Featured Album- The Yes Album

I don’t listen to a lot of prog-rock these days, but I’d have to say that of all the prog bands that I dug (King Crimson, Genesis, Gentle Giant, ELP), Yes is hands-down my favorite. (Strictly speaking, is Pink Floyd considered prog? Because if so, them first.) Their music is great, their musicianship outstanding and their lyrics, well, they don’t make much sense but ok. Steve Howe is one of my favorite guitarists ever. (I used to able to play “Mood for a Day,” his great, somewhat classical-sounding instrumental.)

As I write this I’m listening to this terrific album. Got to kick this off with the very first song, “Yours is No Disgrace.” Everything comes together here – singing, guitar, drums, bass, organ. I never get tired of this song. Wikipedia says this is an antiwar song. If it is, it’s the most subtle one ever recorded:

Spotify link

This was the first album with Howe who had replaced Tony Banks and their last (for a while) with keyboardist Tony Kaye. Like so many bands, this third album had a “make-or-break” aura about it. Their first two albums pretty much tanked (although I personally love Time and a Word) and the label was considering dropping them.

But fortunately, the guys not only released a great album, but this was 1971 when listeners still had their ears open to a lot of different stuff – jazz, classical, long-from – you name it. The band had previously done a fair number of covers and this was their first LP of all original material.

I think what I like so much about Yes is not only are they tuneful but they don’t get too caught up in the “occupational hazard” of so much prog – spacy, long jams that go nowhere. At least not on this album.

Next up is “Starship Trooper” which is comprised of three parts – “Life Seeker,” “Disillusion,” and “Wurm.” While the whole song is great, my favorite part is “Wurm” which just builds and builds till Howe lets loose with a (too short) solo that sounds like he’s jamming with himself. The solo is pretty uncharacteristically (for him) bluesy. (The chord progression is G-Eb-C if you’re playing along at home.)

Spotify link

“Fun” trivia fact – if you look closely at the album, you’ll see that Kaye has his foot in a cast. That wasn’t done for some effect. The band was driving back from a gig in a driving rain and hit another car head-on. (Between drugs and transportation it’s a wonder we have any touring musicians.) “The engine came back into the cab, and snapped my foot,” Tony Kaye remembers. “So there I was in a cast, for about five months. I did a tour, actually, on crutches.”

For the last tune to feature, I was debating between “I’ve Seen All Good People” and “Perpetual Change.” But the former has been done to death on classic rock radio. Plus I totally dig “Change.” The cool thing is that not only is about change but at one point (5:31 or so) there are multiple time signatures going on. Perpetual change? I dare say.

Spotify link

The Yes Album is featured in a couple of “1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die” lists. (Steven Wilson did a Blu-Ray version in 2014.) And after much intense lobbying (mostly by me), the unjustly overlooked Yes was inducted (by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson) into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April 2017. Geddy played with the band as it took so long to induct these guys that bassist Chris Squire didn’t live to see it. So, fuck you Jann Wenner.

From the Ultimate Classic Rock site: “It all paid off, as The Yes Album climbed to No. 4 in Yes’ native U.K. and reached No. 40 in the U.S. The bigger breakthrough would arrive within the next year when Fragile soared into the Top 5.

But The Yes Album paved the way, chipping away at a proto-prog sound that would expand, before eventually caving in under its own weight, in the years to come. But here the field is wide open.”

Personnel

  • John Anderson, (vocals, percussion)
  • Chris Squire, (bass guitar, vocals
  • Steve Howe, (electric and acoustic guitars, vachalia, vocal)
  • Tony Kaye, (piano, organ, Moog)
  • Bill Bruford (drums, percussion)
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20 thoughts on “Featured Album- The Yes Album

  1. I’m not much of a progressive rock guy either, though I generally like Genesis and Yes, including this album. As for Pink Floyd, I always thought they were psychedelic rock, so you just shattered my world! Well, if they’re progressive rock, then they I dig the genre way more than I thought for all this time!

