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Yes:
The Studio Albums 1969 - 1987
Part I
Previous Volume

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It's that time again...

Last year we tried something a little different and used the magnificent King Crimson 40th Anniversary Series to allow the DPRP team to write about that most iconic of bands.

When thinking about what to undertake for the holiday season this year an opportunity appeared with the release of The Studio Albums: 1969 - 1987 box set featuring all of Yes' albums from their debut right through to their final album for Atlantic, Big Generator, in their 2003 Rhino Remaster versions with extra tracks. Twelve albums that have defined what prog should be - and sometimes what it shouldn't!

We have also taken the opportunity to consider the merits of Steven Wilson's recently released 5.1 Surround Sound Remix of Close To The Edge and also, as a bonus, filled in the gaps in our archive by adding reviews of the studio albums Yes released between 1987 and the dawn of DPRP's review section in 1998; Union, Talk and the first volume of Keys To Ascension which, although predominantly live, included studio material.

Not only that but we also asked some well known names in the world of prog to contribute their thoughts on some of these albums and were overwhelmed by their generosity of time and their willingness to be part of this.

And so a big thank you to: Andy Tillison (The Tangent), Theo Travis (Steven Wilson Band/Soft Machine Legacy), Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon/Guilt Machine/Star One), Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings/Transatlantic), Rob Reed (Magenta/Kompendium), Jeff Green (solo artist), Adam Holzman (Steven Wilson Band), Richard Henshall (Haken/To-Mera), Luca Scherani (La Coscienza de Zeno/Höstsonaten) and David Elliott (CEO of Bad Elephant Music).

The DPRP Team have contributed a Duo Review and ratings for each album as usual with the guests adding their own thoughts and insights in their own words.

Irrespective of whether you are listening to the LP, original CD, remaster, remix or whatever, one thing remains constant: the music. The music of Yes has captured the hearts and minds of generations of artists and prog lovers alike, and the band is often considered one of the greatest progressive rock acts of all time. Once you are absorbed into their world you can't turn your head away.

We hope that you enjoy reading this as much as we have enjoyed putting it together and are inspired to revisit some of the albums that you may not have heard in a while.

Merry Christmas, Part II of this special published on New Year's Day can be found Here.


Yes - The Sudio Albums 1969 - 1987


Yes - Yes (2003 Rhino Remaster)
Yes - Yes (Rhino Remaster)
Country of Origin:U.K.
Format:CD
Record Label:Atlantic Records
Catalogue #:8122-73786-2
Year of Release:1969 / 2003
Time:79:14
Info:Yes
Samples:Click Here

Tracklist: Beyond & Before (4:58), I See You (6:54), Yesterday and Today (2:53), Looking Around (4:05), Harold Land (5:45), Every Little Thing (5:46), Sweetness (4:35), Survival (6:23)
Bonus Tracks : Everydays (Single version) (6:23), Dear Father (Early version #2) (5:51), Something's Coming (7:09), Everydays (Early version) (5:18), Dear Father (Early version #1) (5:31), Something's Coming (Early version) (8:02)

Mark Hughes' Review

So, this is where it all began. Bassist Chris Squire first linked up with guitarist Peter Banks in The Syn who released two singles on the Deram label and supported Jimi Hendrix at his legendary Marquee concert where the American guitarist first came to the attention of the English music press and glitterati. In the last days of The Syn Squire was also performing with Mabel Greer's Toyshop alongside Clive Bailey (guitar and vocals) and Bob Hagger (drums). Jon Anderson, who had released two solo singles under the name Hans Christian Anderson, joined the band after he was introduced to Squire and Bailey by Jack Barrie, the owner of The Marquee club. It is reported that the three of them wrote the song Sweetness that same evening. By this time The Syn had finally called it a day and Banks was free to enter the world of the Toyshop. Band member musical chairs started when Hagger was replaced by Bill Bruford, who came to the notice of the band in the time honoured tradition of placing an advertisement in the Melody Maker, and Banks decided to throw his toys out of the pram and hook up with Neat Change, a group who are only noteworthy for the fact that it introduced Banks to classically trained keyboardist Tony Kaye. When Bailey also decided life as a jobbing musician was not for him and Banks rejoined as the sole guitarist bringing with him his new friend Kaye. The new five piece considered that a new, short, punchy name was required for the group: Squire suggested World, Anderson favoured Life but Banks triumphed with Yes, originally appended with an exclamation mark. The band performed regularly, showcasing their own material as well as a variety of covers, with songs by The Beatles and U.S. West Coast artists, such as The Byrds and The Buffalo Springfield, featuring prominently. Bruford took a quick trip around the revolving door of Yes membership by deciding to quit performing and go to university. However, his absence was short lived as his replacement, Tony O'Reilley of The Koobas (who, trivia fans, also boasted Keith Ellis, the original bassist in Van der Graaf Generator, in their ranks) lacked the proficiency to keep up with the on-stage musical meanderings of the early Yes and after an academic career of two months Bruford was persuaded to return to the fold, just in time to perform at the Royal Albert Hall at Cream's farewell concert in November 1968.

The support slot did a lot to bring the group to the attention of Atlantic records who eventually signed the group in 1969 being impressed by the material they had now started writing in earnest. Anderson and Squire in particular realised, after witnessing a King Crimson gig at The Marquee, that they needed not only to write good songs but be masters of their instruments. Once signed, Atlantic wasted no time getting the band into the studio with producer Paul Clay who the band didn't think really understood the group's vision. The album, released in July 1969, consisted of eight tracks clocking up a healthy 41 and a half minutes playing time, which was very long for the era. Opener Beyond and Before had originally been written and performed by Mabel Greer's Toyshop, most notably during a 1968 BBC session. With Banks' guitar slicing through the opening, Squire's bass thundering along in best John Entwistle fashion, Bruford adding drum fills at will and with the Simon and Garfunkle inspired harmonies the template was set down for what is instantly recognised as the Yes Sound. Although not as complex as things to come, the band showed an early fair for switching time signatures and varying moods and tempos with the sweet organ driven ending rounding things off nicely. As cover versions were a prominent part of the Yes live show it is no surprise that a couple were included on the album, with a third added to the b-side of the album's single. However, straightforward reproductions of songs were not on the cards, with a more Vanilla Fudge style approach taken in reinterpreting the songs and stamping their own identity onto proceedings. The cover of The Byrd's I See You is a great example of this with its jazz infected groove extending the song to more than two and a half times its original length. The Beatles' Every Little Thing gets a similar extended workout setting off at a frantic pace with Bruford and Banks leading the charge in an exciting jam that must have been amazing in concert. Indeed it is over 100 seconds before the recognisable melody is introduced and even then Banks throws in a curveball by summoning up the riff to Day Tripper. This was a frequent habit of the group, particularly live, and is also shown on the their version of West Side Story's Something's Coming, the cover that ended up as a b-side, where Squire plays the riff to America into the intro, Banks adds some Prokofiev (yes, the same Lieutenant Kijé theme as used by Greg Lake in I Believe In Father Christmas, perhaps that is where he got the idea from?) and Squire and Anderson sing a few lines of Tonight, also from West Side Story, to the end of the song. This cover is exceptionally good and displays all that was grandiose and exciting about the early years of the band.

From the off the band had confidence as songwriters selecting the first song they wrote, Sweetness, as the debut single. A ballad that is perhaps rather too sickly sweet, although I have always had a fondness for the lyric She brings the sunshine to a rainy afternoon, She puts the sweetness in and stirs it with a spoon - such typical Anderson lines. Also characteristically Anderson is Yesterday And Today, a love song with Kaye and Banks providing a lovely piano and acoustic guitar accompaniment with a mellow electric guitar solo appended to the end of the song. Straddling the ballads and the more outright rock numbers stands Harold Land, a tale of a soldier returning from war (the name was suggested by Bruford and is actually that of a tenor saxophone player). The song has a very interesting structure with a robust major key introduction that subtly slides into a minor key for the bulk of the song before the more upbeat intro is repeated to close the number. Kaye's organ work features prominently on Looking Around, it is often overlooked how good a keyboard player Kaye is, his organ playing in particular was a defining element of early Yes and something that was largely pushed aside when his replacement joined the ranks. Banks' guitar compliments Kaye's playing perfectly and it is not surprising that Kaye was invited to add his keyboard skills to the first album by Banks' post yes group Flash. Looking Around also contains some of the best Anderson-Squire harmonising on the album. Probably the most celebrated track on the debut is the one that closes the album, Survival, the other Anderson solo composition. In contrast to Yesterday And Today, Survival is Anderson writing for the whole group, allowing the band to not only show what they can achieve as a unit but also what their individual talents add to the mix. It contains all the characteristics of a classic Yes song: Squire's booming Rickenbacker bass, light and shade aplenty, guitar work ranging from biting attack to gentle relief, harmonies all around, recurring musical passages, big choruses, contrapuntal keyboard lines. About the only thing it lacks is an over-the-top ending!

Yes certainly set out their stall with their debut and it is a shame that the two albums with Peter Banks are largely considered to be inferior to what was to follow in the next few years. Yes is a magnificent accomplishment of creativity and originality that is one of the albums that helped to establish the progressive rock genre and put the band on the path to fame, fortune and, more importantly, years of great music.

Geoff Feakes' Review

Ask most any fan to name their favourite album by a particular artist and the one that introduced them to that band will figure pretty high on the list. 1983's 90125 for example attracted a large audience to Yes and as a result holds special memories for them. In my case however I was lucky enough to be there almost from the very start. It began one night in the summer of 1970 when at the impressionable age of 16 I heard a track from the then recently released Time And A Word album on Radio Luxembourg. The following day I headed straight for my local record store, purchased Time And A Word and a week later the 1969 debut, Yes. To say I was totally knocked out by both would be an understatement. Prog was still very much in its infancy at this stage and my initiation had already included The Moody Blues and King Crimson's In The Court Of The Crimson King but Yes were something else again.

Under the leadership of Jon Anderson and Chris Squire, Yes' master plan at the outset was to marry rich vocals inspired by pop-harmony acts like The Beach Boys and Simon And Garfunkel with a rock sensibility incorporating strong melodies and superior musicianship. With its bold uncompromising cover logo, the debut album was certainly a convincing affirmation of their intent. This is evident from the start with Chris Squire's Beyond And Before, a strident, all guns blazing track that loudly declares "We are Yes, and we are here!". Already Squire's rumbling bass lines are up-front in the mix competing with guitar and organ for attention. Looking Around, written by Anderson and Squire, is the album's other rocker propelled by Tony Kaye's fat organ sound. Kaye is perhaps the most underrated musician in the history of Yes but here his organ and piano playing fits the bill perfectly; unfussy but tunefully powerful.

The ballads (yes, they did write ballads) come in the shape of Anderson's wistful Yesterday And Today and the delicate Sweetness, co-composed by Squire's old writing partner Clive Bailey. True, they both sound a tad naïve in today's climate of cynicism but back in the late '60s they had an unpretentious charm (especially the lyrics) that somehow got lost when Yes hit their early '70s progressive rock stride. Anderson's performance on both by the way is an absolute delight with a purity of tone unrivalled by most every other British singer at the time.

Like many bands starting out, original compositions are often supplemented by covers which here come in the shape of The Byrds' I See You and The Beatles' Every Little Thing, two bands that had a profound influence on the young men of Yes. Here they are transformed into extended instrumental workouts allowing the closet Jazzers in Yes (Peter Banks and Bill Bruford) to strut their stuff. The former really swings thanks to both men's tastefully articulate partnership (incorporating a snippet of Day Tripper) whilst the latter features Banks' wonderful weeping guitar lines normally associated with the likes of Jan Akkerman. In fact Banks' performance throughout the album is so good that it's hard to comprehend why he was side-lined so early in Yes' career. The final insult came in 1970 when Banks' last Yes album, Time And A Word was released in the States (and reissued in the U.K.) with Steve Howe on the front cover!

But I digress, back to Yes and for me the real highlights, the tracks that open and close side 2 of the original album; Harold Land and Survival. The former is a character driven song, sung in the third person in the style of The Beatles' She's Leaving Home and Eleanor Rigby and later, ELO's The Diary Of Horace Wimp. In Yes' case, Harold Land features a superb vocal melody and Bruford's infectious marching rhythm. Anderson's Survival however is the real ace in the pack, a mini-epic that pre-empts The Yes Album and Fragile. Lyrically Anderson was already displaying his evolutionistic credentials supported by a bittersweet melody, complex structure, stunning counterpoint harmonies and all the instrumental muscle the band could muster at the time. The closing seconds where Squire, Kaye and Banks take it in turns to deliver the payoff line is as good a piece of Yes as you are likely to hear anywhere.

Of the six bonus tracks on the Rhino reissue, the seven minute version of Something's Coming (or eight minutes if you prefer the earlier version also included here) is the most interesting. Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story was a popular source for proto-prog bands in the late '60s (e.g. The Nice's America and The Gods' Maria) but in the hands of Yes, Something's Coming is given a full instrumental makeover with Bruford in particular at his most showy. Banks even manages to squeeze in a section of Sergei Prokofiev's Lieutenant Kijé Suite pre-empting Greg Lake's I Believe In Father Christmas by 6 years. The vocal sections on the other hand remain slavishly true to Bernstein's original dressed up by Anderson and Squire's now familiar harmonies.

