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YES

Yes

 

Symphonic Prog

3.23 | 865 ratings

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ken_scrbrgh
4 stars

"The report of my death was an exaggeration. . . ."

Mark Twain -- 1897

Many times throughout their storied career, the quotation above from Mark Twain could easily have been utilized to describe the condition of Yes. Surely during the waning days of The Tales from Topographic Oceans' tour in 1974, Yes appeared moribund. Rick Wakeman's acrimonious departure only served to accentuate the ostensible need for an autopsy.

Nevertheless, as 1974 drew to its conclusion, the band, now with Patrick Moraz, prepared to bring forth Relayer, an album held in high esteem by the membership of this site. Similarly, following the doldrums of Tormato and the departures of Wakeman (yet again) and Jon Anderson, Squire, Howe, and White, in concert with Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn, released Drama in 1980. Actually, given the incessantly changing membership of Yes, one might assert the band has always existed "close to the edge." I apologize for the bad pun. . . . As of today, I have only listened to this year's Fly from Here once and to the original song dating from 1980 as found on The Word is Live album a few times. So, I cannot comment on these efforts. However, given the combustible nature of any version of Yes, I'd like to make a few observations of what elements we might identify as the enduring manifestations of Yes. To my mind and not-so-proficient ears, one can find the "crystallization" of the band on its first album.

As the opening bass line of "Beyond and Before" illustrates, Chris Squire has always functioned as the somehow simultaneous lead, yet rhythmic center of the band. Squire's nickname is "The Fish," but I think it could just as appropriately be "Gibraltar" - - he has always served as the foundation upon which the music of Yes has been based.

If Squire has been the musical Gibraltar, then Jon Anderson has been the seer and guide of the vessel known as Yes. In a song like "Survival," we find a microcosm or program for the future complexities to follow on the subsequent Yes albums. As original compositions, "Looking Around" and "Harold Land" also hold the promise of things to come.

Let's face it - - the core of Yes has always presupposed the partnership and, yes, rivalry of Squire and Anderson. I have often remarked that, had Yes gone forward with its original five members, the band would have been formidable. Bill Bruford's prowess needs no documentation to the readers of this site. Through creative differences, Peter Banks made an early exit from the band, making possible the inclusion of Steve Howe, who indelibly augmented Yes' sound. Ok- - we must qualify my statement above and recognize Howe as the third presupposed partner.

Through Yes' versions of Jim McGuinn and David Crosby's "I See You" and John Lennon and Paul McCartney's "Every Little Thing," Squire and Anderson pay homage to their influences, which also include Simon and Garfunkel, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Igor Stravinsky, and, especially for Squire, the choral traditions of the Church of England. Here, in this 1969 debut album, we find the eclecticism we consider at the core of progressive rock.

In his work not only here, but also on Time and a Word and on The Yes Album, Tony Kaye displays a relationship with the Hammond Organ that is singular. Always mindful of depth, richness, and texture, Kaye also, in "Looking Around," "Harold Land," and "Survival," fashions a dominant role. We all know the story of Tony Kaye's departure in favor of Rick Wakeman, but I maintain Kaye's efforts on the first three Yes albums are noteworthy.

It would appear then that, although a centrifugal force always appears at work among the members of the band placing the existence of the group at risk, somehow the group has endured. I lament the present efforts do not include Jon Anderson, but, as with the aftermath of Drama, who knows?

ken_scrbrgh | 4/5 |

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