Yes, “Masquerade” from Union (1991): YESterdays
Yes has earned a few moments of recognition from their musical brethren over the years via the Grammy Awards.
“Cinema” from 1983’s 90125 was named best rock instrumental, and its parent album was nominated for best rock performance by a duo or group. That project’s best-known single, the chart-topping “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” was likewise nominated for best pop performance by a duo or group. Even the lesser-regarded follow-up album Big Generator received a nomination.
Still, even given the world’s greatest progressive band’s track record, the Steve Howe-played and -produced “Masquerade” seems like an unusual song to receive a nomination for best rock instrumental performance.
This is no way mean the song isn’t very good. Howe’s solo guitar contributions are all good, and some classic. “Masquerade” almost seems as a tip of the hat to Howe as his playing was edited to a minimum on 1991’s Unionby producer Jonathan Elias (even though his writing is very present).
Howe’s Chet Atkins-like picking and phrasing is as strong as ever. The melody builds with a refreshing satisfaction. It’s a shame that “Masquerade” is only two minutes long, as Union could use a palette cleanser.
Howe later included a slightly different take on this song on his own Homebrews 2 album, as well as an extended, previously unreleased version with Asia (including the late John Wetton on bass, Carl Palmer on drums and Geoff Downes on keyboards) as part of Anthology 2, which came out in 2017. Both are worth owning, and actually eclipse the Union version.