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Yes - The Yes Album CD (album) cover

THE YES ALBUM

Yes

 

Symphonic Prog

4.28 | 1944 ratings

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1970sgenesisfan
4 stars This is the one. This is the album where Yes was finally able to achieve some level of mainstream success. And that's a very good thing, because if this album had failed like their first two, the record label would have pulled the plug, and Yes would have been left dead in the water.

Fortunately, The Yes Album didn't fail and it's not all that hard to see why. One key factor to the album's success was the addition of virtuoso guitarist Steve Howe to the lineup, a vast improvement over the late Peter Banks (who was no slouch himself). Just listen to some of the tasty licks he throws into his solos in Starship Trooper or Yours Is No Disgrace. Even when he isn't at the forefront, he's always contributing something, somewhere, to drive the composition forward. In fact, Yes seemed eager enough to show off their new member that they give him a short solo spot (the first in Yes history), the fast paced, catchy, and utterly irresistible "Clap," which is one of my favorite acoustic guitar pieces ever.

Of course, his addition would be of no consequence if the tracks on this album were not almost universally very good. Only one, the short "A Venture" I would consider mediocre. Neither the vocal melody or Kaye's simple keyboard backing do anything to get my attention. No matter, though. The rest of the album makes this three minute bore all the more forgettable.

The other four tracks, all long multi-part epics, are some of the most classic in Yes history. Despite their length (a few approach ten minutes), the strength of playing and composition easily justifies it. Take "Starship Trooper" as an example, easily my favorite on the album. The first few parts of this song feature all four musicians playing perfectly in-sync with each other, as Anderson sings some of the most addictive lyrics in Yes history. Then comes the Würm coda. Howe, playing only three chords over and over again, is able to create an incredible amount of tension through repetition before releasing it in what may be his most recognizable guitar solo anywhere. Ever.

The other songs aren't all that far behind. The first half of "I've Seen All Good People" is gorgeous, before the band breaks out into a guitar-led jam, with Anderson, Howe, and Squire singing "I've seen all good people turn their heads each day, so satisfied I'm on my way" over and over again. What does it mean? I've got no clue, but I like it. The fantastic vocal harmonies and another strong instrumental performance make this song a winner. "Yours Is No Disgrace" opens the album on a high note. I love the way Kaye's organ meshes with the guitar near the beginning, and the guitar break in the middle is yet another Howe signature moment. And although "Perpetual Change" hasn't gotten as much exposure as the other classic tracks, it's definitely equally good. Just listen to the opening guitar riff. Of course, all the instrumental skill would be for naught if the compositions weren't equally interesting. And they are. One listen should confirm that.

The first time I listened to this album, what stuck out most was the fantastic guitar. But, if you were to try focusing on just the bass, Squire's skill and dexterity with the instrument would quickly become apparent. His playing might not be as in-your-face as on Fragile or Drama, but it's still as good as ever. And while Bruford was still developing his technique on the drums, his playing on this album, while sometimes more understated than usual, fits right in. Anderson's at the peak of his vocal powers here. His lyrics still make no sense, but it's no matter. They fit perfectly in with the music and more often than not I'll find myself singing along.

The biggest issue I have with The Yes Album, though, is a lack of energy. Just listen to any live version of the four epic tracks (especially the Yessongs versions) for comparison. Howe's solos might have been impressive here, but on Yessongs they are so powerful they almost seem to explode out of the speakers (just listen to the second half of "All Good People" to see what I mean). You will no doubt be disappointed by Yes's failure to capture their live energy in the studio. Still, if you're looking to get into Yes, this is a great place to start. It includes several of their most classic tracks, and the production is first rate, unlike the muddy live Yessongs, where the poor sound quality can be off-putting.

1970sgenesisfan | 4/5 |

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