP)
69:52 (CD)
Label Arista
Yes chronology
Big Generator
(1987)Big Generator1987
Singles from Union
  1. "Lift Me Up"
    Released: May 1991
  2. "Saving My Heart"
    Released: August 1991
  3. "I Would Have Waited Forever"
    Released: 1991

Union is the thirteenth studio album from the English progressive rock band Yes, released in April 1991 on Arista Records. Production began in 1990 following the amalgamation of two bands featuring current and previous members of Yes at the time—Yes, formed of Chris Squire, Trevor Rabin, Tony Kaye, and Alan White and Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe (ABWH), formed of Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman, and Bill Bruford. The album is a collection of tracks written by each group separately; the eight members do not play together at once.

Union was released to a mixed reception. Most of the band have openly stated their dislike for the album, its production, and the difficulties faced with making it. The album reached number 7 in the UK and number 15 in the US. Three singles were released from the album—"Lift Me Up", "Saving My Heart", and "I Would Have Waited Forever". "Lift Me Up" topped the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart for six weeks. Howe's guitar solo, "Masquerade", received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. Yes supported Union with a 1991–92 world tour that featured all eight members playing on stage. Bruford, Wakeman, and Howe left the band at its conclusion.


In 1983, Yes reformed following the addition of returning singer Jon Anderson, joining bassist Chris Squire, drummer Alan White, guitarist Trevor Rabin, and keyboardist Tony Kaye. The line-up went on to record Yes' most commercially successful albums—90125 (1983) and Big Generator (1987). In September 1988, following their 1988 tour of North America and Japan, Anderson left Yes and formed Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, a new group with past Yes members Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman and Bill Bruford. Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe released their self-titled album for Arista Records in June 1989 and supported it with their successful 1989–90 world tour. During this time, the remaining members of Yes began writing new material and sought a potential lead singer, including Supertramp vocalist Roger Hodgson and Billy Sherwood,[1] singer and guitarist of World Trade.

In 1990, ABWH proceeded to write and record a second studio album at Studio Miraval in Correns, France with bassist Tony Levin and producer Jonathan Elias. Bruford described the material written by Howe, Levin, and himself during this time, before Anderson's involvement, as "just terrific".[2] Soon after, Anderson contacted Rabin for a song he was willing to send over for ABWH to record.[3] "What I read into that was they needed a single" recalled Rabin, who sent three demos, one including "Lift Me Up",[1] and requested only one of them be used.[3] ABWH decided to use all three, which started discussions among the two groups' management about having Yes and ABWH work on a single album. Rabin thought the idea of a merge "was useful and convenient to everyone, because we wanted to go on the road, and it was a quick way".[4] Howe and Bruford resisted, seeing no need to become part of Yes once again as they had reached substantial success as ABWH.[4]


Roger Dean was hired to design the art for the album. After the release of Big Generator, Dean was asked by Phil Carson to design a new band logo, and came up with a square design, but it was not used due to Anderson forming ABWH. When it came to Union, Dean decided to use the Yes logo he designed in 1972 and the square design.[5]


After giving the green-light for the album, Arista Records wanted the album finished quickly. As Wakeman and Howe agreed to other commitments, their respective keyboard and guitar parts had been recorded and transferred onto a computer but not finalised and recorded onto tape. Wakeman said, "That, sadly, gave the producer a lot more carte blanche than he should ever have had in editing what I'd done, even to the extent of changing what I had played, because it was so easy".[6] A variety of musicians re-recorded some of Wakeman and Howe's parts at various studios in their absence, including Elias himself and guitarist Jimmy Haun, a session musician who worked with Squire on his side project, The Chris Squire Experiment.[4][7]


Side one

Howe's guitar riff on "I Would Have Waited Forever" is featured on his solo album Turbulence (1991).

