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YES

Yes

 

Symphonic Prog

3.24 | 916 ratings

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Certif1ed
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2 stars No

OK, I dislike Yes immensely.

And it's Jon Anderson's fault.

Don't get me wrong, they wrote plenty of decent music, as a band - the main problem I have always had is getting past the vocals, which absolutely ruin the experience for me.

Your mileage may vary, of course, but I find the lack of variation in the sound of the vocals incredibly irritating after just a few minutes - not to mention the lack of originality. It reminds me so strongly of Buffalo Springfield/CSNY in the harmonised sections that, when I've tried to listen to a Yes album in the past, I've usually stopped before I reach halfway, and gone back to the originals to refresh my ears.

Rant over, hopefully the Yes fans will now have stopped reading - because you know what's coming; I'm going to tear the album to pieces to establish a) it's progness, b) stuff I like and c) mostly stuff I dislike - and I'll try to reason it out as best I can. After 30-odd years, I'm never going to be converted, and after reading so many rave reviews, I can still only wonder why - as, presumably, Yes fans will wonder at my distaste for this staple of Prog Rock.

The debut album from this Prog supergroup is called, rather unimaginatively, I feel, Yes (they also called their 3rd release The Yes Album - go figure). This, to me, puts them in second place to King Crimson all by itself - not to mention the immediate influences that jump out at you, such as the Beatles and the Byrds - both of whom are also covered on this album.

So the album kicks off with a typical slice of late 1960s/early 1970s boogie rock, driven by a single-note guitar rhythm and thick Hammond, providng a nice, typical sound. Then we get some Byrds/CSNY style harmonies decorating a rather stodgy melody and predictable psychedelic lyrics. The bass stands out as being a little unusual in places, but apart from this, there's nothing here that really stands out from other, better bands of the time - small wonder that this album failed to chart on release. The breaks for the a capella harmony sections are rather clumsy, and the bass rings through as being out of tune in places - and the harmonies themselves grate as the simple progressions repeat themselves. Banks' guitar playing here is similarly unremarkable - but it's a nice enough song, if rather drawn out at the end.

The cover of The Byrds' I See You has a nice jazzy intro, but then it's spoilt by, guess what? Yup - the vocals! Utterly appalling performance from Anderson, in which he displays a complete lack of understanding of the McGuinn/Crosby original with a flat barking delivery that spits out the words with none of the original subtlety. This once charming psychedelic pop song is then spun out into an indulgent jazzy improv, which is actually quite nice in and of itself - but feels rather tacked on.

Then Banks gets hung up on a short melodic phrase which kinda ruins proceedings - until a heavier section shows its head. Clearly, at this point the band want to be playing music that sounds like the stuff coming out of the progressive music scene, but this rambling, haphazard mess just doesn't have it. Then we're back to the song, in which, if anything, Anderson sounds flatter than ever - I don't mean in pitch, I mean in the delivery, which is as convincing as the acting in Friends.

At this point, it's worth recalling the Scottish band, Clouds, who were a part of the scene that Yes (formerly Syn), ELP (formerly The Nice) et al emerged from (and, BTW, Hendrix was an almost integral part of). Their 1968 album, Scrapbook is worth a visit by any fan of Prog; Listen to the constant shifts in groove on tracks such as The Carpenter and swings from solid rock to quasi-jazz to pure 1970s rock grooves - but also listen to the complete honesty in delivery, especially in the vocals. Also listen to the orchestrations in tracks like The Colours Have Run, and the 7-minute Waiter, There's Something in my Soup - all of this seems to pre-empt the direction that Yes would later stretch to breaking point, in a microcosm.

Next up is the unremarkable song Yesterday and Today, (incidentally the name of an export-only Beatles album) a soft, balladic type of song underpinned by simple guitar strumming and piano chords which seem to hang mainly around chord pairings.

Then there's the more uptempo and strikingly Cloudsalike Looking Around a pleasant foot-tapper with heavy bass and a couple of changes. This is mainly a groove rocker though - and there are plenty of better groove rockers from 1969 or earlier - I'd recommend Spooky Tooth's It's All About (1968).

Another groove rocker opens side 2 - the rather plodding Harold Land - which meanders around in its own happy space for a while. I prefer more darkness in my rock, and less predictability.

Then there is the unspeakable cover of Every Little Thing, for which this album should be instantly disowned by music lovers everywhere. If that phrase doesn't completely irritate you by the end of this song, then you obviously have different tastes to me ;o)

This is followed by a number which would be saccharine sweet and super-sickly if it wasn't for the downright insincerity of Anderson's vocals. This song is unremarkable - except in that it'll make you think of the Byrds at their worst.

Survival closes off this collection with another remarkably Clouds-sounding number (see - it was worth me telling you about them earlier!). This is about the closest that this album gets to proper prog, as it's full of dynamic and texture changes, it's 6-minutes+, and genuinely explores a cool texture world.

This is all ruined at 2:15, when Anderson starts to bleat on about life having begun or somesuch trite nonsense. His voice is in stark relief to the cool music - this may be down to the production, but not entirely. Again, the notes are bleated out with little or no variation in dynamic or any form of expression that suggests anything else other than the vocals being delivered - or some other such sterile term.

Collectors only

In short, an album with moments of great music, longer periods of dull and directionless dross, and (what seems to me at any rate) eternities of vocals that appear to sit on a single note and issue the lyrics rather in the fashion of a dalelk - but also an album made by a band with a great deal of potential, and the ability to keep a decent groove running.

Certif1ed | 2/5 |

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