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The Yes Album

Atlantic 8243
Released: March 1971
Chart Peak: #40
Weeks Charted: 50
Certified Gold: 3/10/72

Bill BrufordChris SquireTony KayeSteve HoweJon AndersonWith one notable exception, Yes' configuration has remained stable since the first of its three albums was released two years ago. Singer Jon Anderson spearheaded Yes then and still does. But some time after Yes recorded its second album, Time and a Word, guitarist Peter Banks left the band to replace Mick Abrahams who had similarly abandoned Blodwyn Pig. Before anything much happened with the newly aligned Blodwyn, Kim Simmonds lured bassist Andy Pyle and drummer Ron Berg over to Savoy Brown. What Banks is doing now is anybody's guess. His replacement is Steve Howe, a guitarist of equal caliber who featured prominently on Yes' third record.

The Yes Album differs from its two predecessors in several respects. For the first time, everything the group performs is original material. Although Yes deserves praise for having matured to the point where it can supply enough of its own songs for an entire album, I personally miss hearing one of two versions of someone else's songs, like "I See You" and "No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed," which the group arranged and performed brilliantly on its first and second albums, respectively. In addition, the material consists of fewer short songs and more lengthy pieces. The only three-minute tracks on this record are "The Clap," Steve Howe's acoustic guitar quickie recorded at one of Yes' concerts in London, and "A Venture," a straightforward rocker sandwiched between a pair of longer compositions on the second side. Each of the album's four long tracks are carefully structured and allow for greater instrumental freedom than their shorter counterparts. Frequently, a particular melodic theme first stated by one musician is echoed by another, such as in "Yours Is No Disgrace" and "I've Seen All Good People." Organist Tony Kaye, guitarist Steve Howe and bass player Chris Squire play as though of one mind, complementing each other's work as a knowledgeable band should. Squire in particular deserves to be singled out for his creative bass work throughout the album. Bill Bruford's tasteful drumming never falls in the way of the other musicians.

Yes - The Yes Album
Original album advertising art.
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As for the vocals, Yes has an ear for harmony and takes full advantage of this asset. Squire and Howe supplement Anderson's delightful leads with harmonies in the upper register. On the first hearing, Yes' vocals may seem too perfectly matched to be enjoyable and this has presented the group with its chief obstacle toward mass acceptance because there is no deep voice to counter the sound of Yes' falsetto harmonies, some have refused to accept the group and its unusual vocal style. If Yes were to change its format by adding a singer who can contribute a lower voice, then the band would lose its distinctive identity. The high-pitched singing is what sets Yes apart from myriad other British bands who can also play their asses off, a qualification that has become all too commonplace nowadays.

Forget your inhibitions and take The Yes Album home with you. It may not cure the common cold, but you'll never get sick from hearing it.

- John Koegel, Rolling Stone, 7-22-71.

Bonus Reviews!

Yes is a no-no. Yes is precious, but you can't play them after 11:30 p.m. unless you use a head-set, and if you do that, there's no doctor in the world who can set your head back in place. But it figures. Yes seems to exist for the purpose of upsetting heads with disturbing, cynical, and sometimes completely filthy lyrics, with sonic musical booms, and maddening rhythm changes. Yes is audacious in an attempt to create an art form out of reeling rock patterns. But no, Yes does not succeed. At best, Yes inspires only fascination by dazzling the listener with admiration for the group's technical skills. Vocally, Yes blends screeching tenors into something vaguely like a poor man's Crosby, Stills and Nash. Heavy is an apt word for Yes, not in the current usage meaning "great," but in the older fashion of weighty and sleep-inducing, though anyone would find sleep impossible while Yes is performing. The Who managed to convince some part of the world that "Tommy" was the first rock opera. "Jesus Christ Superstar" now tilts at that same sophomoric windmill with some success. Yes has pretensions to giving us the first bubblegum opera. In the immortal words uttered lovingly by Elizabeth Taylor to her husband Richard: "Do you ever give yourself the creeps, luv?"

- Rex Reed, Stereo Review, 10/71.

Yes is a strong rock group in the UK and favors on this album some extended works -- "Starship Trooper" and "Good People." Yes is a quintet that sounds fuller because they play everything from acoustic guitar ("The Clap," a live recording) to Moog. Good all around progressive group -- more than a definite maybe for Yes.

- Billboard, 1971.

This is the smoothest new sound to come out of Britain since the Moody Blues. The overall lush sound of this great group is made even more enjoyable by Beatle-like speed-ups and tasteful Moog sounds. This group may not be extraordinarily unique sounding, but who cares when they sound like a mixture of some of the best sounds in the business?

The organist, Tony Kaye, makes the record what it is: an inwardly exploding listening experience. The vocals, by Jon Anderson, are clean and simple. The other three members -- Chris Squire, Steve Howe and Bill Bruford -- all know their stuff. Howe, on the guitar in "The Clap" (an instrumental), manages to be folksy and classical at the same time.

Technically this album rates superhigh. The stereo effects are literally mind-throbbing (seat yourself between the speakers!).

