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Music Review: Yes – The Yes Album

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The career of Yes took an important turn with the release of their third album. Their music moved closer to what would become their classic sound, becoming their commercial breakthrough, reaching number four on the British charts and eventually selling over a million copies in the United States.

Four members of the band’s original line-up returned for the third time. Vocalist Jon Anderson, bassist Chris Squire, drummer Bill Bruford, and keyboardist Tony Kaye had coalesced into a tight-knit unit. The big change was that guitarist Peter Banks was out and Steve Howe was in. He would become one of progressive rock’s leading guitarists and be responsible for moving them away from their psychedelic-rock roots.

The Yes Album is the beginning of their producing extended songs with complex music. The songs would have catchy interludes sandwiched amidst the improvisational-type solos. The tight harmonies remained intact which gave the music a broad appeal.

“Yours In Disgrace” led off the original album and it was immediately noticeable that Yes had gone in a different direction. All five band members share the writing credit, as Howe’s guitar, Kaye’s keyboards, and the rhythm section of Bruford and Squire embark on their progressive rock journey, which continues down to the present day. The lyrics were also changing as the imagery was reflective of what was to come.

“Starship Trouper” was an ambitious nine-minute suite comprised of three parts. Anderson’s “Life Seeker” was organ-based, Squire’s “Disillusion” had a nice guitar/bass foundation, and Howe’s “Wurm” was made up of some guitar riffing.

The near seven-minute “I’ve Seen All The Good People” is classic Yes. It is one of their first songs where everything comes together. Colin Goldring provides the recorder sound which gives the song a unique and memorable sound. When I think of early Yes, this is one of the songs that come to mind.

The original album ended with the just-under-nine-minute “Perpetual Change.” It is more of a traditional guitar/bass track written by Anderson and Squire. It is a good, if not memorable track.

The Yes Album finds their sound far more sophisticated than on their first two releases. It is one of the Yes albums that I have returned to many times down through the years, and is an essential stop in their large catalogue of music.

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