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Yes - Yesshows CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.64 | 464 ratings

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4 stars The "other" Yes live album

One of the most powerful live albums of rock music was 1973's Yessongs triple LP embelished with the magnificent canvasses of Roger Dean along with a colour booklet it pushed the envelope and brought porgrock beyond mystic proportions. The highest of the high. In 1979 the idea was tossed around to reprise it's granduer but was eventually shelved because individual members could not reach a collective agreement as to which live performances should be included. By this time it was evident that their live performances could be far more adventurous when compared to their more clinical studio templates and often acquired new identities when brought to life on the live stage. Eventually tracks were selected by bassist Chris Squire, mixed down and released as a two record set adorned with Roger Dean artwork on the outside cover along with kodachrome shots of the band playing "in the round" on the inside gatefold .

As could be expected the results were questionable and while the band kicked up a fuss and bickered amonst themselves fans lapped it up. But such was the nature of the beast with Yes and as Bill Bruford would reflect years later, communication within Yes had always been "chaotic". Rick Wakeman even claimed that he had no idea about Yesshows until after it's release and referred to it as "disgraceful". But for the fans who lived through the seventies this was a long awaited event. The big expectation, especially among Yes purists, was to hear earlier live material from Tales From Topographic Oceans and Relayer in the wake of the drastic lineup changes that had been effected on the most recent Yes studio LP, Drama, which preceded it by roughly four months. Fortunately Yeshows delivered in this respect and Chris Squire cannot be faulted for taking matters into his own hands and killing two birds with one stone ; fulfilling a contractual obligation and giving the fans what they wanted regardless of what the others thought.

Al that said, evaluating an album almost 30 years after it's first pressing invites criticism from different perspectives. Because I was a young Yes freak in 1980 who skipped school to wait in front of the record store in order to get my paws on it before anyone else, I tend to take a more nostalgic attitude towards the album rather than comparing it to the massive amount of live Yes material that has become available through the advent of CD and DVD formats as well as the internet. Those who exploit that advantage are most definitely going to see Yeshows in a different light and from that perspective it may pale and seem a bit dated. Even when considering the globs "new" live Yes material that is at our fingertips I still tend to consider Yesshows as a companion to the afore-mentioned Yessongs and for me it will always be the "other" live Yes album. Not because it is inferior but just because it was the "other" one for quite a while so I consider it to be a continuation if anything. I guess it's hard to explain life with just two live Yes albums to someone not even born in 1980! Of course if one wants to get technical it was generally brighter from that standpoint. Despite all the flak Squire put up with from the other members at the time he is to be commended. When Yesshows was released in November 1980 it was perhaps the only album of it's day that was recognizable as a full blown progressive rock record that was in tune with the glory years of the early seventies that so many diehards such as myself were so attached to.

The most welcome material on the two record set were the two elongated suite-like pieces Ritual and Gates Of Delirium taken from 1974's Tales From Topographic Oceans and 1975's Relayer respectively. While the shorter pieces ( two each from Going For The One and Tormato and one from the much earlier Time & A Word ) were relative clones of their studio versions , these two epics cultivated new character when played in the live environments. One must remember that when they were created in the studio both were assemblages of sections of music surgically fashioned together. Like Dr. Fankenstein's monster they really came alive when infused with the excitment of the live stage. Ritual had the added dimension of hearing a different keyboard player ( Patrick Moraz ) interpreting an earlier, rather complex piece even though it was chopped up over two sides due to the restrictions of vinyl. This wasn't as simple as hearing say, the Kingsmen palying Louie Louie with a new guitar player playing the main riff. This was intense stuff man! So it was exciting at the time even for those of us who had seen the band play live at one time or another during the 2 year period between August 1976 and November 1978 from which these tracks were harvested. Although many fans ( and guitarist Steve Howe ) would have liked to have seen a another 3 LP blowout like Yessongs the industry just wasn't warm to this sort of high flying self-indilgence anymore.

Although Yesshows was by no means the end of the band, it definitely signalled the end of an era and was unquestionably a fitting salute to the seventies as the band moved forward with it's transitional Drama lineup that would aid in the band's redefinition through their " pop" phase of the eighties on 90125, Big Generator and Talk. Eventually the band would revisit the earlier days but this could not be foreseen in 1980. Even then it was not the same Yes. Yes started to become the perpetual reunion band ( with the possible exception of The Ladder from 1999) and more recently even moving towards becoming a tribute band of it's former self.

Yeshows is a brilliant showcase of Yes during the waning years of the "classic" lineups that were still firing on 4 cylinders in full-blown progrock mode. Although it might be overshadowed by other more recent renditions of 70s classics it is indispensible for those who followed the band during these glory years and those who are interrested in genuine recordings from that era.

Unfortunately I haven't had the occasion to hear the more recent 2009 Japanese CD release which includes two superflorous tracks, I've Seen All Good People and yet another version of Roundabout.

Vibrationbaby | 4/5 |


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