90125 is the eleventh studio album by the English rock band Yes, released on 7 August 1983 by Atco Records. After the group disbanded in 1981 following their tour in support of their previous album Drama (1980), bassist Chris Squire and drummer Alan White formed the band Cinema with new guitarist and singer Trevor Rabin and former Yes keyboardist Tony Kaye. The group adopted a more commercial and pop-oriented direction as the result of their new material, with much of it derived from Rabin's demos with former Yes singer Trevor Horn as their producer. During the album's mixing stage, former Yes singer Jon Anderson returned to record the lead vocals, which led to Cinema continuing as a reformed Yes.
Named after its catalogue serial number, 90125 was released to a generally positive reception and helped introduce the band to a new generation of fans. It reached No. 5 on the Billboard 200 and No. 16 on the UK Albums Chart and remains their best selling album with over 3 million copies sold in the US. Of the album's four singles, "Owner of a Lonely Heart" was the most successful, topping the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart; this track is, to date, the only song of theirs to top the Billboard Hot 100. "Cinema" earned the group a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance and 90125 received a nomination for an award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. Yes toured the album between 1984 and 1985 which included two headline shows at the inaugural Rock in Rio festival. The album was remastered in 2004 with previously unreleased bonus tracks.
In December 1980, Yes completed their tour of North America and the UK in support of their tenth album Drama (1980), with the short-lived formation of Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Alan White, Trevor Horn, and Geoffrey Downes. The group disbanded soon after; Horn became a full-time record producer and Howe and Downes co-formed Asia. Squire and White stuck together and continued to write material, including their 1981 Christmas single "Run with the Fox". The two entered sessions with Jimmy Page with the aim of forming a supergroup named XYZ, but the project was shelved.
By 1982, South African guitarist, singer-songwriter and producer Trevor Rabin had moved to Los Angeles and sent a tape with several demos to record labels with the intent of releasing a fourth solo album. During this time, Atlantic Records manager Phil Carson, a long time fan and associate of Yes, sought for new musicians to work with Squire and White, who was introduced to Rabin by producer Mutt Lange, who Rabin used to work with as a session musician. Carson invited Rabin to meet and play with Squire and White in London; Rabin recalled the first sessions "didn't sound great but it felt good ... there was a lot of potential", causing him to turn down an offer from RCA Records as he wished to work with a "great rhythm section". The three began to develop songs for an album using most of Rabin's demos. His songs, including "Owner of a Lonely Heart", "Hold On", and "Changes", were more commercial and pop-oriented and less complex in structure. With such a direction, Squire recruited original Yes keyboardist Tony Kaye who left in 1971, feeling Kaye's simpler style of playing was more suitable to their new music. Horn followed suit as a potential lead singer, but after unsuccessful try outs, opted to become their producer.
Wishing to establish a new identity and distance themselves from their Yes past, the four named themselves Cinema and began to record an album in 1982. Roughly six months in, however, clashes between Horn and Kaye resulted in the latter's exit. Rabin saw it as "a mutual parting" as Kaye resisted to learn modern keyboard technology that they were using which left Rabin to handle the majority of keyboard parts. To complicate matters, Squire and Rabin's lead vocals were declared not distinctive enough, leading to Carson's suggestion of bringing former Yes singer Jon Anderson back into the fold. Squire had been in contact with Anderson since late 1982, the first time in several years, and asked him to hear a tape of their music. Anderson, who returned to England in April 1983 after working in France, listened to their songs in Squire's car outside his home due to past acrimony between the pair's wives. Anderson took a liking to the new music and recorded his vocals, making minor changes to the lyrics and arrangements to the music. By this time, the album had cost £300,000 to make, which included £150,000 of Carson's own money. With no more funds left to finish the album, Carson flew to Paris and presented it to Ahmet Ertegun, founder of Atlantic Records that also signed Yes in the 1970s. Ertegun liked the music and paid the remaining costs.
With the album complete, it was given the initial title of The New Yes Album. However, the group opted for a more minimalist approach and use its allocated catalogue number from the band's label Atco Records, a subsidiary of Atlantic. Its number was 90104 at first, but an error in the system led to its change to 90125. MTV announced Cinema on its network, but threats of legal action from several groups with the same name caused the group to consider a new name. With Anderson's entry adding to the already-present lineup of Squire, Kaye, White, and Rabin, totalling the former Yes musicians in the group to four, Carson suggested that they name themselves as Yes, something that concerned Rabin as he wished for the album to be judged as its own. Rabin was persuaded, and work began on promotion and rehearsals with new keyboardist Eddie Jobson, (formerly of Roxy Music and UK), who appeared in the music video for "Owner of a Lonely Heart". However, seeking to consolidate the band's legal identity as Yes, management came to an agreement with Kaye which led to his return following a tour with Badfinger. Unimpressed with the change, the various "political problems" within the group, and a lack of interest in sharing live keyboards with Kaye, Jobson left.