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    1. I used to love it as a genre and can still very much enjoy it. But I find over time that my tastes have evolved so that I like a more streamlined rock and any “progressive” stuff has been sublimated into jazz. Pink Floyd progressive? I don’t know. But if you look at their Wikipedia page, that is their first listing of genre. Who decides that?

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      1. I don’t know myself who comes up with these genres. While I feel they sometimes help give you a rough idea what to expect, putting labels on music can also be a distraction. Ultimately, as long as you enjoy the music who cares about the genre.

        BTW, I’ve listened to two Robben Ford albums, “Lost In Paris” – a live album that appears to be his most recent record – and “Into The Sun” from 2015. I think both are great!

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        1. Agreed about the labeling. But on the other hand, at least if someone says “blues” or “prog-rock,” at least you know what to expect. Glad to hear about the Ford connection. I know the “Sun” one. I’ll have to spin the Live one.

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  2. It doesn’t get any better than Squire and Bruford together. Howe is so good and he really shines on this. I Also like Kayes work. Really good album and still sounds good. You nailed it on your take. I just dropped a comment on Yes over on Aphoristicals page.

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    1. This was the first time I listened to the album all the way through in quite some time. It still sounds great. “Perpetual Change” gets overlooked so I wanted to do that. And yeah, Squire/Bruford were quite a team. Squire’s gone and I believe Bruford’s retired. Did Aphoristical recently do Yes? I don’t remember seeing anything.

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      1. I wasn’t amazed at how good it was but how not dated it was. Howes licks are all over the place. The guy is good. Seen them years ago and Squire had so much fun playing it brought the crowd into it. Far from a into their own playing. They made great music together. Great band! I know you gave the “Hall” a shot. CB can’t think of that stuff. He’ll get to riled up, might do something stupid.
        I went back into Aphoristical’s archives. He did a lot of work on all sorts of bands. Under reviews.

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        1. Yeah, I forgot to mention I saw them exactly once long ago. Some version of them is touring this year but I need the dough for vacation. I know that you and Pete and not big on the Hall or Rolling Stone. But my feeling is as long as both are there, I’ll keep referring to them, flawed as they may be. They exist, therefore they are. If they both disappear one day, fuck ’em.

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        2. These bands are getting like ball teams, different lineups every few years. I like the lineup on this version of Yes.
          Yeah I stay away from the whole awards thing. So much good stuff never gets mass recognition or mention. Just the way it is (I like looking and listening to the “secret shit” ). I remember years ago Peter Gabriel got some new artist thing, he’d been around for years. Hey we both agree that Yes were one fine group of players that play some great music.

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  3. I’ve always felt this one’s still half psych, half prog, even with the long running times. Tony Kaye’s organ keeps it half in the 1960s, and I like them a lot better with Wakeman (or Moraz on Relayer) adding colour with different keyboard textures. So I don’t rate this one as high as a lot of other Yes fans, even though there are some solid tunes. Good write up!

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    1. Yeah, he seems less of a presence on this one and Howe moreso. But agreed about Wakeman. A force of nature. Loved “Close to the Edge” but they started to lose me around “Topgraphic.”

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      1. I’m working on a Yes: Favourite Five Albums post, and I’ll give this article a shout out in it. Tales From Topographic Oceans was too stretched out (Wakeman comparing it to a padded bra was apt), but I feel like the next two (Relayer, Going For The One) are among their very best, and get overlooked.

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  4. The Yes Album was one of my two all-time favourites for many years. As others have said, some great tracks there. I think I prefer this one to Fragile (but it’s a close call). After that I thought they began to lose their edge. Relayer is nice, though.

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    1. I think I may be with you on that. I’m re-listening to some of them in light of fellow blogger Aphoristical’s listing of his top 5. The Yes Album is a mighty perch but so far Close to the Edge is getting the most love.

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