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 número cuatro (and no it has nothing to do with Spain. Just felt like saying that.)
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 for 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:
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:
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.
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?)
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 a B-side 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.)
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?)
*Not to be confused with 5150, OU812 or 2112 or for that matter Weasels Ripped My Flesh.
**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.