A Six-Pack of Yes (Teaser #4)

Faithful readers of this blog – both of them – know that I’ve been dropping teasers about a magical mystery tour (“Roll up for the mystery tour, step right this way”) I will be embarking on in the very near future. This is teaser nรบmero cuatro (and no it has nothing to do with Spain. Just felt like saying that.)ย 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Yes is hands-down my favorite prog-rock band. Their stuff never gets old for me and it still sounds fresh. Maybe it’s because they have more of a commercial sound and at heart, I’m a singles guy. Do they sometimes go too far out there and become affected and a bit twee? Of course. But that comes the territory in this genre.

I’ve written about Yes before a couple of times and you can search for those if you’re so inclined. But I will in this post list six tunes I like, only one of which pushes over the ten-minute mark. Here we go:

Despite my professed love for the Yes-meisters, the non-No guys, the eternal optimists with a smile on their face, by 1983 I confess I wasn’t still listening to them much anymore. The punks had pretty well eviscerated them, Joe Average rock fan had moved on and the band itself had splintered.

And then in the midst of the “Era of MTV,” Yes came roaring back with the album 90125* with a lineup that included Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Trevor Rabin, Alan White, and Tony Kaye. So, three out of five of the original band from 1969. (Kaye had played keys on their first three albums, split and then came back just in time for their resurgence.)

Wikipedia: “The song ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart,’ was the most successful single and is their only song to top the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was one of the songs from Rabin’s set of demos. The song features a sample from the horn section of “Kool is Back” by Funk, Inc. Rabin had used the same guitar tone for the opening on a session he did forย Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, which involved panning two guitar tracks left and right and aimed for a sound “as heavy as possible.””

Let me say this – at 2:25 of this song comes one of the greatest ascending breaks in the history of recorded music. Like the drum break in “Born to Be Wild,” it is imperative that every time I hear this that I wildly conduct that part with my hands. If I’m driving and doing that will cause my car to go off a cliff and I will die, tough shit. I would consider myself lucky to go out in such a blaze of glory. It is rock and fucking roll:

Spotify link

When Yes released their eponymous debut album in 1969, the band did a couple of covers, one of them being the Beatles’ “Every Little Thing,” the other being the Byrds’ “I See You.” Not sure if they saw themselves as a band that wanted to show off their rearranging chops or just hadn’t yet written enough material of their own.

The management of this site highly recommends that you listen to the Bruford/Squire interplay here. Bruford masterfully propels this thing along and it gets super-jazzy. The intro reminds me of another tune but I can’t think of what it is at the moment:

Spotify link

In 1971, the band released the iconic The Yes Album.** This was the last album to feature Tony Kaye (for a while) and the first to feature guitarist Steve Howe. Howe is one of my favorite guitarists ever. If I ever met him, I would be so busy doing this he would say “Would you get the fuck up off the floor already?”

From that album, a solo acoustic classically-inspired piece by the Great One (apologies to Wayne Gretzky) called “Mood for a Day.” I used to know how to (roughly) play this and it is on my list to re-learn.

It’s interesting to note that Steve Morse who is also on my teaser list did his own cover of this and Howe’s “Clap.” Like Morse, (and Eric Johnson) Howe was voted “Best Overall Guitarist” in Guitar Player magazine five years in a row and in 1981 was the first rock guitar player inducted into the Guitar Player Hall of Fame.

Spotify link

Another great tune from The Yes Album is “I’ve Seen All Good People.” Now, we already know about the chess references in “Your Move.” But I was completely unaware of the John Lennon references. A reference to Lennon’s work is in the lyric “send that instant karma to me,” Also, the sentence “All we are saying is give peace a chance” is heard in the organ part before switching to “All Good People.” (I know, I know. I just never heard it before. I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer, ok?)

Spotify link

Yes released not one but two classic albums in 1971, the second one being Fragile. (I saw them live that year right around the time Fragile came out, oddly the first and last time I ever saw them.)

“Long Distance Runaround” was released as aย B-sideย to “Roundabout” but became pretty popular as well. Jon Anderson wrote the lyrics to this song “while allegedly remembering his encounters with religious hypocrisy and competition he experienced in attending church regularly as a youth in northern England. “Long time/waiting to feel the sound” was a sentiment toward wanting to see a real, compassionate, non-threatening example of godliness.”

The tempo changes at about 2:18 and Bruford/Squire kick in for a brief burst of flash. (To this day I think it’s a crime that the Rock and Roll Hall waited so long to induct the band that Chris Squire didn’t live to see it. Hey Jann Wenner -fuck you.)

Spotify link

I’ll end this tribute with another tune from Fragile, “Heart of the Sunrise.” This one kicks off with some crazy shit from (yet again) that great rhythm section. Maybe those guys are part of why I prefer Yes to, say, Genesis. Do not misunderstand me. Let me shout this from the rooftops: – Phil Collins is a fucking EXCELLENT drummer. But nobody drives a band like Bruford. (Isn’t it sad that they’re both basically retired?)