When Yes' ascension as one of the leading lights of the prog world skyrocketed into the stratosphere in the early to mid-'70s it became fashionable (by band and critics alike) to disown their earlier creations. This is confirmed with 1973's triple live Yessongs album which contains not one single song pre-The Yes Album. Only much later did songs from Time And A Word find themselves creeping back into the setlist although sadly the debut album (with the exception of Every Little Thing) remained largely ignored which is a real shame. It's not perfect by any means (in the interest of dynamics producer Paul Clay allows Squire and Banks too much steam at times) but this is where it all began and I can testify that back then this album, along with its makers, was like a breath of fresh air.



Andy Tillison

Andy Tillison


[Keyboards & vocals - The Tangent]

WAIT!!!!!

Hold your horses!

Hang on...don't go scudding off to read about Close To the Edge or The Yes Album yet!!! You've got this to deal with first - as indeed have I.

You'd think of course that bearing in mind the enormous importance of Yes as a genre defining band that their first album would be an item of reverence and awe. Yet for the most part it isn't and the plaudits for "First True Progressive Rock Album" are usually given to King Crimson for their debut album which followed this one by almost half a year.

If that "time-frames" it a little for you - let's give you a little more to go on. The album was released the day after Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins splashed down in Apollo 11. It was quite literally the beginning of a new era, an era full of optimism and possibility. If there was a Day One of the Progressive Era - Yes were there on that day. Hello World!

In fact, the first word of their first title was "Beyond". How appropriate.

In the many years of discussions with fellow fans of the music, I've heard friends say "I didn't really get into Yes until Steve Howe joined" or "Rick" or [insert name here], but it is usually those two. I'd argue that the people who did those celebrities' jobs before they were to join the cast, were themselves remarkable players and contributors whose work should not be just considered "Before".

Frank Zappa is credited with making one of the most astute comments about rock music in his "Rock Music Is Not About Guitars - It's About Drums" quote. If I may be so conceited as to take that a step further and say, regarding keyboards in particular that: "Prog Rock is not about Mellotrons or Synthisizers. It's about ORGANS"... In Tony Kaye, Yes had one of the most recognisable and stylistically original players of the organ - a real specialist whose touch on the Hammond was never truly replaced in the band's sound. Wakeman's work later on in the band's career was of course far richer palette wise with a whole arsenal of new and wonderful sounds, but Kaye's organ always sounded mighty, from the very first kick off on the first track of this album. Alongside him the way, way, way under-rated Peter Banks with his beautiful fluid playing, staccato chops, glorious funky crunchiness - the two of them had a spark that arced across the gap between them. Kaye was the most rhythmic of Yes' keys players and Banks worked well with this, sometimes the two of them become one great composite sound.

Underneath their funk (funk is the German word for 'SPARK') was the reinforcement of the Bass guitar. In fact - it's almost entirely the wrong word to have chosen, because Squire excelled at counterpoint, flying up and down the neck, not always concentrating on the root note, getting involved in melodic structures yet still driving the whole thing forward - with the imaginative rhythmic powerhouse that was Bill Bruford - a man whose career from start to finish could never actually answer the question "What kind of drummer is Bill Bruford?". Was he Jazz, or Rock, or Fusion? Matters not. He was Bruford. And he had THAT Snare Drum. It started here.

And this album was the first time that the world got to hear the totally unique voicings of Yes. That start with Anderson and the Squire harmonies - still the most recognisable part of the Yes sound and even without Anderson present - always emulated because without that sound there is no Yes.

Being fair to Crimson though, when they put their cards on the table towards the end of that great year they brought a Fait Accompli. Nearly all aspects of what would become "Progressive Rock Music" were to be found in their album where Yes' first album was a group of people still discovering how to play together and working out what they were capable of. So Beatles songs blown into the Stratosphere jostle alongside sickly ballads and positive upbeat pop/rock anthems like Beyond & Before and Looking Around. Side two reveals more of "what was to come" than Side One - Harold Land and Survival being the first two multi sectioned compositions of the band's career offering tantalising hints of what was to come. I am not among the elite set of folks who had this album in their collection before there were any others to sit next to them. How would they have imagined Yes' future? I often wonder.

To answer that, hypothetically, let's imagine a quantum universe where the band who became giants was not Yes, but Flash. Where Yes' debut Album and Time And A Word are the two albums that Kaye and Banks made before they rose to fame in Flash. In fact, Flash is probably where these two Yes albums were actually heading - a sort of logical end to the path they started here. But Yes were never about doing things logically. They made sure that we live in the weird alternative universe that we know and love.

I have always really enjoyed this album...from the days when as a 12 year old I had 5 albums to my name, all by the same artist and this was a treasured member of the elite brigade. Seeing and hearing where it all came from is a wonderful experience, to witness the first moments as a band starts to develop and watch them progress - is, was, will be - one of the most rewarding things a music enthusiast can take part in. I likened Maschine's first album - released this year - to this Yes album. I stand by that comparison - who knows where they, or Haken or the Von Hertzen Brothers will go - because from the first Yes album could we ever have seen Relayer from 1969?

Conclusions:

MARK HUGHES : 7 out of 10
GEOFF FEAKES : 8 out of 10


Yes - Time And A Word (2003 Rhino Remaster)
Yes - Time And A Word (Rhino Remaster)
Country of Origin:U.K.
Format:CD
Record Label:Atlantic Records
Catalogue #:8122-73787-2
Year of Release:1970 / 2003
Time:59:52
Info:Yes
Samples:Click Here

Tracklist: No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed (4:52), Then (5:49), Everydays (6:12), Sweet Dreams (3:51), The Prophet (6:38), Clear Days (2:09), Astral Traveller (5:56), Time And A Word (4:39)
Bonus Tracks: Dear Father (4:14), No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed (Original mix) (4:46), Sweet Dreams (Original mix) (4:20), The Prophet (Single version) (6:33)

Basil Francis' Review

Yes' first two albums - the eponymous Yes and the follow-up Time And A Word - are notoriously underrated and criminally under appreciated. To Yes newbies, they are often bundled together as 'the first two', an unsavoury area where tracks beyond nine minutes in length don't exist and where there are no 'classic' Yes songs. Why on earth would you want to listen to them? It turns out that eight of the best reasons lie on Time And A Word.

Great though Yes is, I've always found it to be a murkier, less ambitious and less consistent work than Time And A Word. The cliché of 'difficult second album' simply does not apply here. In fact, alongside Close To The Edge perhaps, Time And A Word is Yes' most consistent album to date; listening from start to finish does not pose a problem for me.

Of course, on this album, it's not the same Yes that produced classics such as Heart of the Sunrise or the gargantuan Tales from Topographic Oceans, neither spiritually nor in terms of band line-up. This was a Yes still climbing its way out of psychedelic obscurity and heading straight to the top. It's a Yes that still contains all five founding members, including keyboardist Tony Kaye and guitarist Peter Banks, who sadly passed away this year. But more excitingly, it's a Yes that is undeniably breaking all the rules and taking their music to the next level.

Time And A Word was the first Yes album to feature an orchestra, which they recruited from the Royal College of Music (their second would turn out to be 2001's Magnification). This can be heard straight after Tony Kaye's electrifying organ blasts on the opening track, the cover of Richie Havens' No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed. Yes supremely enhance the original song by playing it at a breakneck speed but also by masterfully blending it with the theme to the 1958 film The Big Country. If you can't write a new song, just mix two of them together!

Besides the opening track, the orchestra really help to boost the sound of the young band. The cover of Buffalo Springfield's Everydays, which Yes also modified to include an energetic yet well-choreographed instrumental, had been played since the band's early days, but the inclusion of an orchestra gives the sound a new dimension and helps the sound to fill the room. On the ballad Clear Days however, the string section takes over from the band in backing Jon Anderson. This is the only point in Yes' career where they sounded an awful lot like Gentle Giant, a band notable for its eclectic instrumentation.

The orchestra didn't completely take over however. While Phil Spector was simultaneously ruining a fine Beatles album with a similar technique, Yes knew when to lay off the heavy stuff. To this end, both Sweet Dreams and Astral Traveller see the band sans orchestra. I'll admit, when I first saw Sweet Dreams on their Songs from Tsongas DVD, it seemed so light that I automatically assumed it was from Yes' latter day period. It just goes to show that Yes' 'sweet' side was always there. Astral Traveller is a far more satisfying track with a highly addictive organ riff from Kaye and a mouth-watering solo section hinting at where Yes were going to go next.

The biggest surprise on this album is also the longest. At just 6½ minutes, The Prophet manages to cover an extraordinary amount of ground in a relatively short space of time. The band play through two very different sounding pieces of instrumental music before they reach the song proper. Once discarded, the themes do not return, thus pulling the rug from under the listener's feet. Expectations are dashed, but in the most surprisingly brilliant way possible. Once again, the proceedings are brilliantly choreographed, and the orchestra are featured at just the right moments. This track should really have been a Yes classic, and yet I've never seen any live performances of it.

The inclusion of the orchestra was not to everybody's satisfaction. In particular, mapping the orchestra's sound onto Yes' usually ate into Banks' solos, and he vocally expressed his complaints about this during the recording of the album, resulting in his being the first ever member of Yes to get fired, thus beginning a notorious tradition for the band. Banks would later go on to form Flash, their self-titled debut continuing the vein of music heard on this album while Yes moved on to new pastures.

While Banks' highlights are rather few and far between, the real star player on this album has to be bassist Chris Squire. Not content to simply underpin the melody, Squire constantly impresses the listener with dextrous and thunderous bass lines that are utterly mesmerising in their execution. Just listen to the opening track or the speedy Then for evidence of how talented the man is. [The above official video for Then not only includes Steve Howe but also features Chris Squire and Tony Kaye playing each other's instruments! - Ed] Special mention must also go to Bill Bruford, who is to this day one of the most astonishing drummers out there, who keeps the rhythm section interesting with precise yet unusual drumming.

If there is one classic Yes song on this album, it's the closing piece Time And A Word. Unusually for Yes, this is an easy, calm ballad with a very hummable chorus. It's unforgettable really, but while it could have been incredibly naff, the instrumentation (in particular Squire's bass) helps to keep this commercial track interesting.

This album encapsulates the very best of what is often termed the 'early Yes' period, when their songs were more concise but still packed a veritable punch. Afterwards, the band would recruit Steve Howe and record The Yes Album, thereby letting go of this era altogether and moving on to record some of the most definitively progressive albums ever recorded. However, without this seminal album as a launch pad, there's a chance none of that could have ever happened. Time And A Word is Yes' best-kept secret!

Roger Trenwith's Review

Blasting out with an orchestral fanfare in tandem with Tony Kaye's fierce Hammond chords, the unlikely choice of Richie Havens' No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed opens proceedings on this, Yes' second album from 1970. Jazzing up this inevitably simple tune from Havens with classical flourishes and steals from the theme to The Big Country, Tony Kaye, along with Chris Squire's charging bass are the stars of this exercise in making a silk purse out of what could easily have been a pig's ear. It shouldn't work but it does.

Like the first album there are two cover versions on this record, and the rest are originals, Stephen Stills' Buffalo Springfield song Everydays being the second cover. Combining the close vocal harmonies that would become a Yes trademark with instrumental extemporisations that keep within sensible time constraints, the whole makes for a rounded musical experience. Indeed, this is the best performance on the record, conjuring a psychedelic ambience wrought from a lightness of touch by the band, aided by the occasional orchestral interjections. Bill Bruford's brushes on the hi-hat and the deft jazz rhythms he plays out behind a rare outing for Peter Banks are a delight. Banks, who for most of this album is struggling to be heard way down in the mix makes his presence known on Everydays with some spiky guitar breaks, and cheekily slots in a famous line from Bach for good measure.

You can watch the promotional film the band made for Everydays below. Inspired by a Help-era Beatles vibe, the video never ceases to make me smile, as the band are chased through the streets of old Bruges by a nun! The part from 2:19 onwards is especially funny.

If it makes you cringe, blame my colleague Basil, he alerted me to it!

The inclusion of orchestral arrangements served to bury Peter Banks' guitar, much to his chagrin. His expressed annoyance at being sidelined eventually led to him being sacked, and thereby he became the first casualty of Yes' soon to be infamous HR Department. Such was either the management's or the band's keenness to be rid of Banks that the American album cover is a group shot with Steve Howe staring out at the camera, having not had anything to do with making the record. We got by far the better end of the deal where the graphics were concerned, the surrealist naked woman of the U.K. cover being deemed too much for our selectively sensitive American cousins. No doubt had she been clothed but packing a .45, having just pumped something or someone full of lead it would have been O.K.. Instead, they got the fake group mugshot on the front of what, unusually for the time, was a single cover on both sides of the Atlantic as far as I can tell, compensated by the lyric insert.

The sound of this record is more recognisable as Yes than the debut, perhaps because of the first appearance behind the mixing desk of one Eddie Offord, as engineer to producer Tony Colton.

With one notable exception the covers are the better songs. Of the originals songs showcased, Then is probably the most cohesive, but Sweet Dreams is notable for the heaviest bass sound around at the time. Pounding and grungy, Chris Squire dominates what would otherwise have been a light confection of a song. Squire's bass on this record, and on Sweet Dreams in particular is a raging thing, a bear in captivity forced to dance and barely being contained by the bars of the musical cage. It would be a couple of years before John Wetton unleashed his monster sound in the world of Crim, but he must have taken Squire's lesson in high dynamics on board, methinks.

Side two of the original record saw two proto-epics pointing the way forward. The Prophet starts with Kaye giving it large on the Hammond, eventually joined by the orchestra. Once the song proper gets underway at just over two and a half minutes in, the tune has already undergone several changes. It gives the impression of a band bursting with ideas and not quite knowing where to go with them. At one point it sounds like the orchestra is in another room playing an entirely different tune that just happens to be in the same key. The tune, although still enjoyable despite its somewhat disjointed feel, cries out for Rick Wakeman's arranging skills.

