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Yessongs
Yes

Atlantic 100
Released: March 1973
Chart Peak: #12
Weeks Charted: 32
Certified Gold: 3/17/73

Alan WhiteRick WakemanChris SquireSteve HoweJon AndersonYes suffers from having too many diverse talents for one group to handle. The differing musical styles of the five musicians cannot easily be integrated into a unified approach. As a result the group has, more often than not, fallen back on a pattern of extended soloing to duck the issue. On this six-sided live album, they do it less than on previous releases (in concert you can't very well have people strolling offstage all the time) although regrettably there is still far too much of it. Nonetheless, this is their best album in quite a while, far superior to Close to the Edge and Fragile.

Yes' lead singer and group spokesman is Jon Anderson, a lad blessed with a silver throat and a magnificent range. On the negative side, he writes the group's lyrics which are both contrived and sometimes senseless, and it has been Jon who has urged the rest of the group (especially Rick Wakeman, keyboards) to solo more, as an outgrowth of his admiration for such soloists as Keith Emerson and John McLaughlin. Wakeman and drummer Alan White have made names for themselves as group members rather than front men (in the Strawbs and Plastic Ono Band/Balls, respectively), and they are most effective in their natural roles.
Yes - Yessongs
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Steve Howe, guitar, is a unique stylist who has helped to define the Yes sound with both his playing and songwriting, but his musical contributions were much more earthshaking (although not recognized as such) and indicative of his extraordinary talents when he led Tomorrow, a psychedelic superband of the late Sixties. Finally there's Chris Squire, a quiet and musically humble bassist who knows how to exploit the spacey Rickenbacker bass guitar sound, as well as having written the majority of Yes' songs.

"Perpetual Change" is perhaps the best single track on the album; the group uses dynamics to build crescendos full of emotional impact. Unfortunately, the cut ends with an anti-climactic and monotonous drum solo. "I've Seen All Good People" would have been better if the bass/drums weren't mixed so loud during the acoustic segment -- the rumbles around the low edge of the audio spectrum are more distracting than exciting. But the live version of "Roundabout" sounds more full and exciting than the original and "And You and I" is quite invigorating.

In fact, if our interest wasn't so consistently being diverted by the solos -- which ideally could have been reduced in length and number by editing, leaving us with a more wieldy two-record set -- I could recommend Yessongs without reservation. But it is impossible to do so with its stop/start energy and beautiful songs continually being interrupted by single instrument rambling that add only length to the album's timing and nothing to the force of the group's music.

- Jon Tiven, Rolling Stone, 6/7/73.

Bonus Reviews!

Yes is a holdover from the pre-Watergate era when people really did believe that rock -- not rock-and-roll, but "progressive" rock -- could save souls, and when rock musicians could speak of art without getting tongue hopelessly imbedded in cheek. It all seems so stylized now, this pomp and circumstance of Yes music, like being in a foreign country and watching people in strange costume perform rituals with beautiful but incomprehensible icons -- very impressive, but it doesn't seem to have much to do with life back in Peoria. Well, rock has a way of coming back every few years, and perhaps Yes can hold on as curators until that old tingle of relevance is felt again.

This three-volume album, meanwhile, catches Yes on tour, and, since they do just about everything on stage that they do in the studio, this isn't exactly a bargain for those who already have a couple of Yes albums. It is beautifully packaged, though, with another fine spate of fantasy landscape illustrations by Roger Dean, and the production has the heavy curtains of sound that waft out of Rick Wakeman's million-dollars-worth of keyboards strung across at just the right depth. And Jon Anderson's vocals (as usual, cast about one key higher than he would seem most comfortable with) are back in the middle of things, where Yes seems to like them.

You've got to be your own editor with an album like this. Sitting down and listening to it straight through is like reading too much Buckminster Fuller the first thing after you get up in the morning. Yes is loaded with talent but becomes so engrossed in making sure nobody misses that point that I react as I would if the hypnotist paused to point out the exquisite carving on the gold watch he was swinging before my eyes. If you can lend yourself to the seriousness of it all for a minute, you can say Yes takes a Brucknerian approach: a big -- nay, prodigious -- deal is made of very ordinary rock chord progression; melodies are broken up into thematic fragments that will show up again somewhere later; and the (usually urgent) tone of the lyrics is considerably more important than the wording.

Yes has added to the textures of rock, and when the band finally gets around to hitting the listener emotionally it probably is because all the elements somehow got translated into textural riches. That doesn't happen as often as it should her, but it does happen.

- Noel Coppage, Stereo Review, 10/73.

The best live album to emerge from the entire art-rock scene, a compendium of blazing performances covering the previous three studio albums by the group and the accompanying solo career of Rick Wakeman. Some of the performances are superior to their studio originals, although "And You and I" is something of a disappointment next to the version on Close to the Edge. * * *

- Bruce Eder, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

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