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Yes - The Word Is Live CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.24 | 139 ratings

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4 stars In the early 2000's, rumors floated around for a good while that Yes was thinking about releasing a boxset of previously unreleased live material, but after a while I started to think (like I'm sure many fans did) that, given how much Yes was dragging their heels on actually doing this, this would never happen. So imagine my surprise when I found out that it would be released in 2005, and that there ended up being only one significant delay from the initial target release date. 'Twas a modern miracle, to be sure, given Yes' habitual tardiness with such releases in the latter part of their career ...

So anyway, this 3-CD boxset is a nice addition to the band's catalogue, and it justifies its existence by (mostly) focusing on periods in the band's history that haven't been adequately covered by Yessongs, Yesshows and the like. The all-music guide actually complains about the fact that the band's '72-'75 peak is ignored on here, but that seems rather silly to me; if this set focused on that period, it would be redundant, whereas in its current state it's largely essential for hardcore fans. It's even nice enough to have some tracks on it that are the exact same versions as ones I already owned ("Sweet Dreams" is from the Electric Freedom/QPR '75 show, the three 1980 tracks are from the Complete Dramatized Tour show), and it covers some material from some tours where I have bootlegs of other shows, so it's at least a partial solution to hunting down tracks from bootlegs that are no longer easy to find.

The set starts off slightly redundant, presenting cleaned up versions of "Then" and "For Everyone" done in BBC sessions while Banks was in the band, but quickly moves into Steve Howe's initial period with the band, giving us our first chance to hear the TYA lineup live. We start with solid runthroughs of "Astral Traveller" and "Everydays" from 1970, which prove that Steve had his style and technique down from day one, as he mostly reinvents Banks' guitar lines and makes the songs distinctly his. Then it's off to 1971 and nice performances of "Yours is No Disgrace" and "I've Seen All Good People," giving us a chance to hear what this material was like when it was completely fresh and had no stench of overfamiliarity. One thing that particularly stands out in "YIND" is just how aggressive Howe would get when it was his turn to shine; the band actually sounds a little cautious and unsure when playing the main parts of the song, but as soon as Howe can break out those wah-wah licks, it's like watching a leopard pounce.

From this show, we also get to hear the young, jammy cover-band Yes, the one that would make Paul Simon's "America" last 16 minutes and "It's Love" by The Young Rascals last 11. I'll admit that 16 minutes is a little excessive, but it's just so intriguing to hear the band making songs so long not because they'd written them as such, but because they needed to fill space in their shows from not having much of a back catalogue yet, and the ideas that they pull out to try and make it work are neat to hear. Just as it would be later at the SLO shows, "America" is a great showcase for Steve's prog-country licks, and in this case even Kaye's organ gets some of the spotlight. As for "It's Love," I'm betting this cover would infuriate fans of the original (if I knew the original I'd be able to make a surer guess), but as far as I'm concerned, it has a great combination of groove (Bruford is bashing about but also holding the fort well) and great instrumental sounds, so that's enough for me. Chris' bass solo (with attempt to sing along to it) could be a little shorter, but I still like it a lot.

Disc 2 begins (after having the band walk out on stage to Moraz and Howe playing "Apocalypse" from "And You And I") with FABULOUS runthroughs of "Siberian Khatru" and "Sound Chaser" from 1976 (followed by "Sweet Dreams" from the already mentioned 1975 show). "Sound Chaser," in particular, sounds way way better here than it did as the Electric Freedom opener, and I don't think it's just a matter of sound quality. The band toys with the introduction, making it loads more atmospheric, and the song itself becomes a rocking monster that I think could (potentially) be enjoyed even by somebody who didn't really like the original.

The rest of disc 2 (and the start of disc 3) focuses on the Tormato tour. "Big Medley" is there in all its glory, and the renditions of "Heart of the Sunrise," "Awaken" and "Roundabout" are all some of the best you can get from Yes (I'm not thrilled about having these songs on here taking up space, but I guess you have to have a good % of "standards" for a set like this). Of course, I wish that "Circus of Heaven" and "Future Times/Rejoice" weren't also taking up space (the Wembly version of "On the Silent Wings of Freedom," by far the best rendition of the track I've heard, would have been preferable), but whatever. Next up are "Go Through This," "We Can Fly From Here" and "Tempus Fugit" from the Complete Dramatized Tour show, and the biggest thing I can say here is that I finally learned to really enjoy "Go Through This"; it's a fine piece of New Wave rock'n'roll, go figure.

Unfortunately, the set ends on a slightly down note, as the last four tracks are from the Big Generator tour, generally regarded as one of the worst tours the band ever did. The songs and performances themselves are fine (except for "Hold On," which still blows), but I can't help but be irritated that, of all the remaining possibilities, the band decided that the world needed to have seven officially released tracks from one of its worst tours (remember, Yesyears contains "Heart of the Sunrise," "And You And I" and "Changes" from that tour). Ah well.

In the end, I might have been able to do a better job of selecting tracks (it would have been better, for instance, to have "Awaken" from the Union tour) to go on here, but I'm pleased with what I have. I don't recommend it for anybody but big fans like me, but for big fans like me, it's definitely a necessity.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |


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