Clear Days is the break between the mini epics and is essentially a Jon Anderson solo outing with orchestral backing, and a nice arrangement it is too. Anderson's voice is bit croaky on this one, so they obviously didn't have the budget to do many vocal takes.

Astral Traveller is a better attempt at painting a larger canvas, Anderson's and Squire's voices being treated to good psychedelic effect. An organ and guitar duet takes the piece through to another decent Banks solo, the guitarist no doubt delighting in the absence of those bloody strings! Less messy than The Prophet, this one wins the prog battle on side two.

The bonus tracks are led by Dear Father, obviously a song the band struggled with, as there are two "Early versions" included as bonus tracks on the first album, and once completed it eventually appeared as the b-side to the Sweet Dreams single. It's not a bad song, but takes over four minutes to go nowhere in particular. You can see why it was left off the album.

The other bonuses are the kind of "play once, forget" different mixes of songs on the album. It is slightly odd that the "Single Version" of The Prophet, b-side to the Time And A Word 45 is only five seconds shorter than the album version. The orchestral parts are almost entirely mixed out, and as a result it sounds far less cluttered and makes more sense than the album version. This is the best of the extra tracks.

Time And A Word is the sound of a band finding its feet. There are hints of things to come, with the grandiose arrangements and epic treatments. However by far the best song on the record is the concluding title track, a relatively simple construct that has that timeless quality that is the mark of all good songwriting. In the end, keeping things in perspective and not getting carried away provided Yes' sophomore effort with its most memorable moment.

By no means essential, Time And A Word is however, a snapshot of Yes as a work in progress surrounded by scaffolding. Two years later the scaffold will be removed and the building work will be complete and as strong as it would ever be.

Conclusions:

BASIL FRANCIS : 8 out of 10
ROGER TRENWITH : 6.5 out of 10


Yes - The Yes Album (2003 Rhino Remaster)
Yes - The Tes Album (Rhino Remaster)
Country of Origin:U.K.
Format:CD
Record Label:Atlantic Records
Catalogue #:8122-73788-2
Year of Release:1971 / 2003
Time:52:14
Info:Yes
Samples:Click Here

Tracklist: Yours Is No Disgrace (9:41), Clap (3:17), Starship Trooper: I. Life Seeker, II. Disillusion, III. Würm (9:25), I've Seen All Good People: I. Your Move, II. All Good People (6:56), A Venture (3:18), Perpetual Change (8:54)
Bonus Tracks: I've Seen All Good People: Your Move (Single Version) (3:00), Starship Trooper: Life Seeker (Single Version) (3:28), Clap (Studio Version) (4:02)

Tom De Val's Review

Whilst in some respects, by calling their third album The Yes Album, Yes could be accused of being unimaginative, I prefer to think of this as more part of Yes' overall statement of intent following two embryonic releases where they were finding their feet. What is more, whilst those albums have essentially been relegated to the status of historical curios, The Yes Album still stands up today as a classic of seventies progressive rock. The only thing lacking is one of those trademark Roger Dean covers.

I can't think of many better ways to open an album than with Yours Is No Disgrace, a song which still has to count as one of my favourite Yes tracks. Whereas the other epics on this album are separated into different sections, this track isn't and it is perhaps no coincidence that it's the most cohesive of the long-form songs. From the punchy opening chords this song ticks all the boxes - great playing (particularly from Steve Howe), strong interplay between the instrumentalists, superb vocal harmonies (I sometimes find Jon Anderson's voice a bit cloying but he's at the top of his game here) and an irresistible drive that is at times missing from the band's later, perhaps more celebrated works. Only Jon Anderson's rather schoolboy-ish lyrics could be questioned, but then these have always been what you could call an acquired taste.

Following this, we get a breather courtesy of Steve Howe's solo number The Clap. Not sure why this had to be recorded live (perhaps to show he could play this stuff without any studio trickery?) but it is a good showcase for Howe's jazz-influenced playing style. This is soon forgotten though with the richly melodic opening to Starship Trooper, another classic epic which has stood the test of time. The separate parts that make up this piece perhaps have less stylistic continuity than on Yours Is No Disgrace, but are no less effective. Once again, Howe's guitar is probably the standout instrument; I think that this has a lot to do with the fact that, compared to his successor Rick Wakeman, keyboard player Tony Kaye is a less flamboyant player, instead supporting the song with a strong symphonic base from which Howe can take off on numerous flights of fancy.

There's no let up in quality as Anderson leads the a cappella intro to I've Seen All Good People, a song that manages to get an inordinate amount of mileage out of a repetitive vocal line! Split in to an opening acoustic section (Your Move) and a more expansive later section, this track showcases not only a strong sense of melody but also the power to build to a grandiose climax, something utilised to the full on later classics such as Close To The Edge.

Once again the band employ some filler to plug the gap between epics with A Venture, a pleasant but unremarkable song that nonetheless serves its purpose well. The final lengthy piece, Perpetual Change, is perhaps one of the less heralded ones in the band's catalogue but that is probably more to do with the fact that it perhaps lacks some of the more catchy elements of the other pieces than anything pertaining to the quality of the song. Highlights are the superb call and response vocals of the first section (reappearing later), and some virtuoso playing from Howe. The jaunty, upbeat feel of the song adds to its charm.

So there you have it - there are a couple of less essential tracks perhaps, but for me the rest is so good that it takes the album right to the top of Yes' catalogue, topped only by Close To The Edge; almost so good, in fact, to forgive the band their later numerous musical transgressions (well, I did say 'almost'...)

Geoff Feakes' Review

If there is one album that united the opinion of Yes fans and critics alike, it's The Yes Album. Even critics who asserted that later albums had overstepped the boundaries of rock and roll (Tales From Topographic Oceans stand-up and be counted) appreciated The Yes Album. The critics thought it was smart but not too clever and in their opinion rock was never meant to be clever. When it was released in February 1971 (the first of two albums from Yes that year) I, however, approached with a little trepidation. Firstly, guitarist Peter Banks who I really admired had been replaced by a new fella named Steve Howe (Peter of course sadly passed away in March of this year). Secondly, the more concise tuneful songs of the self-titled debut and Time And A Word albums were replaced by longer, sprawling pieces, allowing for instrumental excess, especially by the new guitarist. Compared with its predecessors however, the sales were phenomenal (especially in the U.K.) helped no end by an appearance on BBC TV's Top Of The Pops, a show normally devoted to the hit singles of the day.

Yours Is No Disgrace kicks The Yes Album into life with the now familiar staccato riff. Howe's racing guitar line chases Kaye's Moog and organ theme through the extended instrumental intro before Anderson and Squire hove into view for the edgy vocal theme. Yes' longest song thus far, Yours Is No Disgrace was not only a perfect starter track for the album, it would also prove to be a popular show opener for years to come (The Union Tour, The Ladder Tour, etc.) second only to Siberian Khatru. Whilst instrumentally the song belongs to Howe rampaging through it like a man possessed, lyrically it's one of Jon Anderson's finest. As a reaction to the Vietnam War there was a plethora of anti-war songs at the time, mostly one dimensional, i.e., war is bad therefore those who fight in wars are bad. Anderson however sympathises with the front line soldiers - "Yours is no disgrace", predating the current vogue for 'honouring the heroes'.

Prior to the recording of The Yes Album, Howe had been performing live with Yes for several months as evidenced with the inclusion of his now legendary solo picking performance of Clap recorded at the Lyceum, London in his very first gig. Incidentally, my original album sleeve from 1971 lists it as The Clap incorrectly suggesting that the guitarist had named the piece in honour of a sexually transmitted disease!

Starship Trooper is the combination of three separate pieces, Life Seeker, Disillusion and Würm, credited to Anderson, Squire and Howe respectively. As such, for me it never convincingly hung together as a single piece, although for many fans it remains an all-time favourite. The live versions that followed added a whole new dimension when Rick Wakeman took over the keyboard reigns, especially during the finale where the call and response sparring between the two leads developed into a show highlight, particularly when played as the encore. I've Seen All Good People is another piece with a split personally, made-up of Anderson's Your Move and Squire's All Good People. It's hard to imagine a Yes show without this winning combination of Anderson's wistful tune driven by Howe's rustic Portuguese 12-string segueing seamlessly with the aid of church-like organ (and John Lennon's Give Peace A Chance) into Squire's rousing, crowd-pleasing anthem. Here, Your Move features a guest appearance from Colin Goldring playing recorders, rare for a rock song, pre-empting Led Zep's Stairway To Heaven released later that same year.

It would be all too easy to write-off A Venture as the runt of the litter as it virtually faded into obscurity following the release of The Yes Album. It wasn't until 'The Triple Album Tour', launched earlier this year with The Yes Album (along with Close To The Edge and Going For The One) played in its entirety, that the song found its way back into the setlist. Sounding like an outtake from Time And A Word, it features some jaunty piano and guitar work from Kaye and Howe respectively before dissolving into an instrumental jam. The concluding Perpetual Change features impressive playing and arrangement but for me the vocal melody is not one of the band's strongest, perhaps because I've heard it performed more times than I care to mention. The staccato intro also sounds like a rehash of Yours Is No Disgrace. It does however boast a sense of dynamics and timing, particularly Squire and Bruford's snappy rhythm work during the stop-start sections. It's another good lyric from Anderson ruminating on the power and unpredictability of nature (despite man's interventions) inspired by the Devon countryside where the band encamped for the writing and demoing of The Yes Album.

The Rhino CD remaster understandably adds a higher level of clarity to The Yes Album although thanks to Eddie Offord's spacious production (the start of a fruitful partnership with Yes) it sounded pretty good to begin with. The bonus tracks however are a disappointment (a couple of single edits and a studio version of Clap) especially when compared with the other reissues in the series. For many (especially in America) this is where it really started for Yes vindicating the band's decision to christen it 'The Yes Album'. It was certainly the start of the bandís so called 'classic period' and of all their albums it's the one that most prominently appears in those otherwise dispensable 'best 100 albums of all time' lists. Containing as it does a trio of instant classics (Yours Is No Disgrace, Starship Trooper, I've Seen All Good People) there is no doubt that it's one of the pioneering works of progressive rock. However, with the likes of Aqualung, Tarkus, Meddle, Nursery Cryme and Moving Waves following hot on its heels that same year, Yes were acutely aware that they could not rest on their laurels.



David Elliott

David Elliott


[CEO - Bad Elephant Music]

The Yes Album. The title sounds like it's a first album, doesn't it? This 1971 release was, in fact, Yes' third release, but in many ways it represents a new beginning for the band, and also shows them getting one step closer to Jon Anderson's vision of something rather different to peddlers of three-minute pop songs. Although not quite full-blooded progressive rock, the album shows the start of the process which would culminate in Close To The Edge and Going For The One. Not for nothing is The Yes Album one of the three records the band are currently playing in their entirety around the world.

The Yes Album was the first record by the band to feature Steve Howe, who became critical to Yes' line-up in terms of both his distinctive playing and songwriting. His involvement is apparent from the get-go on the album, contributing as he does to both long-form songs on Side One (I still think of this and other albums from the time in the vinyl format). Howe's guitar playing is very different from that of his predecessor, Peter Banks - much more measured and less wigged out, with a greater variety of styles from the ragtime-styled acoustic guitar in Starship Trooper and the solo showcase, Clap, through the staccato rhythm of Yours Is No Disgrace, weirdo instrument the laúd on Your Move (none more prog) to full-blooded soloing on the extended songs in both rock and jazzier styles. In a sense, this is Steve Howe's album - his playing doesn't exactly dominate, but he's everywhere on this record.

That's not to say that the rest of the band aren't important. Jon Anderson's voice sounds amazing on The Yes Album, and the harmonies - a hallmark of Yes' sound right from the start - are clear and crisp. Chris Squire's bass rumbles along throughout, combined with Bill Bruford's top-of-the-kit drumming to provide a well-defined, consistent rhythm. The keyboards are arguably underplayed on this record, possibly a symptom of the internal arguments the band were having around Tony Kaye's refusal to explore other keyboard sounds away from his beloved Hammond organ. Ironically one of Kaye's finest contributions here is his piano on A Venture, but when the Hammond comes to the fore it sounds earthy and gritty, just as it should - a rhythm instrument as much as a harmonic one.

The 'cornerstones' of the record are the three extended songs, Yours Is No Disgrace, Starship Trooper and Perpetual Change. All three have been staples of the band's live show ever since the album was released, which perhaps demonstrates just how important to Yes they are.

Yours Is No Disgrace, the opening track, is a perfect demonstration of what Yes were about in 1971. Bill Bruford has - somewhat flippantly - described the opening section as being like a Western Theme, and it does indeed hark back to the likes of the opening to No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed on the previous album, Time And A Word. This is a more complex proposition, however, with several changes of mood and pace, an extended jazzy guitar solo from Howe (HUGELY extended in live performances) with a lyric from Anderson that almost means something. Starship Trooper has three names sections - Life Seeker, based around Howe's arpeggios and Anderson singing his heart out; Disillusionment, the aforementioned fast-picked acoustic guitar section; and Würm, an instrumental based around a descending chord sequence lifted from Nether Street, a song Howe wrote for his previous band, Bodast. This was the first time Yes had presented a piece in multiple sections, and this is indicative of the format they'd later follow, for example, with the title track on Close To The Edge.

Between Yours Is No Disgrace and Starship Trooper is sandwiched a live recording of Steve Howe's guitar showcase, Clap. It's an amazing piece of playing - and always a favourite when performed in concert - but its inclusion here has always seemed anomalous.

