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Yes - Yes CD (album) cover

YES

Yes

 

Symphonic Prog

3.24 | 903 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Yes started out as a conversation between Anderson and self-taught bassist Chris Squire at a bar where Anderson was essentially the janitor. Both had been in various bands previously, but with little or no success. Anyway, the two discovered that they had similar music interests; both loved rich vocal harmonies, but more than that, both were interested in the idea of fusing rock, pop, jazz, and folk with classical music (well, with their relatively simplistic understanding of classical music, anyway), of all things. The two hit it off well enough that they decided to get together and, sure enough, form a band.

After a bit of scouring, the two of them came up with the following cast to round out the ensemble; keyboardist Tony Kaye, who had a solid, if somewhat boring, organ and keyboard style (he wasn't really big on the tinkly piano and keyboard parts that would pop up a lot in Yes' later work); Peter Banks, a terrific lead guitarist with a good tone and a feel for jazz (actually, there wasn't much scouring involved here, as Banks and Squire had been together in a band called The Syn previously); and drummer Bill Bruford, who had, surprise surprise, a wonderful familiarity with jazz technique to go with traditional rock drumming.

Now, given that Yes has gone down in history as the quintessential prog rock group, you'd expect the debut to be a genre-defining album along the lines of In the Court of the Crimson King, right? Well, you might expect that, but you'd be wrong. Elements of their future style can certainly be found, primarily in the extended introductions before a number of the songs, but Close to the Edge this is certainly not. But that doesn't make it bad!! After all, who ever said that "conventional" music was automatically inferior to complex pieces? For one thing, the two short ballads, "Yesterday and Today" and "Sweetness," are simply beautiful. Anderson takes a much more traditional approach to singing on these songs than he would again for many years, which puts off several fans, but it's entirely possible that even if you hate Anderson's voice, you'll get a kick out of his singing on these songs. Heck, on the BBC Sessions, you can even hear the announcer say before "Sweetness," "This man has a lot of soul in his voice"! And, of course, the melodies are very pretty.

Another distinguishing feature of this from the "classic" albums is the presence of cover tunes, both of which rule. "I See You" is a jazzy version of the Byrds song of the same name, with some great guitar noodling and lots of energy accompanying a wonderful melody. Even better is the total demolition that the group does to the Beatles' "Every Little Thing," from Beatles For Sale. Originally, it was a cute pop song with nice vocal harmonies and a good melody - here, the introduction is a blood-thirsty prog-jazz monster, giving absolutely no hint of the actual nature of the song itself (in fact, one might even be thrown off by the quotes of "Day Tripper" here and there). And fortunately for all, the vocal harmonies are able to do some justice to the original ones, so even if the beginning scares you, solace can be taken in the main part of the song.

The other four songs are forces to be reckoned with as well. My longtime favorite is the side- one closer, "Looking Around." The organ riff is superb, the guitar groove is firmly set in place, and Anderson does a fabulous job with the non-trivial vocal melody. The best part of the song for me, though, is certainly the middle-section, with Jon belting over the descending organ line and creating the illusion that his part is descending too although it isn't.

The other three are nearly as good, though. The opening "Beyond and Before" has a booming opening riff courtesy of Squire's bass (his work on this album is typically phenomenal, and certainly was a giant factor in the Melody Maker declaring Yes to be one of two groups "most likely to make it" based on this album, the other group being Led Zeppelin), eerie three-part harmonies, and a mild dose of the deconstructionistic tendences that would dominate their later work. Same goes for the closing "Survival," the closest thing to a progressive composition to be found on this album. I for one consider the introduction to the piece terrific - the bassline is eerie, and the rest of the intro, while not incredibly complex, is untrivial while remainging interesting. And the main body, while meandering a bit at times, picks up steam and focus near the end of each verse leading into the chorus.

Finally, there's also the slightly-inferior-but-still-quite-good "Harold Land," the story of a young man scarred inside by the ravages of war. The strangest feature of it, overall, is the vast dynamic between the bouncy and happy introduction and the sad, ominous main melody, but it's not like the song only has novelty value. Anderson isn't able to do a great job in making us feel for Harold, but his vocals are certainly pasable on the track, and the lyrics aren't bad either.

All in all, this is certainly an album, worth having, especially since it can be found easily for less than $10. Besides, even if you hate progressive rock (of course, if that's the case, why on earth are you here?), it would be a shame not to own something by these guys, and since Yes was a fully professional and exciting group from the very beginning, this may as well be it.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |

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