Spotify link

*Not to be confused with 5150, OU812 or 2112 or for that matter Weasels Ripped My Flesh.ย 

**In November 1970, the group were involved in a car accident returning from a gig in Basingstoke. The band all suffered shock, and Kaye broke a foot. He had to do the next few gigs, and the album cover’s photoshoot with it in plaster.

 

 

 

61 thoughts on “A Six-Pack of Yes (Teaser #4)

  1. I’ve never gotten too much into prog rock, perhaps with the exception of Pink Floyd, which I guess falls into the genre, or is it psychedelic rock? Oftentimes, boundaries are very fluid when it comes to music genres. Anyway, one of the first prog-rock bands that comes to my mind I like is Yes. And it probably has to do what you noted – their sound is more accessible/commercial than that of other prog-rockers I’ve heard.

    “Owner of a Lonely Heart” is one hell of a song. Yes, it’s commercial, but it kicks ass, so I don’t care. Perhaps, not too shockingly, my favorite part is the short descending bass solo that starts at around 3:08. I also love the overall simplicity of the bassline. Once again, it shows music doesn’t have to be complicated to be great. Of course, it’s kind of funny to note this in the context of prog rock!

    I also totally dig “I’ve Seen All Good People,” even though that’s perhaps more traditional prog rock than “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”

    As for your magical mystery tour, I’m afraid I still have no clue despite the numerous clues you have provided. At this time, I think I’m just gonna wait and see!

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    1. I think maybe Floyd falls into both. Or maybe they just fall into category called Floyd. As to my mystery trip, recall that a sage fellow once said the following, “The waiting is the hardest part.”

      Everything is in place for the trip now. The die has been cast, the players all know their roles. All the jacks are in the boxes; the kettle’s on the boil and we’re so easily called away.

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  2. I am and have always been a huge Yes fan, and I saw them at least six or seven times during the Yes/Time and a Word/Yes Album/Fragile era, and on one memorable tour they were supported by Genesis, with Peter Gabriel in full ‘Foxes Head/Daffodil’ headgear.

    I stayed with them until around the ‘Relayer’ album, and then they started to get a bit too – is ‘pretentious’ the right word – for me… I listen to them pretty much every day now (I have a ‘Prog Rock’ channel on Pandora that I listen to a lot in my apartment), and I still love them.

    I am with Jim regarding Steve Howe. He is an amazing ‘technical’ guitarist, and Chris Squire has always been a one of the best Bass players out there. Add in Rick Wakeman and you have a true ‘virtuoso’ line-up.

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    1. That one and only time I saw them stays in my memory, in no small measure because it was the first late night (11:30) show I was allowed to go see. In NYC.

      ‘Pretentious’ is a fair word and is, I think, an ‘occupational hazard’ of prog-rock. But yeah, that line-up was a powerhouse for sure. I never get tired of Yes’ music which is a tribute to their songs.

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  3. I love this band (Another one of our friends and CB came up with a replacement name for prog. Forgot it already). Bruford and Squire give that distinct sound. You know how I feel about those two. Yes Howe is the man (one of them). I wont burn myself out with too much. I have another Yes take coming up. Oh yeah Tony Banks sounds pretty good on that cut you posted.
    I checked out your take early this morning and then took Yes Songs for a long walk. now I’m home and doing a Yes festival. So much jazz in this music for me. Still sounds real good. Just did a Roxy last couple days because of a Aph take.

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  4. I know that we’ve kind of discussed this before, but I’m all over the prog epics with this band. I think their pop sense remained intact over long song albums like Close to the Edge and Going For The One. I’d stuff my six song playlist with long pieces like Siberian Khaatru, Parallels, Close to the Edge, and Gates of Delirium.

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  5. A fine selection of tunes here, Jim. I’m pleased to see that you included something from their debut. Many people, even some Yes fans, overlook their first two albums, which is a shame because there’s a ton of great music on them. Bruford is especially amazing. I’m also pleased that you included both Howe AND Rabin. I love all eras of Yes.

    Not sure where your magical mystery tour will take you (or us) but I look forward to finding out.

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    1. There really is a lot of good early stuff. I did the ‘Time and a Word’ album a while back which is why I maybe shortchanged it here.

      The mystery trip is just over a week away. In the meantime, you’ll have to keep looking for mysteries without any (good) clues. ๐Ÿ™‚

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        1. Oh, right. I did say that didn’t I? I was just turning a phrase and yes, quoting that song. But I’d never give such a direct clue. I will say this – I will be playing guitar. In clubs. On two nights.

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      1. I did the take a while back. It is a few weeks before the public gets to see it (hows that for horse shit?). Yeah it’s a great piece of music.
        I’m just listening to Howe goes nuts on ‘Sound Chaser’ from Relayer.

