In 1991 Arista Records saw a commercial opportunity for a Yes-reunion. They suggested the 'YesWest-group' with Chris Squire, Trevor Rabin, Alan White and Tony Kaye to record four songs with Jon Anderson doing the lead vocals. A rather strange proposition since he had left Yes in 1988 in order to work with Bill Bruford, Rick Wakeman and Steve Howe. Arista's intention was to add these songs to a new Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman & Howe-album that later on could be released under the name of Yes. Eventually this resulted in the Union-album.
On Union there's not one track on which all eight Yes-members play simultaneously. However, the Union World Tour united the eight musicians on stage in a short-lived 'Mega-Yes' line-up consisting of Anderson, Squire, Howe, Rabin, Kaye, Wakeman, Bruford and White. The tour itself featured tracks spanning the band's entire career. Only Shock To The System and Lift Me Up, both from Union, were performed live and Take The Water To The Mountain was only performed at the first date in Pensacola, Florida. Saving My Heart was played at a handful of shows during the second North American leg.
Curiously none of these legendary live shows have ever been officially released on CD, video or DVD which I always regretted. However, some material from that period became available through the internet. The footage of three concerts must have end up by someone who regarded it to be good enough to release it with the help of a record company. This certainly is good news for all Yes-addicts who couldn't trace those recordings. It even became more interesting because they released it in a de-luxe digipack containing a reproduction of the tour program, a sticker, replicas of tour passes and of course a lot of music on video and audio. Yes Union Live came out as a 2CD/2DVD-release. The concert film of the band, shot on August 8 th, 1991 at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View California, is the main feature on this release that can be enjoyed on the first DVD. This two-hour performance was initially only released in Japan on video and shortly after on Laser Disc. The DVD- version of this live show was taken directly from the master tapes and thus you can enjoy the sound and images the best possible way. It was a wise decision to include the soundtrack from the Shoreline-show as a 2CD-set.
The last show of the Union Tour starts as any other Yes-show with the Firebird Suite followed by an extended version of Yours Is No Disgrace wherein Howe and Rabin get all the room to improvise on their electric guitars. However, I think that these improvisations last too long and moreover the electronic drum parts done by Bruford aren't always appropriate to the song. Watching the footage I discovered that they didn't perform this show on a rotating stage as they probably did on all other locations. The venue was presumably chosen to overcome technical difficulties of filming on a rotating stage.
At the time the keyboard equipment of Rick Wakeman didn't include a MiniMoog or any other vintage keyboards. This can easily be heard on Heart Of The Sunrise and some other tracks. The sounds he mostly produced out of his Korg-synthesizers sound too synthetic. Bad luck, since Rick's keyboards are a very important factor in the music of Yes, but it didn't spoil my pleasure to watch the concert. It struck me that they alternately play songs from the seventies and eighties line-up. For example Yours Is No Disgrace is followed by Rhythm of Love and Heart of the Sunrise. During this live show Yes also performed Owner Of A Lonely Heart, but without Steve Howe of course. He'll probably hate this song for the rest of his life. However, Make It Easy the intro to this song is very special and thus works very well just as the solo spots some band members get, but unfortunately not all. You can only enjoy Howe doing his usual version of The Clap / Mood For A Day, Rabin performing Solly's Beard acoustically, Squire doing his bass thing on Whitefish / Amazing Grace and Wakeman's keyboard solo, a sort of intro to Awaken. The funniest act during the Shoreline-show is when Chris Squire puts a paper bag on his head during Saving My Heart for You.
The bonus-DVD features the bootleg footage of the band. On the bootleg video from the show at the Pensecola Civic Centre, April 9th 1991 it's easy to see that it was filmed between the spectators. Admittedly this gives a good view at the round stage, but the shots aren't always steady and the sound is very poor. Sometimes you can even hear people talking during the performance. I think that most people don't watch the entire three-hour live show of the Union-tour. This 'First Union' has been mainly included for collectors. The concert filmed in Denver at the McNichols Sports Arena, May 9 th 1991 is way better and filmed by several cameras. The images and sound of this film are rather good. The shots of the missing solo spots of the Shoreline-show are very well filmed. Yet you can enjoy the drum duet between Bruford and Howe, but also Tony Kaye's keyboard solo just before Changes. The second DVD also includes some bonus audio tracks. Three of them are in 5.1 surround. From the Shoreline-show you can enjoy Shock To The System, And You And I and Lift Me Up. All of them weren't included on the video. The four stereo mixes include the tracks Shock To The System and And You And I recorded at London's Wembley Arena, June 29th 1991 plus Drum Duet and Changes recorded in Burgettstown at the Starlake Amphitheatre, July 24th 1991.
The de-luxe package of Yes Union Live is provided with tasteful artwork approved by Roger Dean, but it's only available as a limited edition. Via the website mentioned below you can order this awesome package which is undoubtedly a must for all Yes-fans on the planet. It's highly recommended to people who enjoy the music of Yes or other related bands. I felt lucky that I could watch and listen to the music on this album despite the fact that a great deal wasn't filmed in High Definition. In this case the music was the most important and that's of a very high level!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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