Album review by Phil M.
South African Trevor Rabin is probably best known as being part of Yes, and their hugely successful album 90215 released in 1983. The breakout track on the album of course was his song ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart’ which represented a change in musical direction for Yes into a more commercial style and broadened their appeal. That is not the only great track on the album, and it is always worth a revisit.
Rabin first came to my attention with the 1980 album ‘Wolf’, including Simon Phillips (drums) and Jack Bruce (bass) amongst other notable musicians. What drew me to the album was the rasping almost electronic guitar sound which was a precursor to the sound used on 90215 as well as the quality of the songwriting.
Shortly after that, he moved to Los Angeles, and in 1982 formed Cinema with Chris Squire, Tony Kaye and Alan White, all from Yes and recorded 90125 with them. Jon Anderson joined them to sing during the mixing stages of the album, and this led to the musicians becoming a reformed version of Yes. He was with Yes for some twelve years and released four albums during that time and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with them in 2017.
After leaving Yes Rabin worked on over forty feature film soundtracks including Con Air, National Treasure, Armageddon, and Gone in 60 Seconds. More recently, he joined Anderson and Rick Wakeman (another former Yes man) to form ARW.
Taking a break from the soundtracks and ARW, Rabin has focussed on the new album which is titled ‘Rio’ after his granddaughter and features a painting by him. There’s a message on YouTube from Rabin himself available here:
The album starts off with my favourite track from the album – ‘Big Mistakes’, a rattle of drums and really full guitar riff and verse punctuated by keyboards. The chorus is nicely harmonised with a nice bass line. The solo is discordant with sharp distortion getting my attention. A neat orchestral outdo completes the track. All the components here are reminding me of his time with Yes and it’s none the worse for that. ‘Push’ follows with some excellent and intricate guitar work and the track mixes prog and pop elements well, but the emphasis is on complex prog time signatures and virtuoso instrumental work. There really is so much to this track – many different musical themes but it all hangs together well.
‘Oklahoma’ is up next with intricate acoustic guitar leading into a nice wash of keyboards and a slow guitar, similar to Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Albatross’ before the vocals enter. The track is atmospheric and slower in tempo than the first two and more epic in its presentation. ‘Paradise’ is the longest track on the album. It has a bouncy, thumping beat, harmonised vocals straight out of the Yes cookbook a good catchy chorus and a classy synth solo.
Some amazingly quick guitar work introduces ‘Thandi’ which is repeated between the slower vocalised sections. ‘Goodbye’ by contrast has a blue grass style quick beat and feel in the verses with a slower chorus contrasting well during which you’re itching for the rockabilly feel to return. The guitar solo is quick and fiddle style fitting well with the feel of the track. Treated vocals introduce ‘Tumbleweed’ which is different in style with little in the way of drums or percussion, relying on keyboards and guitar to carry this slower track.
‘These Tears’ is similarly slower with a ‘Chariots of Fire’ style beat and is primarily keyboard-driven. ‘Egoli’ takes us back to complexity with a bass line and guitar working different riffs and drums far back in the mix and sots of harmonious vocals. The album wraps up with ‘Toxic’ and the distorted guitar is unleashed over a bouncy beat and treated vocals before a reggae-style beat leading into a boogie-style chorus, there are also prose elements – this has every genre covered…
In listening to his new album here it becomes clear to me how much influence he had in the sound and songs during his time under the Yes banner. The instrumental sounds – keyboards, guitar, bass – all are top notch and the level of musicianship is evident throughout. A lot of time, effort and attention to detail have gone into the album, there are so many layers in the tracks that it’s hard to do it justice in a review.
Recommended for lovers of the Yes era with Trevor Rabin.
1. Big Mistakes
8. These Tears