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Yes - Yessongs CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.32 | 891 ratings

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4 stars By early 1973, Yes had firmly established themselves as one of, if not the, greatest studio bands on earth. Great songs, great playing, great production. Apparently, though, there was an unspoken question in the minds of their critics and maybe even in the minds of their fans; could these guys actually play like this? Or did they just splice a bunch of parts together in the production booth to provide the impression that they could play these parts? Well, Yes didn't really like having their chops questioned (I guess), and they wanted to settle the question once and for all. And so, they did the logical thing; they released a live album.

Now, the main disadvantage of the album, let's face it, is the length. As far as I know, they included every single song from their stage set on this album, and as a result this sucker is a triple album well over two hours in length (though this hugeness is muted nowadays given that it fits comfortably into two CDs). Also, the emphasis is clearly on the epics, and even the songs that were originally 'short' (i.e. less than ten minutes) are often expanded greatly. There's also the issue of sound quality; it doesn't bother me as much as it once did, but there's little question that it's on par with that of a typical bootleg.

BUT, let's face it, there is simply no getting around how good these songs are. The playing is FEROCIOUS and tight, and possibly even better than in the originals. Plus, there are enough changes in the songs to keep them fresh (although the structure basically remains the same). In addition, each of the band-members gets a solo-section, which might be considered slightly tacky (if you're cynical) but are all well performed. Rick Wakeman throws in excerpts from his then-new solo career, Bruford gets a decent (though not exceptional) drum solo, Squire extends "The Fish" into ten-minutes of monstrous bass-riffage, and Howe graces us with a runthrough of "Mood For A Day" (not to mention his excellent solo in "Yours is No Disgrace").

As for the songs, there's not really any point in going through all of them one at a time, since for the most part they are done fairly similarly to the originals. Well, sort of - structurally and in essence, they're mostly the same as before, but there are enough changes to keep the songs sounding fresh this time around. "And You And I" receives the most noticable change - the quiet acoustic opening is replaced with an immediate display of the gargantuan "Eclipse" section, and while I'm not thrilled with that development, the track doesn't sound worse for it. But there are other subtlties - for instance, the opening section of "CTTE" is significantly reworked, with Howe playing faster and more aggressively than ever before.

The main reason to get this album, though, is for the last two tracks. "Yours is No Disgrace" is simply a Howe extravaganza, as he plays at break-neck speed while also hardening up his guitar tone in a way not found elsewhere on the album. And of course, there's "Starship Trooper," which simply defies all description in its incredible energy and entertainment value. "Würm" boasts power and blazing solos from both Howe and Wakeman, to the extent that one could easily call this the DEFINITIVE live Yes performance. Yessongs, excessive as it may be, is necessary if only for this.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |


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