The 1960’s were coming to an end as the career of Yes was beginning. They released their debut album on July 25, 1969. And while it received positive reviews, it did not chart in either the United States or England.
This original lineup of the group consisted of lead vocalist Jon Anderson, guitarist Peter Banks (who named the band), bassist Chris Squire, keyboardist Tony Kaye, and drummer Bill Bruford.
I can’t remember the last time I listened to this album. I’m sure I did not buy it when it was released; I probably picked up my old vinyl copy well after the fact. It no doubt came from a garage sale or flea market.
The music produced by 1969’s Yes was not the same sound or of the same quality as what would quickly follow with such records as The Yes Album and Fragile. The playing is more restrained, the music more melodic, and the lyrics make more sense. The extended solos had not developed and it sounded closer to psychedelic rock than the sweeping, symphonic and progressive sound that the band would become famous for. It all added up to a very solid if not spectacular first album.
Its two cover songs hint at the direction Yes considered following. “I See You” by The Byrds and “Every Little Thing” by the writing team of Lennon and McCartney may seem like odd choices in light of their future career path. “I See You” is the better of the two as Bruford provides some jazzy drumming that would look ahead to his work with King Crimson. Peter Banks also chips in some of his finest guitar work during what would be a short stay with the band.
The most creative tracks are “Harold Land” and “Survival.” They’re a little longer at just under and just over six-minutes each. They have some instrumental twists that Yes would feature on their extended tracks in the future.
Songs such as “Beyond and Before,” with some excellent bass lines by Chris Squire, “Yesterday and Today,” “Looking Ahead,” and “Sweetness” are all credible tracks that fall into the band’s original musical vision of melodic, psychedelic rock.
This self-titled debut album may sound a little dated today but it remains an interesting listen over four decades after its original release. It is also interesting historically, as it catches one of the better and legendary progressive rock bands in its formative stage. It’s an interesting and pleasant way to spend a little over 41 minutes.