"Masquerade" is an acoustic guitar solo written and performed by Howe. He recorded the track in fifteen minutes at his home studio using a two-channel Revox deck, "away from all the arguments and politics" that came with making the album.[4] He recorded other acoustic tracks on a Spanish guitar for the album, including one titled "Baby Georgia", but Arista decided to use "Masquerade", a track Howe almost decided against sending because he thought it was not as strong as the others.[8]

"Lift Me Up" was written by Squire and Rabin. The two used a dictionary to look for suitable rhyming words for the song's lyrics, which is how they came up with the word "imperial" in its chorus. According to Rabin, the song concerns a homeless person who enters a restaurant to use the bathroom, only to have the people inside telling him to leave. "And he just looks up to the sky [and says] ... you know, help me out".[8] Rabin completed two different mixes of the track but Arista founder Clive Davis disliked them. After Squire suggested to bring in someone else, Paul Fox was subsequently hired and finished a mix that was used on the album with assistance by Ed Thacker. Rabin, feeling the original mix was superior, thought Fox's work was "very good" but it suffered from not having a clear idea on what was wanted.[8]

"Without Hope (You Cannot Start the Day)" originated from Elias who recorded a basic outline of the track in an afternoon and sent the tape to Wakeman to add his keyboards.[8] Elias and Anderson were dissatisfied with Wakeman's parts; they wished for something "simple and gentle" but instead got a piece that to Elias "sounded like a Rachmaninoff piano concerto". Elias proceeded to record the parts himself on a piano prior to the final mixing stage.[9]

Rabin felt "Saving My Heart" was not suitable to include on a Yes album, a similar feeling he had for the band's most successful single, "Owner of a Lonely Heart". He originally planned to develop the track with Hodgson before Anderson heard it and wished to work on it for Union. The song displays pop and reggae influences. Rabin was unhappy with the song's final mix as it did not turn out the way he wished.[9]

Side two

"Miracle of Life" is a track Rabin described as a protest song; he gained influence for its lyrics after watching a news report on the slaughtering of dolphins in Denmark. Howe thought the track was "very good".[9]

"Silent Talking" is a song that Howe originally connected with a track he wrote titled "Seven Castles". Howe thought it contained "some of the best guitar work" on Union but noted Anderson's voice came in too soon on his guitar part.[9] The song features a guitar riff from Howe that is also included in his solo album Turbulence (1991).

"The More We Live – Let Go" was written Squire and Billy Sherwood, the singer and guitarist of World Trade who was considered as a replacement for Anderson following his departure from Yes in 1988. The song featured extensive (but uncredited) vocal and instrumental contributions from Sherwood. The pair also wrote "Love Conquers All", a track with Rabin singing lead vocals released on the band's box set YesYears (1991).[10]

"Angkor Wat", named after the Cambodian temple of the same name, was written by Elias, Anderson and Wakeman. During the final days of recording, Elias wanted Wakeman to record some atmospheric keyboard sounds that were then layered and formed as a track. Wakeman recorded each layer without hearing what he recorded before.[11] The song features a Cambodian poem at the end read by Pauline Cheng.[12]

"Evensong" is taken from the middle section of a drum and bass duet performed by Bruford and Levin on the ABWH tour. The title comes from an evening prayer service held in English churches.[11]

Release and reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 2.5/5 stars[13]
Rolling Stone 2/5 stars[14]

Union was released on 30 April 1991. It reached number 7 on the UK Albums Chart and number 15 on the US Billboard 200. As of 2015, Union is the last Yes studio album to reach the top 10 in the UK. "Lift Me Up" was a success following extensive radio airplay on mainstream rock radio stations. The song topped the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart for six weeks. "Masquerade" earned the album a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. Howe described the nomination for his track as "pure justice" among the difficulties in making the album.[4]

Although a commercial success, the album was poorly received by critics, fans and even some members of the band. Rick Wakeman stated he was dissatisfied with the production, commenting that most of his contributions were so altered in the final result that he himself could not recognise them, adding that he used to call it "Onion" because "it made me cry every time I heard it". Bill Bruford was also very critical of the record, stating "It was probably not only the most dishonest title that I've ever had the priviledge of playing drums underneath, but the single worst album I've ever recorded".[15]