- D. Stacey Westgaard, Hit Parader, 5/72.

Jon Anderson, who delivers the inane Con III lyrics with prissy expertise, and Tony Kaye, whose keyboards run the gamut from vague to overweening, are the bad guys. Bill Bruford, who rocks the rather fancy tempos and signatures, and Chris Squire, best when he gets a good interlock going with Bruford, are the neutrals. And new guitarist Steve Howe makes the record worth hearing if not owning. His commentary throughout "Yours Is No Disgrace," his live acoustic solo "The Clap," and his duet with himself on "Würm" (that's German for "worm," in case you're interested) make the first side almost interesting, and he's at the heart of the album's one great cut, "I've Seen All Good People," where all their arty eclecticism comes together for 6:47. B-

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

The Yes Album was the first to rely entirely on original band compositions -- the cosmic themes and impenetrable lyrics however came hand in hand. However, virtuoso performances by Squire and Howe on bass and lead guitar pushed the band into the limelight from cult obscurity.

Despite an overall lack of focus in the sound the Compact Disc makes the best out of these Advision Studio tapes -- Steve Howe's live Lyceum Theatre track still sounds boxy but from CD you can hear the guitarist beating out the rhythm with his foot on the stage! As with the later Close to the Edge CD, no attempt has been made to index the "movements" of the two suites of music "Starship Trooper" and "I've Seen All Good People." The sound quality of this CD may well come as a surprise; cymbals for instance no longer produce a dull sizzle but ring clearly, harmony and multi-tracked vocals are neatly laid out in space. Recommended as the original and best.

- David Prakel, Rock 'n' Roll on Compact Disc, 1987.

This is the album that first gave shape to the established Yes sound, built around science-fiction concepts, folk melodies, and soaring organ, guitar, and vocal showpieces. "Your Move" actually got some airplay as a single, and "Starship Troopers" became a much-loved part of the band's set. * * * *

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

The Yes Album is crammed with inventive, dynamic rock that borrows from jazz, English folk and myriad other forms. It's notable especially for the long-form rockers "Starship Trooper" and "Yours Is No Disgrace." * * * 1/2

- Simon Glickman, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

As the Indo-Pakistan war erupted in March 1971, so did Yes' third studio effort. Having ditched guitarist Peter Banks in May 1970, the quintet absorbed Bodast's Steve Howe and decamped to Devon, England. Under pressure from Atlantic for a hit, they spent two months at a farm near Ilfracombe developing a fresh sound. Missing the release date of June 15 (for an album new manager Brian Lane dubbed "Stunt Of The Month"), they rehearsed till they were nearly broke and unveiled their new three-part harmonies -- as heard on the heavenly Anderson alto of "Sweet Dreams" -- at London's Lyceum in July. Chris Welch of Melody Maker attested to their "marvelous music" and, by November, they had added the swirling staccato, battling organ-guitar tour de force of "Yours Is No Disgrace" (Howe's attacking soloing a response to Vietnam) and the sunny a cappella reverie of "I've Seen All Good People."

Assisted by engineer Eddie Offord, the band refined their sound at London's Advision, culminating in the monumental "Starship Trooper." Boasting multiple changes of pace, mood, and style, it showcases joyous vocals, Howe's skittering guitar (highlighted on his pedal steel, Chet Atkins-like, in-concert favorite, "The Clap,") Bruford's precision percussion, Squire's forceful bass thumps, and Kaye's earth-shaking Hammond crescendos. The clipped piano of "Perpetual Change" and the intense "Würm" diversify the tone, but the UK No. 7 set marked Yes' move from psych to prog and stands as a genre benchmark.

- Tim Jones, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.

This is the rare progressive rock album that doesn't scream, "We Are Musicians, Take Us Seriously," in the first thirty seconds. Though its lyrics talk cosmic gibberish about glimpsing heaven and the goodness of human souls and the role of Starship Troopers in the galaxy, the music underneath is a model of discipiline. The Yes rhythm section, anchored by drummer Bill Bruford, hops between different time signatures as casually as most people cross the street. No matter what the keening, skyscraping vocalist Jon Anderson sings, the band pounds out music that's heavy and celestial, rhythmically agile and exultant.

Rock historians point to Fragile, the album that followed this one, as the definitive Yes. Although it contains the breakthrough single "Roundabout" (the biggest prog-rock hit of all time) it splinters into tracks showing off the prodigious talents of each individual musician. The Yes Album is, by contrast, all about the group -- here are five confident musicians journeying through extended suites ("Starship Trooper"), executing dramatic shifts of tempo with enviable precision. The seeds of "Roundabout" are here -- check out the chord sequence that defines "A Venture" and the Zen philosophy of "Perpetual Change." More significant, there are several songs that show Anderson striving to make his music accessible, while retaining its road-map complexities: Though it wasn't nearly the hit "Roundabout" was, "Your Move/All Good People" is a feast of hooks, instantly singable and still somehow deep.

- Tom Moon, 1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die, 2008.

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