Conclusions:

TOM DE VAL : 9 out of 10
GEOFF FEAKES : 9 out of 10


Yes - Fragile (2003 Rhino Remaster)
Yes - Fragile (Rhino Remaster)
Country of Origin:U.K.
Format:CD
Record Label:Atlantic Records
Catalogue #:8122-73789-2
Year of Release:1971 / 2003
Time:60:19
Info:Yes
Samples:Click Here

Tracklist: Roundabout (8:30), Cans and Brahms (1:38), We Have Heaven (1:40), South Side of the Sky (8:02), Five Per Cent for Nothing (0:35), Long Distance Runaround (3:30), The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus) (2:39), Mood for a Day (3:00), Heart of the Sunrise (11:27)
Bonus Tracks: America (10:33), Roundabout (Early rough mix) (8:35)

Alison Henderson's Review

It was more than 40 years ago that perhaps one of the first of several life-changing musical moments occurred, involving a mono record player and an album with an incomprehensible cover.

With Tony Kaye now departed after the stately The Yes Album, cometh the hour and cometh the man in the shape of the gangling frame of Rick Wakeman...and the corner was turned.

I still cannot recall how the album came into my possession but it was at the tender age of 14. There it all was in that brave new prog world: that cosmic Roger Dean sleeve and accompanying artwork profiling all the band members. All was beautifully packaged like some kind of mysterious faraway world in which all that was required was a vivid imagination and a stomach for the journey.

Nothing could prepare you for what happened next. What happened was Roundabout. That sustained keyboard chord followed by a sharp acoustic guitar note and a delicate melody, repeated and built upon as the keyboard swelled up again. Suddenly, there it was, that gorgeous jazzy melody line with Steve Howe's elegant guitar and Chris Squire's bass thundering along like a giant juggernaut. Jon Anderson's voice arrived, soaring upwards into the ethers, singing lyrics touching on romance, nostalgia, the elementals and emotion. Forty-two years after its release, this mini-masterpiece is still possibly the best prog opener ever, as well as being a landmark song. Constructed in several short movements, it is a chance for each band member to shine, from Anderson's clear, pure voice, to Wakeman's sonorous keyboards, Howe's mannered guitar flourishes, Bill Bruford's impeccable rhythms and of course, Squire's earth-moving bass patterns.

This is my theme song, the one I saw come to life while walking around the lake in Annecy and seeing mountains coming out of the sky and standing there. Please remember to play this at my memorial service. You heard it here first.

How on earth do you follow a curtain raiser like that? Well, if the truth be known, Fragile has a couple of classic bookends, but more about that later. What the rest of the album has is an energy coming collectively from all five and also in the solo pieces each put forward intermittently throughout the album.

It works up to a point, Wakeman's Cans and Brahms demonstrating how the then young caped virtuoso was pushing the margins of prog keyboards with a classical bent, his style far more clipped and cultured than the full-on approach of Keith Emerson. It is a clever little arrangement which delights rather than astounds.

Coming in after this, Anderson has another high register multi-tracked vocal work-out on We Have Heaven. Again, it is a clever thing but easy on the ear, Anderson showing some humour with the boot steps running off into the distance at the end, which used to move from one speaker to the other, when we had stereo back in the day.

On vinyl, side one of Fragile ends with the brilliant atmospherics of South Side of the Sky which I truly believe, along with Perpetual Change, is one of the most under-rated compositions from their early days. Listen to it and see how the whole song revolves around the simple concept of extreme temperatures.

Building slowly with a swirling synth mass before the cataclysmic crash and drum roll pull you headlong into that driving, pulsating melody line, taking you on an amazing journey into another dimension "so cold that we cried" a million miles away.

There is an overwhelming feeling of desolation, something I sometimes feel when I look up to the night sky and see Venus sparkling away in the distance. Wakeman's plaintive piano lays bare this feeling, paving the way for the most beautiful, close "na-na-na-na-na" vocal harmonies, sounding like a musical meditation as no lyrics are needed to convey that extraordinary mood, before the last sung note is sustained as Wakeman's piano returns. A final frenzy of sound and lyrics redress the balance of being warmer on that day, before a full-on miraculous Moog brings the whole song to a climactic ending.

I remember flipping the vinyl onto side two with a tremendous air of expectation for more of the same, to be greeted by Bruford's brief, beaty, jazzy Five Per Cent For Nothing which packs a lot into the 43 seconds it lasts.

Long Distance Runaround: what on earth is that all about? Actually, it is perhaps the most charming of all Fragile's gems, like a nonsense rhyme which Anderson sings with conviction while Howe's jazzy guitar and Wakeman's keyboards noodle beautifully together in the mix.

This morphs seamlessly into Squire's The Fish, the track which hallmarks him as one of the greatest innovators and pioneers of the bottom end as lead instrument as his bass rumbles and growls, Anderson's voice adding another texture to this riveting composition.

How Howe could follow the brilliance of his solo The Clap on The Yes Album was a big ask, but he delivers with the moody and intricate acoustic Mood For A Day. Again, this album shows the growing virtuosity of each band member in delivering pieces of music that express a slightly different side of their playing.

So far, side two had not quite caught alight the way side one had erupted...until now. As Squire's bass goes full throttle punctuated by Wakeman's spacey keys, we have arrived at Heart of the Sunrise, which rivals Roundabout for having one of the best Yes intros of all time. The floorboards quake and the room begins to spin as the song starts unwinding until it reaches a quiet plateau when Anderson's voice at its most angelic comes in with "Love comes to you and you follow".

The whole piece paints a series of aural pictures, dense, complex and dramatic, that twist and turn like the wind with "so many around me". It is a multi-faceted piece about alienation and trying to find your place in the world, armed with just your dreams. It catches you unawares when it goes from smooth to frenzied, Wakeman's slightly schizoid keyboards coming to the fore and then Anderson changes vocal tempo for the fast "Straight light" passage. It builds and builds to a heart-rending climax, Anderson stretching his voice to hit the magical last notes on "city" before the whirlwind intro is revisited for the sudden ending.

What a finale; but then again it is not, as a door opens deep in the mix and Anderson briefly reprises We Have Heaven.

Fragile is sensational but it is not their best album. That accolade goes to the masterpiece(s) that followed. The Yes Album was the breakthrough but Fragile was the calling card for the classic line-up and showed each member at their best, collectively and individually.

What is more, it is the album which introduced me to and started a lifelong love affair with the music of Yes. For that reason alone, this album is very special and personal.

Brendan Bowen's Review

I have to admit, listening to Roundabout over the years has made my ears ache. I'm sure many of you can relate. It is akin to going to a Rush concert when at the end you realize they haven't played Tom Sawyer yet. Suddenly the encore is mediocre.

Happily, it has been a long time since I put Fragile in my playlist and I don't listen to the radio anymore so my exposure has been vastly limited over the past few years. I can now readily admit that I enjoyed listening to Roundabout again. The time off has been good. It really is a great tune! (Tom Sawyer isn't terrible either.)

I was born the same year as Fragile. I'm thinking that the album has fared the better of the two of us. This is an album that broke Yes into the mainstream despite it being a bit strange in between the proper tunes. Examples of the high oddity being We Have Heaven and The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus), which is a tongue in cheek bit about Bruford's pet name for Squire whom he referred to as "Fish" due to his penchant for taking long baths (not to mention his sign is Pisces) - Wikipedia.

As their fourth release Fragile did garner a much wider audience due to the incredibly listenable melodies and the beautiful vocal arrangements in such songs as South Side Of The Sky and Heart Of The Sunrise. At double platinum it still remains a mainstay of the Yes listening retinue and shows no signs of relenting as some of the band's most identifiable songs. For the reissue, adding America was a great addition and fits well as a bookend to the equally active Roundabout opener.

I'm no bass historian but I'm thinking Chris Squire made using a pick on the bass acceptable. What I am sure of is that Yes broke some new ground with unusual key signatures, took some chances with being even a bit goofy at times, and somehow made it all work exceptionally well. Another way to put it is they brought the musical nerds and the mainstream together, a combination that still exists through this genre they helped to build with this album.

Highlights for me are Bruford and Squire's interplay, but Howe's note choices have always remained a huge part of what make Yes so unique. Also this is the first use by the band of Roger Dean artwork - maybe the longest running collaboration ever (matched only by the late Storm Thorgerson's Pink Floyd run?) This is a complete album with all the turns and drama one would hope to get when buying an LP. This isn't my favourite of their albums but it is for many fans of Yes and without question this is the one that made them immortal.



Richard Henshall

Richard Henshall


[Guitar & keyboards - Haken / To-Mera]

One day, whilst rummaging through my father's CD collection on the hunt for some new music, I stumbled across the striking cover of Fragile. Roger Dean's unique artwork, which became associated with the band on subsequent albums, beckoned me to discover more, so I gave the disc a spin. Back then I was a prog virgin, so the music that graced my ears knocked me sideways and forced my jaw firmly to the floor. And there it was: my introduction in the world of prog!

As a guitarist and keyboardist, I was initially drawn in by the virtuosity of Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman. Mood for the Day is a heartfelt solo piece by Howe, which brilliantly demonstrates his proficiency and versatility as a guitarist. Wakeman's Cans and Brahms is a goofy tribute to the amazing classical composer Johannes Brahms, and not only showcases his keyboard wizardry but also provides an insight into his comical side.

However, Fragile is by no means a two-man show. Each member has his chance in the spotlight and plays an equal role in creating the overall Yes sound. As we all know, it is not very often a bass player stands out among the crowd, but this is exactly where Chris Squire excels. His instantly recognizable percussive tone can be heard on the bass driven The Fish, which contains a number of clever techniques over a catchy groove. Bill Bruford's Five Per Cent for Nothing is a whacky little number, which not only illustrates his inventive flair, but also offers the risk of a brain aneurysm. Jon Anderson has his turn to shine on We Have Heaven, which features his trademark soaring vocal lines sandwiched between an array of multi-layered backing vocals.

As I delved deeper into the music, I became intrigued by the complex song structures and arrangements. Rather than extend songs by mindlessly jamming over an elongated grooves, a trait of many prog bands of that era, Yes instead adopted a classical approach to composition, and often divided their music into movements. They effortlessly weaved intricate melodies into rich tapestries of harmony, and yet somehow still managed to make it sound catchy and infectious. Roundabout and Heart of the Sunrise are perfect examples of the their masterful songwriting prowess, and happen to be my favourites from the album.

Yes are a huge influence on me as a composer and musician. Their forward-thinking approach to composition paved the way for many bands that followed and showed me that there are no bounds when it comes to the craft of music. In my opinion, there is no greater example of their ingenuity than Fragile. The music on this album has most certainly stood the test of time and still sounds fresh and exciting today. It is one of those rare albums that others are measured by, which is a testament to their skill as songwriters and musicians. Fragile is by no means a fragile album and is still as strong today as it was 42 years ago!



Arjen Lucassen

Arjen Lucassen


[Guitar, keyboards, vocals - Ayreon / Guilt Machine / Star One]

Fragile was the first Yes album I heard and bought back in 1971, I was 11. And what an introduction it was!

Of course the amazing artwork by Roger Dean caught my eye immediately in the record shop, and I would have been happy if the actual music would be only half as good. But as I listened to it, the small planet and the old-fashioned space glider seemed to come alive, the perfect combination of sound and vision!

Roundabout is a great opener, a catchy but still progressive track with some great bass work by Chris Squire. This excellent track became their first - well-deserved - hit and is undoubtably partly responsible for the commercial breakthrough of Yes and this album into the mainstream world. Cans and Brahms is a disappointing introduction to the undisputed genius of Rick Wakeman, who made his debut on this album. We Have Heaven showcases the multi-tracked unique voice of Jon Anderson. I love this little interlude. South Side of the Sky is the first epic track on this album, lasting 8 minutes, with clear influences of Crosby, Stills and Nash in the middle part.

Side Two opens with the freaky Five Per Cent for Nothing written by Bill Bruford, which does nothing for me personally. Long Distance Runaround is my second favourite track here - great playing, interesting time signatures and amazing melodies. As everyone has his own moments on the album, The Fish is Chris Squire's track. Although he's undoubtedbly one of my favourite bass players of all time, this track isn't one of my particular favorites. Mood for a Day is an excellent solo track of Steve Howe on acoustic guitar. It was one of the first songs I taught myself to play on acoustic guitar, but not nearly as good as he played it!

Which brings us to the absolute highlight of the album for me personally, the amazing Heart of the Sunrise! Amazing bass work at the beginning leads into a beautiful atmospheric part with Rick Wakeman on the mighty Mellotron. What follows is probably one of the most beautiful vocal melodies ever written and recorded - goosebumps just thinking about it! The "Sharp! Distance!" part still sends shivers down my spine and puts tears in my eyes. This track has just about everything I like in progressive rock, including Rick Wakeman's fluent piano parts and signature Minimoog sound. These epic 10 minutes are way too short, this track could go on forever!

Conclusively, I think The Yes Album has better and more timeless compositions, but Fragile is a more adventurous album that defined their sound for years to come. And hey...it will always be my introduction to this legendary band!