Union is among the worst rated Yes albums in music rating sites such as Rate Your Music and ProgArchives, only behind Heaven & Earth and Open Your Eyes.[16][17]

Track listing

Note: "Angkor Wat" and "Give & Take" are not included on the LP version.[18]

No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "I Would Have Waited Forever"   Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Jonathan Elias Jonathan Elias 6:32
2. "Shock to the System"   Anderson, Howe, Elias Elias 5:09
3. "Masquerade"   Howe Howe 2:17
4. "Lift Me Up"   Trevor Rabin, Chris Squire Rabin 6:30
5. "Without Hope You Cannot Start the Day"   Anderson, Elias Elias 5:18
6. "Saving My Heart"   Rabin Rabin 4:41
7. "Miracle of Life"   Rabin, Mark Mancina Rabin, Mancina, Eddy Offord 7:30
8. "Silent Talking"   Anderson, Howe, Rick Wakeman, Bill Bruford, Elias Elias 4:00
9. "The More We Live – Let Go"   Squire, Billy Sherwood Offord 4:51
10. "Angkor Wat"   Anderson, Wakeman, Elias Elias 5:23
11. "Dangerous (Look in the Light of What You're Searching For)"   Anderson, Elias Elias 3:36
12. "Holding On"   Anderson, Elias, Howe Elias 5:24
13. "Evensong"   Tony Levin, Bruford Elias 0:52
14. "Take the Water to the Mountain"   Anderson Elias 3:10


Yes supported Union with a 1991–92 world tour, covering North America, Europe and Japan. At its conclusion, the 1983–88 line-up of Anderson, Rabin, Squire, Kaye, and White continued as Yes and started work on the next Yes album, Talk, released in 1994.



Additional musicians and personnel

  • Jonathan Elias – synthesizer, keyboards, vocals
  • Tony Levin – bass guitar, Chapman Stick
  • Jimmy Haun – guitar
  • Billy Sherwood – bass, guitars, keyboards, vocals
  • Allan Schwartzberg – percussion
  • Gary Barlough – synthesizer
  • Jerry Bennett – synthesizer, percussion
  • Jim Crichton – synthesizer, keyboards
  • Pauline Cheng – Cambodian poetry on "Angkor Wat"
  • Gary Falcone – vocals
  • Deborah Anderson – vocals (Jon's daughter)


  • Roger Dean – design and paintings
  • Jon Anderson – associate production
  • Jonathan Elias – production
  • Steve Howe – production
  • Eddy Offord – production
  • Trevor Rabin – production
  • Mark Mancina – production
  • Billy Sherwood – production



  1. 1.0 1.1 Kirkman 2013, p. 102.
  2. Welch 2008, p. 226.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Morse 1996, p. 90.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Morse 1996, p. 91.
  5. Welch 2008, p. 228.
  6. Morse 1996, p. 92.
  7. Jimmy Haun Interview at Bondegezou
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Morse 1996, p. 93.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Morse 1996, p. 94.
  10. Welch 2008, p. 227.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Morse 1996, p. 95.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Union (CD version) (Media notes). Arista Records. 1991. 261 558.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Eder, Bruce. Union – Yes at AllMusic. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
  14. Eddy, Chuck (13 June 1991). "Yes: Union". Music Reviews. Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 8 May 2009. Retrieved 20 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. [1] at 44:30.
  16. [2]
  17. [3]
  18. Union (LP version) (Media notes). Arista Records. 1991. 211 558.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • Kirkman, John (2013). Time and a Word: The Yes Interviews. Rufus Publications.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Morse, Tim (1996). Yesstories: "Yes" in Their Own Words. St Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-312-14453-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Welch, Chris (2008). Close to the Edge – The Story of Yes. Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-1-84772-132-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>