The Yes Album (1971)


  
1. Yours is No Disgrace 2. The Clap 3. Starship Trooper 4. I've Seen All Good People 5. A Venture 6. Perpetual Change

 

Not to be confused with the band’s first album, which was simply tilted Yes. The name of this particular record is the only thing plain or unadventurous. They’ve officially found their groove. Of course, if 8-9 minute prog rock epics aren’t your thing – read no further. For those that appreciate, even somewhat, the particular style, this thing can serve as a blueprint for what one should follow.

It’s really hard to review a Yes album without talking about changes in personnel since it happened so frequently and they experienced their first swap out on this, their third album. Enter guitarist Steve Howe, who most would argue was the “best” guitarist the band ever had. He certainly was there for most of their records. He replaced disgruntled Peter Banks who didn’t like the band’s overuse of strings on last year’s Time and a Word. Well, for whatever reason, the strings are gone, so you might say it was much ado about nothing. I always felt that the limited times we did hear Banks, he was pretty good. Is Howe better? Well, yes. What’s really impressive, though, is that on this record he is all over the stinkin’ place. Perhaps the other members realized how good he was? Now, the guy is nothing like a Jimmy Page or a Slash – you don’t hear gut wrenching, ear piercing solos, but what you do hear is multi-layers of multiple playing going through each track. So in a sense, you feel as though the band has three or four guitar players as opposed to only one.

This record features three “epics”. By “epic”, I hereby announce that this definition for Yes is any song the band puts out that is greater than eight minutes in length. We would soon learn that “epic” is not necessarily synonymous with “great” when talking about Yes music, but fortunately, such is not the case here. Yours is No Disgrace, Perpetual Change and Starship Trooper all remain fan favorites to this day. The guys simply sound as though they’re all on the same page, and are effortlessly producing great material. Chris Squire’s bass playing is becoming more familiar, with its twangy, yet distorted sound, and Bill Bruford actually sounds like he’s trying to fit in with the band on each of the songs as opposed to wildly going at his own pace and going crazy for his mere gratification. Tony Kaye doesn’t sound quite so visible, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Who say’s keyboardists should sound so prevalent in the mix during art rock songs? That would be the case with future keyboard players, but Kaye is mostly a lot more low-key. This is acceptable when you have a guy like Steve Howe in the band.

Speaking (again) of Steve Howe, he even gets his own solo piece on the album – a live version of a song called The Clap (it was actually supposed to be called Clap. The song is not about a venereal disease). It’s quite a complex tune that most professional guitarists can’t even begin to think about replicating. And let’s not forget I’ve Seen All Good People. You know, the one of only about three Yes songs that ever got any radio airplay. Sure, it’s been overplayed, but that shouldn’t mean overrated. It’s a great Yes tune, with it’s simple hippie-fest first half that crescendos into a full blown (for these guys anyway) rock out. One should revisit this song with new ears and give it its fair due. There’s one more track A Venture that’s much more laidback, but nothing really spectacular.

There are some that still rate this as their best ever. I won’t go that far, but it’s probably in my top three. In fact, pardon the pun, some would say that this thing really is The Yes Album.

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