Conclusions:

ALISON HENDERSON : 9 out of 10 for musical content (10 out of 10 for sentimental value)
BRENDAN BOWEN : 10 out of 10




Roine Stolt

Roine Stolt


[Guitar & vocals - The Flower Kings / Transatlantic]

The Pinnacle of Yes' Achievement

"Yes music and the vision of singer Jon Anderson defines everything I like and love about music - great musicianship, amazing sounds, playfulness, musical progression, great lyrics (yes!), emotional depth and a music that seemingly comes from an otherworldly universe of it's own. The albums Close To The Edge, Tales from Topographic Oceans and Relayer seem to be the pinnacle of that creativity. A giant leap for popular music and a great inspiration for generations to come. These albums are as valid today as in the mid-'70s. Then came Going For The One that has the track Awaken that is most likely the absolute summit of all YES ideas and in particular Anderson's."


Yes - Close To The Edge (2003 Rhino Remaster)
Yes - Close To The Edge (Rhino Remaster)
Country of Origin:U.K.
Format:CD
Record Label:Atlantic Records
Catalogue #:8122-73790-2
Year of Release:1972 / 2003
Time:65:00
Info:Yes
Samples:Click Here

Tracklist: Close to the Edge: I. The Solid Time of Change, II. Total Mass Retain, III. I Get Up, I Get Down, IV. Seasons of Man (18:43), And You and I: I. Cord of Life, II. Eclipse, III. The Preacher the Teacher, IV. The Apocalypse (10:08), Siberian Khatru (8:55)
Bonus Tracks: America (Single version) (4:12), Total Mass Retain (Single version) (3:21), And You and I (Alternate version) (10:17), Siberia (Studio run-through of Siberian Khatru) (9:19)

Geoff Feakes' Review

How do you begin to review a work that is not only the defining progressive rock album, but is also quite simply the best album of all time? I could of course skip the formalities and go straight to a final rating of 10 out 10 (DPRP protocol doesn't allow me to score any higher) but that would be too easy.

Close To The Edge was shaped in the Spring of 1972 by the then current Yes line-up of Jon Anderson (vocals), Steve Howe (guitars), Rick Wakeman (keyboards), Chris Squire (bass) and Bill Bruford (drums). Established the previous year, this ensemble was one of the most accomplished ever to grace a rock album, aided and abetted by the not inconsiderable talents of producer Eddie Offord. The previous album, Fragile, had been an ambitious but well received offering but now under the leadership and single-minded determination of their lead singer the band was setting their sights even higher.

Although Yes were no strangers to extended songs, the title piece was their longest composition to date taking up one side of the original vinyl album. Clocking in at just under 19 minutes it's pretty average compared with current progressive rock standards but back then it was a bold and potentially daunting undertaking for any band. Yes, however, were brimming with confidence in 1972, encouraged by the success of both The Yes Album and Fragile from the previous year. The concept came from Anderson who was an avid reader of spiritual works, especially Hermann Hesse's book Siddhartha which provided the inspiration for Close To The Edge. As an aside, the following year I went to see the film version of Siddhartha, which I can best describe as sleep inducing. Fortunately Yes' interpretation proved to be a more memorable experience.

Following the (synthetic) sound of twittering birds and a flowing stream, Close To The Edge bursts into life with an almost cacophonic jam driven by Howe's manic guitar. Whilst we are still reeling from this unexpected onslaught a semblance of order is restored when Bruford's rat-a-tat drum fill launches the first vocal sequence, The Solid Time Of Change. Here the main theme is cautionary at first, becoming more urgent during Total Mass Retain as Anderson races through the chorus "Down at the end, close by a river, close to the edge, round by the corner" in an almost throwaway fashion. A tranquil mid-section follows and whilst Howe isn't the best singer in the world who can resist the sublime three-part harmonies and Anderson's heart stopping choral refrain I Get Up I Get Down. Wakeman's reverential church organ is swamped by a rousing Moog fanfare, heralding the final sequence, Seasons Of Man. Driven by Squire's pumping bass line it takes timeout for a memorable Hammond solo (still Wakeman's best ever) before racing headlong into the triumphant vocal "On the hill we view see the silence of the valley... which is surely the most exhilarating, spine tingling finale in the history of prog.

If Close To The Edge lays claim to the greatest prog track of all time then it also contains a strong contender for the second, the four-part And You And I. Following Howe's tentative acoustic intro, Wakeman's lyrical synth figure weaves its way through the Cord Of Life to another epic moment, the symphonic Mellotron and Moog glory of Eclipse. Howe's majestic pedal steel guitar would really come into its own on later live performances (including an epic intro absent from the studio version). The Preacher The Teacher provides a folky respite before Anderson's stirring "A clearer future, morning, evening, nights with you" summons forth the orchestral bombast for one final time before subsiding into the haunting Apocalypse.

After the grandeur of Close To The Edge and And You And I, Yes remind us that they are still a rock band at heart with Siberian Khatru which readily lent itself to live performances becoming a regular show opener for years to come. Squire and Bruford unite for a powerhouse performance (for the final time on a Yes album) underpinning Howe's infectious riff. The extended instrumental payoff is prefaced by Anderson's two-syllable couplings "Bluetail, tailfly" etc, which would become one of the most copied (and clichéd) vocal devices in prog.

The bonus tracks on the Rhino CD reissue are above average (as is the excellent packaging) with alternate versions of And You And I and Siberian Khatru plus Yes' memorable adaptation of Simon and Garfunkel's America although this has long been available elsewhere. The re-mastering is also quite superb although it's debatable if this version of Close To The Edge is sonically better than the one included on the superb 1991 Yesyears box set. Unfortunately Santa Claus has yet to bring me Steven Wilson's much anticipated 2013 remixes but I live in expectation.

Whilst numerous prog epics have followed in the wake of Close To The Edge (and let's not forget the stunning Supper's Ready released the same year) few have scaled the magical heights attained here. Many so called prog epics have been little more than a collection of individual tunes strung together to masquerade as a larger work. Yes however (and Anderson in particular) took their inspiration from classical music, expanding reoccurring themes that reach a peak for the stirring finale.

Oh, and I almost forget the artwork (how could I forget the artwork!) which is one of Roger Dean's most inspired. The plain green outer cover gives little away with the exception of the title and the (then) brand new snake-like Yes logo. Dean however is teasing us, opening the gatefold sleeve (or the CD booklet) reveals a lake sitting atop a plateau with waterfalls cascading on all sides from a seemingly endless (and invisible) source. Here Dean is mirroring the music itself, not only with his evocative imagery but also the requirement for the listener to go beyond the seemingly unfathomable outer layer, open up and become immersed in the whole glorious experience that is Close To The Edge.

Jez Rowden's Review

What can be said about Close To The Edge that has not been said already?

This album is one of the most singularly brilliant albums in the whole of the prog canon and sees a band finally emerging as a complete entity after a lengthy period of development and self-discovery, the like of which no major artist today would have the opportunity to enjoy as the record business in the late '60s / early '70s was a very different place.

Having developed from their early writings and started the process of brutally replacing personnel with the avowed intent of getting the best team on board, by 1972 the 'classic' Yes line-up of Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Bill Bruford, Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman had bedded in and were firing on all cylinders. The music they were producing at this time has a jaw-dropping intensity to it and a unique quality that has never been replicated. I cannot think of a single album that sounds like Close To The Edge which given its status and reverential position is quite remarkable. Additionally, the fact that the band could continue to produce different works of this quality for the next 5 years without repeating themselves is simply extraordinary.

So what is it about Close To The Edge that makes it so special? The playing and vocals by all concerned speak for themselves and this was one of the most talented groups ever to be assembled in a rock setting, but the sound has a plenty to do with the contribution of producer and engineer Eddie Offord. The hectic schedule of the band at that time meant that studio equipment was constantly being stripped down, driven across the country for gigs and then returned and rebuilt, changing the instrumental tones at every step. Forgotten ideas were painstakingly reconstructed as best they could be and edit upon edit spliced together by Offord late into the night to create an album that on face value has no right to work at all. But it does - beautifully.

The side-long title track is a piece the like of which will never be heard again. It has depth and a shimmering quality about it and at the time of its release listeners must have felt that it had been beamed in from outer space. It has lost none of its power over the years and I can't wait to hear what Steven Wilson has done to it with his remixed version - now there's a man with a good set of ears. The uniqueness of the material, built on the trials and tribulations of the recording process, gives the album an otherworldliness that most artists could only dream of. A happy accident then? Not so as the quality remained through the following years although the sophistication no doubt increased. This is an album that could only have been made by a hungry band of individuals all fired up by the possibilities of what they were discovering. With age this burning desire is usually lost so a perfect storm of youth, energy, ability, foresight, associations and surroundings came together to provide the setting for such a work to be created.

And then the title track fades away, back into the sounds of nature from which it emerged, and we're off into side two, a wonderful juxtaposition of beauty and passion between And You and I, probably my favourite Yes work, and Siberian Khatru. These two pieces have it all and listener can just immerse themselves in the breathtaking music. All of the parts of And You and I work together beautifully, it's hard to pick out a highlight as everyone contributes to the height of their abilities and the song has a wonderful flow. The album is capped off by Siberian Khatru, a natural opener as the band discovered, using it to start their live performances for years to come, but here it brings the same power and energy to the end of the album, getting the listener wanting more. In the CD age I would have expected this to lead off the album followed by the title track with And You and I to finish but due to the constraints of vinyl the title track had to have a side to itself and therefore had to be the opener otherwise its impact would have been lost. Serendipity at work; the perfect - yet unexpected - way to fill two 20-odd minute slabs of vinyl.

Close To the Edge established Yes as a major act and opened up the possibilities for the band itself which were taken to the next level on Tales From Topographic Oceans, an album that ironically would have no doubt benefited from being recorded for CD as the necessity to fill each vinyl side would not have been an issue and self-editing would have naturally taken place. Close To The Edge also paved the way for Relayer, the 'give anything a go and see what happens' mentality paying huge dividends there, and Going For The One where Awaken is, to me, the final appearance of the Close To The Edge spirit.

Success and a mellowing over time undeniably diminished the experimental creativity of the band and anyone hoping for Yes to again produce music to compare with their early to mid-'70s peak is deluding themselves. The band still plays well and can wheel out the classics to good effect when called upon and that is very gratifying for the long-term fan but Close To The Edge and its follow-up albums remain as testament to a wonderful group of musicians and a spirit of wide-eyed optimism that has been lost in these more cynical times.



Andy Tillison

Andy Tillison


[Keyboards & vocals - The Tangent]

Not Quite Three Years on from their debut - but four albums and two new musicians later...

Close To The Edge.

First of all - if you've skipped straight here and missed out my review of the first album by Yes - go back and have a look at that before you read this...

Close to The Edge is of course a progressive rock icon. Not perhaps quite as recognisable to the outside world as Dark Side of the Moon or Tubular Bells from its cover - but to many it embodies the purpose, designs and ambitions of a generation of musicians who wanted to be and were - amazing. The album was made on or around the summit of a road that had seen the possibilities of electric music increase logarithmically over the past couple of years, now having travelled a long way since '50s Rock & Roll and '60s pop. The 12 bar blues was not as much in evidence here as the suggestions of a small symphony played by what was evidently NOT a pop group (except to my generation's parents who saw electric guitars and long hair and thought "pop").

Yes, who had released their eponymous debut album the day after the splashdown of Apollo 11, released their masterpiece Close To The Edge on the 13th September 1972 - 3 months before the launch of the LAST trip to the moon in Apollo 17. Like their fellow travellers in the spacecraft - they had come a long way. In less than three years they had made their debut, Time And A Word, The Yes Album, Fragile and now CTTE (people call Roine FAST!!). The recordings that had taken place between April and June of 1972 had been made in the curious era of the Space Age, the Vietnam War, Watergate and more. The "Age of Progress" was still going strong, the punks were 4 years away and unimagined - Concorde was flying and Yes were making this thing. I hold that of the millions and millions of compositions that have been made by human beings, very few of them are unique. A handful at best. Ladies and Gentlemen, we are looking at an album that is so unique that the very people who made it never made anything quite like it, ever again - though that is not to say they didn't do other unique things. Close... was so out of the ballpark that, well, in 1972 there had never been any record that sounded like this one. From the opening sound effects of the title track, to the final fade of Siberian Khatru - every single nuance was music like had never been heard before.

Where so many of the contemporary classicists had sought originality in atonality, discord, mathematics and Musique Concrete, Yes blasted into their arena with the rather unfashionable technical device the rest of us call - Melody.

Great swathes of melody, recurring themes, counter melodies, songs to sing along with, tunes to hum, incomprehensively complex solos that you found you could actually sing. Electric and electronic instruments mixing together with traditional acoustic counterparts to create a symphonic ensemble as distant from the traditional symphony orchestra as a Gamelan.

Yes were an exceptionally complex band at this period in their life. The other bands around them had taken steps along this road but Floyd & Zep were still ostensibly Blues driven projects that had incorporated electronics into the sound set. Genesis was a far simpler structured animal and ELP was, despite its complexity, far more rooted in the classical tradition. Zappa was deeply into the Jazz side of things...Yes just created something completely new, from everything - all at once.

Cutting, jagged, frequently disjointed & distorted bass at the bottom end working well with Bruford's tight bass drum sound and the famous high tuned snare provided a so called "Rock" backdrop for an astonishing palimpsest of Harpsichords, Electric Sitars, Acoustic and Electric Guitars, Minimoog Synthesizers, Mellotron Strings, Choirs, Church Organs, taped sound effects, Hammond organs, Grand Piano, Electric Piano --- is this beginning to sound like the end of a famous piece recorded just a year later that perhaps stole the mainstream thunder of Close To The Edge by simply having a narrated introduction to all the instruments? I think Yes had more than "Two Slightly Distorted Guitars" on this one! Two beautiful songs welded together and played simultaneously in I Get Up, I Get Down show so much of Yes' ambition to create expertly made symphonic music - to the standards and blueprints of Beethoven and Stravinsky.