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  6. Yes is one of my favorite bands. I had most of their albums; and I have to say 90125* would probably be on my list of “10 albums you need on a desert isle.” I love how, when you mention Genesis you say “Do not misunderstand me.” Was that subliminal or intentional? Love it. Have you ever heard this track that includes Jon Anderson? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xry2mUM0e4c

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  7. Ha, shit no. Subliminal. I guess. I had to think about your question a minute. I really like that Genesis tune. And that song you listed? Freaking gorgeous. Never heard it before thanks.

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  8. An excellent six-pack. Yes are a band I only really got into a couple of years ago. Likely my favourite prog band too (Iโ€™m not a prog rock man in general, so Iโ€™m basing this on kinda liking a few bands or albums by a few bands). Anyhoo, I really dig Close to the Edge most, but The Yes Album is a close second.

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    1. Yes managed to stay melodic and tuneful (most of the time) while at the same time maintaining a complex edge. Not all the prog bands do that I think. Those two albums you mentioned are my favorites as well.

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        1. Yeah I do. Rush never get a lot of respect initially but I see them on favorite prog lists .I’m going to be listening to prog over an extended period and come up with my own best prog albjm list.

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        2. The only Rush I heard was by accident on radio. Plus in Canada they have to play Canadian bands in their playlists.
          I’m just doing the Stressfest thing right now. You can hear Howe’s influence like you say. Enjoying. See where it takes me.

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        3. In the midst of your comments, WordPress decided that this particular one was spam. Retrieved it. I think the thing that kept Morse from being more well-known was doing to much jazzy rock instrumental non-commercial stuff. Deep Purple changed that but he’s still largely unknown to the world at large. I’ll say hi to him for ya.

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        4. All those guys like him and Alan Holdsworth, Steve Hillage were probably aimed at more trained ears than mine but I dug it anyway. It’s pretty overwhelming at times but I do like to indulge.

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        5. Prog is, for me, like jazz. I can listen to it for a while then the richness and complexity get to me and then I have to listen to George Thorogood or Little Walter or somebody. Then back again.

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        6. The shredder guys like Vai, Satriani, Malmsteen never did much for me. I appreciate their talent. But one bent note from Clapton is worth ten of their scales to me.

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        7. Shred? Oh that term has been around forever. Think of Eddie Van Halen’s playing for example. All that tapping and swooping and heavy effects and playing really, really fast. Strictly speaking I suppose it could apply to any ace guitarist. But it tends to get used more in the heavy metal arena. Eddie’s “Eruption” may have spawned this term as much as any other song.

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        8. CB, one other thing. I went down a rabbit hole and wound up on Guitar World’s Top 100 list. And there I found Brother Dave in a kick-ass version of “You Really Got Me,” live from Lowell Memorial Auditorium. (I had just moved out of Lowell. Why wasn’t I at this show?)

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        9. Yes. I have that record. I seen that tour. Dave with the Kinks was like a secret weapon. He’d bust out and take solos. He was such a big part of the band in so many ways. Now i’m off on a Kink Kruise.

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        10. Heh! Funny. They actually put out an album that year with the newly reformed band. But at that point they were like Bruce for me – a band I really dug but who I wasn’t following as closely as I once did. Back then I was probably more into New Wave than anything else. My trip with them wouldn’t come for another 17 years.

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      1. Yes, no doubt about that. EVH redefined that level of playing… or maybe he established a whole new level several steps beyond where predecessors had gone.

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        1. Here’s an interesting tidbit. If you read up on shredding, they name Jimmy Page’s wild guitar break in ‘Heartbreaker’ as an example. I happened to then read EVH’s Wikipedia page which says, “I think I got the idea of tapping watching Jimmy Page do his “Heartbreaker” solo back in 1971. He was doing a pull-off to an open string, and I thought wait a minute, open string … pull off. I can do that, but what if I use my finger as the nut and move it around? I just kind of took it and ran with it.”

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        2. Cool to ‘hear’ EVH talking about the influence of Jimmy Page on ‘Heartbreaker.’ Man. The first LZ album knocked my socks off; then the second one (with ‘Heartbreaker’ on it)… thru the roof. Two of my favorite LPs of all time.

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    1. A lot of people came in to Zep later and they tend to favor the fourth “Zoso” album .But this shit’s the blueprint, dripping with classic blues-rock.

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  9. Yikes. I can’t stop, CB. When someone mentions LZ and another someone says something like, “Oh, yeah, man, Led Zeppelin. I love “Stairway to Heaven”.” Now, of course, Stairway is a perfectly wonderful track – perhaps especially the guitar solo – but I always think, “Really? Like there aren’t twelve songs on the first two LPs that I wouldn’t (personally) put before Stairway on my list of favorite LZ tunes?” Just sayin’.

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