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Yes - Yesshows CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.64 | 475 ratings

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2 stars There are many good reasons for putting out a live album. One would be that the band/artist is at times better on stage than they are in the studio and they want to give the fan/listener a truer rendition of their creation as Genesis did with "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" on "Archives I." Another rationale is that they generate a high level of energy in concert that can't be conveyed from inside a closed environment like Deep Purple did with "Made In Japan" and Yes themselves did with their earlier "Yessongs." Yet another is to give their supporters new material in a novel way as The Mahavishnu Orchestra did on "Between Nothingness & Eternity." However there are some less-than-admirable reasons, as well. Foremost of which is to fulfill the terms of a recording contract with their label and I tend to believe that may have been the case with "Yesshows" because none of the aforementioned good reasons apply.

As on their initial live offering, the piped in final strains of Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite" are heard first except this time the group teases the audience by playing along with the taped music. Once the fanfare subsides Rick Wakeman cranks up the introductory cathedral organ sounds of "Parallels" and off you go. It's a faithful rendering of the song with guitarist Steve Howe playing some dazzling runs toward the end. The vocals are strong with frontman Jon Anderson coming through clear as a bell. (All that being said, I still prefer "Siberian Khatru" as a more powerful, unbeatable start from the gate.) Next you get a welcome blast from the past as they perform a tasteful update of "Time and a Word." Jon's uncharacteristic emotion-filled voice lifts the song and gives it new relevance. It's one of the few highlights. Without a pause Howe tears right into the rocking "Going for the One." Evidently the privilege of mixing this project fell to bassist Chris Squire so it's understandable that his Rickenbacker guitar is out front throughout the proceedings, especially on this song. It's another near note-for- note run through but the tune suffers greatly from the fact that you can hardly hear Wakeman's keyboards at all. The duly respected "Gates of Delirium" follows and it has both great and not-so-great qualities as a concert piece here. It starts off well with Anderson emoting some rare grit through his vocals and the band projecting some tight energy. Chris and drummer Alan White are a solid, powerful rhythm section and Howe is at peak form but poor Patrick Moraz is woefully out of his league as he tries to keep pace with them. I'll admit that he turned in the performance of a lifetime when he laid down his intricate parts on this song in the studio but he lags a step behind on stage. After the tumultuous battle segment they lead you to the climax but the payoff just doesn't achieve liftoff for me. I adore this part when it arrives in the "Relayer" version but here Steve loses control of his steel guitar echo effect and the triumphant melody runs amok, ruining the moment. The beautiful "Soon" ascends gracefully from the transitional "fog machine" section and doesn't disappoint but Howe's playing continues to suffer from overindulgence in the echo department. (Enough already, Steve!) "Don't Kill the Whale" is next and all I can say is that they can put all the lipstick they want on this pig but it's still a sow. (Unsightly tunes should be left at home, not taken on the road.) The song's embarrassingly out of date phrase "dig it" is only apt if it refers to the grave this tune belongs in. Once you get past that pothole you are treated to a loose improvisational snippet wherein Jon takes the time to thank the road crew while the rest of the group farts around. (If this isn't desperate filler I don't know what is.) Anderson tries to be hip as he pleads for the "funk" to be removed from his face and actually says that it's "getting to be a soul show now." No, Jon, it isn't. I know that Rick has said that he never liked "Tales From Topographical Oceans" but when you compare what he contributed to what Moraz does on "Ritual" you'd think it was Wakeman's all-time masterpiece. Patrick timidly hangs far back from start to finish and when he gets his moments to shine he disappears in Rick's giant shadow. There's some neat things going on during "Nous Sommes Du Soleil" and when Squire dishes out some furious bass guitar shredding things get heated but the magnificent "At All" section that is so effective on the studio version fails to thrill. And the extended drum/percussion passage is a bust mainly because White gets drowned out by too much excessive noise. This complex song just never gels. At least the last tune, the gorgeous "Wonderous Stories," is worth the wait because Wakeman is back (Hooray!) and he shows you why he was pretty much irreplaceable. It's an exquisite song performed impeccably.

When you consider that this is supposedly the best of their stage recordings from over two years of touring it connects a lot of the dots as to why Anderson and Wakeman had already said "adios" when this came out. It's not a total waste of time but I can't recommend that it top any progger's must have list. It is what it is. The tape doesn't lie. This is what one of the best groups in the world sounded like during those difficult years when they were trying to hang on to their worldwide popularity and not abandon their legion of followers but it's obvious they had lost their center and their utopian spirit. On a more positive note I have to acknowledge Roger Dean's eye-popping, out- of-this-world artwork and the colorful action photographs inside the double LP cover. Gotta give it an extra half star just for that.

Chicapah | 2/5 |


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