And shining out at the top of all this wonder, was this amazing, amazing voice. Like no-one else on earth, a guy from Accrington who sounded like he'd been put here on the planet to harmoniously unite us all in serenity and peace forever. His lyrics, since the first efforts had gone from "Looking around me, there's not so much in life I miss" to the "On the hill we view the silence of the valley" section, and as for "Seasoned Witches", I will never, ever understand them, or ever want to. They are simply the beauty of the sound of language itself. Unique, inimitable - here Jon Anderson is at the peak of his form, one of the most important artists of his century - a few decades after the painters of abstract expressionism, Anderson does it not just with music, but with words too.

I have often seen the rise of such music described by others as being a desire to conform and "fit in" with the classical set. I never, ever saw it that way. To me, Squire and Anderson were sticking up V signs with the cocksure attitude of The Sex Pistols, to the narrow minded Puritanism of the Classical fraternity who saw these impostors as little more than ambitious twerps. The truth is of course, however sad, that they never really found that many friends outside the immediate bounds of the original audience. The Classicists hated 'em, the rock press hated 'em, the punks hated 'em and I still feel it will be another generation that actually properly "gets it". I think that Squire, Anderson, Fripp and Emerson's desire to bring musical forms closer together was of the same stuff as Dylan's introduction of electric instruments to folk. He too had a rough ride, but he was fortunate enough to have been forgiven in his lifetime.

Close To The Edge reached my ears for the first time when I was twelve years old. I heard it coming from a room in my own house where some older kids were having a bible discussion meeting with my parents - they'd brought some records along to play on my Dad's hi-fi after the meeting. I remember everything about it...even though I was hearing it through a closed door. How, like the great classical composers that I liked to listen to, the music took me on a journey. After this muffled epiphany I decided on buying it immediately. Trouble was, how would I ever know which of those records that got played that night was the one I wanted to hear. I did not know the name "Yes". So when the young people left our house that night, I watched them go. One of them had an album under his arm. It was bright green and looked like it came from another world. "Probably that one" I thought... All I had to do was find a luminous green album from another world in the record shop. Took 5 minutes the next day - stood out like a sore thumb in Barkers in Otley. It was the first record I ever bought. It was probably the most important thing I ever bought. I love it still. I know you all do too.

I feel that though Yes did make another few records that were worthy of this one, that their time, set as it was during the space age - mankind's greatest adventure to date, that it's been very very difficult for us to get back to the Moon. It was a long time to be stuck down here on earth before the Flower Kings arrived to set us all free again.



Jeff Green

Jeff Green


[Guitar - Jeff Green]

"River running right on over my head"

On first listening, Close To The Edge takes some time to get used to, to get ones head around its grandiosity.

From the chaotic beginnings of the title track to the beauty and majesty of And You And I through to the esoteric lyrics of Siberian Khatru, this album has proved to be a mainstay within the prog rock canon and for good reason.

If progressive rock was born in 1969 with King Crimson's In The Court Of The Crimson King, then the release in 1972 of Close To The Edge is where it reached it's maturity.

My first prog experience started with Rick Wakeman at the Hammersmith Odeon back in 1976 on the No Earthly Connection tour. Needless to say, as a 9 year old I was absolutely floored by the enormity of it all. The sound, the lights, the capes! And of course the incredible musicianship. Although this encounter provided me with an early glimpse into the world of progressive music, I was not nearly prepared for what Wakeman had previously contributed to with his other band, Yes.

The 18:42 side long title track gently fades in with the sound of a river stream, chirping birds and some ambient keyboards. Then at 0:55 - BOOM! The entire band comes thundering in with all guns blazing. The precision and tightness of this opening section is simply stunning. In the hands of less gifted musicians, the piece could easily have descended into somewhat of a mess but Anderson, Bruford, Howe, Squire and Wakeman carry it out with an almost chaotic beauty interspersed with short bursts of vocal harmony.

At 2:50 a degree of structure is established when one of song's main leitmotifs enters. The storm has cleared and we are now ready for our journey down the river.

For years, I had absolutely no idea what Jon Anderson was singing about. For that matter, I don't think the band did either! Back in the late '70s/early '80s there was no Internet, no Google, no Wikipedia. One had to resort to their own imagination for any kind of interpretation. During my freshman year in high school at age 15, we were required to read both Siddhartha by Herman Hesse and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. Although seemingly worlds apart, both books make reference to a River, connecting the universal themes of journey, discovery and enlightenment. Be it a boy on the Mississippi River in the mid-19th century, or a young prince in ancient India accompanied by their best friends, Huckleberry Finn and Govinda respectively, the quest for knowledge and adventure is a concept that has existed since time immemorial. The renowned Swiss analytical psychologist Carl Gustav Jung refers to this as an archetype.

It was at this point that I began to make some sense of the heretofore-nonsensical lyrics. This is all about the quest for knowledge. The thirst for understanding, the hunger for enlightenment. The journey. Anderson is not providing answers for us here, he is in the midst of his own journey and sending us snapshots of his experiences along the way. In terms of the classic "Hero Cycle" this is Anderson's call to adventure.

"All the reasons we don't understand"

As with most things in life, understanding is something that develops and ultimately comes to fruition through time. ("Not right away, Not right away")

It took some time to grasp even the most basic principles of what Anderson was saying. Again, the pay off being the journey and not the end. How could it be? At the age of 69 Jon Anderson is still on his journey!

"The time between the notes relates the colour to the scenes"

Some of the instrumentation was quite unorthodox for the time. Particularly, Steve Howe's use of the electric sitar and Rick Wakeman's use of a church organ. This adds to the already highly layered and complex nature of the music, providing the perfect platform for Anderson's lyrics. Of particular note is the interplay between the instruments and vocals. Although highly complex, nobody steps on anybody's toes here. Every instrument is given just the right amount of space to make its point when necessary before pulling back to let the vocals breath. Rhythmically, everyone seems to be playing differently but it's all held together with musical virtuosity. For me, this is an example of perfect syncopation.

After a gorgeous church organ section containing some beautiful counterpoint vocals from Anderson, Howe and Chris Squire, Wakeman breaks up the serenity with a magnificent run on the Moog before the entire band re-enter playing a more aggressive variation of the first motif, followed by a blazing Hammond organ solo.

"I get up, I get down"

After what can only be described as a journey through peaks and troughs, the band enters the final section, which for me is not only the highlight of the piece, but one of the most powerful moments in prog history. The sections containing the line; "I get up, I get down" previously only hinted at during "Seasons Of Man" and "Total Mass Retain" comes to fruition in all its glory as the song reaches its climactic conclusion before fading out to the same nature sounds that opened the piece.

Side two (for those who remember such things!) starts off with the beautiful and somewhat Cantata like And You And I. Howe opens the song with some gentle and introspective harmonics played on the 12-string guitar before introducing the main strummed theme. After a brief Moog interlude performed by Wakeman using one of his signature sounds, Anderson's vocals enter, continuing with the themes of the quest for knowledge and self-discovery.

The song is broken down into several movements, each of which become highly developed throughout the course of the piece. Once again, Howe introduces another unusual instrument for this genre, a pedal steel guitar. "Country Prog" anyone? However, Howe's use of the pedal steel is of a very melodic, ambient nature that perfectly accentuates the main melody over Wakeman's glorious Mellotron accompaniment.

One of the highlights for me are the counterpoint vocals that come in at 2:55 during the Cord Of Life section; the interplay between the three vocalists works extremely well.

After Eclipse, which revisits some of the themes from the first section, the song changes gears with The Preacher The Teacher adding an almost folky feel to it. I particularly love this section when performed live as it involves a bit of audience participation and although many would disagree, I really enjoy the addition of Squire's harmonica!

The song closes on a very uplifting note; a man content looking out at "Endless Seas".

Next up, Siberian Khatru, which for me is one of the most powerful pieces in the Yes canon. This song just gets bigger and bigger! Howe kicks this off with a fiery and somewhat funky guitar riff before the band enters in top gear. The power here is immense and it's no wonder that the band has used this as their opening number for many tours.

I've always found it quite humorous that for years, having played the song numerous times, nobody in the band seemed to know what a "Khatru" was! According to Anderson, "Khatru" means "As you wish" in Yemeni and he felt that this was a theme with which he could work.

This song contains one of my favourite guitar riffs and Howe is simply on fire. Here again we have some fantastic three-part harmonies during the verses and some call and response vocals during the break down section. In addition to his arsenal of keyboards, Wakeman introduces yet another rather unorthodox instrument to the fold...a harpsichord! Not only does it work, it's one of the song's highlights. Wakeman's fingers fly effortlessly over the keys before handing it over to Howe and his pedal steel.

The band then kick into a serious groove at 4:50 before the aforementioned break down section containing a rather well crafted call and response vocal section. From here on out the song builds until reaching a breathtaking crescendo featuring one of Howe's finest guitar solos. As a guitar player myself, I've always found his approach to this solo quite amazing. Given the speed and power of the outro, it would make sense to just shred over the top of it in keeping with the mood of the song. However, Howe plays slowly, deliberately and melodically taking it all to a completely different and unexpected dimension.

And there you have it. A perfect ending to what I consider to be an absolute masterpiece. I firmly believe that with Close To The Edge, Yes reached perfection, or at least as close as humanly possible. As a musician and songwriter, this album has been a constant source of inspiration and shall no doubt continue to be for years to come.

Conclusions:

GEOFF FEAKES : 10 out of 10
JEZ ROWDEN : 10 out of 10


Yes - Close To The Edge (2013 Steven Wilson Remix)
Yes - Close To The Edge (2013 Steven Wilson Remix)
Country of Origin:U.K.
Format:CD + DVD-A
Record Label:Panegyric
Catalogue #:-
Year of Release:1972/2013
Time:-
Info:Close To The Edge
Samples:n/a

Tracklist:
CD: 2013 Stereo Mixes - Close To The Edge (18:43), And You And I (10:09), Siberian Khatru (9:01
Bonus tracks - America (10:31), Close To The Edge (early assembly/rough mix) (17:42)
DVD-A: 2013 Stereo Mixes 24/96 MLP Lossless, 5.1 Surround Mixes 24/96 MLP Lossless/dts 96/24, Original Stereo Mixes - File Transfer from original master LPCM Stereo 24/96 plus
Bonus tracks - America (5.1, 2013 Stereo, Original Stereo)

Basil Francis' Review

Back in the summer of 2009, I was still a Dream Theater nut; I had been for a period of roughly twelve months. I listened to Dream Theater music, nothing else. That was, until I started reading about Dream Theater's many influences, including Rush and a band called Yes. The name 'Yes' rang a bell for me, they were the guys who played Owner of a Lonely Heart on all those '80s compilation albums - it should be mentioned that I also went through an '80s phase in my youth. That particular track seemed to have nothing in common with Dream Theater, so I was quite confused.

A while later, I began scouring my girlfriend's dad's CD rack and iTunes library for potential gems. A few treasures I picked up included CD versions of Rush's Fly by Night, Moving Pictures and A Show of Hands and AAC audio files of the compilation Classic Yes. I recall that YesYears was on there too, but didn't transfer to my USB properly.

I remember my initial reaction to Classic Yes: it couldn't sound more different to Owner of a Lonely Heart, and that was just how I liked it. I remember just how odd Heart of the Sunrise sounded at the time. I can recall the end of Yours Is No Disgrace segueing perfectly into the start of Starship Trooper, which of course won me over immediately while I was cycling during the Würm section. I even remember being very unimpressed with Wonderous Stories, feeling it was far too twee, an opinion that hasn't changed that much over the years.

For the most part though, Yes intrigued me, so much so that I even paid a full €10 when I saw a copy of Close to the Edge in the Dutch department store Vroom & Dreesmann - a price I initially thought was a rip-off for just three tracks. I didn't realise it at the time, but the first album I bought that introduced me to the bigger progressive sphere had coincidentally turned out to also be one of the best progressive rock albums of all time. Initially, I was sceptical. The title track didn't suck me in in the way that Dream Theater did, at least not at first, and just seemed to be weird for the sake of being weird. On top of that, there was a great long section called I Get Up, I Get Down where the band didn't appear to do much, which seemed to just be time-wasting to me.

Needless to say, that all soon changed, and by October and November, when I had started at uni, Close to the Edge was on constant repeat in my room, much to the annoyance of my neighbours. Dream Theater had been long forgotten. And You and I was surprisingly the most popular track with me for a long bout, the melodies too infectious to ignore. Siberian Khatru eventually won me over too, with its mysterious lyrics and seemingly random chants during the outro. To me, the album could not be outdone. From top to bottom it was a flawless masterpiece.

Though I busied myself collecting other Yes albums to complement the shining gem in my collection, not a day would pass without me playing at least one of the album's shimmering tracks. That's when something terrible happened: the effect wore off. I had, to use a common expression, worn the album out somewhat. I can still appreciate what a piece of genius Close to the Edge is today, but that electrifying sensation I used to feel has mostly gone away. I simply know the album too well now; it has no surprises left.

When I read that a new Steven Wilson remix was being released, I instantly became intrigued. Wilson has done amazing things before with the King Crimson collection amongst other things. Perhaps Close to the Edge could regain some of its former glory. I gave the album a quick pre-order and told myself I would not play any Close to the Edge tracks before hearing the new remaster, in an effort to make the feeling fresh. This was only supposed to be a two-week fast, but it soon turned into six weeks when production issues prevented the albums from being released in October as claimed. I felt ready to hear Close to the Edge again.