Recording began in late 1982 at SARM Studios in London while the group was known as Cinema, with Horn handling the production duties. (The track "Hold On" credits production to Trevor Horn and Yes; otherwise, Horn is the sole producer.) Production was assisted by Gary Langan, Julian Mendelsohn (both of whom also worked on the group's previous album Drama) Stuart Bruce, and Keith Finney.
"Owner of a Lonely Heart" was one of the songs from Rabin's set of demos, who wrote its bass line and its hook line while on the toilet. When the song was developed for the album, Squire replaced his original bridge. The song features a sample from the horn section of James Brown's band that Horn intended to use on an album by Malcolm McLaren, which he was also producing. The sample was then stored onto his Fairlight CMI and played by White. "Hold On" was originally titled "Moving In"; the final song was an amalgamation of two songs Rabin had written as they both had the same tempo. The chorus of "Hold On" was retained with its verses taken from "Moving In". "It Can Happen" was written on the piano by Squire, with its introduction put together by Rabin to go with his piano chords. "Changes" was another song from Rabin's demos, with its introduction put together by White. Rabin developed it during a "depressed time", after a potential solo album deal with Geffen Records fell through as they wished for him to join a band and play more "like Foreigner".
"Cinema" is an instrumental track recorded live at AIR Studios. Originally, the group developed an unreleased 20-minute song named "Time" and decided to include its two-minute opening on the final album. "Leave It" developed from a bass line from Squire and a melody from Rabin. When it came to recording the song, the band were not satisfied with the drum sound they were getting in the studio, so they recorded the vocals first. However, one of the engineers had removed the song's click track time references, causing various synchronisation problems. Rabin spent as much as three days re-doing the vocals onto a Synclavier, but it "didn't feel completely right. So we redid the whole thing on top of the Synclavier stuff", a process that took several weeks. "City of Love" was inspired by Rabin's visit to Harlem in New York City while on his way to a rehearsal with Foreigner. His taxi arrived at the wrong address to a more dangerous part of the area. Upon his return to Los Angeles, Rabin started to write an "ominous kind of thing" which came easy to him following the experience, "the idea of waiting for the night to come ... the derelicts came out of the sewers at nighttime to be thugs. Later Jon put his slant on it which made it more interesting". "Hearts" is the album's second track credited to the whole group. Rabin came up with the chorus and bridge a few months prior to meeting Squire and White for the first time. Kaye wrote its keyboard introduction, Rabin developed a melody from it, and Anderson developed its counter-melody.
The album's logo was designed and created by Garry Mouat at Assorted Images on an Apple IIe computer, and a variant would be used on Yes's next studio album Big Generator as well. Trevor Rabin's 2003 album 90124 used the same cover design with colour and text variations.
90125 was released on 7 November 1983. It reached No. 5 in the US and No. 16 in the UK.
Four singles were released from 90125; "Owner of a Lonely Heart", released a month prior to the album. It reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks and the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks. In 1984, "It Can Happen", "Changes", and "Leave It" reached the top ten on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks.
In 1985, "Cinema" won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance and 90125 received a nomination for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
In 1984, J. D. Considine gave a mostly favourable review of 90125 for Rolling Stone magazine. He points out "Owner of a Lonely Heart" sounds "too hip, too street-smart for a band whose idea of a pop song was once something as rococo as 'Roundabout'", yet credits the band's reinvention to Horn's production with "flashy pop sensibility" and his handling on the group's vocal harmonies. He thought "Cinema" and "Our Song" showed Yes displaying "old tricks" with such "overblown" tracks, though praises the record as a whole for its accessibility. BAM magazine praised 90125, thinking Yes' "dramatic rise from the ashes of rock's touring heaps" had created "some of the year's freshest, most un-dinosaur-like music" with its "stunning blend of pop, synthetics, fusion and classical music".
Critic and author Martin Popoff thought 90125 is the band's most "successful and sociable album" of their entire catalogue, comparing "Owner of a Lonely Heart" to a song by The Police. He declared the record "a rich album experience with legs". In a retrospective review for AllMusic, Paul Collins gave the album four-and-a-half out of five, calling 90125 "a stunning self-reinvention by a band that many had given up for dead" while complementing Horn's "slick" production work and Kaye's "crisp" synthesisers on "Changes". He also cites the vocal arrangements on "Leave It" and the "beautifully sprawling" "Hearts" as high points on the record, which "nary has any duff track".1984 – Atco – CD
2004 – Rhino – CD (Remastered with bonus tracks)
2009 – Audio Fidelity 24 Karat Gold CD (Remastered by Steve Hoffman)
Credits are adapted from the album's 1983 and 2004 liner notes.