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Yes Album Reviews

With their dazzling instrumental chops, lengthy songs, and lush harmonies, London’s Yes perhaps defined 1970s progressive rock better than any other band. At their peak, Jon Anderson’s high pitched vocals delivered unintelligible pseudo-religious lyrics, while Chris Squire’s rumbling bass and harmony vocals anchored the band. Rick Wakeman supplied classical flourishes on the keyboards, while Steve Howe’s agile guitar playing, and Bill Bruford’s jazz-influenced drumming were also important features of their sound. If you can get past any aversion to progressive rock, there’s plenty of solid pop craftsmanship on Yes albums – they’re lushly produced and filled with hooks.

I’ve only covered the group’s albums between 1971-1983 – the period from 1971-1977 is generally held to be their most fertile period, and apart from 1973’s meandering Tales from Topographic Oceans, all of their albums in this time period range from very good to outstanding. Their albums from 1978-1983 are more uncertain, with the group trying to keep up with contemporary trends. I’ve never heard their later work, but some of their work from the 1990s and early 2000s has its share of fans, and apparently their albums from this time are closer to their prog-rock roots.

Yes had a constantly changing lineup even during the time period covered on this page, with bass player Chris Squire the only constant. I’ve included a summary of the band changes below. The first five in the list are the best known lineup, who played on 1971’s Fragile and 1972’s Close to the Edge.

Yes Members, 1971-1983
Jon Anderson: vocals, 1971-1978, 1983
Chris Squire: bass, backing vocals, 1971-1983
Steve Howe: guitars, backing vocals, 1971-1980
Bill Bruford: drums, 1971-1972
Rick Wakeman: keyboards, 1972-1974, 1977-1978
Alan White: drums, 1973-1983
Tony Kaye: keyboards, 1971, 1983
Patrick Moraz: keyboards, 1974
Geoff Downes: keyboards, 1980
Trevor Horn: vocals, 1980
Trevor Rabin: guitars and vocals, 1983

Ten Favourite Yes Songs

Close To The Edge
The Gates of Delirium
Sound Chaser
Parallels
Starship Trooper
Heart of the Sunrise
South Side of the Sky
Siberian Khaatru
Awaken
Tempus Fugit

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Yes The Yes Album 1971

The Yes Album – Yes

1971, 7.5/10. The Yes Album captures Yes in a state of flux; one foot grounded in the 1960s and the other stretching into space.

Yes Fragile Album

Fragile – Yes

1972, 8.5/10. Yes launched full tilt into progressive rock with 1972’s Fragile, but the solo tracks make the album disjointed.

yes-close-to-the-edge

Close To The Edge – Yes

1972, 10/10. Close To The Edge was the peak for Yes, the last album with their most proficient lineup, and three dazzling songs.

Yes Tales from Topographic Oceans

Tales From Topographic Oceans – Yes

1974, 6/10. Based entirely on a lengthy footnote on page 83 of an obscure religious text, Tales From Topographic Oceans shows Yes stretching their ideas too thinly.

Yes Relayer

Relayer – Yes

1974, 9.5/10. Replacement keyboard player Patrick Moraz, pushes Yes into a more abrasive jazz-fusion direction.

going-for-the-one-yes

Going For The One – Yes

1977, 8.5/10. Punch and concise, Going For The One is Yes’ most accessible album since Fragile with a grand total of five songs.

Yes Tormato

Tormato – Yes

1978, 5.5/10. Yes updated their sound with synthesisers and bass effects, and the results on Tormato are lacking in dignity.

Yes Drama 1980

Drama – Yes

1980, 6/10. The union of Yes and The Buggles on Drama is a strange diversion in Yes’ discography, with a few great moments.

Yes 90125

90125 – Yes

1983, 7.5/10. 90125 doesn’t bear much resemblance to 1970’s progressive rock Yes – it’s simply an enjoyable pop album.

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