However, when I pressed play, the result was not what I'd hoped for. The remix was new and different, that was obvious, but it was still for all intents and purposes the same Close to the Edge I've been listening to for four years now. Put simply, this remix just didn't rekindle the passionate love I used to have for this album, which I found to be a real shame.

It's not all bad though. Keeping in line with my 'Compare That Reissue!' series, I actually have three different versions of this seminal album to compare: the infamous 1994 Atlantic version, which served as my introduction; the vastly improved 2003 Rhino reissue housed in a digipak; and of course 2013's Steven Wilson remix, specifically with the DVD-A and not the overpriced Blu-ray. Let's see how they fare!

1994 Atlantic
2003 Rhino
2013 Panegyric
Sound QualityNot bad at all; passable, even. Naturally, however, the sound has improved with each subsequent reissue. An improvement on the 1994 version, if only slightly. Clearer sounds and better dynamics.Wilson's magic does improve things further, although not as much as I'd hoped. To me the intro to the title track is still dark and murky and the instruments are very tangled together. The verses however sound a lot better, as each instrument has its own space. My favourite part of the 5.1 remix has to be during I Get Up, I Get Down, where the listener is caught in a musical conversation between Chris Squire behind and Jon Anderson in front. That part admittedly made my spine tingle just a bit.
Artwork
& Packaging
This version comes in a standard jewel case featuring a bad scanning of the front cover without the shiny silver bits around the title. The album credits are missing on the back cover, and the photos have been rearranged. The inner gatefold image remains intact. A lovely, if slightly stiff digipak with better artwork reproduction than the predecessor, even down to the shiny outlines. The reverse looks more like the original, with the band line-up written, but not the production credits or the original handwritten tracklist. Oddly, the inner gatefold here has the least cropping to the right, but instead features a gap down the centrefold. On top of this, the image itself has been slightly altered, and some of the details of the picture are missing or simplified.The CD+DVD-A is housed in a digipak reminiscent of the King Crimson 40th Anniversary reissues. This time the title and logo are printed three times, although the silvery part is only achieved on the booklet itself. The production credits are restored, although the handwritten tracklist is still noticeably absent. As a bonus, the song lyrics are presented handwritten as they were on the inner sleeve, although at that size they are quite illegible. There are also three other Roger Dean paintings featured in the booklet which were created around the time. The Blu-ray version comes in a 'Mini-LP' format with the discs in plain white sleeves. Methinks they could have tried a bit harder. Oddly, the artwork is printed inside the sleeve as well. Again, the handwritten tracklist is missing, meaning that it's not a very authentic Mini-LP. Worse still, the supplied booklet comes loose with the packaging, meaning you'll need to shove it in one of the sleeves if you want to carry it around. I'll admit, I was initially cross that people with enough money to afford expensive Blu-ray devices would get a better package, showing format hierarchy. Now that I've seen the package ain't that great, I'm laughing at the farce of it all.
Bonus TracksNone. Why not just enjoy the album itself without all the extra faff?Single versions of Total Mass Retain and America - though noticeably not the original America, which came with Fragile - as well as demos of And You and I and Siberian Khatru. The original And You and I is surprisingly different.The Panegyric edition has it all and more, although to access all the bonus tracks, you'll need to put the DVD on. The single version of And You and I is very uninteresting, just a three and a half minute sample of the original. Wilson has had a go at remixing America, much to my delight, as it is a very underrated track indeed. However the crown jewel of this set is the early assembly/rough mix of the title track itself. The listener is first taken by surprise when the chanting is lifted from the intro. With different lyrics and hugely different dynamics, this is probably the most interesting track in the set.
Liner NotesNone. The '90s were very minimalist in that way. The lyrics are there though. I have to admit, I do very much enjoy the liner notes in this edition by Mike Tiano. Very in tune with the music, he gives a detailed analysis of the album track by track as well as general information about the band at the time.Sid Smith's notes do trump Tiano's, if only because they feature actual snippets of interviews with the band. If there's anything Yes fans need more of, it's Jon explaining his often impenetrable lyrics and there's a little bit of that here. In fact, all of the band contribute, and even Roger Dean gets a word in. What these notes do miss, however, is a bit of commentary on the new mix itself. It's all very well for Wilson to remix this album at his leisure, but without his mission statement, or what he felt needed improving, there doesn't seem to be much motivation for reissue in the first place.


While an improvement over earlier editions, I wouldn't say that the new Close to the Edge remix is a must-have, as it has not changed the way I see the album one whit. It's still Close to the Edge, just with a few bits sounding slightly different. I've got an idea, why don't you take your £15 and buy something new and fresh, supporting the current prog scene as you do so? Who knows, it may just be the next Close to the Edge!

Roger Trenwith's Review

Firstly, this is NOT a review of Close To The Edge, what would be the point of that exactly? What could possibly be said about this album that has not been said thousands of times already? Nope, we're going to stick to a critique of the new 5.1 mix, and the extras on the DVD (or Blu ray, if that's your format poison of choice). Yes, this is a tech-nerd's paradise!

There are, in my opinion, very few albums throughout rock history, prog rock or otherwise, that are worthy of that somewhat overused and thereby cheapened mark of '10/10'. Close To The Edge by Yes is one of them, and if ever there was an album meriting of the attention of Grand Remixmaster Steven Wilson, this was it.

I must admit that when I first heard that Mr Wilson was going to be putting this marvellous slab of vinyl, for that is what it remains in my aging imagination, through his 5.1 paces, my reaction was one of delight, as if ever any album deserved "The Treatment", it was this little genre and era-defining beauty. If you read the tracklist at the top of this piece, or click the "Info" link above, you can see what you get on the DVD-A version, and it's more than enough if you ask me. I do not have, and have no intention of buying a Blu-Ray player, as I am not a film buff anyway, and as far as music goes I feel it is a pointless format, and another ruse to part the gadget-nerd from his or her wallet or purse.

Wilson however, is a fan of Blu-Ray, and those of you who have that particular slimline box of tricks are privy to a few more extras:

"- exclusive instrumental versions of all new mixes in DTS-HD Master Audio stereo (24bit/96khz).
- exclusive needle-drop of an original U.K. vinyl A1/B1 pressing transferred in 24bit/96khz audio."

As I have the original first edition vinyl in pristine condition (of course!), the only things I'm missing out on are the instrumental versions, which are in essence the only hitherto unheard additions to the tracklist of the last 2003 CD remaster. Let's face it, how many times are you going listen to those, anyway? Most of these gargantuan explorations into recording minutiae get listened to once or twice and then sit on the shelf gathering dust. I'm looking at my 5-CD/1-DVD-A box of In The Court Of The Crimson King as I type, it being a perfect example. The 5.1 mix gets played now and again, but the rest? Still, it looks nice on the shelf!

Right, enough already, let's get our hands dirty!

Probably the best place to start is with Steve Howe's intro to And You And I, as I always consider that the mark of a good remix is how the quietest passages are handled. Played first is the original master, the one we all know. Next up is Wilson's 2013 Stereo remix, and right from the introductory "O.K.", through to the quiet guitar notes and harmonics, underneath which a previously unnoticed and very quiet organ note adds a subtle nuance, the difference, even for someone who like me has, shall we say, "well-seasoned" gig-going ears, is simply remarkable. But then I kind of knew it would be familiar as I am with Wilson's other remixes, in particular the King Crimson series.

The Remixmaster picks out every subtle harmonic it is seemingly possible to on such an understated passage. Suffice to say, it feels like you are in the sound booth sat next to Eddie Offord back in 1972, and I haven't even got down with the 5.1 version yet.

O.K. then, let's set the controls for the heart of the sun(rise), and get it on with this mutha! DVD Menu set to "2013 5.1 Surround (DTS 9624)", volume set to just below neighbour-stun levels (it is a late Sunday afternoon, after all), and brace ourselves for lift-off.

I had to smile, as the channels used for that same introductory passage from And You And I in this mix to end all mixes are exactly as the stereo version, but of course, once the bass comes in the piece begins to expand, revealing all its aural beauty like an opening flower. The immersive experience is quite extraordinary, even on this, the least intense passage. Just you wait until the swooping Mellotron and slide guitar come surfing in on a wave of glorious sonics. It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Where it could have been mixed to sound bombastically overpowering, Wilson has held back from excess, just, leaving the listener with a warm glow that suits the song to a tee.

The beginning of The Preacher section with Steve Howe's acoustic in the front two channels and Rick Wakeman's delightful dancing synths in the rear two, leaves the listener in the centre of a sound field as if he or she is an ear of corn blown in a gentle wind; utterly lovely!

Siberian Khatru rocks like a beast, and once more Squire's Rickenbacker pins you to your seat. Other highlights: Rick's harpsichord section leading into Steve's slide part, and the massed choral part near the end over the percussively throbbing low end (ooerr Mrs!), leading into Squire's high end bass solo.

The sudden arrival of the harmony section at the beginning of the title track is another goose bump moment. Then, The Fish jumps out of the water, swimming upstream, dancing around nimble and fleet of foot, or to leave the metaphors alone, the clarity of Chris Squire's bass is no less than breathtaking.

Also stunning is the intricate vocal section at the end of I Get Up I Get Down, which slowly creeps up on you, the massed Yes-choir call and response climbing up the scales, and here comes Rick on the church organ, which was painstakingly spliced into the original tape. Of course, nowadays, Steven has his no doubt top of the range digital recording software to make things easier, and the joins, if there ever were any, remain seamless. The entry of the majestic synth in tandem with the organ again makes me well up, soft old sod that I am!

During the ensemble freakout that follows leading into Rick's organ solo there is so much going on it will require several listens to fully unravel this highly crafted aural jigsaw. The same applies to the entire album, it has to be said.

As far as the bonus tracks go, by far the most interesting is America, possibly the last cover version the band would lay down. Like most rock fans of a certain age in the U.K., I first came across this wonderful rearrangement of Paul Simon's classic ditty on the early '70s compilation album The New Age Of Atlantic, which came out in the same year as Close To The Edge. In fact, this track and Survival on the earlier Age Of Atlantic were my introduction to Yes as I could not afford the price of a deluxe gatefold LP back then, as the paper round would not stretch to the equivalent of around £20 a time by today's standards.

Again, Wilson's knob twiddling reveals the tune in its full glory, showing that even at their then comparatively young age the band were highly skilled arrangers. Steve Howe's guitar sound in particular shines through on his hoedown meets rock meets classical showcase middle section, as does Bill Bruford's percussive additions, especially the cowbell, as if someone has cleaned 41 years of accumulated murk off a neglected window.

The rough version of the title track is quite interesting, particularly in the vocal department, the layered harmonies being stripped back to Anderson's and Squire's original foundation blocks, but like all these things I doubt I'll be playing it more than very occasionally when the real thing is begging for another blast.

All the way through this stunning version of this classic album there are moments that simply don't seem to have been there before. Of course, they were, it's just that the technology available to the original producer did not afford him the frequency range or whatever other technological limitations he was unknowingly hampered by.

To round things off the sleeve notes are as entertaining and informative as one would expect from the redoubtable Sid Smith.

You should need no prompting to buy this, the "Definitive Edition", a description that for once is not an exaggeration. Even if you already own Close To The Edge in all the previous formats, from cassette, 8-track, LP, CD, to neuro-implant (it seems like that, sometimes), you owe it to yourself to get this too. Finally, my mark for this, both from a musical and audio perspective should by now be blindingly obvious!

Conclusions:

BASIL FRANCIS : 6 out of 10
ROGER TRENWITH : 10 out of 10


Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans (2003 Rhino Remaster)
Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans (Rhino Remaster)
Country of Origin:U.K.
Format:2CD
Record Label:Atlantic Records
Catalogue #:8122-73791-2
Year of Release:1973 / 2010
Time:CD 1: 61:35
CD 2: 62:29
Info:Yes
Samples:Click Here

Tracklist: The Revealing Science of God (Dance of the Dawn) (With original introduction restored) (22:22), The Remembering (High the Memory) (20:38), The Ancient (Giants Under the Sun) (18:35), Ritual (Nous Sommes du Soleil) (21:37)
Bonus Tracks: Dance of the Dawn (Studio run-through) (23:35), Giants Under the Sun (Studio run-through) (17:17)

Roger Trenwith's Review

Often held up as an example of everything that was wrong with Prog Rock in the Punk Wars, Yes' Tales From Topographic Oceans, released 40 years ago this month, was indeed a work of high pretence, so much so that even a man who later staged a prog musical on ice found it too much, and as legend has it preferred to sit in the corner eating takeaway curries rather than joining in discussions with the others on the albumís dilettante high-brow religious and philosophical concepts. Rick Wakeman would leave the band soon afterwards. Indeed, I have used this album as a reference point in my article on the rise and fall of the first wave of prog for much the same reasons.

Tales... came after what was to prove the high point of Yes' career, the outstanding and extraordinary Close to the Edge, a very hard act to follow. Added to that, Yes had been on the road for a lot of the intervening 15 months, so it is quite remarkable that they cooked up this by turns brilliant and frustrating gargantuan work while under the rigours of touring.

The effect of Close To The Edge, on me at least, was that I did not get round to buying this album until the mid-eighties, mainly just to complete my Yes collection, which back then sensibly stopped at Going For The One. Added to that it was a double album and beyond the meagre finances of a teenage schoolboy. The final and possibly most pertinent reason for avoiding Tales... was that from late 1976 the punk revolution and the marvellously odd music it led me to served to distract me away from this somewhat brazen statement of wayward excess.

