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Yes - The Yes Album CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.30 | 2739 ratings

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4 stars This is where the starship trooper called Yes really take off. Steve Howe's presence makes a significant impact, to say the least, and Bill Bruford and Chris Squire lay down a punishing rhythm section. But, upon closer investigation, the starship still seems to run into some air turbulence intermittently. This may be one of the albums that is not quite as good as it plays the first time.

The level at which the band perform their music here is truly awesome. It seems almost as if Howe has become a rallying point for the rest of the band and they rock very hard. The aforementioned rhythm section give the band some serious propulsion while Howe provides the leads, keeping the proceedings engaging. It may be a cliched thing to say, but Howe's coda in Starship Trooper especially makes a huge impression and lingers in my mind for a long time.

As for Jon Anderson, I have never really liked his singing but I can live with that because he is just sort of wailing in the high register without calling too much attention to himself. Tony Kaye is another weak link in the band at this point. His contributions cannot be particularly faulted, but they are also rather generic and don't make much of an impression. It clearly took the arrival of Rick Wakeman to take the band to another level. Overall, the band play their songs so well it forgives a lot and makes the experience enjoyable as long as you are listening 'at the surface', so to speak, and don't analyze it too much.

Compositionally, though, there are a few minor problems. First of all, the long pieces, namely Yours is No Disgrace, Starship Trooper and Perpetual Change lack a bit of organisation. This is an aspect they would improve upon in their subsequent album Fragile. For instance, on Starship Trooper, there is a break in the middle where Howe goes acoustic. Neither does the track develop seamlessly into that moment nor does it resolve particularly well back into the vocal melody. It sort of works on intuition and doesn't jar or annoy the ears, but it could stand to be more convincing. The impression I get is the band are still only putting together sections of music that fit reasonably well. It is not cohesive enough for the coveted masterpiece status, at this point.

Another aspect that takes away a little bit is the emotional side, or relative lack thereof, of the album. The music feels like a very happy, sunny (and, er, epic) version of Led Zeppelin and/or Deep Purple. This could plausibly be said for some tracks from subsequent albums of Yes as well. But there's no Wakeman yet and without his touch of brilliance (see South Side of Sky), the proceedings start to get a bit bland after a while. It doesn't help, of course, that Anderson's voice doesn't transport me to those astral places he dreams of; that might have made a difference.

To be sure, I am not complaining too much about all that. That's obviously why I still feel it deserves 4 stars, 4.5 thereabouts in fact. While there are some flaws that I feel must be highlighted in a review of an album that is often held up as one of the masterpieces of symph prog, these are not serious flaws either and don't take away too much from the enjoyment of the music. The Yes Album falls short of the hype by a bit but is still a solid release worthy of a place in your prog collection.

rogerthat | 4/5 |


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