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Yes - The Yes Album CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.29 | 2612 ratings

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5 stars To say bands don't make albums like this anymore would be facetious. I don't think they ever made 'em like this, and the reason Yes' third is considered their 'breakthrough' has to do with a lot more than just its #4 stats in the UK. The material and performances broke through as well, right off the vinyl and into your soul for the rest of your life-- and I'm not quite sure why. A perfect middle-ground between their simpler past and turgid future? Maybe, but that's too easy. There was something happening between these five young players that supercharged the writing and rehearsals at the old Langley Studios in Devon with a fresh energy. Perhaps the rural atmosphere and agreeable climate of southwestern England, new member Steve Howe and his contagious spirit, or the building tensions of a dynamic group of people each with their own vision of what the future held.

The 1971 release is of such an undeniably high caliber that many of the cuts are still played on FM radio in the states. Pretty good for a bunch of geriatric vegan longhairs. But then, in 1971 they were young and eating meat. More importantly, they were hungry, and the first two albums didn't seem to do the trick. In fact the band's appetite was just getting bigger and this entrée showed the ravenous ambitions of Squire, Anderson, Kaye, Bruford and Howe. Still rock to be sure, but something else, something more than what Zeppelin and Tull and Sabbath and CSN&Y and Traffic and everyone else with important things to say was offering. It was as if with one stroke the band had unknowingly thrown down a challenge to be more than the best you can be, and still remain loyal to your rock 'n roll roots. And the promise held in the release, the implication of what these guys were capable of next time and in years to come, was electrifying. In just a few months the whole musical landscape would change but in 1970/'71, briefly, The Yes Album was probably the single most important rock LP of its era, particularly to musicians. Though no one really knew that just yet.

It also boasts membership in the small club of Prog gateway records and is held warmly in many listeners' hearts (not just proggies) as one of their intros to the larger world of rock as art. The beautiful purity of Howe's chords complimented by Kaye's bottomless Hammond B-3 is 'Yours is No Disgrace', Jon Anderson's sympathetic lyric, and the unexpectedly sublime vocal harmonies that had now become a Yes staple. Childlike details inserted, answered by sheer power and an uncanny knack for planned spontaneity. Steve Howe's acoustic solo remains one of the finest instrumental performances ever captured and caused every pimply 16 year-old with dreams of guitar godhood to stand in silent awe, tears swelling with the knowledge they'd probably never be that good. And suite 'Starship Trooper' is a popular favorite filled with more rich, glistening vocal chorals, Howe's country-time ground, all capped by 'Wurm' with its droning vamp and hypnotic, nearly orgasmic crescendo. And that was just the first half.

Of course this was when the two sides of an LP were relevant to how the music was laid down and heard, and 'I've Seen All Good People' was an ideal side-2 starter; a soft respite with Anderson's sweet voice in command, the band on support and accentuation. Near-perfect 'A Venture' shows the CS&N impact on many bands, a lovely and clean track, and 'Perpetual Change' is strongly layered with everything the quintet had, thrown at us including a clashing Charles Ives-style cacophony. Wonderful.

Indispensable and uniquely crucial not just to Prog but to all popular music of the time, and still to this day. One of the greatest statements put to record by anyone anywhere in the history of rock, and should be gratefully consumed often by all.

Atavachron | 5/5 |


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