With only one track per side, just looking at the tracklisting is a daunting task. The first opus, The Revealing Science Of God: Dance Of The Dawn is a surprisingly simple construct, and after the title track of Close To The Edge it sounds a bit, well, tired, even now. Some of the harmonies don't seem quite right, and it never really gets off the ground. At times it sounds like the music was constructed as an afterthought around Jon Anderson's impenetrable mystical nonsense, now many steps beyond the comparatively simple (no, really) but highly effective words on Close To The Edge. Probably at least twice as long as it need be, a trait all too common these days, but a rare and hitherto unknown failing where these prog masters were concerned. That combined with its unusually lacklustre vocal performance make it a poor start to the album.

The lovely vocal entry to The Remembering: High The Memory redeems the first track's failings in that department, and this second epic is much more like it, and feels more complete and less "by rote". Chiming music and that old "CS&N go prog" feel that Yes were so good at combine to make this a quite celebratory experience. Rick gets to play his best keyboard moment, a typical Wakeman classical synth flourish in the ambient/symphonic middle section. Understated as it is, it is quite lovely. Yes sound more like a group on this one than possibly any of the other songs on the record, and the interplay after the turnaround is a joy. Again though, I have to say that it is probably stretched out for far too long. My other half, bless her, who reckons that most of what I listen to for these reviews is "a racket", has just told me she thinks that this song is "dreary and repetitive", and good as it is, its unnecessary excessive length probably justifies those rather harsh words!

The Ancient gives the initial impression of a musical hodge-podge that rambles down a long and winding path, reprising themes from earlier Yes songs as it goes, unfortunately getting completely lost in the process. It sounds like the music charts were caught by a fan, blown all over the studio and reassembled at random, with Steve Howe filling in the gaps with old acoustic guitar lines where some of the scores, having got lodged in the hay bales in the studio were then greedily eaten by the cardboard cows, all there to give "rural ambience". Yep, they were away with the fairies on Tales... alright, amazingly without the aid of chemicals. No wonder the more grounded character of the keyboard player took umbrage!

However after you have taken the time to listen to it properly The Ancient: Giants Under The Sun reveals itself as a highly innovative and interesting piece of work, and oddly (or maybe not, come to think of it), I quite like it! Commencing with a hint of the dissonance that would later come to the fore on Relayer, this is the sound of Yes pushing boundaries and succeeding, a rare thing on this mess of an album. Steve Howe's slide provides the frothy head on a strange bubbling backdrop that includes Chris Squire making the bass-sound equivalent of squashing tomatoes, playing around with flanging effects to the nth degree. Soon, a theme establishes itself, interrupted every few bars by a crashing of chords, again hinting at what is to come on the next album. With more than a hint of Gentle Giant in the arrangement it shows that Yes were not afraid to use and rearrange the influences of the more imaginative amongst their peer group.

Ritual starts promisingly, leading into the truly glorious Nous Sommes Du Soleil, a true Yes gem buried in the studio hayloft. Every Yes fan already knows this one inside out; you don't need me telling you again. Sadly, even this gem is spoiled by the addition of a thoroughly pointless drum/percussion interlude, albeit thankfully short, which only serves to disrupt the flow of what is otherwise a truly great song. Alan White had a huge talent to follow in Bill Bruford, and maybe he thought he had to make an impression? On the plus side, both Steve Howe and Jon Anderson shine on this piece.

As Wakeman, and no doubt others have said, this album was a case of the band having too much material for a single album, but not enough for a double, the result being that an awful lot of filler was needed to pad out the gaps. If it had been released in the CD age this would have made one fantastic hour-long album, no question. Maybe Melody Maker's Chris Welch had it right in his review at the time, stating "It is a fragmented masterpiece".

Riding on the coat tails of Yes' musical summit Close To The Edge, Tales... made it all the way to number one in the U.K. album charts, thereby becoming the band's most successful album, charts wise. There must have been some confused punters out there, probably expecting Close To The Edge MkII, and instead getting this sprawling collection of good ideas sometimes stretched beyond reason.

Some of this album is fabulous, and some of it cringeworthy, sometimes within the same song, but it still gets...

Joel Atlas's Review

The thought of reviewing Tales from Topographic Oceans engendered goose bumps. For me, listening to Tales... is less like hearing music than like embarking on a full-sense, otherworldly journey. A choice to listen to Tales... is careful and considered - this music requires a commitment. While Tales... is playing, I'm nowhere but in its world. And along the ride, I may feel joy, optimism, sorrow, or fear; regularly emerging are smiles, fist pumps, and even cries.

At the outset, the band's inspiration for Tales... is worth noting. Paramahansa Yogamanda's book Autobiography of a Yogi describes four "shastric scriptures" that address basic elements of science and the humanities. In February 1973, Yes' lead singer, Jon Anderson, found in these scriptures a theme for a large-scale musical project that, by the end of that year, became the four-movement Tales From Topographic Oceans. Anderson and guitarist Steve Howe were the main architects, reportedly outlining Tales... in one, all-night session. In the end, though, all band members, including new drummer Alan White, made stellar, quite identifiable, contributions.

The lyrics of Tales... could be the subject of a treatise. (A particularly detailed and insightful analysis appeared in the fanzine "Wonderous Stories" [volume 3, no.2, 1992]). The liner notes do offer some insight: The Revealing Science of God (movement one) examines the depth of the past and displays the ongoing search for God; The Remembering (movement two) affirms that the past informs our current thoughts; The Ancient (movement three) explores, paradoxically, history previous to human memory and reflects on past civilizations; and Ritual (movement four) portrays the positive results of a battle with evil. But, beyond this, to attach fixed meaning to the lyrics is, in my view, a fool's errand. Rather, the lyrics mean what, to the listener, they appear to mean. And that meaning can shift from listener to listener and even from listen to listen. Indeed, the flexibility of their meaning is perhaps the lyrics' greatest strength. Nevertheless, it can probably be said safely that the lyrics are largely uplifting and wonder-inducing rather than dark and that, although laced with references to natural phenomena, the lyrics are mostly mystical rather than worldly. Some lines, such as "I must have waited all my life for this...moment", are quite accessible (and find a place among the watchwords of my life). Other lyrics, however, seem born of stream of consciousness; their main impact is likely to inspire sentiments and moods rather than impart concrete messages. And the sporadic vocalizations and singing of particularly obtuse lyrics act as the equivalent of traditional instruments and aid the fluidity of the music (similar to the role of scat singing in jazz). Regardless, the vocals play a primary role in many of Tales' most memorable moments, and thus the lyrics, however cosmic and ethereal, do not fade into the background.

All four of the approximately 20-minute movements of Tales... would easily fall among my ten favorite pieces of music, and trying to choose a favorite movement would be like trying to choose a favorite child. Each movement is an ambitious, multi-faceted endeavour characterized by distinct and impactful themes (both musical and lyrical), yet, notwithstanding the differences among the movements, the movements jive synergistically to create an even grander whole.

A brief play-by-play of the movements reveals their complexity and diversity. The first movement, The Revealing Science of God, is, atmospherically, at first eerie and later uplifting; musically, it is variously up-tempo and sullen. A calm, trippy introduction yields to tension-laced vocals ("Dawn of light...") that release into an enchanting melody. Tranquility envelopes the listener when Anderson suggests speaking with "the sunlight caller" and soon thereafter asks "What happened to this song we once knew so well?". Howe and White shine in this segment, while Anderson's flighty vocals drive the piece with the recurring suggestion that he (and later "we") must have "waited all of [his] life for this moment". The harmonies that repetitively mouth the word "moment" are haunting. Wakeman soon has his say (on both electric and acoustic keyboards), then Howe and White re-emerge as leaders, only to give way to a brief, somewhat funky, diversion. Softness suddenly sets in, anchored by Anderson's cryptic words about glory and "old fighters past". After a brisk, slightly shrill, segment that abruptly transitions into sensitive and then more-frenetic passages, Anderson memorably asks, "What happened to this song we once knew so well?". Soon, near the close, there's a comforting coming home, as the piece returns to the lyrical theme that we must have waited all of our lives for this moment. The reprise is quite a moment indeed.

The second movement, The Remembering, opens with a playful keyboard part. Mantra-like vocals then dance above the keyboards as a prelude to a peaceful passage that slowly builds to Anderson's hook-filled references to an alternate "tune" and "ways". Squire drops bass bombs throughout the subsequent vocal themes about freedom and strength. Almost absent so far is Howe, but rich keyboard layers leave no sonic hollowness. A joyful passage then takes hold, as Anderson urges closing one's eyes and imagining "the glorious challenge". Following rambunctious, mellow, and then spirited passages, Howe's slide guitar appears prominently as the tenor of the tune shifts into space. Oddly timed leads surround Anderson as he crescendos into staccato-like, slowly sung, highly evocative lyrics: "Rainbows. Soft light. Alternate tune. Sunlight. Tell me. Someone. Alternate view. Alternate view, surely, surely". Howe follows with a bold and immensely satisfying solo that transitions to a state of utter calm mostly orchestrated by Wakeman. Music just doesn't get better than this.

The third movement, The Ancient, is overall primal but also alternately sharp-edged and soft. Howe, White and Anderson are superb throughout. The exotic, unfamiliar environment created by the first half of this movement can, quite simply, stop your world. Contributing to the unsettling aura are the ever-changing beat, the sharp use of percussion (featuring creative cymbal work), and the paucity of vocals. Nevertheless, as is true for all of Tales..., repeated listening brings some repose and order to the apparent chaos. More than halfway into the movement, the piece strikingly shifts: Howe switches to acoustic guitar, and he and Anderson essentially go it alone. When Anderson joins Howe's classical playing by intimately inquiring whether "the leaves of green stay greener though the autumn", a serene, enchanting garden is evoked. Anderson's subsequent queries about nature, life, and our human role spawn mental expansion, after which soothing vocalizations, followed by more-forceful touches by Howe and Wakeman, close this magical movement. The listener is left wanting for nothing.

Ritual, the final (and perhaps best-known) movement, is less experimental and introspective than its immediate predecessor but still grandiloquent. An optimistic thread pervades the lyrics, which reference play, open doors, smiles, love and home. Brash pounding opens the tune, quickly joined by Howe's soaring lead. Then, flourish-filled drumming and vigorous vocalizations furiously propel the piece. Tempo changes abound. Soft, languorous slide guitar adds mystery before the tone lightens, allowing Anderson to dramatically offer, for only the first time, the subtitle line: "Nous Sommes du Soleil". The melodious segment that follows highlights Anderson's vocals, and they are indeed beautiful. A particularly avant-garde instrumental segment, featuring guitar and percussion, then assumes control. It builds slowly, the tautness broken by a splendid, and unaccompanied, acoustic-guitar solo that feeds into emotion-dripping vocals ("Hold me my love, hold me today, call me round"). Full-on body chills may well arise when Anderson - in peak form throughout Tales... - mellifluously sings "We drift the shadows and course our way on home". Howe soon boldly leads the movement to yet another peak, this time instrumental, before the pace quiets and the song closes. Particularly given the dramatic denouement, one strains to accept the sad realization that, until next time, the journey of Tales... has ended.

The remastered version of Tales... is a marginal rather than a marked improvement: more nuanced sounds are certainly audible compared to earlier versions. But the production is still not particularly crisp, and a brand-new experience should not be expected. There is, though, one easily noticeable difference: The Revealing Science of God (movement one) has a new, approximately two-minute introduction - albeit a spacey and dulcet one. To experienced listeners of the previous version, the new introduction could initially seem alien, but a few listens will dull any impression that something is amiss.

The bonus tracks - early versions of movements one and three - may be difficult for long-time Tales... lovers to digest. The final, fully realized versions of the movements are so refined - and their intricacies by now so ingrained in hard-core fans - that these nascent versions can seem shallow and imitative. So, although the bonus tracks may have historical value, aficionados are unlikely to accept them as a substantial bonus and may even perceive them as borderline sacrilege.

Much has been written about Tales From Topographic Oceans. It divided critics and Yes fans alike: for some, the music was transformative and glorious; for others, indulgent and ostentatious. But complexity and intensity no doubt lack universal appeal, and so the split of opinion should be no surprise. And, despite this division, the favorable impact of Tales... on scores of listeners runs immensely deep. Indeed, for me, no other progressive-rock release parallels the quality of Tales.... It's a musical icon, and justifiably so. Forty years after its creation, and now heard in a world steeped in sound bites, snippets, and snapshots, Tales From Topographic Oceans is more relevant - and more magnificent - than ever.

Conclusions:

ROGER TRENWITH : 7 out of 10
JOEL ATLAS : 10 out of 10


DPRP Team Rankings for these albums:

Yes
Time And A Word
The Yes Album
Fragile
Close To The Edge
Tales From Topographic Oceans
Alison Henderson
6
8
9
9
10
9
Basil Francis
6.5
8
9.5
10
10
7
Brendan Bowen
7
6
8
10
10
9
Eric Perry
6
6.5
7.5
9
10
9.5
Geoff Feakes
8
8
9
9.5
10
10
Guillermo Palladino
7
6
8
7
9
8
James Turner
7
7
10
8
10
-
Jez Rowden
7
7.5
9
8
10
9
Joel Atlas
8.5
9
10
9
10
10
Mark Hughes
7
-
-
-
-
-
Raffaella Berry
7.5
7.5
9
9
10
10
Roger Trenwith
5.5
6.5
7
8
10
7
Tom De Val
6
6
9
7.5
9.5
6
Average
6.84
7.16
8.75
8.66
9.87
8.59
Ranking
10th of 12
9th of 12
4th of 12
5th of 12
1st of 12
6th of 12

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Published 25th December 2013

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