Yes, “New State of Mind” from ‘Open Your Eyes’ (1997): YESterdays
You always remember your first. Perhaps you remember them better than they really were.
For what it’s worth, however, 1997’s Open Your Eyes was not only my first album by the world’s greatest progressive rock band, but the subsequent six-man tour also marks my first Yes concert experience – in surround sound no less.
The album is on my Top 5 list of favorite Yes albums, as well. Still, Open Your Eyes has the misfortune of being one of the lowest-charting studio LPs by the band, continuing the slide which started with 1994’s Talk. Released in November 1997 on Beyond Records in the U.S. and Eagle records in U.K., Open Your Eyes remains one of just two albums by Yes that’s not available in a digital format. (The jury is out on Fly From Here / Fly from Here: Return Trip, as the original album was just withdrawn from iTunes.)
There are many differing stories from Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire and then-newcomer Billy Sherwood about the origins of the material. There are also many fine books, such as Simon Barrow’s Solid Mental Grace, which tell the tale of the origins of these songs. Would it be a Yes album without a little tension?
One thing which is obvious from “New State of Mind,” the album’s first song, is a blending of the classic era Yes song with contemporary Billy Sherwood production. Sherwood – who actually acted as engineer, with the entire band credited as producers – delivers a solid rock sound which is not as abrasive as Talk and highlights each member. Despite the credits, Sherwood is largely regarded as producer of the entire album.
His focus on Alan White’s drum sound, along with Chris Squire’s booming bass, is evident. It’s hard to believe this is the same rhythm section that played on 2014’s Heaven & Earth. Steve Howe’s steel guitar is ever present but the guitar textures are clearly from Billy Sherwood, since they hint of a mixture of Steve Lukather and Michael Landau. As one of only two Yes albums with two guitarists, this combination works well.
What also works well is the Yes choir, which has never sounded fuller. Sherwood and Squire seem to feed off of each other. Howe’s presence is appreciated, and Anderson’s distinctive tenor adds to the top end. Howe even adds sitar and an electric guitar solo to tie the song to the past while keyboardist Igor Khoroshev, a new addition, points the way to the future.
Despite the new state of mind by Yes, record company indifference and a changing music landscape meant that this song – which served as the second single from Open Your Eyes – went unnoticed by the buying public.